Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Day 25 - September 18th 2015 - Bude to Hartland Quay

The section of the South West Coast Path between Bude and Hartland Quay is said to be the toughest of the entire 630 mile route. Would it live up to it's reputation? I was excited the time had come for me to find out.

It was overcast and windy, there was that typical late September end-of-season atmosphere in Bude. I walked past the unusual outdoor seawater swimming pool. It was closed at the time because the tide was in, big waves washing over the top. I saw rows of tired beach huts that looked like they could do with a lick of paint. The walking was easy as I left town. Once again signs of erosion and crumbling cliffs were frequent. At Northcott Mouth there was nobody else around. I could see distinctive anti-tank war defences where the stream flows onto the beach. They must have been very well built to survive this long without being destroyed by stormy seas. The climb there was the first of note today, though nothing too bad. I considered it a warm-up for what was to follow later.

At Sandy Mouth the path stays above the beach so I didn't see much. A couple with a baby strapped to the father were just setting off from the almost empty car park to walk towards Bude. The going stayed fairly easy as I moved on to the pleasant valley at Duckpool. This was a nice spot with a classic oxbow river that was being enjoyed by a few local dog walkers. There was a strong wind and the sea was high, I didn't expect I'd see anybody in the water today.

The steepest climb yet took me up to Steeple Point. Now the Morewenstow GCHQ listening station was right in front of me. I found the place fascinating. It's only when you get close you realise just how big it is. There are several huge dishes pointing at different parts of the sky, mysterious domes. Security looked to be much tighter than at any other government installation I'd seen on this coast walk so far. Signs fixed to the outer fence warn that photography isn't allowed. I couldn't resist taking a couple of quick pictures from a bit of a distance, hopefully they're not a threat to national security. I have no idea whether or not I was being watched on the CCTV cameras, but nobody came to arrest me!

Crossing the stream at Stanbury Mouth I saw other long-distance walkers for the first time today, a family, two teenagers and their parents heading south, Scandinavian I think. The going was starting to get noticeably hilly now. The descents were awkward, muddy and slippery underfoot after over-night showers, the climbs getting longer and steeper. After another tricky descent and steep climb at a valley called Tidna Shute I saw a sign that shows where a short path leads down to Hawker's Hut at Vicarage Cliff. This fascinating structure, made from driftwood by eccentric clergyman and poet Robert Hawker in the nineteenth century, is the smallest property owned by the National Trust. I opened the door and sat inside. For a few minutes I enjoyed the magnifient views and looked at the graffiti etched on the interior over the decades. Looking back up at Vicarage cliff later I found it impossible to spot the well-hidden hut.

Cornwall had a sting it's tail. After Tidna Shute there were another two similar deep gorse-filled valleys to negotiate, each with a small footbridge at the bottom. Then I reached the Devon border at Marsland Mouth. I stopped on the footbridge, one foot in each county, with mixed emotions. Entering North Devon was a pleasing landmark, I was very happy to make it back to my home county. However I was also sad to leave Cornwall. The twelve days I'd spent walking around the county's spectacular 300 mile coastline since my arrival on the Cremyll Ferry a year ago had been absolutely unforgettable. The Cornwall coast is so beautiful I would have been quite happy if it just carried on forever.

Marsland Mouth itself was a lovely place to re-enter Devon, much easier on the eye than the last three valleys I'd walked through in Cornwall. The stream here has carved-out a delightful small gorge. There was a large house in a wonderful position at the head of the valley, horses grazing in the fields, it looked great in the sunshine which was now starting to burn away the morning clouds.

Devon also let me know in no uncertain terms that the terrain wasn't going to be getting any easier just yet. Leaving Marsland Mouth required another a long steep climb. Near the top I came to wonderful Ronald Duncan's Hut. It is well kept and clean, contains a table, two chairs, two large bottles of fresh drinking water with glasses, and a guestbook. There are displays full of information about the late author who wrote his poetry and plays here. Ronald's hut is always open to passing walkers, maintaining this place of rest and shelter in such a remote location is a wonderful gift from his family to passers-by. I spent several minutes in the hut and signed the guestbook before moving on.

