WEEK 54 Seaford, East Sussex to Margate, Kent

121 miles walked

(total 3,276 miles walked)

I think this might be the most mileage I’ve walked in a week. What a varied week, passing through so many towns with tales to tell. This was the week I travelled through the ancient Cinque Ports (Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich), established in 1155 by Royal Charter to maintain ships for the King in return for trade privileges. 

The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea
My overriding feeling was that I walked too far, too fast and didn’t do it justice. There was always more to see and experience than I could fit in. Why did I cover so much ground? Mainly I think it was because I was struggling to find campsites (or other accommodation) that I felt was reasonably priced. I was finding the SE less friendly, very expensive and, of course, I was also suffering from the ground rush that comes with nearing the finish line. 

Fishermen’s Huts, Hastings
I found myself probably more frustrated this week than I had been for a long time, and yet there were still so many highlights. 

Seven Sisters Country Park
This week’s natural world highlights included a naked rambler (Seven Sisters), a grass snake (White Cliffs Country Park), a kingfisher (Royal Military Canal), and the stunning beauty of the Seven Sisters, Cuckmere Haven and the White Cliffs of Dover.  

a grass snake
The Sussex and Kent coastline that I walked this week is the closest to mainland Europe and was very heavily fortified in the 1800s. Some of the 74 Martello Towers that were built along this coastline still remain, as well as forts, redoubts and the Royal Military Canal. Napoleon really had us worried!

another Martello Tower, Eastbourne
I spent much of the week following long distance footpaths, mainly the Saxon Shore Way but also the Royal Military Canal Path, the North Downs Way and the Thanet Coastal Path. I began the week with white cliffs and ended it the same way, taking in the flat coastline in between. 

Day 376 Seven Sisters and the Empress of Watering Places

Monday 15 August 2016

Seaford to Eastbourne

18 miles

Bay View Park

I was late leaving Seaford as first I had to dry my tent and then I needed to stop for breakfast. The Seaford Sailing Club provided a passable breakfast and I was able to charge my phone. 

looking back along Seaford beach towards the mouth of the River Ouse
It was shaping up to be another glorious day as I walked along the promenade next to the steeply sloping shingle beach. I read that Seaford was particularly susceptible to storms so tonnes of shingle had been added to the beach to protect the town. The beach now sloped steeply and reached the height of the promenade. 

Seaford Head
In Mediaeval times Seaford had been one of the South Coast’s busiest ports (before its harbour silted up) and its main export was wool. 

Martello Tower 74
On the edge of the town was Martello Tower 74, the last one to be built (1806) to counter the Napoleonic threat. 

I was following the Vanguard Way, a long distance path from Croydon to Newhaven: “from the suburbs to the sea”. It climbed up Seaford Head and the views from here were outstanding. 

looking back from Seaford Head (note the beach that has been reinforced with tonnes of added shingle)
looking ahead at the Seven Sisters
Seaford Head is the start of the Cretaceous chalk cliffs that stretch around Beachy Head to Eastbourne. I had a great all-round view; back to Brighton, inland to the South Downs and ahead to the Seven Sisters. I also looked down over Cuckmere Haven, the flat plain containing the beautiful, meandering Cuckmere River. 

Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters
I had to walk inland to cross the Cuckmere River at Exceat Bridge. I stopped in the pub to shelter from the heat and enjoy a cold drink as I knew the next section would be tough because I’d walked it before. It is the walk to the finish of the South Downs Way. 

the beautiful, meandering Cuckmere River
looking back down on Cuckmere Haven
The Seven Sisters are 7 peaks along the chalk cliffs to Birling Gap. They are separated by hanging valleys that were created after the Ice Age and left hanging when the sea cut back. They lie within the Seven Sisters Country Park and are as beautiful (and almost as brutal) as the walk over the cliffs to Durdle Door. 

up and down the Seven Sisters…
…tough going this!
I was in for a treat, not only was it very hot I found myself keeping pace with a naked rambler (I can’t claim he was the naked rambler). Oh joy, now I had to think about where I was pointing my camera and whether I looked like I was looking! (I wasn’t.) He was creating quite a stir amongst the tourists and it made me chuckle. As we were keeping pace (I kept stopping to take photos and he was slower on the downhills in his bare feet) I thought it would be rude not to engage in a brief chat. He seemed very nice. I didn’t really look at him though, which I thought afterwards was a shame that I felt too embarrassed to look him in the eye (in case I saw anything else); he was only naked after all. I think the foreigners out that day will think the English are very strange!

a ‘cheeky’ photo of the naked rambler!
After all that excitement I arrived at Birling Gap and it was very busy on the beach at the base of the cliff. I carried on. 

the popular beach at Birling Gap
I did notice the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team crisis prevention vehicle. Sadly it looked like this area requires a 4th emergency service. 

