I’ll never know what a good night’s sleep would or would not have done for me. I was woken up by two drunk and giggling girls who crashed back into the campsite at 1am and told each other hilarious anecdotes until around 2:30am – terrible luck in a camping field with only four other groups pitched on it! But with a long day ahead of me I got up early anyway, and another gloriously sunny start did away with any residual grumpiness.
Heading out of Pendeen the path passed through the former Levant mine, site of the world’s only Cornish beam engine still operated by steam on its original site. Amazing to think that the mine shafts extended 2.5km from the cliffs beneath the sea.
From there it was a fairly easy walk round to Cape Cornwall. Thought to be the most westerly point in Cornwall until 200 years ago when the Ordnance Survey published a map showing that was in fact Land’s End, it’s topped with a striking monument. The plaque informed me that it commemorates the purchase of Cape Cornwall for the nation by H. J. Heinz company on the occasion of their centenary. The Heinz tower is much more eye-catching than the ruins of the medieval St Helen’s Oratory, especially from a distance, though the latter is apparently a monument of national significance – I can’t find out why!
From there it was just five more miles to Land’s End. I was really excited about visiting such an iconic place, but the large number of other people with the same idea slightly took away from the romance of the moment! On the upside, it was easy to find someone to take my photo with the signature sign. On the downside, I had to queue up behind a large school party on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award trip, who seemed to be taking photos with every possible combination of people. The more mathematically inclined will no doubt be able to tell me how many photos that required – I only know it was a lot!
Vexingly to my pedantic mind, the sign didn’t actually seem to be on the western-most tip of land as shown by my OS map – perhaps there is still some confusion on this point?! But looking at the distances it struck me that it was only 874 milestone to John O’Groats. That gives me an idea for another trip…
Heading away from the hustle and bustle to find a quieter spot for lunch I bumped into Stuart (the one from Perranporth). He had hardily walked each day through the recent bad weather – much tougher than me! Although the fact that he’d booked up his B&Bs in advance may have had something to do with it. We said goodbye when I stopped for lunch on a convenient boulder overlooking a dramatic cliff face a across a cove. But as I sat there munching I saw the DofE group appear over the ridge and head towards me up the path. I quickly shoved the last few bites into my mouth and crammed my things back into my pack. With such narrow paths, getting stuck behind such a large, group would be a nightmare! I scurried off just ahead of them and all but ran down the next valley to consolidate my lead. But it turned out they weren’t the only group abroad that afternoon. In an international twist, between Land’s End and Porthcurno I met no less than three large groups of Americans and Germans coming the other way – a challenge on a path that can best be described as ‘single lane with passing places’!
But despite the crowds the scenery was some of the best so far, and the path less rocky than yesterday.
As a result, even with all the photo stops, I covered the 16 miles into Porthcurno by 3pm, well ahead of schedule. Plenty of time for a cream tea at the beach cafe! It was a utilitarian presentation but a light and tasty scone and good quality jam. I think I may yet find a better one though…
One mile further on and I stopped for the night at the wonderful Treen Farm campsite. Best of all were my neighbours – on one side John and Simone on a short break walking from Penzance to St Ives, on the other Holger, a well-travelled German aiming to walk his second third of the Coast Path. None of them looked as if they would be shrieking with laughter at 2am, and they turned out to be some of the loveliest, friendliest people I’ve camped with since the bikers on the first night.
The appearance of the school party initially gave me a fright, but chatting to the teachers in charge they seemed to be running a tight ship. Fingers crossed!