On the hill above Ronald Duncan's hut and Marsland Mouth I was pleasantly surprised to find a memorial bench dedicated to a man called Harold Keays. It gave a fantastic view over Welcombe Mouth and was the perfect place to stop for lunch. After a short rest I walked down into the valley. Welcombe Mouth itself was lovely. There was a series of pretty waterfalls, the stream then running into the sea between spectacular lines of jagged rocks. Leaving required another very steep climb from sea-level to around 350ft, probably the toughest of the day. There were no steps, the only way to get to the top was by scrambling as best you could up a loose stony surface that was crumbling and uneven.

Once at the top the going suddenly got easy again. I passed the ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort at Embury Beacon. Then there was a short section on a country lane that looked and smelled like it only gets used by tractors and muck-spreaders. Lundy was getting closer than ever. It looked much taller than when I'd first noticed the island back at Godrevy Head. I realised that back then I must have only been able to see the very top of the island, most of its height still being below the horizon. Now I was close enough to make out buildings and other features.

At Mansley Cliff I could see Hartland Quay ahead. It looked quite close, but it would still take a while to get there yet. For some reason the official coast path goes around the back of Swansford Hill rather than over the top, a rare case of sacrificing views to take an easier route. Just after there I saw people for the first time since Welcombe Mouth, two excited women with cameras looking over a cliff. I soon realised why, there were lovely waterfalls there, the best of the day, one of them quite tall and flowing well.

After distinctive St.Catherines Tor, which looks a bit like Glastonbury Tor sliced in half, there was another pretty waterfall. I overheard people there happily agreeing it had been worth making the difficult walk from Harland Quay to see! After a rugged but relatively easy stretch of path over the final headland of the day I made my way down into the lower car park Hartland Quay where Lea was waiting. After a day of fairly short mileage by my standards it felt a bit odd finishing mid-afternoon.

So, is Bude To Hartland Quay toughest section of the South West Coast Path? 

That depends who you ask.

After walking it myself my answer is 'No, it definitely wasn't for me. But I can see why it is for many other coast walkers'.

Between Morewenstow and Marsland Mouth the terrain was very demanding. There is a series of steep, deep valleys which even the fittest among us would find a struggle. In that area I agree, the coast path is as difficult as it gets. However there are also several miles of relatively easy walking either side. Personally I thought my days 23 and 24 were both harder than today. When I looked-up the numbers this feeling was confirmed by the ascent data recorded on my GPS device;

4,545 feet of ascent on day 23.
5,680 feet of ascent on day 24.
4,194 feet of ascent on day 25 (Bude to Hartland Quay).

It comes down to how many miles you prefer to walk per day. Most coast walkers would break-up my days 23 and 24 into two shorter sections each. Those who do would rightly consider the walk I made today to be more difficult than any one of those four. To me the walk from Bude to Hartland Quay didn't seem particularly difficult because it was about a third shorter than my usual daily average. In planning I'd considered going on to Clovelly today. If asked I'm confident my legs could have managed it without too much difficulty.

The walking had to go on pause at Hartland Quay. Unfortunately that's all I have time for in 2015. We'd enjoyed a fantastic holiday on the coast. I feel incredibly lucky to have walked through so many beautiful places over the last six days. The brilliant South West Coast Path never ever disappoints.

I'd like to say a massive thank-you to Lea for doing a fantastic job supporting me in the car all week. As we drove home to Exmouth plans were already underway for our return in April 2016 when I intend to complete the remaining 108 miles to Minehead.

Thanks for reading, Gary.

Distance Walked Today 15.57 miles (25.06km)

Walking Time; 6 hours 16 minutes

Average Walking Speed 2.5 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 556.77 miles (896.03km)

GPS Track;

The salt water swimming pool being overwhelmed by waves at Bude
Easy cliff-top walking to start the day
The GCHQ listening station at Morwenstow
Hawker's Hut
View of the first hill in Devon, picture taken in Cornwall. Marsland Mouth is in the foreground,
Ronald Duncan's Hut is near the top of the hill
The South West Coast Path crosses from Cornwall into Devon on this footbridge at Marsland Mouth
Ronald Duncan's Hut
Waterfalls at Welcombe Mouth

Jagged rocks on the beach at Welcombe Mouth

View from Mansley Cliff, Lundy is on the horizon, St.Catherine's Tor just right of centre,
the white rooftops are at Hartland Quay
Waterfall just north of St. Catherine's Tor

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Day 24 - September 17th 2015 - Tintagel to Bude

When Lea dropped me back at Tintagel I chose not to hang around and take a look at the ruins of the castle and abbey. Undoubtedly there is some interesting history here, but I found the fuss over the myths and legends surrounding King Arthur a bit off-putting and preferred to head straight back to the coast path instead.