Eastbourne’s 4th Emergency Service?
Up another hill to the Belle Tout lighthouse (now a holiday cottage) then down again and up again to Beachy Head. The cliff is high and a leap would land you at the bottom. 

Beachy Head and its lighthouse
looking down at the Beachy Head Lighthouse
There were a few memorial crosses near the top. 

memorials on Beachy Head
I could see Eastbourne and along the coast as far as Hastings. I walked off the South Downs Way and onto Eastbourne seafront. (Apparently Eastbourne was known as the Empress of Watering Places.)

the view of Eastbourne and beyond
The Eastbourne esplanade was, without question, the smartest I had walked along in the whole of Britain. It was flanked by palm trees and flowers, and even its shelters were freshly painted and had thatched rooves. 

the greenest esplanade yet!
a thatched-roof shelter on Eastbourne Esplanade
It was a long way along the esplanade and it became apparent that I’d just missed the annual Airshow at the weekend. The clear up was underway and the ‘exclusive seating’ was being dismantled. 

the RAF Ensign flying above Eastbourne Esplanade
Eastbourne bandstand (no band but there was music being played from speakers and some people sat listening to it)
I reached the pier and everything changed. There was a stark contrast between the Victorian grandeur of ‘West of the pier’ compared with the normalcy ‘East of the pier’. This was because in the late 1800s the Duke of Devonshire bankrolled building a resort “for gentlemen by gentlemen”, but only West of the pier. East of the pier was where the fishermen, tradesmen and domestic servants lived. West of the pier catered for the upper classes and there was even a published fashionable visitors list where one could announce one’s presence in the town. Amazingly, the seafront parades heading East and West from the pier did not even connect during this period. 

Eastbourne Pier (complete with golden cupola)
what a change East of Eastbourne Pier!
I had to walk right through Eastbourne and around the Sovereign Harbour (which looked like a new-build marina full of apartments and restaurants as well as boats) before I reached my campsite. 

walking the shingle past another Martello Tower, on the way to the campsite
The wind had picked up and I requested a sheltered spot. I wasn’t given one. I erected my tent and then collapsed it again before going for a shower. I spied a small patch of ground behind a bush and asked to move. Much better, although quite a faff. By the time I finished my chores it was 8pm and I had to walk 15 minutes back to the marina to get some food. It had been a long, and very beautiful day. 

a wonderful view from Beachy Head across the Seven Sisters to Seaford Head

Day 352 The Chalk Cliffs to Durdle Door

Friday 22 July 2016

Weymouth to Durdle Door

10 miles

Durdle Door Campsite

After a lovely sleep and a bit of breakfast I left Geoff’s house and walked into Dorchester town centre to catch a bus to Weymouth. It was all remarkably easy and I was walking past Lodmoor Country Park by 10am. 

Weymouth Bay and Portland
Weymouth Bay was very calm and the beach didn’t look as busy today, although I was at the far end where it is shingle. 

Weymouth Beach looking glorious
All day the views back to Weymouth and Portland were fantastic. It was another gloriously sunny, still and hot day, perfect for sweating. The first great view was from the top of Furzy Cliff, where I left Weymouth and headed over the cliff to Bowleaze Cove. 

Bowleaze Cove with its big art deco hotel
The next expansive views were from Redcliff Point. The farmer was readying several of his fields for camping, they were mown and had wooden huts, each containing a composting toilet, randomly scattered about the place. There was also a row of solar showers. It was all quite neat and simple really. 

Weymouth Bay was a beautiful colour
I passed a PGL centre just before Osmington Mills and watched some kids doing a bungee jump. It looked fun. 

