With a big storm forecast to move in over the course of the afternoon I decided to make an early start, hoping to get at least some walking done before the weather closed in. Just as well – by 8am it was raining and it kept going all day. Fortunately, it was pretty light rain during the morning: nothing that would stop a hardy walker such as myself making good progress along the coast.
The first mile and a half took me past the remains of the old tin mining industry and into St Agnes.
Heading out of the village I got chatting to a local man walking his dog. The storm would hit this afternoon, he said, but would have passed by tonight, though it would linger a while up country. He seemed knowledgeable, and we agreed the forecasters just couldn’t get if right for Cornwall. He put it down to having two coasts.
From there the path ran easily over the cliffs, past more disused mine shafts, to Porthtowan. I took some photos of the bus timetable, just in case, and popped into the local shop to buy some mints. In response to the shopkeeper’s enquiry I said I’d walk until the weather got bad, then get a bus. ‘You’ll be getting on at the stop just there then’ he said. ‘In the next few days we’ll get 3 months’ rain.’ On that cheery note I headed for the Blue cafe for a break from the aforementioned weather. With great views of the beach, friendly staff and fast wifi it was like heaven – I could have stayed all day! But mindful that months of rain were heading my way I dragged myself back out and up the next cliff.
At the top I met Jillian, the first other woman I’ve met aiming to do the whole path. Walking the Coast Path was a retirement project, she told me, and she kindly urged me to go ahead as she didn’t want to slow me down. The truth was I could barely keep up! I’m sure I’m fitter than I was when I started – which is part of my reason for doing the walk – but clearly there is still room for improvement…
The rain had almost stopped and Jillian and I strolled along, chatting merrily, through Portreath and on towards Godrevy, past the fabulously named Ralph’s Cupboard and the picturesque Samphire Island.
We remarked that though the wind was definitely freshening the day was not as bad as we’d feared. Clearly, that was just tempting fate and not long after the wind strengthened still more and the heavens opened. We picked a nervous way along the cliffs as far from the edge as possible. By the time we tottered into the aptly named Hell’s Mouth, shielding our eyes from the stinging rain, my enthusiasm for walking had largely evaporated. Happily, waiting in the car park was Jillian’s husband Jim, and I gratefully accepted their offer of a lift to St Ives. Although my sturdy little tent should be able to withstand a bit of rough weather I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk the experiment while I still have weeks of the walk to go. And the thought of trying to pitch it in gale force winds and driving rain, for the pleasure of huddling damply inside it all night, was not appealing. I found a bed in a hostel in St Ives for the night. Though basic, there aren’t too many people staying just now and it has a prominent bannister just perfect for drying my tent off!
Showered and dressed in my cleanest driest clothes (a fleece and waterproof trousers!) I took all my other garments to the launderette. As I sat there watching the water pouring onto my clothes in the machine, and the much greater quantity pouring down on the road outside I was relieved to be indoors!
The feeling lasted as I scuttled through heavy rain to the harbour front for delicious ‘gourmet’ fish and chips. But as the dusk gathers the wind has dropped, the rain all but stopped. It looks like the dog-walker was right and I could have camped after all. Oh well – better safe than sorry.