The path immediately carried on as it had left off yesterday, quite hilly from the start, fantastic views of the rugged coastline in all directions from the cliff-tops. I saw many short diversions from the main path that led off to viewpoints. Progress would be too slow if I'd taken every detour, but I couldn't resist going up one that led to a cliff-edge above the main path east of Bossiney Haven. I enjoyed the great view and took a few pictures.

After only a couple of miles or so of pleasant walking I suddenly found myself descending steeply down into dramatic Rocky Valley. It is aptly named, full of rocky mini-cliffs and outcrops, yet still quite green with vegetation. A lovely stream bubbles along the bottom, a wonderful place to see. As I left I saw there was a car park and caravan site nearby, explaining why there were quite a few other people walking in Rocky Valley at the same time as me who didn't look particularly agile .

As I continued west the going stayed hilly, though not nearly as severe as yesterday afternoon just yet. As I went down the steps of one descent I was surprised to see a couple with two young children going the other way. They sounded Scandinavian. The children weren't complaining, in fact they actually seemed to be enjoying their coastal walk. I don't think my own daughters would have given such a favourable reaction if I'd taken them there at a similar age.

On a headland approaching Boscastle I saw an old coastguard watchtower with ponies grazing in the grounds. It was a nice spot, though close enough to town to attract several casual strollers and dog-walkers up the hill.

The pretty little town of Boscastle is of course well-known for the devastating flash-flood of 2004. It's amazing how the resilient locals have bounced back, it looked lovely as I passed through, no signs of any damage remain. Boscastle was justifiably a popular place, there were easily more tourists milling around here than I'd seen earlier at Tintagel. Looking back at the footage now it seems amazing that no lives were lost to the flood, the emergency services did an incredible job getting everybody out alive.

Leaving Boscastle I must have missed a sign and ended up on the wrong path. It was well trodden at first, but my mistake became clear when it petered out on a dangerous ledge on the side of Penally Point. I carefully back-tracked and went over the top of the headland. Somewhat bizarrely there was a flagpole at the summit with a wooden cut-out of a fish on top, no flag. The correct path, when I found it, goes behind Penally Point and requires much less leg work than the way I went.

At a place called Hillsborough I came to the sharpest descent of the day so far, there must have been at least a couple of hundred steep steps going down. Though typically for the coast path, what goes down soon went straight back up. I had to climb a similar hill almost immediately to get to the top of Beeny Cliff. Then there was a choice of paths offered, 'Coast Path to Fire Beacon', or 'Alternate Route', which went more inland. I took the Fire Beacon option. Most of the way around it was pleasant and easy on the side of a grassy hill. When I got to Fire Beacon itself I realised why the alternative had been offered, the last part required a fairly short but super-steep scramble up a loose rocky surface only a few feet from the edge of a scary cliff. Certainly not the sort of place for the faint-hearted.

My legs were glad that the walking got easier for a while after Fire Beacon, this lasted until I reached Rusey Cliff. When I arrived there a small group of ponies, one with a young foal, were grazing between the path and the cliff-edge. The sun was shining, a gorgeous view over High Cliff and beyond had opened before me. I had the place to myself, it was a magical. I did my best not to scare the ponies away and enjoyed the beautiful scenes. The ponies moved-on after a couple of minutes, but not before I'd taken about a dozen pictures to preserve my favourite moment of the week so far.

After the path zig-zagged steeply down from Rusey Cliff I found myself facing a long arduous uphill slog to get to the top of High Cliff. At the time of writing I'm fit enough to go straight up most hills without taking a rest, but I don't mind admitting I stopped for a breather three times on my way up this monster of a climb. I was spurred on by the knowledge that at 731 feet High Cliff is the tallest cliff in Cornwall (for comparison Golden Cap measures up at 626 feet, Blackpool Tower 519 feet). When I eventually made it to the top I fist-pumped to celebrate and stopped a while to take in the massive views. I could see a long way to the south over various headlands and islands I'd passed over the last couple of days. To the north I could see miles of coastline that await me, including large white structures where there's a listening station at Morewenstow over the border in North Devon. On leaving High Cliff I noticed the way down was quite gradual, no steps needed. I assume walkers heading along the coast path the other way find their ascent much easier.

