The South West Coast Path – Part 3
As I hike along I am finding so many incredible spots that are in my own home county, and am kicking myself for not getting out and exploring more before now. The thing is that I thought I HAD explored… but Cornwall keeps proving there is more to offer around every corner, and that even in the height of summer there are special places that are totally deserted. I am also reminded that I have travelled around lots of the world and taken silly amounts of time to get to beautiful places, but these places that aren’t half as stunning as we have right here. Next time I think that ‘North Cornwall’ feels too far to drive, I need to give myself a clip around the ear and go!
This section started with me at Tintagel; a place that has long fascinated me for its myth and legend. Sadly I arrived early and before English Heritage had opened for the day, so I couldn’t get in to see the castle ruins. I did however get to enjoy it from a distance and was reminded of the folklore that may indeed edge towards truth; about great leaders who once lived in these castle ruins when they were glorious. It’s these historical facts that gave rise to the stories of Merlin and King Arthur over time; tales that fascinated most of us at some point.
Stepping away from this famous island I walked through a number of beautiful Delabole slate-lined gaps made made in old slate walls. The Delabole Slate quarries on this coast are believed to have been in operation for over 1000 years, and Visit Cornwall notes that 10 million tonnes of slate have been quarried since it was first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. Wow!
Alongside our mining history there has been a lot of material pulled from our Cornish lands over time. After marvelling at how the local slate had been used in beautiful walls and on the roofs I could see on cottages around, I trundled in past a stunning YHA Youth Hostel on the cliff edge and on across a set of very narrow paths and steep drops before descending into the absolutely beautiful Port Isaac; location for the filming of Doc Martin. It manages to work as a fishing village, support the hordes of tourists that come to visit and still retain its charm and friendliness – no mean feat! Sadly though I couldn’t say the same for Polzeath, which I hiked through after beautiful Port Quinn and around the headland. It was packed with people, litter on the ground and had a distinctly overcrowded feel. Quite a jolt after the beauty and tranquility of the rest of the coast that day!
Over the next few chunk of coast I was lucky enough to be close to my home in Falmouth, so for a few days I was picked up in the evening and returned to trail in the morning by my wonderful family and boyfriend. These ‘day hikes’ and slackpacks (when you only take what you need and someone takes your big pack til the end of the day) took me through Padstow, the famous Constantine and Harlyn Bays and through to Watergate and Newquay. It was in Watergate that I stopped in for coffee with Kris Hallenga; the founder of Coppafeel breast cancer charity. They focus on early detection of breast cancer and work hard to educate everyone (men with their pecs can suffer cancer too!) about what to do if you spot anything unusual. They do great work, and the inspiring Kris started the charity after being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer eleven years ago. Her charity has since saved countless lives. It was wonderful to see her, and I went on to camp in her garden overnight.
The next section hit some more familiar places for me as a Cornish maid. Through Holywell bay towards Perranporth, St Agnes and I ultimately finished the day at Porthtowan. This day took me past a military base which was all fenced off on the cliff edge. It looked totally deserted and quite creepy – I’d love to know more about it! I shimmied then carefully past mine shafts covered with wire pyramids, and was totally in awe of the turquoise sea views that seemed to stretch forever.
On the SWCP rollercoaster when the ups and downs don’t quit, I descended towards Perranporth across huge swathes of empty beautiful sand before I got to the choked and heaving masses at the town end. It was far too busy for me to cope with – hiking through families wearing bikinis inside windbreaks and munching sandwiches whilst wearing my full pack and poles felt quite weird. Ha! I was pretty glad to get out. I hadn’t seen many thru hikers at this point, but I had met a few section hikers, such a man called Mick from Rotherham who hikes a little bit every year. It was so lovely to see his love of the coast. I then arrived into St Agnes and got a packet of monster munch. I was happy as could be until, to my total embarrassment, I couldnt find the way out and went around the same signposted loop (and same people) three times before I spotted the hidden sign and departed. Haha, I felt so silly.
Then out across the wide open cliff to Porthtowan to end the section, where my Dad met me again to take me home – I’m so lucky to have people so close that can come and get me during this stretch! It’s so different from the AT, and means I get a few really good nights’ sleep! No temptation to laze at home however, and I was soon keen to get further afield and self sufficient again. The wild West Penwith was next, and I was excited to see it.