Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Day 15 - September 18th 2014 - Portloe to Helford Passage

After four days of fairly high mileage I was pleased to find that my legs were still feeling fresh when I woke this morning. All the effort I'd put into keeping fit through the summer seemed to be bearing fruit. In planning I'd penciled in Falmouth the my most likely target for the current six day stint of walking. However I'd covered more miles than expected in the fine weather and was set to pass through Falmouth mid-way through today, only the fifth of those six days.

Lea dropped me back to the car park where I'd stopped at Portloe yesterday. After making the climb out of town I continued along the clifftops. My camera was playing up, the LCD screen had gone bright white for some reason. I didn't know if the pictures would come out so I switched to taking them on my smartphone instead.

With only two miles covered I got the day's navigational blunder out of the way. Just after Parc Caragloose Cove the path split into two where it entered a field, each way equally worn, no sign directing walkers. I decided to take the left fork, this being the one keeps closest to the coast. After crossing a stile this path went into fairly dense gorse. It didn't seem that well trodden. I already knew I'd made the wrong choice but decided to carry on anyway in the hope it would rejoin the main path a bit further on. Most people who go this way must have turned-back earlier than me because it became increasingly overgrown and harder to follow. I was on the side of a hill that was getting steeper, waves crashing over rocks below me, it began to feel quite dangerous. Where I'd have needed rock climbing gear to go on any further I admitted defeat and gave up, re-tracing my steps to the field with my tail between my legs. A little time had been wasted, but I laughed-off my unintended detour, these mini-adventures are all part of the fun.

Now back on the path proper I pressed on towards Nare Head. I saw quite a lot of Japanese Knotwood in this area. As I headed south this invasive weed seemed to be becoming an increasingly common sight. In a few places attempts were being made to control it, but the weed was still so widepsread this looked like a losing battle to me. I also noticed a mysterious bunker in a field near the cliff. Freshly painted green vents suggesting some sort of underground structure that's still in use. It's always a great moment when you turn the corner on a headland and the next bay opens out in front of you. This happened at Nare Head when I found myself looking through the haze across Gerrans Bay and the next seven miles or so of walking, bring it on!

The path was very quiet this morning. When I'd almost reached Carne Beach a couple heading east became the first people I'd seen since leaving Portloe an hour and a half earlier. I was able to walk along the sand at Carne Beach, a real treat after pounding hard surfaces all week thanks to the on-going long dry spell. I wasn't complaining, a rock-hard path is a price worth paying for fine weather and a total absence of mud. Easy cliff-top walking with pleasant views followed as far as Porthcurnick Beach and nearby Portscatbo where I met Lea and stopped for lunch.

The path was very easy again heading west out of Portscatbo. I saw a recreational runner coming the other way, always a sign there's nothing too bad ahead. There were a few people on Towan Beach. The less accesible Porthbeor Beach was completely empty. Shortly before rounding St. Anthonys Head I caught my first glimpse of Falmouth. In the hazy, humid conditions it was no more than a light grey silhouette. After passing war defences and the lighthouse I emerged in a place called Place. Place House looked wonderful, in a great spot overlooking the river and St.Mawes. Though it was disappointing to see the graveyard of the nearby 13th century church badly overgrown.

Falmouth was now two ferry trips away, there would be no walking for a little while. I found the small jetty at Place easily enough and was delivered to St.Mawes promptly on the half-hourly service. It seemed to be doing good business today. A much bigger ferry with fewer passengers took me over to Falmouth. I was only in St.Mawes for a few minutes though I had good views of the town from the second ferry. By far the biggest vessel in Falmouth today was RFA Mounts Bay, a huge Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship.

Unbeknown to us in advance it turned out the St.Mawes ferry alternates between two landing points in Falmouth. We lost the coin-flip; Lea was waiting at one, I arrived at the other. We decided to walk towards each other and meet in the middle. The town was busy, and easily the biggest I'd seen since Plymouth. I took a short break and we finalised plans for the afternoon.

Leaving Falmouth I had a good view of the docks from up above. Among the works I saw the Pendennis super-yacht builders, and a huge dry dock that was empty today. After rounding Pendennis Point I walked along a long peaceful esplanade. Some people were out for an afternoon stroll, others were relaxing on one of the dozens of benches facing out to sea. As always each bench dedicated to some coast-loving soul who's no longer with us. I was making good progress, crossing the Fal hadn't taken as long as I'd expected. By now the decision had been made to press on as far as Helford Passage rather than stop at Maenporth, the other shorter option. This would hopefully set me up to make it to Lizard Point tomorrow. For a short time the sun burnt through the haze while I passed Gyllyngvase Beach, the only time I saw shadows all day.

At Maenporth I met Lea again and took my final short break of the day. She then drove on ahead to Helford Passage while I set about covering the final four miles. The path stayed easy, I was still going well, those last few miles went quickly. Durgan was a wonderful place to walk through, picturesque and unspoilt, it would make a great period film-set. I was disappointed to discover later that nearly all the properties there are second homes or holiday lets. Near Durgan I saw huge pines overlooking the River Helford, the biggest I've ever seen in this country.

On arrival at Helford Passage I walked as far as the ferry crossing point. I'd arrived an hour and a half after it closed, but that was fine, I wouldn't be needing it today. Lea was waiting for me in The Ferryboat Inn just opposite. We enjoyed a delicious meal while there, our best in Cornwall so far. Service was excellent and prices reasonable, highly recommended. I reflected on how well these five days had gone and wondered if my luck could possibly last through the sixth day too.

Distance Walked Today 23.86 miles (38.40km)

Walking Time; 7 hours 41 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.1 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 336.73 miles (541.91km)

GPS Track; http://runkeeper.com/user/GaryQQQ/activity/437258644

This picture was taken when I strayed onto the wrong path at Parc Caragloose Rock,
that's Gull Rock in the distance.


My first view of hazy Gerrans Bay as I round Nare Head
Carne Beach, I enjoyed walking on the sand here

Porthcurnick Beach, Portscatbo in the distance

Place House

Falmouth emerges from the haze as I approach on the St.Mawes Ferry

Gyllyngvase Beach, the sun briefly burnt through the haze while I was here

The scene on my arrival at Helford Passage

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