A mile into today’s walk I reached Porthallow – 315 miles from Minehead and the half way point of the Coast Path. Described by the Falmouth Packet, when a new Coast Path monument was unveiled in 2009, as an ‘enormous psychological moment’ for those walking the whole path, I’d been eagerly anticipating this important milestone. When the moment came, however, I forgot all about it.
Looking back I attribute this to Maslow’s hierarchy. I had spent the night at the Porthkerris dive centre, which has a pleasant, quiet camping field at the top of a cliff….and showers and toilets at the bottom. Faced with a 15 minute round trip down and then back up a very steep road to use the facilities, and with a long day ahead, I decided it would be more efficient to just start walking along the path. In 20 minutes or so I would reach Porthallow and could use the public conveniences there instead. By the time I arrived in the village my desire to find those facilities, and relief in succeeding, totally eclipsed any thought of the half-way point!
With that over, my focus moved up the hierarchy a little, but only to the practicalities of the day’s walk. From Nare Point I had a good view of the two inlets I needed to cross by ferry – Gillan Harbour (on the left of the photo) and Helford River (on the right) – to get to Falmouth.
The Helford ferry details I already had from their website but the Gillan Harbour service had only a phone number. Deciding 8:30am wasn’t too early to call, I enjoyed a second wave of relief before I left Porthallow when the gentleman I spoke to confirmed the Gillan ferry would be running from 9:00. I set off happily and it was only after another hour of tricky, muddy, overgrown paths when I was safely on his little boat that I remembered about the halfway marker. By that point I wasn’t going back for it!
After another hour or so if walking I arrived at Helford, opened the sign to show it’s orange innards to the world, and settled back to wait for the ferry to arrive.
Twenty minutes later it did, requiring a conscious effort on my part to relax on the quayside when both my London conditioning and my desire to get to Falmouth before the shops shut made me chafe at the delay. Even after all these weeks I still find myself surprised – though ultimately pleased – by the slower pace of life.
But I wasn’t pleased today! With the next major shopping opportunity not until St Austell (four or five days away) and my need for supplies acute, I pressed ahead and made excellent time, hitting Swanpool Beach on the outskirts of Falmouth just after 2pm. Even with some frustrating backtracking after discovering the nearest campsite to the path had been sold for a housing development, I had time left over after my errands were run. What better way to spend it than sampling the cream tea in de Wynn’s famous tea shop?
Not a lot I would hazard: my Falmouth cream tea has leapt in at the top of the charts. Light tasty scones with a mushy jam that was mostly strawberries and tea served in an old-fashioned rose-patterned tea service, it was as charmingly presented as it was delicious. The traditional tea room ambience came complete with a soundtrack of crooners, and its location provided a fabulous view over the harbour. Add in a team effort from two waitresses, the lady – a regular – at the table behind, and a couple at the table next to me with a copy of Falmouth’s tourist transport guide, all helping me work out where the number 500 bus back to the campsite would leave from, and it was undoubtedly my best all-round cream tea experience so far. As another storm moves in and I’m huddled in my tent with my little burner struggling to heat my dinner in a strong wind and heavy rain, it’s good to have the memory of it to help cheer me up!