Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


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Disappointment

I thought about taking the day off today: when planning the trip I’d allowed myself one a week. But bright sunshine woke me at 6am, and with the Met Office optimistic about the weather I decided it was too good a day to waste. In happy anticipation I donned my shorts, applied my sunscreen and hit the road.

I walked back down into Portscatho to buy something for lunch, then set off round Gerrans Bay to Nare Head some four or five miles away. By the time I got there clouds had crept overhead and it had started to rain a little. Perhaps it was just a shower.

Two hours later and it was still raining on and off, and increasingly on. So much for sunscreen! Growing weary of being rained on, the idea of an indoor lunch snuck into my mind as I approached the pretty village of Portloe.

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My guidebook mentioned a tea room there and I walked up and down the main street looking for it. I found a smart hotel and a pub, but no tea room. I asked three people if they knew where it was but none of them was from the village and no-one had seen it. Not in the mood for heavy pub food – and not suitably attired for the hotel! – there was nothing for it but to press on and find consolation in my hardiness.

After a slightly damp picnic on a pile of fallen rocks (the driest available surface to sit on) I carried on to Portholland, where my guidebook said there was a cafe. There was a building that looked as if it might, at one time, have served refreshments…but not today. Portholland did, however, have some fabulous public toilets maintained by a local volunteer – some of the most stylishly decorated I’ve ever visited.

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By now it was raining heavily. Musing on how a forecast of “dry with sunny intervals” could translate into a whole afternoon of heavy persistent rain, I set off for Porthluny Cove where the guidebook claimed there was one last cafe. By now I figured I had more than earned a pot of tea and a slice of cake in a cosy eatery. But when I got there it turned out to be more of a beach kiosk – foiled again!!

Clearly, I was not fated for cake today. I took a last look at the imposing Caerhays Castle through the rain and set off again. Since it looked like the best I could hope for was half-packet of fig rolls and tea in my tent, the quicker I got to the campsite the better. But I was not going so fast that I couldn’t stop to admire the misty views from Dodman Point, and the huge granite cross on the cliff edge.

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I sent up a quick prayer for better weather, and headed off to Treveague Farm campsite. That at least did not disappoint. With toasty hot showers, Roskilly’s ice cream (my favorite!) on site and – best of all – a drying room, it was an earthly paradise for a damp hiker. But as I sheltered in my tent from another evening of torrential rain it didn’t seem that my weather prayers had been answered. Maybe tomorrow…

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Messing about in boats

I thought I might be needing a lifeboat last night, it rained so hard! But by the morning the wind died down, the rain slowed to a light patter, then stopped, and I ventured outside the tent. I’d pitched in the most sheltered location I could as protection from the strong winds, but that was also the lowest – and now wettest – point in the field. Fortunately, my tiny tent fit on top of a slight mound and thus stayed dry underneath where pools of water had formed on the grass all around – it put me in mind of Ely cathedral in the middle of the flooded Fens! Although it was a soggy experience getting in and out, not everyone was displeased with the state of affairs; as I ate my breakfast a blackbird made use of the puddle nearest my door as a bird bath.

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I waited until the last few showers had died out then packed up my gear and set off for Falmouth. Although I’d already visited the town yesterday I’d gone by the direct, inland route – and by motor vehicle. The Coast Path, which goes all the way round Pendennis Point, was a lot further but full of interest. As the last of the clouds burned off to reveal a fine summer day, I passed several attractive beaches and got fine views of Pendennis Castle before skirting Falmouth Docks. I hadn’t appreciated before the scale of operations there – and was astounded at the size of some of the container ships!

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Passing the faded grandeur of streets of Victoria villas I arrived outside the museum. In a brand new development in sharp contrast to the industrial docks and the adjacent residential district, the museum sat on one side of a wide plaza enclosed by smart eateries. I didn’t have time to go inside, but it seemed like as good a place as any for lunch.

As I sat on the plaza steps eating my Rick Stein takeaway fish and chips (very tasty) Jillian’s husband Jim walked up. Jillian had stopped in Helford yesterday as the low tide had stopped the ferry, and he was waiting to meet her in Falmouth later that afternoon. It was lucky I bumped into him because it turned out that, just feet from where we sat, a remarkable concentration of J class yachts were moored in preparation for a regatta next week. I’d passed by the marina, and noted the large number of boats but – not being a sailor – had totally failed to appreciate that some were pretty special. Once my attention was drawn to them, however, I could see why any discerning Prince or Sheik might want one! (They’re the ones on the right for any other yacht dummies like me.)

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From there it was just a short stroll up to the quay to catch the less costly and less beautiful – but more practical – St Mawes ferry. It took about 30 minutes to cross and it was perfect weather to be on a boat. I clearly wasn’t the only one who thought so: everywhere I looked were yachts racing, ferries crossing and a myriad of other craft on unknown missions. The harbour at St Mawes was lovely too but I didn’t have much time to appreciate it before hopping onto the next ferry to Place.

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After all that boating it was quite a shock to have to walk again. But the stroll round St Anthony Head, through the old fortifications that (together with those I saw on Pendennis Point and by St Mawes Castle) helped defend this huge natural harbour, and up to Portscatho was a pleasant one and not too demanding. And I think I saw one of those gorgeous J class yachts sailing along off the shore beside me as I went.