Apart from a short sharp climb at Cambeak the walking from High Cliff to Crackington Haven was easy. Lea was waiting in the car park behind the beach with lunch. Our get-togethers had gone like clockwork this week. Using the Google Streetview tool to work out in advance where to meet in unfamiliar places was a tactic that was working very well.

After lunch there were immediately more hills to tackle. After climbing up from Crackington Haven I enjoyed walking along the top of the ridge at Castle Point. The toughest valley of the afternoon came just south of Chipman Point, after a very sharp descent the climb up the other side was another tough scramble on small loose stones and rocks, getting a good grip with my boots was very difficult all the way up. At the top my attention was drawn to a bench bearing the acorn symbol, the sign which always indicates which way the coast path goes. Engraved into the bench next to the acorn were the words 'Minehead 132 miles'. I didn't think to look while I was there, but I wondered minutes later if it also says 'Poole 498 miles' on the other side. For the first time it dawned upon me that there wasn't too much walking left on this amazing journey.

The going got easier again through grassy cliff-top fields, cows grazing. Passing through one field my attention was drawn to a trig-point that was tilted to one side, a bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Usually they're well mounted on a solid base, perfectly upright. I thought maybe itchy cows had been rubbing themselves on it. Or perhaps there was subsidence underneath, it was near a cliff. Unfortunately while distracted by the matter I managed to tread in a fresh cow-pat. The smelly green mess went right over the top of my right boot. Yuck. I spent several minutes deliberately walking through the longest wettest grass I could find, successfully washing most of the muck off.

After the fields I was surprised to find myself entering muddy Dizzard Wood. I couldn't recall walking through any other woods since leaving St Ives four and a half days ago. It started to feel a bit more like Devon than Cornwall here. Arriving at nearby Millook I saw the extraordinary folds in the huge cliff, apparently a site of national importance. The walk over the cliff would be the last energy-sapping hill of the day.

The rest of the path through Widemouth and Upton on to Bude was grassy and easy. There were people enjoying the beach at tranquil Widemouth, the ever reliable RNLI guards keeping watch as usual. Approaching Upton I was overtaken by a young lady walking very quickly, quite a surprise as it's usually me who does the overtaking. I realised why she was moving so fast when she left the path and darted into a restaurant. Arriving at dead-on six in the afternoon, she must have been rushing to get to work on time. I suppose you could say a walk on the South West Coast Path is her way of commuting, how wonderful.

Approaching Bude I walked by the tower at Compass Point. It looked like it was quite close to a cliff-edge where there were fresh falls. I wondered how long it will be before it either gets moved or falls into the sea. After a short but pleasant walk along the canal I met Lea again in the car park. I'd enjoyed a fairly tough but absolutely delightful day of walking. I couldn't think of any way I'd rather have spent my forty-ninth birthday.

Distance Walked Today 22.30 miles (35.89km)

Walking Time; 8 hours 28 minutes

Average Walking Speed 2.6 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 541.20 miles (870.98km)

GPS Track;

A short detour gave me this cliff-top over Bossiney Haven
Rocky Valley
Boscastle, the coast path crosses this bridge
I chose to go via Fire Beacon of course
The view from Fire Beacon
Ponies graze on Rusey Cliff, High Cliff is in the background, North Devon in the far distance

Looking back the way I came, the view south west from High Cliff

What lies ahead, the view north from High Cliff, North Devon and the listening station
at Morewenstow are visible on the horizon

Spectacular folds in the cliff-face at Millook

Tranquil scenes at Widemouth

Arriving in Bude

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Day 23 - September 16th 2015 - Rock to Tintagel

Lea dropped me off where the Padstow ferry lands at Rock. Skipping the ferry ride made absolutely no difference to the distance walked, but it did save the fare and several miles of unnecessary driving back around The Camel Estuary. The ferry had just pulled in when I got there, plenty of people who'd come over from Padstow were also taking a walk around the estuary on the sand.

After clambering up the crumbling sand of a tall dune the path took me to Fishing Cove Field. I didn't see anybody fishing, but the beach here was very popular with dog walkers. I wondered if perhaps it should be renamed Dog Walkers Field. One couple had about 10 excited dogs, all running loose, most of them barking loudly. I'm not sure why they need so many, other owners with only one or two dogs each didn't look too impressed.