…stunning views back to Weymouth
rugged coastline heading to White Nothe
Osmington Mills is nestled into a tiny valley and I stopped for lunch at The Smugglers Inn, a thatched pub by the stream. I took a long break from the heat, sitting inside as I usually do. 

The Smuggler’s Inn, Osmington Mills
it’s difficult to see Osmington Mills tucked into the cliff
The next section was up and over the white, chalky, Jurassic cliffs that are so visible from across Weymouth Bay. From the top of White Nothe the views were incredible. There was a small, smugglers’ path heading over the edge to the undercliff but I didn’t take it. 

lovely beach; White Nothe in the background
…another great view of Weymouth Bay
I counted 3 ups and downs, along The Warren. They were incredibly steep and it was tricky to avoid slipping on the chalk. Thank goodness for poles. 

The Warren…
…it looks hilly!
It was so beautiful: the green grass, the white cliffs and the clear blue sea. I stood and watched 4 kestrels hunting in the grassy bowl next to me. Yet again I felt incredibly lucky to be doing this. 

a cutaway section of cliff showing the chalk in a ‘granular’ form
looking back along The Warren
As I reached the top of Swyre Head, the famous Durdle Door came into view. 

Durdle Door beach from Swyre Head
It was another steep down and up to get to the top of the cliff above Durdle Door and all the way along I was looking down on a lovely beach, bookended by Durdle Door and Bat’s Head. It struck me that Butter Rock stack represented the future of Durdle Door and Bat’s Head must be what it was like many years ago. 

Butter Rock Stack, Bat’s Head, and Portland in the distance
I was hot and sweaty and the water looked cool and inviting. So I hurried on up the last cliff, through the car park and into the campsite. They were full but, like all good campsites, they still take hikers (I had phoned ahead to check). I pitched quickly, rinsed my sweaty clothes out, and headed back down to Durdle Door. 

Durdle Door and Man of War Beaches
Durdle Door
Man of War Beach
At 6pm the beach was still busy but there weren’t many in the sea. I went straight in. The tide was coming in so there was plenty of water around the archway and I wanted to swim through it. I was a bit apprehensive as I hadn’t seen anyone else do it and I couldn’t see if there were rocks under the water or any sort of current. I decided to go for it. The swell was bigger and the choppier through the arch but it was fine, and it was lovely lying on my back looking up at the arch. This is the life!

what a wonderful place for a swim
The campsite had a bar and cafe so it was easy for me to get some dinner and charge my phone. It was a very noisy campsite: the rooks finally settled in the trees sometime after 10pm, the people stopped yelling about 2am and then the owl started hooting. I didn’t get much sleep. 

… a final view of Weymouth Bay

Day 351 Isle of Portland

Thursday 21 July 2016

Isle of Portland

11 miles

Geoff’s house

After breakfast, Geoff kindly gave me a lift into the Isle of Portland. It was another scorching day, perfect for great views. 

the end of Chesil Beach, at the base of West Cliff
I started my walk in Chiswell, an ancient fishing village at the most southerly point of Chesil Beach. The Beach forms a tombolo that links the Isle of Portland with the mainland. 

looking back along Chesil Beach towards the mainland
Chiswell is at sea level and has suffered at the hands of the sea. The Great Storm of November 1824 destroyed 80 houses and killed 30 people. I climbed out of Chiswell up onto West Cliff, at the top of West Weares. The views were amazing and all of a sudden I was in Tout Quarry. 

Chesil Bank, linking Portland to the mainland; Portland Harbour and The Fleet on the right of the beach
Portland is famous for Portland Stone, used to build lots of magnificent buildings, the ones I was thinking of being in London. Tout Quarry is disused but open to walk through and, since 1983, has become a bit of a sculpture park. There were over 60 ‘hidden’ sculptures to find and if I’d spent all day there I wouldn’t have found them all! What a fantastic place. 

Lanos Arch (1854)
it’s a jungle out here!
No health and safety here! I spent a happy hour clambering over rocks and getting lost in gullies looking for sculptures. 

“Fallen Fossil” by Stephen Marsden
it must be love
a pair of hands
Having seen a few Anthony Gormley sculptures on my travels I determined to find his “falling man” in the quarry. 

