It is so very lovely to be back in Cornwall and on the path again. I think this may be our longest stretch without walking since we began but not intentionally. We had planned a long weekend at the beginning of March but as the time neared the forecast became worse and worse with people telling us we’d be mad to head down into a blizzard and others telling us we were wimps not to go. We chose, with much begrudging and moaning, not to make the journey and later that day felt very glad as the A31 (which we would have been travelling along at that very time) was snowbound for 18 hours with some drivers being airlifted by the army!
So we had to temper our enthusiasm for nearly another month until the Easter weekend when the whole shebang was to turn into a massive family affair. Jess had once again offered up her house (and very generously had moved a little further north to Bodmin). To try and make up for the lost walking time, myself and Barbara left a couple of days before everyone else and got a sneaky couple in before the hordes descended. The forecast, which had been pretty dismal (rain for the entire 10 days), seemed to flirt with us and perk up just prior to beginning a walk. On this first outing the temperature rose significantly and the rain completely disappeared making for clement conditions.
Knowing that the men in our party were not fond of becoming used and abused for their lift giving qualities, it was important (to me definitely) to organise the transport under our own steam. These first two days we had no choice as Jess was working (in a fantastically unusual profession as Bodmin Jail’s very own resident storyteller).
So we finally begin the day at the National Trust car park in Holywell where we had left off last October. The attendants were attentive but gloriously slow reminding me to try and relax into the Cornish pace of life.
We disappeared into the dune system behind Holywell beach, seamlessly slipping back into being the yellow coat following the red or vice versa. Companionably apart on the slopes, yet together. We have been friends for a very long time before this walking venture but now we are interwoven even deeper; a delightful fact, but closeness can also bring its own ups and downs: a little like a Cornish coastal path.
I hadn’t been particularly upbeat of late and I made myself remember how lucky we are not only to have each other and our families, but also to be able to continue this experience small step by small step. I thought of Ruth Livingstone’s first personal ‘rule’ of coastal walking – ‘to enjoy each and every walk’ and opened my eyes wide and took a good deep breath of fresh Cornish air.
Each time we rose to the top of a dune we’d look back and see Carter’s Rock framed perfectly by the soft sand
and spied only one small figure down on the wide expanse of beach despite the beautiful day. Coming out of the dunes and onto fields a farmer was rounding up the sheep with their new lambs on a shiny red tractor. Round Kelsey Head and down to Polly Joke beach.
This type of beach is typical of this stretch of coast: blonde sand, deep into the land yet still so wide and massive us Sussex folk could only dream of such a place. On the map beaches such as Polly Joke look tiny and insignificant but in reality they are huge at low tide and often stocked with fascinating dark and mysterious caves.
Easy walking and gentle weather leads to easy talking especially at the beginning of a a trip when we have much to catch up on as well as notice around us. Rounding Pentire Point West we could see down onto the gargantuan Crantock Beach (the first of the Newquay beaches)
and could see a smattering of people: miniature and miles apart. We clambered down the rocks and loved the space, the sand, the caves, the dunes replete with dogs and surfers tumbling down.
Dimmocks of sand filled with sky-spangled water.
Little dogs wallowing. Happiness at the mild weather so tangible.
At the far side of the beach and not apparent until we were nearly on top of it is The Gannel. It looks so slight and innocuous at low tide that it is almost impossible to imagine a ferry crossing here
or that it could be in anyway dangerous to wade across (but the SWCP site warns otherwise and I’m respectful of currents and tides and there was not a sign of anyone crossing). So up the river we walked along the beach that just keeps on going and the sand that just keeps collapsing under foot. Finally the odd low bridge came into sight
and we were up the opposite bank and into a suburban twitten and then onto the road. The couple of men and their dog who had been in front of us on our journey up the beach turned down a different road at this point and we continued on to Pentire Point East where the houses gave way to heathland. Found a nicely-appointed bench to eat an extremely nutty bar, gaze back onto Crantock beach and appreciate the warmth of the sun.
Round the head is a hotel. As we were passing a car drew up. The passenger alighted and said to the driver “Don’t run over the walkers coz I know how much you hate ’em”. It’s funny that even such a quiet activity as walking can create such venom in locals or others. Is it because walkers don’t hang around and spend much money in pubs and local sights? Are they not very humorous, not very appreciative of standing still and soaking in one place at a time? As with most people’s dislikes they are based on stereotypes and they occur even within walkers themselves. I’ve read in many places that walking is a supposed leveller of people, but I’m not so sure. Walking creates its own hierarchies and snobberies as does anything else. Tristam Gooley in his book The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs immediately aggravated me with his opening anecdote about him and his friend meeting some other walkers who were all kitted out in complete walking clobber. Both parties brought to the encounter their own snobberies and dislike of the other. Ruth Livingstone has been known to demean her amazing walking achievements by emphasising that she is not a ‘real’ walker. What is this mythical ‘real’ walker? I often feel silly being spotted sporting a walking stick or even a waterproof jacket but know that they have proved incredibly useful items. I also love it when I have a landscape to myself/ ourselves which is not very companionable to other walkers.
The path veers gently round to Fistral Beach where Ben took the kids surfing last year. Here there were surfers akimbo – getting ready on the road out of their cars, walking down to the sea and in it. A real hive of activity after the quiet of earlier.
The path behind Fistral and the beginnings of Towan Head is a smelly twitten stuck between the dunes on the seaside and a wire fence looking onto a golf course on the other,
with an imposing red brick square hotel up in front.
As we came closer, Barbara remembered that she had had dinner with her folks in the hotel when her son, Mylo, was three. It wasn’t a particularly successful holiday as constant rain poured down and she became ill with a vicious flu when she returned home.
Had lunch leaning against the mock castle at Towan Head looking down into the Gazzle – what a great name. Along the cliffside promenade we walked towards the mighty cross which seemed an appropriate marker on a Good Friday
and then onto the Huer’s Hut which dazzled with whiteness in the brilliant blue sky.
I like the thought of the Huer alerting the townsfolk of the arrival of the shoals of pilchards.
Looking down onto Towan Beach there is a spindly tower of rock with a spacious house atop it, connected to the mainland by a mini suspension bridge – a little pretentious but eccentric.
When I thought about it seriously, I couldn’t think of many places I’d less like to live what with my vertigo – imagine stumbling back pissed from town at night or moving in – what a nightmare to carry every piece of furniture over or having to hoist it up from the beach!
I should’ve trusted what I saw from the head and walked on the beach but when we were on top of it, it was hard to gauge whether the beach would be wide enough all the way round to Tolcarne, so we walked through the streets. Barrowfields was where we thought we’d finish as there was a bus scheduled on the online timetable. However, when I checked when we got there the timetable had mysteriously changed and there was only one in 2 hours time. If we wanted to catch the bus there was no point in walking further as the bus turned inland at this point so we decided to be extravagant – walk a little further and call a taxi.
A lovely stroll past Lusty Glaze (what a name) and round to Porth Beach and a much more rural feel. The car park was on the beach and everything was on a much smaller scale. Had a sunny Coast Cafe coffee and watched a small blonde toddler in a wetsuit repeatedly throwing a ball for a Dalmatian and a Collie. A relaxing end to a relaxing day.
Miles walked: 11
Since the beginning: 632