It was an easy stroll around to Polzeath which was surprisingly busy. I didn't realise at the time, but I passed the 500 miles walked landmark on this journey as I passed the Tristram Car Park where the path enters town. There were dozens of people in water, most with surf boards, mainly school-age children, though none were managing to ride today's relatively small waves. I saw a coach in the car park from Germany. There was a happy atmosphere about the place, everybody seemed to be having fun. I could see why current UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his family choose to holiday at Polzeath.

The first noticeable climbs of the day came on the approach to Pentire Point, though nothing too strenuous so far. There seemed to be quite a lot of cliff erosion here. When I got to Pentire Point the visibility wasn't at it's best, but there were good views looking three ways, inland up The Camel Estuary towards Padstow and Rock, south looking over the headlands where I'd walked yesterday, and north up the coast where I'd be heading today.

The distinctive headland at The Rumps looked like an attractive little detour, but I decided I didn't really have time and pressed on. Behind Lundy Beach I was thrilled to 'discover' Lundy Hole, a collapsed cave similar to those I'd seen yesterday. This one was much easier to enjoy because it cuts into the side of a very steep hill, giving passing walkers a grandstand view. It was a wonderful place that my pictures do no justice. One of those places you have to see with your own eyes to truly appreciate. Scenic Lundy Beach, Lundy Hole and adjacent Epphaven Cove were easily my favourite place of the day so far.

Approaching Port Quin on windy cliff-tops I saw the first abandoned mine shafts since Newquay, then Doyden Castle. It's not a real castle by any means, more a small folly on top of a hill. Unimpressed I didn't bother climbing the hill where it stands for a closer look. Port Quin itself, a pretty little hamlet at the end of a well sheltered cove, was quaint and unspoilt. A few days before my visit it had been used by the BBC to shoot scenes for a new series of Poldark. I could see why, it doesn't look like it's changed much in a very long time.

After leaving Port Quin the going started to get hilly. The ascents and descents were becoming longer and steeper. For a while I caught occasional glimpses of a person in a bright white jacket ahead of me. When I eventually caught up I saw she was one half of a couple. Both were wearing fashionable sandals, not the usual choice of coast walkers. Even more surprising when I said hello I noticed that the lady in the white jacket was carrying a small dog. They were probably the most eccentric walkers I'd seen so far this week, though to be fair to they'd almost reached Port Isaac after completing a fairly tough stretch of the coast path. The section between Polzeath and Port Isaac was quite popular with walkers, busier than I'd expected.

Port Isaac has gained notoriety as the filming location for the long-running TV comedy series Doc Martin. I've never watched it myself, but it was easy to see why pretty Port Isaac was chosen. Similar to Port Quin but larger, the harbour area is unspoilt, the streets too narrow for modern vehicles, many old buildings and Cornish Charm in abundance. I was reminded of Polperro and Mevagissey. On my way in I'd walked right past the front door of the fictional doctor's house without realising. Lea was waiting in town, we ate lunch overlooking the harbour. It was probably as busy here as Padstow. Clearly Doc Martin brings many tourists this way.

Port Gaverne was a short road walk from Port Isaac, from there I made a fairly steep climb up onto cliff-tops. For the rest of the afternoon the path would be much quieter than it had in the morning, the walking would be much more difficult too. There were a series of eight energy-sapping ascents and descents between Port Gaverne and Tintagel. The height and steepness of each was similar to the hills east of Sidmouth where I'd walked occasionally through the summer to keep in shape. I was now glad I'd put in the practise.

There were no steps cut into the first few steep hills, the surfaces loose and difficult. Going up was often more a case of scrambling on all fours than walking. Going down felt dangerous. When I did eventually find a flight of steps going down they led straight off the edge of a cliff where the path had fallen away. However, as usual the coast path rewarded tough walking with great views. The coast was spectacular along this stretch, the effort as always more than worthwhile.

I wondered why Dannon Chapel was so named when it appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, far from any buildings. I realised why when I spotted the ruins of what looked like a small chapel on a headland. The last of the eight steep descents was my way out of Trebarwith Strand, a picturesque inlet, a lovely spot to visit. The pub here was tempting, there were kids in the water, an RNLI lifeguard keeping watch as usual.

As I got closer to Tintagel I started to see many abandoned slate quarries that had taken massive chunks out of the cliffs. In one of them the miners had left a huge column of rock at least a hundred feet tall. I wondered why, and if it's ever been climbed.