I think this man is in danger of falling…
“The Fallen Man” by Anthony Gormley
When I finally tore myself away from Tout Quarry and carried on to Portland Bill I was bemused to note that despite being one big quarry, Portland houses were not made of the local stone. In fact much of the housing seemed to be cheap, ugly 1960s apartment blocks. It must have been ex-military housing. 

West Weares
Portland Bill was magnificent. I was loving the cliffs and the stone; it seemed to naturally come in big blocks and looked grand. 

the lighthouse at Portland Bill
I remembered the lighthouse from a trip here as a child, and watching some youths tombstoning off Pulpit Rock. I also recalled my dad suggesting that I gave it a go, but I didn’t have a wetsuit and my mother wouldn’t have let me jump in my trainers and get them wet so I remained a spectator that day. 

Pulpit Rock
There were footholds dug into Pulpit Rock and a danger notice next to them. Although there were lots of people about, no one was dating to climb up the rock…except me. What a brilliant picnic spot, slightly detached from the madding crowd. I sat with my legs dangling over the edge and ate my lunch (a Cornish pasty brought back from Falmouth yesterday just for me – thanks Kath). I shall never grow up. 

Eating my lunch sat on Pulpit Rock
The sea looked incredibly blue and inviting, although I didn’t go in. I did see a man wearing a wetsuit and fins get out carrying an enormous crab in a net bag. He’d clearly been for a swim to catch his dinner. The water was fairly calm today, although there is a tidal race around Portland Bill and I watched several yachts being thrown all over the place until they moved away from it. 

looking back at Portland Bill
Rounding Portland Bill meant leaving Lyme Bay behind and looking ahead towards Lulworth and the Isle of Purbeck. 

one of several old cranes for lowering the quarried stone onto boats
It was an equally lovely walk up the East side of Portland, up and down the cliffs to Church Ope Cove. More quarries. 

Church Ope Cove
12th Century Rufus Castle above Church Ope Cove
I walked along the base of the East Weare cliffs, below Portland’s HM Young Offender Institution. 

East Weares
The path then scaled the cliff and passed The Verne Citadel, a medium security prison. Perhaps this is why I didn’t see the usual posh houses on the beautiful coastline of Portland?

Verne Citadel
The Verne Citadel looked impregnable. It was originally built in 1847 (by convicts) to house the convicts building Portland Harbour and its 3 forts, then became a fort to house troops and now is a prison. A fellow onlooker remarked to me that prisoners have it a lot easier these days. The original convicts hewed out 5.7 million tonnes of Portland Stone to built the Breakwater, forts and citadel. 

the view across Portland Harbour to Weymouth
I walked back down to Castletown and Chiswell via The Merchant’s Incline, originally a horse-drawn railway to transport the quarried stone. It was steep!

The Merchant’s Incline
Geoff came and collected me again and I spent a 2nd blissful night in a bed. This was particularly kind of Geoff as he was working nights so left me to enjoy crashing on his sofa eating his homemade curry. Another absolutely excellent day. 

a great view of Chesil Bank, Fleet and the National Sailing Academy at Castletown

Day 349 Abbotsbury and Chesil Beach (Part 1)

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Eype Mouth to West Fleet

18 miles

West Fleet Camping Park

The wind got up during the night and woke me up. Just before 6am the sun hit my tent and so I got up. Everything was dry and it was forecast to be a scorcher so I packed up and was away before 7. I felt bad that, after my issue with the Seatown campsite, I didn’t pay for night at Eype House – the reception didn’t open until 9 o’clock and I couldn’t wait that long. 

looking back on Eype campsite
There was no one around so all I could hear was the wind as I climbed up and down West, East and Burton Cliffs; all small but incredibly steep. It was so beautiful, and already very hot. 

a sad little welcome to West Bay
I passed through West Bay, which had a distinctly 1960s look about it. This seaside extension of Bridport was not the prettiest place, lots of concrete. The harbour and piers were built in the 1860s and were blamed for the gradual loss of the shingle beach. However, current thinking is that the beach is disappearing because there’s no replacement shingle; apparently we need another Ice Age and then the subsequent thaw for that to happen. 

intrepid raft builders
I saw a team of people building a raft and so went over to inspect it. They were undertaking a test run in preparation for the raft race up the River Brit in just over a week. Had I been staying in the area they wanted to recruit me as they were short of crew. 

looking back on West Bay
I arrived at Southover, the Burton Bradstock beach, before 9am. There looked to be a nice cafe here; however, it didn’t open until 10 so I walked a mile detour to the nearby petrol station to buy something for breakfast. All this beautiful scenery and I breakfasted on a corned beef baguette and Jaffa cakes sat on a garage forecourt. Oh well, at least I was in the shade. 

