After a wonderfully peaceful night’s sleep, today dawned bright and sunny – too sunny, in fact. For the last few days it’s clouded over a bit in the afternoon, but this time the sky stayed clear and I burnt the backs of my calves and the tips of my ears – fortunately not too badly. I said goodbye to Simone and John, who were heading towards St Ives, and to Holger, who borrowed a bicycle from the campsite to go to Penzance in search of an industrial quantity of blister plasters (and new boots!), and headed back to the path.
I wound round the cliff tops, enjoying a last view of the Minack Theatre across the bay, before dropping down to Penberth Cove where I met a fisherman. I would have thought that keeping his boat there he would have met a lot of Coast Path walkers but he seemed surprised at how far I was going. ‘You’ll like the next valley’ he said, ‘it has 110 steps!’.
Undaunted I headed up out of Penberth and around the cliffs until I reached Porthguarnon. Even when I saw the steps in question I wasn’t too worried: the cliff didn’t look too high, and what were a mere 110 steps compared to the thousands I’d already had to climb on the north coast?! As I labored up the slope on unpleasantly gigantic steps, I reflected that pride really does come before a fall – or a tough rise! But despite the pain I must have made reasonable progress as by the time I reached the top I’d caught up to two other walkers.
Claudia and Ilona were walking a few sections of the path on a short holiday from Cologne. I mentioned that I’d had some great conversations with a walker from Munich at the campsite last night and they immediately recognized Holger – they’d walked some of the way with him yesterday! I commented that Cornwall seemed to attract a lot of Germans and they explained this was all down to Rosamunde Pilcher. Adaptations of her novels, set in Cornwall, are a mainstay of German Sunday TV. Even those who (like themselves) didn’t think much to the stories couldn’t help but notice the spectacular scenery. But they forbade me to ask Holger if Rosamunde Pilcher had been the inspiration for his trip, if I saw him again!
The path was very overgrown in places and I was happy to come upon two men strimming it back as I approached Tater-du. They asked me where I was headed and helped me perfect my pronunciation of ‘Marazion’. At least the pronunciation bears more relation to the way it’s written than Mousehole, my next destination.
On the way there it was Jillian’s turn to surprise me. Popping out of a side turn disguised in a pink baseball cap, I didn’t recognize her at first! But it was a good day to have company. Mousehole was gorgeous, and supplied some particularly good ice-cream: one scoop of gooseberry, and one of orange and mascarpone.
But from there on the Path was a tedious trudge along the road through Newlyn to Penzance. The most interesting thing I saw on the way was a large party of scuba divers near the shore just after Mousehole. I’m surprised I haven’t seen any before today: the water is so clear around the coast here I would expect there to be a lot of good dive sites.
Eventually we tramped into Penzance. I stayed there for a holiday almost a decade ago but none of it looked familiar. As it was getting late in the afternoon we didn’t have time to leave the promenade: I guess that wasn’t a part of town where I spent much time on my last visit. As a consequence, I was surprised to see an emerging pirate theme as we walked along, an association I thought consigned to Victorian comic opera!
From Penzance it looked like just a short distance to Marazion and we were horrified to see a road sign half a mile out of town stating it was still three miles away. We were even more horrified to see another shortly after saying three and a half! Thankfully, the next Coast Path marker gave the distance as only one and a half miles – and even that was further than I felt like walking at the end of a long day. But inspired by the beautiful views of St Michael’s Mount in the soft evening light we made the distance and I said goodbye to Jillian before heading inland a short way to Dove Meadows campsite. The first person I saw as I arrived was Stuart, who I’d last seen at the St Ives campsite. Although he’d made good progress through the rough weather his ankle was badly hurt and he was talking about quitting at The Lizard, and finishing the rest of the Coast Path another time. Between Stuart’s ankle and Holger’s feet, I’m feeling grateful that, so far, I have nothing worse than a few aches and pains.