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 was very calm and the beach didn’t look as busy today, although I was at the far end where it is shingle.
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.
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.
I passed a PGL centre just before Osmington Mills and watched some kids doing a bungee jump. It looked fun.
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 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.
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.
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.
As I reached the top of Swyre Head, the famous Durdle Door came into view.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This morning was misty and wet. I took my time getting up as I knew the mist would burn off and the pub didn’t start serving breakfast until 9am. Sure enough, by 8.30 the mist had cleared and the sun was out so I packed away dry.
A hot and sunny day was forecast so I had a good breakfast, accompanied by lots of water, in order to set me up, slathered myself in sun cream and wore my hat. At the top of the hill out of Axmouth there were warning signs that the 7 mile route to Lyme Regis was a hard 3.5-4 hour walk and there was no escape from the cliff path once on it. I pressed on.
What a great day for a walk through trees. I couldn’t have planned it better. The walk wasn’t really hard, no severe climbs, just undulating through the Axmouth-Lyme Regis Undercliffs National Nature Reserve. There were no real views as I was shrouded by trees (lots of maple and ash) but it was nice in the shade and to think that I was walking through an area (the Undercliffs) created by many landslips.
One such landslip was the Great Landslip of Christmas Eve 1839. Rainwater had soaked into the permeable Cretaceous rocks and they came away from the slippery clay underneath them and slipped into the sea. A great chasm opened up behind the landslip block, creating Goat Island. This whole area had been farmed so, the following year, the villagers ceremonially harvested the turnips and wheat on Goat Island. The landslip became very famous; it was visited by Queen Victoria and had a piece of music composed to celebrate it. I walked through what is now wild grassland in wonder.
After only just over 2 hours of walking I reached Dorset and the town of Lyme Regis. I emerged from the trees by The Cobb, the harbour area made famous by Du Maurier’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman. It was baking hot on the promenade and the beach was full. I was suspicious that one end of the beach was sand and the rest (as well as all the other beaches around here) was pebbles. I suspected the sand had been imported.
I stopped at a nice looking sandwich shop to get some lunch and ate it quickly as there was no shade anywhere.
I took the Church Cliff walk, essentially a concrete flood defence, around from the beach. At the end of it the coast path climbs up the cliff but I decided the tide was out far enough for me to get to Charmouth along the beach/rocks at the base of the cliff.
It was easier going than I expected and I passed several fossil hunters, getting stuck into the grey mud left behind by recent landslips.
I passed through Charmouth, stopping only to buy a 2nd bottle of isotonic drink from the cafe. It was very hot. This is a fossil hunter’s Mecca, with a museum and regular guided walks.
I was confused; my 2016 map indicated I could climb straight up the cliff in front of me but the signs suggested a diversion. It wasn’t clear and I knew this area had recently had major landslips so I sought advice and decided to take the diversion. Unfortunately this wasn’t clear either so I asked a local. I admit to being slightly distracted when the man I asked moved his bag and revealed a very small pair of running shorts that didn’t cover very much. I don’t think it was deliberate, just a terrible choice of clothing. He was taking so long to process my question that another man decided to answer instead and he eventually walked away. The 2nd man proceeded to tell me I couldn’t walk in the direction I wanted because the sea was behind him (it blatantly wasn’t). He made no sense and so I just thanked him and walked on. Bring back Devon and its belligerent ferrymen!
I found my own way out of Charmouth, fairly quickly. It was a long slog up Stonebarrow Hill, down to St Gabriel’s Mouth and then up 191m to the top of Golden Cap. The views were stunning.
I descended a mile into Seatown, where I was hoping to camp. I had been trying to call the campsite all day but no luck. Unfortunately it was one of those big holiday parks staffed by people who are banned from thinking for themselves or using common sense. The lady at reception could only do what the computer said. The computer said I could camp if I paid her £34. I declined. (The going rate for a hiker is £7-10.) I was informed I could come back next week and camp in the enormous, empty field but I didn’t wait to hear the price for that.
Fortunately it was only 3 miles to Eype (pronounced eep). Unfortunately it involved another big climb and descent of Thorncombe Beacon.
I arrived at the campsite just before 6pm. I found a pitch overlooking the sea and then walked down for that dip I’d been longing for all day. Absolute bliss.