Southover Beach
One last cliff before I reached the flat of Cogden Beach, which at some point turned into Chesil Beach. To begin with the path skirted the shingle bank and I could have been in Suffolk as I admired the sea kale and other plants growing on the shingle. 

Cogden Beach, all shingle but flat

beautiful plants growing on the shingle
There were a couple of reed-filled meres on my left but I think they had dried up as I came across a pile of dead fish. Apparently there hasn’t been much rain here this year. I was told that the micro-climate around Chesil Beach means it is particularly warm, so I chose the worst day to walk it: the hottest day of the year!

dead fish in the dried-up mere
Too many times the path ended up on the shingle and that made the walking very tough. I think I prefer hills!

Chesil Beach – a favoured spot for fishermen
Finally the path turned inland to Abbotsbury and I got a great view of St Catherine’s Chapel atop the hill before the town. 

St Catherine’s Chapel
In spite of the wind, the sunshine and heat was brutal and I was wilting. I was pleased with how I managed my day though because I started early and arrived at Abbotsbury at midday, pub opening time. I went straight into the Ilchester Arms and had 2.5 hours off. I drank 3 pints (of water and OJ and lemonade), ate a big lunch with salty fries, and cooled down enough to re-slather myself in suncream. 

the pretty town of Abbotsbury
Abbotsbury is a picture postcard town that reminded me of the Cotswolds; all stone and thatch. Chatting to the pub manager I learned that 90% of the town is owned by one lady (apparently her family sold 10% to avoid having to pay for upkeep of the roads). She is a descendent of Mr Strangway, who “got rid of” the monks during the dissolution and thus was rewarded with all their land by King Henry VIII. 

looking down on The Fleet and Chesil Bank
Orcus, a steward of King Canute, founded a Benedictine Monastery in Abbotsbury in 1044. St Catherine’s Chapel was built in the 14th Century. The Abbey did not escape the dissolution, but the Chapel did because of its situation on the hill, being a landmark and a seamark as well as a great lookout.

St Catherine’s Chapel on the hill
King Henry VIII liked to eat swans and they were provided by the Abbotsbury Swannery. The swannery is a great tourist attraction and still has about 1000 swans (an eighth of what it used to have). I did not pay to go in. 

The Swannery (complete with mazes) on the edge of The Fleet
I really liked Abbotsbury, with all its history and the amazing views from St Catherine’s Chapel. I could see Chesil Beach stretching for 8 miles to Portland, forming a barrier between the brackish water of The Fleet and the salty sea. 

a great view along Chesil Bank to Portland
I had a couple of hours still to walk, a bit further inland of The Fleet, to reach my campsite. It was hot going and I arrived just after 5pm. The campsite had a clubhouse so I ate there and relaxed over another pint of water (chased down with a beer). It had been a wonderful day. 

looking down through the crop fields at The Fleet

Day 323 Gerrans Bay and Portloe

Thursday 23 June 2016

Portscatho to Boswinger, near Gorran Haven

13 miles

Boswinger Youth Hostel

the view around Gerrans Bay to Nare Head and Gull Rock
The sun woke me up, shining into my tent. The ground was quite wet but I packed away anyway and headed off, through Portscatho and around to Porthcurnick Beach. 

Porthcurnick Beach and Portscatho
The sea looked lovely, the sun was shining and the highly recommended Hidden Hut cafe didn’t open until 10am. 

The Hidden Hut cafe overlooking Porthcurnick Beach
Time for a swim. There were already 5 families on this tiny beach and a couple of people swimming. The water was lovely and clear. I dried off in the sun and hung my wet towel and costume over the cafe railings. Breakfast was coffee and a pasty. What a perfect morning. 

drying my swim stuff over breakfast
I eventually tore myself away and headed around the rest of Gerrans Bay, to Nare Head. I popped into the Lookout Station just North of Portscatho. There wasn’t much going on in the Bay today, just kayakers and small boats. 

