Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


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Silver linings

We stopped last night at Ladram Bay Holiday Park. Although it was voted Hoseasons Best Holiday Park in Britain 2011, when I read that it was one of the largest privately-owned holiday parks in the UK, together with a review praising “some of the best entertainment I’ve ever seen on a campsite” I was tempted to look elsewhere: it’s the not the type of campsite I normally prefer to stay at. But with the Coast Path running right through the bottom of the site the location was too perfect to turn down, especially once I’d negotiated their initial price of £26 down to a much more reasonable £15. And it had wonderful views over the red sandstone stacks in the bay.

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We got up eager to walk but our enthusiasm was quickly drowned by the heavy rain that started around 9:00 am and was forecast to last all day. We put on our coats and went back to Reception to pay for another night. The staff were incredulous: everyone else had come in wanting to check out early, did we really want to extend our stay in such terrible weather?! We explained that it was better than the alternative – and then graciously accepted their sympathy. But if we were going to be rained in it was fortunate we were on a big whistles-and-bells holiday park when it happened. With it’s own launderette, shop, cafe and pub on site we passed the day with only minimal outdoor exposure, although we drew the line at attending the evening entertainment programme (complete with a guest talent spot).

As darkness fell and the rain – finally – slowed to a drizzle, we headed back up the hillside to the tent. After a whole day of torrential rain the grass was disagreeable squelchy underfoot but my lovely two man tent had withstood the deluge without a single leak. It turns out a rainy day is much less miserable when you have a properly waterproof shelter to go back to, and somebody to spend the time with.


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Birthday presents

It was my birthday today! But it didn’t get off to the best of starts. I woke up tired and a little grumpy after a terrible, night’s sleep. Some little creature(s) left over 50 bites across the small of my back while I was walking yesterday – an unwelcome early birthday present – and they itched infernally.

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Uncomfortable as it was to put on my backpack, I manned up and set off around 8am since the forecast was for light rain to move in late afternoon. As I passed Strete I met a man from the village walking his dog, who told me he thought the rain would hold off. I liked his optimism and happily shared it – right up until it started to rain heavily as I approached Stoke Fleming half an hour later. I took shelter under a tree, hoping it was just a shower: after 15 minutes standing there, however, I got bored. Deciding to push on into the village and find a cafe to wait it out I dug out my coat and headed into the deluge.

It turned out my tent is not the only thing that’s sprung a leak. In the 10 minutes it took to walk through the downpour to the village shop then onto the Stoke Lodge hotel, my shoulders, back and chest were soaked. I drowned my sorrows in a full English while I dried off. Two hours later it was still pouring, and I noticed the Met Office forecast had been updated to heavy rain most of the day and all night. Presumably someone had looked up from the computer models and out of the window! I decided to take my sister and brother-in-law up on their excellent suggestion of a hotel room for the night as a birthday present and, being already in a nice hotel, checked in there and then.

The good thing about having such a small tent is that it’s easily dried even in the confines of a hotel bedroom. With my damp belongings spread over every available surface I borrowed a golf umbrella from the hotel and caught the bus to Dartmouth in search of waterproofer for my coat. Mission accomplished, there was just time for a quick cream tea by way of a birthday cake while I waited for the return bus. When the plate arrived I was startled by the size of the Dart Cafe’s scone; it was probably the largest I’ve ever seen in my life! But I felt a small qualm: my researches so far had suggested that smaller scones generally prove the best. But you can’t judge a book by its cover, and the mega-scone turned out to be excellent: tasty and crumbly without being dry. While not quite enough to knock the current leaders from their perch it was definitely a cream tea I was glad to have eaten.

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Back at the hotel I spent the afternoon washing and reproofing my coat. While Andy Murray fought for a place in the Wimbledon final I battled in my en suite. As the manufacturers had suggested when I phoned them in distress after my soaking this morning, I washed my coat in normal non-bio laundry detergent, then in Nikwax Techwash, and finally Nikwax reproofer, all with copious rinsing in between. Then I did it all again for my tent footprint, figuring I might as well give it a try while I was at it.

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It was a long and arduous process. By the time Andy and I had triumphed I’m not sure which of us was tireder! I can see why people invented washing machines. It seemed an ideal moment to restore the bath to its rightful function and get into it myself for a long, hot soak. After walking some 470 miles of the Coast Path I’d almost forgotten what it’s like not to have slightly stiff legs and slightly smelly feet; neither condition being readily cured by a quick shower, however much soap you use. But after the bath I was as good as new. I even blow dried my hair!

Emerging from the bathroom I caught the tail end of the news. The Met Office had revised their forecast again and issued a red weather warning – the first ever – for heavy rain in the South West, with the area affected almost directly centred on where I am. With widespread flooding expected the Environment Agency was apparently touring campsites to warn people. Excited as I was to be in the area on this momentous occasion I was very happy not to be experiencing it from the increasingly limited shelter of my tent. After a three course birthday dinner in the hotel restaurant – a nice change from all the instant mash and pub grub I’ve been eating lately – I curled up in my warm, dry bed, reflecting that it’s much nicer listening to the rain pouring down from inside.


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Déjà vu

Another rainy day, another tea shop… With it forecast to rain hard all day through the fog – a forecast that certainly seemed accurate when I woke up – there didn’t seem much point in walking. I fell back on my alternative, bad-weather activity: eating. There is only one tea shop in Bigbury-on-Sea, the Bay View Bistro and Cafe, so it was lucky for me that it’s a friendly place with good food, and quiet enough that I could keep a table all day. At least I had a good view of Burgh Island to look at through the sheeting rain.