I still managed to wash my clothes through and walk up the hill into the village to the Smuggler’s Bar in the local hotel, where I had a nice dinner. (No budgies in this smuggler!) Who needs Seatown anyway?
It was raining this morning and everyone was glued to the television watching the results of the EU Referendum over breakfast. The rain fitted my mood. I found it very hard to motivate myself to walk today.
I set off as the rain eased at about 9.30am. There was no one about as I headed along to Dodman Point. The grey mist was starting to burn off and the views from Dodman Point covered such a wide area, possibly from Lizard to the Devon border. The Dodman Cross dominated the Point and was erected in 1896 “in the firm hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ”. I thought that might be a good thing today.
The Dodman Point promontary seemed like a good site for an Iron Age fort and remnants of the ditch surrounding it were still visible.
Approaching Gorran Haven the sea suddenly took on an amazing bright blue hue. It looked incredible.
Gorran Haven was quite large but seemed rather small as it had tiny streets and a small water frontage with not much beach. Some big houses on the edges though.
I headed straight through Gorran Haven, around the small headland at Turbot Point and into Mevagissey Bay. Chapel Point looked rather splendid, and rather Mediterranean, with its whitewashed chapel and buildings.
Portmellon blended into Mevagissey, not even the cliff top between them really separating them anymore. Portmellon seemed to have newer, bigger houses and Mevagissey was the quaint fishing town. It was also a tourist Mecca.
I wandered around the narrow streets and the harbour, trying to weave in and out of all the tourists. I popped into the museum, which had some interesting exhibits about life in the town through the ages. I found a cafe that wasn’t too busy and stopped for a break. The Lost Gardens of Heligan were only a couple of miles inland but I didn’t have the time (or the inclination today) to visit.
It was 3 o’clock before I left Mevagissey and I had quite a way still to go. The weather was strange: hot and sunny one minute and then sharp showers the next.
I was pleased to leave the hubbub of Mevagissey and continue around, past the huge caravan park that dominated Pentewan Beach, and around to Black Head. The Pentewan Valley walk looked nice, heading inland through the woods.
There was quite a bit of up and down as I made my way around Black Head, through muddy woods, and on to Porthpean and Charlestown.
I was on the outskirts of St Austell (pronounced “Snarzell” in Cornish). For a while now I’d been able to see the large sprawl of houses and the large ‘white pyramids’ of China clay that dominated the view inland.
The cliffs here had lots of trees on the top and weaved in and out, rather than up and down. There were a few small beaches, like the one at Porthpean.
Charlestown had an old, small, harbour, the entrance to which was once protected by the Crinnis Cliff Battery. Charles Rashleigh had built the battery in 1793 to protect the new Charlestown Harbour. It seemed suspended in time as the only ships in it were old schooners that might have belonged to the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre.
It was almost 6pm when I made it to Carlyon Bay and the campsite just beyond the railway line. It was hot and sunny when I pitched so I headed straight back to the beach for a quick dip. A significant amount of money was being spent to build facilities at the back of the beach but, in the meantime, there were a couple of pop-up cafes in the middle of the beach. A quick swim followed by dressed crab and a beer on the beach, almost perfect on any other day.
I had only just made it back to the campsite when another heavy shower came overhead. Good timing. Fortunately there was a covered area where I could sit while I did some laundry and then settled for an early night as heavy rain set in.
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.
The sea looked lovely, the sun was shining and the highly recommended Hidden Hut cafe didn’t open until 10am.
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.
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.
The walk around Gerrans Bay was beautiful, and the sea was wonderfully clear with lots of sand visible under the water and nice 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It wasn’t raining when I got up, but it definitely wasn’t sunny either; a grey day. I started with breakfast in a cafe before heading out of Porthleven.
The tide was out and that meant there was a very long stretch of beach all the way from Porthleven to Gunwalloe. In the middle is Loe Bar, a bank of sand that separates the sea from The Loe, a large lake.
Around Halzephron Cliff I dropped down to Church Cove, a small beach with a church tucked into a little headland. This was St Winaloes, the Church of the Storms.
There were lots of children out surfing at Church cove and Poldhu Cove; it looked like some sort of weekend lessons, rather like weekend football practice for inland kids.