Gerrans Bay
Kayakers near Nare Head
The walk around Gerrans Bay was beautiful, and the sea was wonderfully clear with lots of sand visible under the water and nice beaches. 

Carne Beach, beautiful colour of the sea
Carne and Pendower Beaches
I met a man who was scouring the Bay for divers; apparently this bay is a favourite over-wintering spot for black- and red- throated divers. He monitors them annually and a few were still hanging around. I thought I saw one but it was most likely a cormorant. 

Porthbean Beach, looking back on Pednvadan, towards the Lookout Station
From Nare Head I could see all the way back to Nare Point, with St Anthony Head breaking up the two bays, Falmouth and Gerrans. 

the view all the way back to Falmouth Bay and the Lizard
Nare Head had a bunker on it, the sister to one at Nare Point. Both were part of the network of Starfish sites during WW2; decoy sites using special effects to lure enemy bombers away from populated and significant areas such as Falmouth. 

a bunker on Nare Head
In 1962 an atomic early warning bunker was built underground. It was a survival unit designed for 3 men to live for 3 weeks monitoring radioactive fallout following a nuclear attack. It closed in 1991 but has been restored and is occasionally open to the public. 

Kiberick Cove, looking across Veryan Bay to Dodman Point
Nare Head and Gull Rock
I left cheerful Nare Head and carried on along the stunning cliff walk to Portloe. What a picturesque little town nestled in the crook of the cliffs. All the houses looked pristine and I wasn’t surprised to see the town had twice won Cornwall’s best-kept. 

approaching Portloe
The sun had been hot today and I needed a break. What luck, Portloe has a posh hotel. The Lugger Hotel welcomed me in, I relaxed on a sofa, read their newspapers and drank lots of tea while I dried out. It was a quiet and blissful hour. 

Portloe, tucked into the cliff
It was 4pm when I left Portloe and I still had a couple of hours of walking around Veryan Bay. It was just as hilly and just as spectacular as Gerrans Bay. 

a hilly coastline around Veryan Bay from Nare Head
There wasn’t much to West and East Portholland, but then I arrived at Porthluney Cove. Set back beyond the beach, surrounded by woods and parkland, was Caerhays Castle. It was rather imposing. 

West- and East- Portholland, separated by rocky cliffs
Caerhays Castle nestled in a wooded estate behind Porthluney Cove
Boswinger is at the top of a steep climb up from Hemmick Beach. I was glad to arrive at the Youth Hostel. I ate a very nice dinner in the hostel, which unusually was home-cooked by the staff. I then spent the evening in the company of 2 guys who had arrived early for a weekend away at the hostel as part of a larger, all male, group. They were seriously camp, and the 3 of us and the 2 female staff had a hilarious evening. Thanks to Wilson for all the prosecco!

Hemmick Beach and Dodman Point

WEEK 43 St Agnes to Penzance

69 miles walked

(total 2,574 miles walked)

What a fantastic week. The weather was amazing and the views absolutely stunning. I can’t quite believe my luck. 

new signs in North Cornwall…
…West Cornwall’s are different again
Yet again the scenery changed this week. I moved from the big, sandy, surfing beaches to the rugged, granite cliffs of West Penwith. St Ives was the point where it changed. 

I liked St Ives, even though it was very busy. It was nice to spend extra time around Gwithian and St Ives. 

a new (or very old) take on dry stone walls in West Penwith
The rock-strewn cliffs of West Penwith look green as they are covered in lichens (there are over 80 species of lichen at Land’s End). This indicates a healthy atmosphere as lichens are very sensitive to air pollution. 

West Penwith felt like the land that time forgot. Unconquered by the Romans and the Saxons, it is alive with myths and legends. 

standing stones on the cliff top in West Penwith
This week I passed through some protected breeding grounds for the Cornish Chough, Cornwall’s national emblem. I saw lots of gulls and plenty of fulmars. The cliffs were also covered in flora and fauna, particularly pink flowers such as sea pinks, thrift and eyebright.  

