I woke up around 5am and peeped out of the tent to see what the weather was doing. A fiery red sunrise greeted me, one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen in the UK. It was beautiful, but perhaps not the sign I was hoping to see! At least the wind had dropped, and by 7:30 I was forced out of the tent as the early morning sun heated it up like an oven.
I set off early to take advantage of the good weather while it lasted, and a dramatic change in the terrain was immediately apparent. The blue slate I’d grown used to over the last few days gave way to granite, and the path grew more rugged and rocky as a result. The section from St Ives to Pendeen is reputed to be one of the more difficult ones on the path, but it was a different kind of difficult to the tough sections I’ve walked so far. Previous sections were tough because of the amount of ascent and descent; this one was tricky because of the terrain. It was not the sort of path you could take your eyes off and, having grown used to loping along smooth cliff-top trails looking at the view, I nearly came a cropper a few times. After one particularly narrow squeak in which I very nearly got a close-up view of the rocks, I decided to pretend I was in the Lake District. I got on much better after that.
There was lots to look at. Some of the rocks had been arranged into an ‘ancient’ stone circle, complete with a local legend involving morris dancing and a virgin, for the edification of guests staying at Trevalgan Holiday Farm. And swathes of wildflowers covered the cliffs including an incredible number of deep pink foxgloves: I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many together.
The ratio of rocks to mud on the path increased, as did the size of the rocks, and by the time I reached Porthzennor Cove I was scrambling rather than walking. I don’t want to exaggerate the difficulty – unencumbered it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge – but with my big pack on it was significantly harder to keep my balance!
Safely through the trickiest bit I climbed back up onto the cliff tops and headed along past Gurnard’s Head, where I surprised Jillian eating her lunch on a stone stile. As we walked along together she pointed out the profusion of common spotted orchids growing by the path: it’s not at all common to see such large numbers of them growing together like that. I’d noticed pale flowers in amongst the grass but without Jillian’s keen eye for a flower I hadn’t realized they were orchids.
The path became a little less rocky as we progressed, but a new hazard began to appear: disused mine shafts. One was so close to the path you could have tripped on a rock and fallen right into it through the flimsy fence. In this Health an Safety era it’s amazing it hasn’t been capped.
Jim was waiting for Jillian at Pendeen Watch and helpfully warned me off visiting the underwhelming ice-cream van parked there. I said goodbye to them and walked a little more of the path before heading into Pendeen to get an ice-cream from the shop there, and to camp at the North Inn. A tip from the Stuart I’d met in St Ives, it was perfect: good flat grass, toilets and lovely hot showers for £5 a night.
After a tough day I was happy to walk no farther than the bar for my dinner. This stage was only about 14 miles but felt far longer, and it used a raft of stabilisation muscles that had been enjoying a nice rest until now! It’s a long day tomorrow so I hope a good night’s sleep will restore me.