The steep hills turned into easier undulations on the approach to Tintagel Island, which was bathed in late afternoon sunshine. After taking a few pictures of the island and ruins there was one last unexpected steep slog on tarmac up to the village where Lea was waiting. My legs let it be known they didn't like it after a tough day. We went to the nearby King Arthur's pub for a meal. I was hungry and thirsty after another magical day on the wonderful South West Coast Path.

Distance Walked Today 21.60 miles (34.76km)

Walking Time; 7 hours 22 minutes

Average Walking Speed 2.9 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 518.90 miles (835.09km)

GPS Track;

The ferry to Padstow leaving Rock

Despite leaden skies the beach at Polzeath was very popular

Lundy Hole

Lundy Beach and Epphaven Cove, Lundy Hole cuts through the hill just right and above centre

Port Quin
The lady in a white jacket I saw wearing sandals and carrying a dog over steep hills
Port Isaac

Doc Martin's house. It looks like he's in!
The ruins at isolated Dannon Chapel

Looking down over Trebarwith Strand as I contemplate the last steep decent and ascent of a tough afternoon

The huge column left in an old slate quarry near Tintagel

Tintagel Island bathed in late afternoon sunshine

Day 22 - September 15th 2015 - Newquay to Padstow

In contrast to yesterday I woke to a pleasant sunny Cornish morning. I made my out of Newquay, skirting around Tolcarne Beach, Lusty Glaze Beach and Porth Beach. All were pretty to look at, all still very quiet at this time of the morning, just a few local dog walkers sharing the coast path. At Trevelgue Head I saw the only mine shaft of the day, dropping vertically into the headland, it was covered by a metal grill.

After leaving Newquay via some easy cliff-top walking I soon found myself looking over the gorgeous sandy beach at Watergate Bay. Pebble beaches that are common in my local area don't seen to exist in these parts. The views were fantastic, the sand looked great in the sunshine, I took many photographs. There were more people on this beach than at Newquay. Unusually for the Cornwall coast there was mobile phone reception here too. I used it to tweet a picture of the view to my friends and family. In the middle of Watergate Bay the path drops down to pass a car park, an upmarket-looking hotel and apartments. The path back up was one of few steep uphill climbs I'd need to make today.

As I skirted Beacon Cove, where there was nobody on the beach, perhaps there is no way down, I saw a man in a field next to the path searching with a metal detector. I wondered if he'd found anything interesting. Soon after I emerged above the beach at Mawgan Porth. There were lots of people in the water here including a large group with matching yellow surfboards. Once again the RNLI were there keeping watch, ready to help anybody who gets in trouble. They seem to cover the beaches in North Cornwall very well.

After passing another couple of scenic coves I arrived at Bedruthen Steps Beach. This was a real 'wow moment'. The stacks and islands on the beach were a wonderful sight in the sun. It reminded me of The Twelve Apostles limestone stacks I once saw in Australia. I took my time here, in fact I could have quite happily stayed and admired the views all day. Many people were enjoying this beauty spot, a coach party among those who'd stopped at the nearby car park. A visit to this one place alone is more than enough to justify a trip to Cornwall.

As I approached Porthcothan on the cliff-tops I saw a natural arch and the first big hole of the day, where the land has collapsed above a cave. I passed straight through the small town and back to the cliff-tops. There were more pretty coves and islands. In one cove I noticed a rock that looks like a beached submarine. Then next to it part of what was probably part of a shipwreck. The views were superb, the sun was shining, the sea air wonderfully fresh. It was a great day, it felt amazing to be here.

Lea was waiting for me on a bench next to the path where it enters Treyarnon Bay. Moments after I'd sat down I heard an usual buzzing noise, then a small drone with four rotors took off from a nearby garden and flew above us. We watched it darting around quickly above the beach for a few minutes while we ate our lunch in the sun. I've often enjoyed watching drone footage online, this was the first time I'd actually seen one in action with my own eyes. Being at the controls must be great fun.

Moving on I had a pleasant walk across the sand at Constantine Bay. Wonderfully named Boobys Bay, where there is more a lot more rock than sand, came next. The walking was easy in this popular area, the path well worn. Ahead of me I could see an island in the shape of a sharks fin. In my mind I named it 'Jaws Island' and imagined a giant shark in the water. I also noticed clouds were gathering, it looked quite gloomy south and east of me.

After passing another huge hole in a hillside above a collapsed cave, I came to Trevose Head Lighthouse. It is automated these days of course, but apparently the lighthouse keepers cottages are available to let. It must be a wonderful place to stay, the coastal views are magnificent.