Gwennap Head, Porthgwarra tucked in the dip

Day 300 St Agnes’ Head to Godrevy Head

Monday 30 May 2016 (Bank Holiday)

St Agnes Head to Gwithian

15 miles

Jill’s house

Gail cooked me breakfast and made me some sandwiches, and Gerry dropped me off at St Agnes’ Head. I had been so well looked after; proper Cornish hospitality. 

happy to be at St Agnes’ Head
The sun was shining and the sky was blue, no sign of yesterday’s fog. I was lucky because today was a particularly beautiful walk. I started near the old coastguard lookout station which, on a clear day, has a 30-mile panoramic seascape from Trevose Head to St Ives. This was the place where signal fires would be lit to warn of imminent seaborne invasion.

the lookout station at St Agnes’ Head
I was in the heart of tin mining country and almost immediately passed Wheal Coates Tin Mine. It was in operation, on and off, between 1872 and 1914; however, the area had been mined for ore since the Middle Ages, first for copper and then tin. 

Wheal Coates Tin Mine
The mine, and the Towanroath mineshaft, looked were in striking locations on the cliff. There was a group of young artists drawing the mineshaft in the morning light. 

Towanroath mineshaft
It didn’t take me long to reach Chapel Porth so I didn’t need an ice cream; however, I felt compelled to try an iced hedgehog. This was Cornish ice cream smothered in clotted cream and covered in roasted hazelnuts. Delicious…and very few calories!

enjoying an iced hedgehog!
Chapel Porth is named after a mediaeval chapel and a holy well. Apparently the beach cave below the chapel was a ‘bottomless pit’ which the mythic giant, Bolster, was commanded to fill with his blood in order to prove his love for St Agnes. The rocks are still stained red. 

Chapel Porth
As the tide was in I couldn’t see the cave or the rocks. Instead, I noticed that Chapel Porth is the location for the annual World belly boarding championships (no fibreglass boards or wetsuits allowed). I thought I might have to return in September to enter the event. I have a wooden belly board at home, made and painted by my dad to fit an undersized 10-year old girl. I thought I saw my dad in the photo on the board!

which one’s my dad?
The next beach along was Porth Towan, although I didn’t stop. It was hot and sweaty walking up and down the cliffs to each beach. 

Porth Towan
There wasn’t much breeze to keep me cool and I wore my hat all day to ward off a sunburnt head. 

looking back at the tin mine and St Agnes’ Head
Nancekuke Airfield, with Portreath Remote Radar Head, stands high on the cliff between Porth Towan and Portreath. As I walked down into Portreath I passed lots of large, new houses on the cliff and there were plenty more being built. 

Portreath beach and harbour (kids jumping off the harbour wall)
In the early 19th Century Portreath  was the copper capital of the world; now it is just a small town at the Western end of the Cornish coast-to-coast path, with a popular beach renowned for body boarding. 

Portreath beach
Once again the views along the cliffs were stunning and the water below looked incredibly clear and beautiful shades of blue. 

look how clear the sea is!
It was an easy walk along a wide path to Godrevy Head; a popular walk with several car parks along the way. 

walking to Godrevy Head
the view back towards St Agnes’ Head
Although I was hot, the wind was picking up a bit and it was late afternoon so I didn’t fancy scrambling down the steep cliff for a swim in Fishing Cove. Besides, I wouldn’t have had it to myself. 

Fishing Cove nestled at the base of the cliff
There were only 3 seals lolling around in Mutton Cove, a favourite hauling-out beach for one colony. 

looking across Godrevy Head to Gwithian beach
I walked around Navax Point and Godrevy Point, admiring Godrevy Lighthouse on its island off the Point. 

Godrevy Island and Lighthouse
I might apply for the job of gardener at Godrevy Lighthouse
The car parks were full and there were lots of people on the beach at Gwithian, although it’s so big that there was still plenty of room. I didn’t need to walk along the beach but cut back through the dunes and St Gothian Sands local nature reserve (created in 2005 on the site of an old area of sand and gravel extraction) to the village. 

Gwithian beach
I had been invited to call in on Jill when I arrived at Gwithian and so I stopped by hoping for a cup of tea. Well, one cup led to another, and then dinner and a bed for the night (which became 2 nights). Good company and a comfortable bed beat camping!

stunning view back to St Agnes’ Head

WEEK 42 Bude to Perranporth 

92 miles walked

(total 2,505 miles walked)

What a brilliant week I had and I was really lucky to have lots of sunshine. 

surfers at Polzeath, Pentire Head in the background
This week I finally saw an adder, just a baby one, on the path near Boscastle, and I also saw a marsh harrier on the cliffs near Port Quin. There have been plenty of fulmars on all the cliffs, and I’ve heard the reassuring cries of oystercatchers several times. 