Just on top of the cliff here, near the nursing home with the best views, was a column commemorating the “Famous Poldhu Wireless Station” that stood on this cliff between 1900 and 1933. It was erected by Marconi and transmitted the first wireless telegraph signals across the Atlantic, received in St John’s, Newfoundland, in December 1901.
Next stop was Mullion Cove, a sheltered little harbour that seemed to be protected by cliffs all around, both onshore and offshore thanks to Henscath and Mullion Island. It had a National Trust air about it – quiet. The sea was a beautiful green and the gulls were crying. I stopped for a cream tea.
Walking across the high point of the day, Predannack Head, I could see all the way across Mount’s Bay to Gwennap Head.
Kynance Cove was stunning. I arrived about an hour before high tide and there were lots of people crowding the small sandy beach, the cafe and in the sea. A very popular place.
I could have done with a swim myself but a) it was too crowded, and b) I was close to the campsite. Unfortunately, not close enough to want to walk back there once I’d pitched my tent!
I think I walked into a hippy commune that doubles as a campsite. What a place. All higgledy-piggledy with shacks containing various facilities, murals and artwork everywhere, areas to sit (communally of course). The owners (one woman, two men and a baby) found me a small pitch, over a little carved, wooden bridge next to the field with the alpacas and chickens (although chickens and ducks were roaming everywhere).
The sun had come out! I pitched quickly, donned my swimming costume and walked down the road to Lizard Point. I had made it to the most Southern point of mainland Britain. Hurrah.
Lizard Point was quite busy so I didn’t hang around but walked East along the coast path, past the lighthouse, to Housel Bay. Here was a great spot for a swim. The sand was covered because it was high tide and I saw no one. I had a wonderful swim in the clear water.
My camping neighbours were Gary and Steve, two more SW Coast Path walkers who had started alone as we’re now walking together. I had seen them on the campsite at Porthleven last night and so we got chatting and went for dinner together in the pub. They were good company.
Back at the campsite, the fire pit was smoking and there was a band playing. In fact there were lots of fires going, people drinking and enjoying music, feral kids running round at 10pm. I half expected to be offered some whacky backy, but I wasn’t. Instead I retired to bed to the strains of “Jolene”.
3 nights at St Martin’s and 1 night at St Mary’s campsites
Several people had told me that I must go to the Scilly Isles, how beautiful they are, how clear the sea is, how lovely the beaches are and how cold the water is. So I caught the (very expensive) ferry from Penzance to find out.
I arrived at St Mary’s harbour, in Hugh Town, and, on a whim, caught another ferry to St Martin’s in order to camp there. It was a beautiful campsite, sheltered by big hedges and about 40m across the dunes from a beach. I stayed for 3 nights before spending my last night on St Mary’s.
The Scilly Isles are an archipelago of more than 200 low-lying granite islands and rocks. Only 5 islands are inhabited; St Mary’s and Tresco are the main islands and St Martin’s, Bryher and St Agnes are referred to as the “off-islands”. They are 28 miles SW from Land’s End and face the full force of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Scillies have a temperate climate, with high rainfall, high humidity and a small temperature range. I happened to visit at the end of an unusually long dry spell and had a couple of days of fantastic sunshine. I’m sure the sun burns more here than on the mainland.
I packed as much as possible into my 4 days and managed to get to all 5 islands. They are all different, but also the same. On the off-islands in particular it felt like I’d gone back in time. Time also slowed down. I think much of that feeling has to do with the lack of vehicles on the roads. The islanders do have cars (or tractors, or golf buggies), but none of the tourists do. Life is centred on the sea and, if you live here, you should definitely buy a boat before you even think about getting a car.
I managed to go swimming several times (the water was a bit colder than Cornwall’s but not that cold). The sea was clear, but I didn’t think it was any clearer than Cornwall’s or West Scotland’s, it was just shallower and therefore you could see the bottom easier.
I hired a kayak and paddled from St Martin’s, around Tresco, to Bryher. The sea ‘inside’ the shelter of the islands seemed really shallow, mostly sandy-bottomed, but with lots of seaweed. I have never thought of seaweed as beautiful, it often looked like mermaid’s hair rising from the deep and floating on the top of the water.
