The South West Coast Path – Part 9
After weeks of solid hiking it was bliss to be able to take two and a half days off at home in Falmouth. I drank a cider or two, had lovely meals cooked for me and hot baths run. My achy bones had time to rest on a mattress and I was able to make up for more than a few nights of poor sleep! When it came time to leave I was surprised at how reluctant I was to say goodbye. I couldn’t understand it, especially considering how excited I had been to get further ‘up the line’ and see some coast that I’d never visited. The penny dropped however, as I gave hugs and kisses in the early morning light and pulled my pack-straps round my shoulders, that this time I was walking away from home rather than towards it, and that felt like a different thing altogether.
No time to waste – it was 6am already! I gathered myself together and set out to the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. I had really wanted an early start and the ferries didn’t start until later, so my legend of a father had made ready his little Plymouth Pilot boat to take me over to St Mawes. In fact to Place House to be specific, where the coast path picked up again. We puttered over in the morning sunshine and I soaked up every minute that I got to be with him on this mini-adventure.; just the two of us, smiling silently into the gentle breeze and sparking sea. After depositing me on the shore, he tracked me around the headland, accompanying me seaward alongside the coast path until I rounded the headland. Then he was gone, with a big wave and hearty thumbs-up. Off back to a cup of coffee; Dad duty done for the day.
As soon as I walked around towards St Anthony’s I was back into the swing of things. The trees were stunning against the bright blue sky and old ‘Fraggle Rock’ lighthouse shone bright white against the glittering backdrop. I wonder how long it will be before no one remembers it as Fraggle Rock anymore?! Ah! How time flies. Past the restored gun emplacement I trucked, and onward to some of the most breathtaking beaches I’ve seen so far on the coast path. Everyone has their own preference of course, but for me these crystal clear waters with sand and reef visible within took my breath away. The sunshine, hot weather and minimal people on this harder-to-reach stretch made it almost perfection for me. It was along here that I crossed paths with another lovely thru-hiker who was going in the other direction to me; Muddy Bootlaces.
She’s a teacher who was using the summer to finish the southern stretch of the path, and after having followed and supported each other on social media it was a real treat to meet in person. One of the joys of a long trail is that you know there are people ‘out there’ on the path but you never quite know where, until one day you round a corner and there they are with a big grin and a friendly ‘hey!’. It’s so great, and you often swap really useful tips about what each of you are about to encounter next! I tried to stop at Porthscatho for a coffee but the queue winding up the street was 15 people long and I just couldn’t spare the time. I boiled up a quick cup of instant on the headland and continued on through beautiful stretches of unspoiled coastline and fields; through villages and across beaches until I rested my weary bones at a campsite just above Dodman Point; a very long day.
I slept well and enjoyed the little village of Gorran Haven for a coffee in the morning, winding around to the truly lovely fishing town of Mevagissey.It was here that I saw the amount of tourists that were swelling the streets even at this early hour of the morning. Despite being late Summer the town was totally rammed, and social distancing wasn’t possible or seemingly even considered by some visitors.
I weighed up my options and consulted my map. As I was doing so, two ladies who had been kayaking the coastline spotted me and moved closer (not too close!) for a chat. They had been paddling southwards since dawn, and told me that the beaches and paths I was heading towards were extremely busy; so much so that they had avoided coming ashore anywhere until here at Meva. It was a Saturday, and so they advised me to jump the next piece of path, including missing Par, by ferry or road and come back another time. I watched people barging past each other on narrow streets around me and decided that yes, this was the best plan.
So I hit the road and jumped back on the path a few miles up at Polkerris so I could enjoy hiking around the headland and seeing the Menabilly daymark on the way to Fowey. It’s such a beautiful tower; built in 1832 and on ground gifted for the purpose by William Rashleigh of Menabilly. It was, and still is, painted red and white to help seafarers distinguish Gribben head from Dodman Point and St Anthony’s, and it stands out like a gorgeous candybar reaching into the sky. Mission accomplished, I ducked out of the evening’s sweltering heat into some shade and called around to find a campsite.
Once set up, I was asleep before my head hit my pillow (or more accurately: my stuff-sack full of clothes, haha!). The next day I was ferried across to Polruan qhite early by a rather unfriendly gentleman, but didn’t let that bother me because the weather was fine and I was ready for the day. I got my hands on a hot bun from the bakery that had just opened as I walked past, and bustled on with eager glee. Today I was going to hike through what I thought was one of the prettiest little villages on the Cornish coast – Polperro. And I just couldn’t wait.