But before I could walk back to St Ives I first had to leave it. The day dawned bright and breezy and I was eager to continue my walk, but the first bus back to Hell’s Mouth was not until 9:25. The weather stayed fine for the first three hours and when I arrived there at 10:15 I discovered that this part of the coast was beautiful, when you take away the sheeting rain! But I didn’t have long to enjoy it – 15 minutes later, as I rounded Navax Point, it started to rain again. I correctly guessed that it was only a shower, but it turns out that eight minutes is plenty of time to totally soak your trousers, socks and boots, if the rain is heavy enough and you don’t bother to put your waterproof trousers on. In fact, I don’t even think all eight were necessary!
Once round the headland, I encountered the full force of the wind, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was like being inside a whole-body version of those Dyson Airblade hand driers and my trousers dried out in no time, though I had to put up with the wet socks for the rest of the day. On the downside, the strong wind made it difficult to take photos. Camera shake would be an understatement; it was more like camera wildly waving around. But I did manage to get a shot of the lighthouse on Godrevy Island in a rare lull in the gale.
Once round Godrevy Point I could see St Ives at the far end of a long curve of golden sand, and I set off towards the town. I didn’t meet any feline-laden spouses of a polygamist but I was lucky enough to bump into Jillian, my walking companion from yesterday. She and Jim had stayed on their campsite last night and she told me the rain had been torrential: much heavier than last week’s storm. In my windowless cupboard in the hostel I’d been completely oblivious. Jillian’s report, combined with the strength of the wind as we passed Gwithian (where I had originally planned to camp), blew away my doubts about whether abandoning my tent for the hostel had been the right decision.
As we made our way down the long beach it was good to have some conversation to take my mind off the effort of walking over soft sand into a fearsome headwind. The waymark said it was four miles to Hayle but it felt more like 6.
Once at Hayle the route was more sheltered but it also proved to be one of the most boring so far, and almost entirely on roads. Although it skirted the Lelant Saltings bird reserve the best views were of the busy B3301. The highlight of the afternoon was the pretty medieval church of St Uny’s in Lelant, with it’s letter of thanks from King Charles for support during the civil war proudly displayed – apparently a common feature of Cornish churches.
Arriving back at St Ives there was just time to buy a few essentials – food, extra dry bags, and an ice-cream – before heading round The Island. I said goodbye to Jillian and climbed up to the campsite, where I anxiously pitched my tent in the most sheltered place I could find. An hour or so later and I was feeling more confident that my tent would withstand the weather, but more concerned that the tent just above mine on the terraced site – a family-sized tent with fly sheet flapping and guy ropes sagging – would get blown down on top of me in the night. Luckily, I met Stuart (a different one to the gentleman I had walked along Perran Beach with), another backpacker aiming to walk the whole path. He reassured me that the big tent had stayed up the previous night despite its unpromising appearance. Fingers crossed, then, for both my tent and theirs…