As for the flora and fauna, this week the bluebells have been replaced by swathes of sea pinks on all the cliff tops and covering the ‘curzyway’ stone hedges that bound the fields. 

a ‘curzyway’ stone hedge
another stone hedge covered in sea pinks
The terrain changed throughout the week and I’ve so far made the following observations regarding the terrain since I got to England:

– Somerset had the mud flats and brown water of the Bristol Channel 

– North Devon was wooded cliffs (except for the beaches between Ilfracombe and Westward Ho!) 

– from Hartland Point to the Camel Estuary was defined by tough ups and downs where small rivers flowed out into the sea, punctuated by occasional fishing villages like Boscastle and Port Isaac

– the big sandy beaches began at the Camel Estuary (Polzeath was the first) and were punctuated by smaller cliffs (except for the high cliffs at Bedruthan and Watergate).

I enjoyed my trip down memory lane this week and found myself surprised by how clear and beautiful the sea looked – I did not remember it being that clear. It was lovely to be back in Cornwall, where the people exude the same pride for their country (spelt the Cornish way) as the Scots and the Welsh. 

beautiful clear sea, blues and greens, cliffs and sea pinks…perfect

Day 293 Dramatic Cliffs to Boscastle

Monday 23 May 2016

Bude to Boscastle 

16 miles

Boscastle Youth Hostel

It was already warm when I packed my tent away and ate some porridge. It was hot and sunny all day and this ensured I was overwhelmed by spectacular views all day long. I kept having to reapply suncream only for it to drip off as I sweated up (yet more) steep climbs. 

looking back to Higher Sharpnose Point from above Bude
It took me less than an hour to reach Widemouth, just after the beach cafe had opened, so I stopped for a second breakfast to fuel the long, tough walk. 

approaching Widemouth Bay
Widemouth Bay and Dizzard Point
The first major climb was at Millook, where the road had a 30% sign. But the hardest climb of the day was just after Dizzard Point. This one was so steep that there was a signposted diversion. 

Millook
looking at Cambeak, beyond Crackington Haven
Half-hidden on the sides of a bench at Dizzard Point were 2 small signs: one said ‘500 miles to Poole’ and the other said ‘132 miles to Minehead’.

at Dizzard Point, look at the Atlantic Ocean!
The sunshine and blue sky gave the sea a beautiful turquoise hue. I could see for miles along the stunning and dramatic cliffs; views all the way back to Higher Sharpnose Point (by the GCHQ listening post), across to Lundy, and down the coast past Tintagel. 

amazing views and the sea such a beautiful colour
looking all the way to Tintagel and beyond
A couple of the valleys had small streams in them that were so clear, and full of tadpoles. One also had a dipper busy feeding. 

such clear streams
As the cliffs were generally the highest points around, I also had great views inland, across all the patchwork farmland and small villages dotted around. 

the flora and fauna near St Genny’s was so colourful and beautiful
I stopped in Crackington Haven for a spot of lunch, a crab sandwich and salad followed by my first Kelly’s Cornish whippy ice cream. Delicious. 

Crackington Haven
the beach at Crackington Haven, and Cambeak headland

High Cliff was my highest point of the day (>200m) and then the path actually went around the cliff, about halfway down. 
more amazing rock formations, this one at Cambeak
I rounded the Penally Hill and there was Boscastle, with the River Valency flowing through the middle of it. I had only ever seen it in the television after the town was all but destroyed by terrible floods in 2004. It has been completely, and sensitively, rebuilt. 

above Boscastle
Boscastle Harbour
I had intended to camp tonight but the only campsite was a couple of miles before Boscastle, and inland. So I changed my plans (I wanted to see Boscastle and get a pub dinner) and headed for the Youth Hostel right on the main street instead. 

the Youth Hostel is on the right behind the white building
It had been a truly spectacular day and I celebrated with fish and chips in The Cobweb Inn.
spectacular view back to Cambeak
lots of ‘folded’ rocks like this one on the route today
can it get any more beautiful than this?