The shallowness of the water meant that the land expanded significantly at low tide, such that I couldn’t find a way back around Tresco and ended up hauling the kayak over some rocks. I suspected that if the sea level dropped by 10-20m then the Scillies would become one island. (At low Spring Tides it is possible to walk between St Martin’s, Tresco and Bryher.)
Everyone commutes by boat and the information board at the campsite entrance was updated daily with sailing times and destinations. I took a day trip to Tresco, ostensibly to see the famous Abbey Gardens (the only place in the UK where tropical plants grow outside) but the entrance fee was £15 and I knew it wasn’t worth it for me. I read all the information and decided I didn’t want to wander around gardens with plants from places like South America. Instead I went on a free RSPB guided walk and glimpsed the gardens from the outside. Besides, a cruise ship was docked so the gardens were very busy (the RSPB man was not!).
The bird life around the Scillies is much less way of humans than on the mainland. In fact it’s positively cheeky. I always had thrushes (much more common over here), sparrows and blackbirds hopping around my tent looking for any scraps I might offer them. Sitting outside cafes I often shared my cream tea with a bird or three.
I did walk around much of Tresco and took in Cromwell’s Castle (a round castle for Roundheads) which replaced King Charles’ Castle (just above it) in 1651. They both defended the channel into New Grimsby Harbour. There was some really old graffiti in Cromwell’s Castle, the oldest I could find was dated 1755.
Tresco is the “posh island”. It’s leased to the Dorrien-Smith Estate and I was told it is where the merchant bankers holiday. Everywhere was signposted, all bins hidden in wooden boxes, an information centre, and plenty of workers running or driving around (there seemed to be more staff than clients around the accommodation). Holidaymakers staying here had the luxury of golf buggies and a concierge service to book everything for them. To me it had the air of an incredibly posh Butlins. Excellent service in the cafes, as I would have expected.
Three evenings in a row I sat outside the Seven Stones Inn on St Martin’s admiring the view of dinner and a pint. It was a wonderful setting. St Martin’s is the island most associated with white, sandy beaches and stunning blue, shallow sea. There is pretty much one road (more like a tarmac’d track) that connects Lower Town to Middle Town and Upper Town. It takes about 10 minutes to walk the length of it.
Aside from the pub and campsite, there is also a post office and general stores, a very good bakery, a hotel, a couple of cafes and various vegetable plots and flower farms. The extra small fields, many lying fallow, with high hedges are designed to protect flowers from the wind.
On the 4th day it rained. Undeterred I carried on with my plan to pack up and get the boat to St Mary’s. I re-pitched my tent in The Garrison campsite and then caught another boat (all within an hour) over to St Agnes, the most Southerly of the islands. I spent the day walking around this rugged island, which reminded me of West Penwith with its impressive rock formations covered in green algae. Fantastic names too; I walked across Wingletang Down to see the punchbowl rock.
St Agnes and Gugh, the small island connected to St Agnes by a beach causeway, were declared rat-free in February 2016 after an extermination project. Since then Manx Shearwaters and Puffins have started re-colonising the islands. I saw a shearwater burrow that was being monitored.
I stayed on St Agnes into the early evening especially to dine at The Turk’s Head, Britain’s most Southwesterly pub. It had been recommended and didn’t disappoint. I also made a point of visiting Troytown Farm for one of its homemade icecreams; another Scilly delight.
Friday was Men’s Pilot Gig race evening. I managed to secure myself a ride on one of the supporter boats to watch the race. Pilot Gig racing is the Scilly Isles’ national sport. It originated back when gigs used to ferry pilots out to big ships so they could guide them into the Scilly waters. The gigs raced one another to each ship as the first pilot there got the job. Nowadays the gigs race without the pilots. The Bonnet, with a St Mary’s crew, won the race I watched in the oldest pilot gig boat, built in 1830 and still going strong.
I spent my final day hanging around Hugh Town and The Garrison. St Mary’s feels very busy compared to the off-islands. You shouldn’t really walk down the middle of the road here as there is traffic on it. Hugh Town has the only petrol station in the Scillies and nowhere has the luxury of mains gas, it’s all bottled.
