The South West Coast Path – Part 8
I woke up with wet feet and a damp quilt. Argh how annoying! I had been using my very tiny one-person tent in recent days, and although much lighter than my other one, it was so skimped on fabric that any touching of the sides of the coffin-shaped interior with my feet meant….damp. This was easy to avoid when I fell asleep, but once my restless legs got to wiggling in the night my lovely quilt didn’t stand a chance. Good thing I was on the stretch towards home; Falmouth. My stopping off point for a double Zero before I hit the rest of the trail again up towards Poole. I’d pick up my favourite 2 person tent there, re-waterproof it (which was why it was left at home) and head out much more confident about my ability to snooze and keep dry!
I left Henry’s campsite early that morning and decided not to walk the path around the lighthouse. I’ve walked that stretch many times before as I have family in The Lizard and know it pretty well, so I decided to cut up through the village to take a peek at a couple of houses that I’d seen for sale online, and wanted to see in person. That job done, I cut back down to the trail by the Lifeboat Station and Church Cove getting my body back into the cadence of the path. I didn’t know this part of the trail as well as others, and really enjoyed being reminded of the beautiful and hard-to-reach beaches at the bottom of deep v’s in the cliff. I wished for seals, but there were none today. I felt a little like a big ole seal as I came across some extremely narrow wooden gateways built across the path; perhaps to stop animals or cyclists? Either way I gave myself a few little laughs and bruises trying to wedge my pack and self through the gap at some most ungainly angles.
I hiked past the Devil’s Frying pan with a quick look at the sea swirling around, and then down into Cadgwith. I love this little working fishing cove with its colourful cottages and boats. It retains a real feeling of authenticity and a lack of pandering to traditional tourist culture in the way that some other villages and coves don’t seem to have. I didn’t linger long however, as it was early and there was no coffee to be had! On and over to Kennack Sands, and then Coverack, where I got a coffee and an early lunch. Both were getting busy on this hot day, and I was glad to be in and out before the lunch rush hit for real. Full and rested, I was out and around the next headland in no time, keen to get my least favourite part of the whole path behind me as quickly as I could – Porthkerris Quarry and the path around towards it on the way to Porthoustock.
I don’t know why, but this piece of path has always made me feel extremely unsettled and this time was no different. Perhaps it’s the eerie feel of the abandoned industrial gashes in the landscape which used to be so busy? Either way I had soon hustled past it, and was up in the sweet village of Rosenithon. Someone had put a little skeleton on the bench outside of their house with a ‘thirsty coast path walker’ sign which made me smile. It’s lovely when people who live along the path recognise the hikers who are walking it in some way, and makes them feel welcome.
I was shortly through the next village of Porthoustock, then came Porthallow and after that I was up along Nare Point seeing my beloved Falmouth over the water and the Helford River to my left; where my Dad grew up. I was going to hike down the side of the river mouth until the path took me into Helford village, where I’d take the water taxi over to the other side. First though, I’d have to get across Gillan Creek to St Anthony via stepping stones, or take a 2.5 mile detour around the head of the creek. I was kidding myself about the crossing, because I knew that the tide wasn’t yet out far enough for me to try to wade it. I had a look, confirmed my suspicion and then gritted my teeth (with a few swear words) and set off along the extra miles through farmland. It should have been simple enough, if frustrating, but a farmer had deliberately planted corn over the official Coast Path route through his fields.
So, although the signs pointed into the field, there was no way to find your bearings in the thick forest of towering corn. As if to add insult to injury, the path between the stalks were riven with nettles which stung my ankles. I spent a long time trying to navigate my way out which was extremely challenging even with a GPS app on my phone. The sides of the field didn’t seem to marry up with the field boundaries and exits on the maps, and I was just moving deeper into the corn whose leaves were slapping and slicing my arms and face as the nettles kept letting me know how annoyed they were with my presence.
I was genuinely cross about the situation, and eventually decided to backtrack and find a road. I did so and was later told by friends who’d hiked it recently that they’d suffered the same and backtracked in scratched and stinging frustration too. I wasn’t going to let it kill my good mood though, and put it behind me literally and metaphorically, wandering into Helford Village with a smile (and prickling ankles) to catch the Helford ferry. Over the water I phoned one of my post trusted adventure allies – my Dad Nick – and he came to get me in the car – both of us all masked up of course. I had hiked and run the few miles between the Ferryboat Inn and Falmouth hundreds of times before, so I decided to head straight home to a hot bath, and a lovely boyfriend who was cooking me dinner instead. A double Zero was on the agenda (two days off!) and I couldn’t wait to get my feet up before I hit the paths again; though next time I’d be heading away from home, and not towards it…