Saturday, 19 September 2015

Day 20 - September 13th 2015 - St Ives to Porthtowan

Excitedly I returned to Cornwall, five months having passed since my nineteenth day of walking ended at Easter. In anticipation of tough walking at times this week I'd been running regularly and taking walks on the steep coastal hills east of Sidmouth to keep in shape in the meantime. Lea dropped me back at Porthmeor Beach St Ives where I stopped in April, pleasant sunshine defying the weather forecast which had led us to expect a wet day.

Almost immediately I passed the first landmark of the day, the Tate St Ives. The town is famed for it's exceptional light, which has attracted a large community of artists. To my untrained eye the light looked great, but I couldn't really see how it was that much better than the light elsewhere on the Cornish coast.

Around St Ives the path was busy with strollers and dog walkers out enjoying the Sunday morning sunshine. The walking was easy, I passed the pretty harbour. Porthminster Beach looked very attractive. After some slightly inland walking around Porthminster Point, mainly close to the railway line, I emerged above Carbis Bay, another very pleasant beach. There was an unusual diversion here. The path went through the well-kept grounds of The Carbis Hotel, even passing right next to the swimming pool where holiday makers were sunbathing and swimming.

When I rounded the headland at Carrack Gladden the wide expanse of Porth Kidney Sands opened before me. The tide was low, it was a huge expanse of sand, a glorious sight in the sunshine. The walking was still very easy. After passing a golf course the path was mainly on roads around the Hayle Estuary. This section was quite dull. Hayle itself seemed rather dour. The old swing bridge looked like it hasn't swung in a very long time, and won't be swinging any time soon. Perhaps the most interesting thing I saw in town was a Cornish pasty shop with a long queue out the door. I assumed they must be very tasty. Though I was tempted to try one I didn't want to stop to queue, besides my lunch break was already arranged.

After leaving Hayle the path wound its way through dunes behind Gwithian Beach for at least a couple of miles. This was more like it, the sun was shining, the beach views were lovely and the walking surfaces quite firm underfoot. Attractive slate signs at regular intervals meant the official coast path's winding route was easy to follow through the dunes of Mexico Towans and Upton Towans. After a while I reached the car park next to the Godrevy CafĂ© where Lea was waiting and stopped for my lunch break.

From there it was an easy uphill stroll to Godrevy Point. From the cliff-top I enjoyed the view across to Godrevy island and it's lighthouse. There were great views back along Gwithian Beach and Porth Kidney Sands. In the far distance in the clear conditions I could make out a much larger island, I assumed this must be Lundy. Nearby there were quite a few people watching for seals above a cove at Navax Point. One excited man kept saying things to his wife like 'There he is! There! See him?'. If there actually was a seal there it wasn't spotted by anybody else, including his wife or me.

The walking was still quite easy along the cliff-tops of the Carvannel Downs. The views were great. Hells Mouth was a highlight, a spectacular Cove surrounded by high cliffs. Not long after leaving Hell's Mouth that rain promised in the weather forecast finally arrived, only about half a day late. On went my waterproofs. I wasn't complaining, it was 4-00pm by now, I'd been expecting it to be wet all day.

The next town I came to was Portreath. Five years ago during my end-to-end walk I left the coast path here after using it from Harlyn Bay. It was while walking that stretch that I first fell in love with the South West Coast Path, triggering the desire come back and walk it all one day. Despite the rain there were teenagers in wetsuits enjoying the water at Portreath. A group of maybe a dozen boys were larking about with surfboards on the beach, I saw three girls jump into the water from the harbour wall.

Leaving town I made a minor navigational blunder when I somehow missed a diversion sign. I took the path shown on my map, the same route I'd used in 2010, that goes past the white navigational tower. It turned out to be a dead-end where there has been a cliff collapse. I had to return to the road having walked a few hundred unnecessary yards. Maybe it was just as well, I remember the lost section being steep, rugged and dangerous.

The rain intensified as I walked between the cliff-tops and the Portreath MOD site. Perhaps the steepest descent and ascent of the day was at Sally's Bottom which is named after an abandoned mine. Above Sally's Bottom there used to be the Nancekuke Chemical Defence Establishment. An internet search brings up all sorts of interesting claims about the base and what may, or may not, have been dumped in the old mineshafts when it was closed down. For no obvious reason some derelict mine buildings a bit further on were undergoing renovation, an old chimney was covered in scaffolding and there were new concrete repairs on the ruins.

Soon I made my way down to Porthtowan where Lea was waiting as expected. The walking had been quite easy today, the scenery fantastic. Within an hour we were enjoying a delicious meal at our favourite fish 'n chip shop in Falmouth. My legs felt great, to say I was super-happy to be back in Cornwall would be an understatement.

Distance Walked Today 23.88 miles (38.43km)

Walking Time; 7 hours 8 minutes

Average Walking Speed 3.3 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 452.70 miles (728.55km)

GPS Track;

The Tate St Ives where I started walking at Porthmeor Beach

View of Porthminster Beach and St Ives

Part of the unusual path diversion at The Carbis Bay Hotel, the pool was directly
to my right when I took this picture

Porth Kidney Sands opens before me at Carrack Gladden

The pasty shop I saw in Hayle with a queue out the door

Gwithian Beach viewed from the dunes at Mexico Towans, Godrevy Island in the distance

View over Godrevy Island on the approach to Godrevy Point

Hells Mouth, if you can spot him a man in black standing atop the cliff gives a sense of scale

Looking back over the cliff-tops already walked above Porth-Cadjack Cove, Carvannel Downs
Arriving at Portreath in the rain

Colourful scenes greet me despite the dull weather on arrival at Sally's Bottom, steepest descent
and ascent of the day, the land behind the high-security fence belongs to the MOD.

No comments:

Post a Comment