I hadn’t booked my return ferry and wasn’t able to because booking was closed until the passengers who had been scheduled to fly on the previous day, when poor visibility had meant flights were cancelled, were sorted out. It took until early afternoon before I could book a space. I didn’t mind because I had picked up a stinking cold and just fancied relaxing in the sunshine.
I walked around The Garrison headland, designed to protect St Mary’s. The Star Castle, now a hotel, was built inside The Garrison in the 1590s. I decided to have lunch there and enjoy the commanding views across to the other islands. I ate on the castle ramparts of this posh hotel, which was better than sitting in the dungeon on a hot, sunny day. It was a perfect end to my little holiday.
It was a grey, still and humid day. My clothes hadn’t dried very well in the Youth Hostel’s drying room so I set off with my underwear hanging from my rucksack. The sea was different shades today without the sunlight and there was a mist that obscured my view of both Cape Cornwall and Land’s End. I couldn’t tell where the sea ended and the sky began.
I passed lots of coves again. Large, rounded stones and lots of seaweed prevented easy access to the sea in most coves but I did spy one guy snorkelling around the rocks.
Whitesand Bay is the first big beach since St Ives and there were several surf schools drumming up business, although no surf.
Sennen Cove overlooks the Southern end of Whitesand Bay and I stopped here for a second breakfast. Eggs Florentine overlooking the Bay was a good Sunday brunch.
I had to climb up Mayon Cliff to get to Land’s End. I stopped at the National Trust hut and Irish Annie didn’t stop talking! She gave me lots of tips for pubs coming up, told me I should write a book and said there’s an escaped Pelican living wild, and fishing, in this area.
There was a small plaque acknowledging the long association of the Commandoes (from before they were Royal Marines) with the peculiar West Cornwall cliffs, particularly those around Sennen Cove. This is where many Commandoes learn to climb.
I reached Land’s End, British mainland’s most Southwesterly point. It was busy; although I didn’t see anyone who looked like they were just starting LEJOG. The Longships Lighthouse was only faintly visible offshore. I found someone to take my photo near-ish to the signpost (you have to pay to stand right next to it). I avoided the theme park and the animal farm and carried on around the headland.
There were a couple of people taking a dip at Nanjizal, a place where I have swum before. The tide was out so there wasn’t much water in the tunnel at the side of the beach. There was a seal just beyond the seaweed, watching the humans in the water. As I walked along the sun was getting stronger and the sky bluer.
Around Gwennap Head I finally turned East and immediately dropped into the sheltered village of Porthgwarra. I stopped at the cafe for a cream tea and took the opportunity to admire the beautiful setting that was apparently used in the recent Poldark television series.
In the 1800s this was a thriving fishing village, landing pilchards, mullet, crab and lobster. The fishermen carved “ullies” (tanks with wooden floors and lids) into the rock below high water so that fish could be kept fresh for market.
There was a tunnel through the rock that had been hewn by local miners in the 1890s to enable easier access to the beach for fishermen and farmers (collecting seaweed to use as fertiliser).
I passed St Levan’s beach, which had St Levan’s well at the top.
There were lots of tourists and cars at the Minack Theatre, perched on the cliff just before Porthcurno. I had been before to see Othello and was too hot to stop and pay to look at the empty stage. Besides, I had spied a beach.
The sea lapping Porthcurno beach looked so beautifully clear. There seemed to be miles of sand under the water, no rocks or seaweed, so this made the water look lighter than I had been used to. It was very inviting and lots of people were in the sea.
I pressed on to my campsite as it was only 10 minutes away. That way I could get my tent up, wash my sweaty clothes and then go for a well-earned dip. The campsite was lovely and I learned that there was another beach just below the cliff near Treen. Pedn Vounder beach was not accessible at high tide so I needed to hurry if I was going to swim there.
What a place! It was a difficult 10 minute scramble down the steep cliff to get to the beach but it was definitely worth it. Lots of people were leaving as I was arriving because the tide was already covering the rocks at the bottom. However, some people were still there and, as I got closer, I realised most were naked…this was a nudist beach. Strangely, all the naked people seemed to be men (although I didn’t stare too closely). This was one time I wasn’t going naked!