The walking was still easy around to Mother Iveys Bay, I passed yet another collapsed cave. The Padstow Lifeboat Station is here, several miles from Padstow. When I arrived the lifeboat was at the top of the it's slipway. I wondered if it had been out on a rescue, or was about to be launched. A few minutes later I noticed it had been pulled back inside the boathouse. By now I'd reached Harlyn Bay, the point where I joined the coast path back in 2010. More happy memories. I followed the path across the sand of Harlyn Bay, including leaping over a fast flowing stream. From here until Minehead the path would now all be new to me.

At Trevone Bay there was a small a group of surfers in the waves. At last I was delighted to see two of them actually ride a wave properly, standing-up. The first time I'd seen real surfing this week. Though typically, when I took my camera out they couldn't manage it. Leaving town I passed another huge hole at Roundhole Point, this one was even marked on my map as 'Round Hole'.

On the approach to Strepper Point I saw the fifth collapsed cave I'd seen today. They're a wonder of nature, marvellous to peer into. Strangely none of the five were fenced-off, or had any sort of warning signs in place. I wondered why not, and if ever dogs, livestock, or even people ever fall in. The navigational tower on Strepper Point looked just like an ordinary industrial chimney. Surely it must have been whitewashed when it was in use guiding boats to The River Camel? The entrance wasn't bricked over like they usually are, I couldn't resist looking inside. Nearby I passed the NCI Lookout Station. There was a sign saying 'visitors welcome'. The man inside and I exchanged friendly waves but I didn't have time to stop.

Heading inland up The Camel Estuary now it was getting grey and hazy, I could see it was raining inland, though only a couple of spots fell on me. The approach to Padstow was probably the least interesting walking of the day, easy, much of it behind hedgerows, though some was on the sandy shore. It seemed to take a long time to finally make it to the pretty harbour where Lea was patiently waiting. As usual just about everybody in the crowds of tourists in Padstow seemed to be eating either fish n' chips, an ice cream or a pasty. They must turn over a huge amount of food for a relatively small place.

As we left Padstow to head to our next B&B in Bude-Stratton I reflected on another exhilarating day of walking. I didn't want Cornwall to ever end.

Distance Walked Today 24.41 miles (39.28km)

Walking Time; 7 hours 28 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.3 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 497.30 miles (800.33km)

GPS Track;

View over Trevelgue Head and Newquay

Watergate Bay

Bedruthen Steps Beach

Natural arch south of Porthcothan

Porthcothan, I stopped for lunch here near where you see the three parked cars
while a drone flew around overhead

Rocky landscape at Boobys Bay, a group of teenagers are playing football on the sand

Trevose Head Lighthouse

Padstow Lifeboat Station at Mother Ivey's Bay

A dog walker peers into Round Hole above Harlyn Bay

The navigational beacon that looks like a chimney at Strepper Point, I went inside

Padstow Harbour

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Day 21 - September 14th 2015 - Porthtowan to Newquay

When Lea drove me back to Porthtowan today the weather didn't appear to be on my side. There were frequent heavy showers in the air, the Atlantic Ocean was angry, raging in a fierce wind. Unsurprisingly there was nobody on Porthtowan beach, just a white RNLI pick-up with a red flag mounted on the back and a jet-ski attached to the back. Almost as soon as I started walking a short sharp downpour tested my waterproofs. I made my way up to the cliff-top defiantly, determined to press on regardless.

There were a few parked few cars and hardy dog walkers when I reached the cove at Chapel Porth. Also another RNLI vehicle with a red flag, the driver keeping watch. To my relief the frequency of the showers was already decreasing, but not the strength of the wind. Foam was blowing off the sea here, big clumps of it flying through the air at speed, a sight I'd see often today.

North of Chapel Cove my mind was taken off the weather by the iconic abandoned mines of Wheal Coates, a fascinating place well worth a visit. I stuck to the official coast path which goes right next to the Towanroath engine house. It is incredibly well preserved despite being closed since 1889. It comes as no surprise to learn this is a Grade II listed building. Apparently it's also the most photographed mine in Cornwall and is often used in promotional material.

Moving on again the skies seemed to be brightening-up but the wind was growing even stronger. The gusts were particularly fierce on St.Agnes Head where it was hard to stand up, breathing wasn't easy either. I saw another long-distance walker for the first time today here. A gentleman with a large red beard heading the other way. If the wind was blowing off-shore I'd have considered postponing today's walk, but it didn't feel too dangerous being blown towards the land.

