Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


Mixed bag

My weather prayers weren’t answered this morning and I woke up to the gentle patter of raindrops on the fly sheet. In the evening, there is nothing I like better than being cosy in my sleeping bag listening to the rain, but with the prospect of a long day’s walk ahead of me I didn’t enjoy it quite so much! Huddled under my tent porch I started to boil the water for tea and porridge, only to have the gas canister run out. Clearly it was going to be one of those days. On the upside, if you are daft enough to walk along the cliff-tops early on a damp Sunday morning you get to the place to yourself, even within sight of a major tourist centre, and the rugged coastline was impressively moody and dramatic under the lowering clouds.

After such an unpromising beginning I was relieved when the day improved out of all recognition. The rain stopped, and with the fabulous scenery constantly changing it was one of the most varied and interesting days so far. There was even a bit of industrial heritage amongst the cliffs, coves and harbors. The 80ft pinnacle of inferior slate rising from the floor of the old Lanterdan Quarry was a particularly striking site.


The next stop was Port Iasaac, an especially picturesque former fishing village now given over to tourism. After my experiences in Tintagel, I was expecting a Doc Martin theme park to go along with the Arthurian one I’d just left, as the village is the location for the Doc’s home, Portwenn. But the only outward sign of the connection was one sign and a single rack of postcards outside a cafe pronouncing itself the sole purveyor of Doc Martin
merchandise. The residents of Port Isaac, who include designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and other celebrities, clearly have a different view than the denizens of Tintagel about the model of tourism they are aiming for!

But however tastefully done, with the sun now out the place was crawling with tourists and by the time I reached the harbor front I was happy to push on to Pentire Point, remarkably quiet given its lovely view back to Rumps Point.

But no amount of interesting sights or beautiful views could alter the fact that this was probably the longest, hardest day I’ve done. With no campsites between Tintagel and Porzeath, and the cost of accommodation in Port Isaac (the obvious break point) pushed up by its celebrity associations, there was no choice but to push through or face a substantial detour inland. After 17 miles and at least 8 steep-sided river valleys I was more than happy to see the end in sight as I rounded a headland to see Polzeath ahead of me.

If only it was that easy… The campsite in the centre of town set a new record for the most expensive pitch so far – £25! – with the staff forbidden from offering a discount for single people in the high season though the site was half empty. Directed to their sister site ‘just three quarters of a mile further’ up a hill, I cursed and grumbled all the way – doubly so when 2 miles later I hadn’t found it. In the end I decided the lesser of the evils was to go on to the campsite clearly marked on the map rather than back to look for the theoretical one, and after another mile I finally pitched my tent at Trewiston Farm and tottered half a mile to the pub in Pityme for dinner. You may imagine my reaction when I found they had a private function and weren’t doing food. Unable to face walking any further, but unable to cook even the half bag of instant mashed potato in my bag as I was out of gas, my dinner comprised: one tin of sardines in tomato sauce, one handful of mixed nuts, half a bag of dried pears and 4 squares of dark chocolate.

But fate had not yet dealt me its last blow. With minimal data connection in the tent I decided just to read for a bit, flicked the power switch on my Kindle and…nothing. I tried again, then held the switch for 20 seconds to restart it. Nothing. In desperation I held the switch for 30 seconds, 40, 50… Nothing. I tossed the stupid thing onto the tent floor and settled down for a proper sulk, all hope gone.

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a movement on the screen. It flashed, went blank…and started to reboot! It was like a scene from a movie when you think the hero’s dead and then he suddenly draws a shuddering breath, and the other characters burst into tears, or jump around slapping each other on the back. I was far too tired for anything like that but I was so relieved, all the logistical irritations were washed away. There’s nothing like ending your day on a high!