I don’t think I’ve ever been on such a beautiful beach in such glorious weather. I ran straight into the sea. It was such a cool relief and I could have wallowed there for hours, except that the tide was still coming in. I reluctantly climbed back up the cliff.
Ruth and Graham, who I had met skiing in Italy, live in Treen. They had a friend staying but we still all met at the pub for dinner. It was a lovely evening to cap a wonderful day.
Mary made me some lovely scrambled eggs with cream and her neighbour’s fresh eggs.
It was a hot day again; sunny and still. As yesterday the scenery was amazing, with a perfectly clear sea and large, rounded rocks studding the cliffs. The rocks made it a tough walk as you constantly have to adjust your footing and scramble over ankle-breakers. I enjoyed it, although by the end of the day the terrain and the heat were taking their toll.
Gurnard’s Head stuck out enough to be visible all the way along the coast as far as Pendeen.
It seemed to take me ages to get barely a couple of miles to Porthmeor Cove. Walking around it I spied a pool in the rocks that a family had been swimming in. There was no one else around so I took the opportunity to clamber carefully down the cliff (leaving my rucksack behind) and go for a dip. The water was lovely, and I didn’t bother with a swimming costume, anyone looking would have just seen my lily-white shorty wetsuit with matching ankle boots!
There were lots of rugged little coves, mostly inaccessible and all very beautiful and unspoilt.
Around Pendeen Watch, with its lighthouse, the St Just Mining District comes into view. There are lots of abandoned mine workings that are now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mining is believed to have started in this area as long ago as 5000BC, but the visible mine workings were mostly built in the 19th Century.
Geevor Tin Mine is the largest preserved mining site in the UK, it closed in 1990. It is open to visitors 6 days a week (closed on Saturdays). To me it looked like a huge man-made scar on the landscape; functional rather than beautiful.
The whole area is littered with mines and right next to Geevor Mine is Levant Mine, with its restored beam engine houses that still steam (not on Saturdays). Copper and tin were extracted from up to a mile out to sea and 500m underground. Amazing to thing all this was dug between 1835 and 1930.
Probably the most dramatically situated were the Crowns engine houses of the Botallack Mine, low on the cliff, sticking out.
I arrived at Cape Cornwall, a promontary with a hill, a tiny ruined chapel at the bottom and a chimney stack on the top, built to serve the Cape Cornwall Mine. It is the point where the waters from the Irish Sea, the English Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean all meet and churn around, making for some great stormy winter seas.
I have officially completed the Cape-to-Cape, Wrath to Cornwall.
Before I climbed up the hill and stood on Cape Cornwall I spied the refreshment van and sat down for a much needed mug of tea and slice of cake. It had been a hard walk today.
I still had a couple of miles to go. I had already crossed the Kenidjack Valley and had to walk up the Cot Valley to the youth hostel. Both these valleys are overgrown with trees and plants so their rivers are barely visible. They used to be full of mine workings, but now are full of birds enjoying the tranquility.
There was no room in the youth hostel so I camped in the garden. I walked the extra mile or so into St Just for dinner in the King’s Arms.
St Just is a granite town founded on mining in the heart of West Penwith. It is surrounded by moorland that is dotted with stone circles, quoits and hill forts; the Romans and the Saxons never really made it this far and West Penwith remains Celtic.
I was up at 7 am and already there were 3 caravans waiting to pitch – half term mayhem had started. Ian and Barbara had already packed their wet tents away and Ian caught a bus around Newquay. I went for a coffee at the local shop with Barbara as she was leaving on another bus to head back to Germany.
I packed away at 9 am and headed towards Newquay. The high cliffs here overlook beautiful clear sea and sandy beaches, most of which are joined together at low tide. It was another lovely walk until I reached Newquay town.
I couldn’t believe how many new hotels and apartments had been built along the coast. The dominant Watergate Bay Hotel was now dwarfed by other establishments. This looked like the posh end of Newquay. The town itself was heaving with people and did not look so posh. (Neither of my German friends liked Newquay.)
I bumped into Barbara again as she was waiting for another bus, so we went for a cream tea in Newquay town. People-watching was fun.
The sun was trying to come out as I left the town and walked over Towan Head to Fistral Beach, the home of British surfing. Just on the headland at the edge of the town is the Huer’s Hut, a 14th Century huer’s look out for shoals of pilchard. Upon spying a shoal the huer would ‘hue’ (alert) the local fishermen.