As I continued there was more isolated rugged coast to enjoy. I saw a natural arch at Polberro Cove on my approach to St.Agnes. At Trevaunance Cove the RNLI lifeguard had erected yellow and red flags, there were two brave surfers in the waves. They would turn out to be the only people I'd see in the sea all day. After the steep climb up out of Trevaunance Cove I made my way down an equally steep descent towards more old mines. At the bottom I was reminded by the gate that this hill, known as Blue Hills, belongs to The Motor Cycle Club. Amazingly to this day it still forms part of the route of their annual London to Lands End Trial. On Youtube you can find footage of people driving various vehicles up this crazy hill.

After another steep climb I came to the cliff-top at Cross Combe next to the old airfield. Here I saw something I'd never seen before, a waterfall going upwards. The strong wind was turning the falling water into a fine spray and blowing it all back over the top of the cliff, none of it was making the bottom. I took photographs, but they don't really show what was happening. As I walked on along the cliff-top I passed through the misty spray.

At Cligga Head I saw the remains of yet more extensive mines, they seemed to be everywhere now. While occasional showers were still falling they were now less frequent than I'd expected. I later learned the main band of rain had moved just north of Newquay. Another coast walker in that area heading south was getting it much worse than me. The huge beach at Perran Sands, a wonderful sight, came into view. I dropped down into Perranporth where Lea was waiting for me in the car park with a delicious lunch.

In 2010 I walked along Perran Sands. The tide was out again today, but this time I decided to stick to the official coast path through dunes of Penhale Sands and enjoy the view from above. This beach is huge, magnificent, surely one of the finest in England. It was almost deserted today. From Perran Sands around to Holywell Bay via Ligger Point and Penhale Point the path was fascinating and spectacular. There are rugged coves and high cliffs, crashing waves and much white surf being generated by the strong wind. You see old mine shafts frequently along here, also weird MOD installations that are part of Penhale Camp.

The path goes through huge dunes at Holywell Bay. Last time I stuck to the beach, this time I managed to follow the official route. It wasn't easy going up and down with soft sand underfoot, but great fun nonetheless. There were signs warning walkers to watch out for adders basking in the sun. I kept half an eye out, but seeing as I came through a few minutes after a shower I thought it was unlikely I'd see any.

There was a lovely inlet at Porth Joke. As I took pictures there of an island known as 'The Chick' I could see the next shower blowing in. It dropped a fair bit of rain on me as I approached Crantock Beach. I didn't mind because however because it also rewarded me with a fantastic double rainbow which I managed to capture in pictures and a video.

I'd researched the tide times in advance so knew I wouldn't be able to cross The Gannel via the Fern Pit tidal bridge. I also knew the ferry doesn't operate in adverse weather, so I didn't waste time looking for it and instead headed straight for the second tidal bridge slightly further inland at Penpol Creek. I got there just in time and crossed over to Newquay carefully with rising water lapping around my boots.

The showers had dried up by now, in some late afternoon sunshine there were plenty of people out for a stroll at Fistral Beach. It's well known as a surfing location, but with red flags still flying today the water was empty. I made my way around the imposing Headland Hotel and past Huer's Hut. It's easy to forget Newquay has a pretty harbour and working fishing boats, I enjoyed views of it from above. I followed the path through the town centre as far as our B&B near the railway station.

My route today had been truly magnificent. Despite the weather being a bit awkward at times it seems incredible to me that you can see so many wonderful, varied places in only 20 miles of coast walking.

Distance Walked Today 20.19 miles (32.49km)

Walking Time; 6 hours 28 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.1 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 472.89 miles (761.04km)

GPS Track;

Leaving Porthtowan in stormy weather, the RNLI keeping watch

Chapel Cove, rocks covered in sea foam
The Towanroath engine house at Wheal Coates

Natural arch at Polberro Cove

Trevaunance Cove, St.Agnes, there are two surfers in the water somewhere

The Motor Cycling Club gate at the bottom of Blue Hills

Arriving at Perranporth

View of Perran Sands from Kelsey Head

Wild seas between Ligger Point and Penhale Point

Crossing the huge dunes behind Holywell Bay

A shower approaches as I photograph Porth Joke and The Chick

The shower in the previous picture created this double rainbow over Crantock Beach

The tidal bridge I used to cross The Gannel

Fistral Beach, Newquay

Newquay harbour