Fistral Beach was packed and there were at least 4 surf schools in the water, despite the lack of waves.
Over Pentire is Crantock Beach, an old family favourite. The Fern Pit Cafe has steps leading down the steep cliff to the River Gannel and a footbridge that is submerged at high tide (when they run a ferry). The old shop with live crab and lobster in tanks that kids can look at was still there.
I walked along the beach and a sea mist came in; I remember sea mists being frequent at Crantock.
I climbed up the cliff at the end of the beach and walked around Pentire Point West to Porth Joke, our favourite beach. It looked just the same: no lifeguards, huts or cafes here, just a small beach with a shallow stream running onto it. It is a half mile walk from the car park to the beach and I had always wanted to stay at the small campsite (no caravans allowed) that is next to the path. Today was my chance.
This campsite always finds room for hikers so I had no problem getting a space. The facilities were basic but I managed.
I walked the half mile back to the beach for a swim and tried to get all my stuff dry before I headed back up to The Bowgie Inn at West Pentire for dinner. The sea mist rolled in again, thicker this time.
It rained all night but, thankfully, it stopped at about 8.30 am and so I got up. What a grey day compared to the previous days. No matter, I was still sticking to my plan of walking around Trevose Head.
Ian and Barbara, two coastal walkers who had camped on the same sites as me the last 2 nights, were already packed away and having coffee outside Constantine Store. I joined them and had chocolate milk, a cereal bar and a banana for breakfast. They were both lone walkers who had just walked together the last 3 days; Ian was heading for Plymouth and Barbara (another German) was heading home tomorrow. It turned out they were walking to Mawgan Porth as well today so we parted knowing we’d likely meet again later.
I walked across a golf course to the North side of Trevose Head at Mother Ivey’s Bay and then walked the coast back around to Treyarnon. The views were not as good as they might have been but the beaches were beautiful and the sea was outstandingly clear.
I passed Booby’s Bay (scene of my surfing accident about 20 years ago) and walked along Constantine Beach. Surfers were already in the water and I stopped to buy a coffee from a little van and watch them. I remembered how I loved the houses sitting on the low cliffs here.
Back at Treyarnon my tent had dried out so it was quick to pack away and get going.
The sea on the next section looked unbelievably stunning and reminded me of Scotland. I could see the rocks, the sand and the seaweed under the water. The cliff top was designated a corn bunting sanctuary area and I heard them but didn’t see any.
The cliffs here had been washed away to leave ‘fingers’ sticking out into the sea with small coves in between, each one more beautiful than the next.
Porthcothan beach was empty. I skirted around it and carried on to Park Head. Porth Mear was a tiny cove, without a beach, that looked like a great spot for wild camping and swimming.
The sun was coming out as I rounded Park Head and saw Bedruthan Steps. A lovely sight as the cliffs had grown higher and the sandy beaches more golden and further away at the base of the cliff.
I reached Mawgan Porth and, sure enough, Ian and Barbara had pitched at the same campsite I picked. We all shared one pitch, with our 3 small tents, and consequently the kind owner only charged is £4 each. Best bargain ever as it was a really clean and nice campsite. It was also full from tomorrow (half term) and I was concerned this was going to be the same at many campsites.
As soon as I’d handwashed my sweaty clothes I headed down to the beach for a swim. There wasn’t much surf but I managed to catch a few waves, even without a board or fins. This was better than the other 2 people standing in the sea holding surf boards.
I can’t decide if everyone stares at me because I’m the only person not wearing a full body wetsuit (even though the sea isn’t cold) or if it’s my ridiculous tan lines?
I bumped into Tanya (the other German walker from last week) on the beach and we agreed to meet in the Merrymoor Inn (the only pub in town) for dinner. Ian and Barbara joined us and we gorged ourselves on all-you -can-eat curry (which was actually really good) washed down with local beer. To top it off, tonight there was entertainment in the pub. We were treated to 84-year old Larry singing Irish folk songs and playing his penny whistle (he even wet it first!) and the Newquay Rowing Club Singers doing renditions of Cornish songs. It was all brilliant and the Germans loved it. What a great evening.