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Home to an exclusive Art Deco hotel where Agatha Christie famously stayed, and subsequently used as a setting for a couple of her books, the hotel was used as a location for the TV adaptation of one of them (the Poirot story Evil Under the Sun). The hotel also runs a pub on the island, The Pilchard Inn, and as I sat in the cafe more adventurous patrons, who’d been across to island, told tales of the log fire there. It sounded good, but as they had also returned soaking wet from the walk back I decided to stay where I was.

I watched the tide finish going out over the sand bar that connects the island to the mainland, turn, and come back in again, in that time consuming:
1. A pot of tea
2. Fish and chips (really excellent)
3. A coffee and a slice of Millionaire’s shortbread (both very good)
4. A large cream tea (rather disappointing – lucky I ate all the other things!).

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As the tide cut off the island from the mainland the bizarre-looking ‘sea tractor‘ started up to ferry passengers back and forth during the high tide. I quite fancied a ride in it, but it didn’t look to offer much more protection from the rain than I would have had by walking.

When the downpour finally paused – for the first time since about 11am – it was well after 5:00 and I thought I should use the time to get back up the hill to the campsite. Moving slowly from the weight of all that food, the rain started up again before I was half way back, and when I reached my tent I found a small puddle (perhaps 3″x1″) had formed on the floor. Fortunately, it was in the place I’d expected given last night’s drips and my sleeping bag and other gear had stayed dry but I still felt a bit depressed as I mopped it up. Poor tent! Poor me!

Fortunately, my lovely neighbors Rachael and Martin came to my rescue again. They chastised me roundly for bringing them whiskey to replace what we’d drunk yesterday, insisted I stay and help drink the new bottle, and invited me to join them for dinner (the tastiest meal of the day). After a fun evening setting the world to rights with them things didn’t seem so bad.


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River deep, mountain high

I was woken in the night when a cold splash of water landed on my arm. Battered by the elements week after week my poor little tent has sprung a leak. I went out in the rain to reposition the fly sheet but it didn’t help. Back inside, I spent a good portion of the night peering anxiously up at the two wet spots with my head torch until I managed to position a Kleenex under the worst drip and get back to sleep. By the morning the rain had stopped and I set off on schedule, despite my tiredness and the forecast fog and drizzle. I wanted to get the tide-critical fording of the River Erme behind me. But knowing what I know now I would have stayed in bed, however leaky the roof over it. By the time I’d walked back to the Coast Path from the village the drizzle had turned to light rain, and in another half an hour it was pouring. By the time I reached Erme Mouth I was soaking wet – and I hadn’t even started the wading part!

I made my way across the expanse of flat sand towards the river, took off my boots and paddled into the water. It was cold! And deep. I’d read that normally, if timed correctly, the water shouldn’t come above the knees, and I’d successfully timed my arrival at the crossing point to within a few minutes of low water. But as I made my way into the stream the water got deeper and deeper until I was pulling up even my quite short shorts, and the rush of water was so powerful I struggled to keep my feet. I started to feel a little scared and wondered if I ought to turn back, but then what? I’d already established that the other options for getting round the river weren’t great. When I saw a couple walking their dogs on the far shore I called out – several times to be heard over the distance, the wind and the rain – to ask if I was in the right place. They confirmed I was and stayed to see me safely over, calling out encouragements. Grateful for their reassuring presence I inched my way across, adopting an inelegant wide-legged waddle that probably looked ridiculous but which I figured would give me the best chance of staying upright. To my relief, the worst was over. The water started to get shallower and I finally got to the other side. It had probably taken no more than five or ten minutes to get across but it felt like half an hour.

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I had the depressing feeling I’d been a bit of a wimp about the whole river fording thing. But as I started to put my sodden boots and socks back on, thanking the couple for their moral support, another dog-walker came by. “Can you believe the state of it?” she said, gesturing at the river. “It’s never this high in July!” The consensus seemed to be that the heavy rain over Dartmoor last night – and all the last month, come to that – had changed the river from it’s normal placid summer state to a much deeper torrent. At least it wasn’t just me!

Bidding goodbye to the dog walkers I headed up onto the cliffs for the next challenge: the roller coaster path to Bigbury-on-Sea. Although reputed to be a tough stretch the steep ascents and descents over the high cliffs were not as bad as I’d expected. Finding the path in the thick fog that clung to the cliff tops, however, was almost impossible. The only other creatures out there were the sheep and for the second time today I wondered whether it was wise to continue.

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But I pressed on and was doing better until I came to climb the final hill. What looked like a firm, grippy dirt surface turned out to be a particularly slippery mud, and an inarticulate squawk of alarm escaped me when my front foot suddenly slid several feet back down the steep slope while I scrabbled to regain traction. I felt my pack pulling me off balance and for a moment I thought a face first fall into the mud was a certainty. But by a stroke of luck I managed to get one foot onto the scrubby grass and arrest my slide, ending with my legs sprawled in opposite directions, balanced on my left hand in a sort of bizarre triangular sideways press-up position.

I’d had enough walking.

Although it was only 2pm I abandoned my plan to catch the ferry across to Bantham for another five mile stretch and headed straight to the nearest campsite, wet and cold but most of all frustrated that all I’d seen of ‘some of the best cliff scenery on the South Devon coast’ was a few tantalizing glimpses through breaks in the fog.

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I pitched my tent in the most sheltered spot I could find, between the toilet block, a high hedge and a caravan, apologising to the couple in it for picking a spot so close to them in a nearly empty field. As it turned out I couldn’t have been luckier than to have pitched next to Rachael and Martin, my fairy godparents for the evening. Not only understanding about where I’d put my tent, they invited me into their cosy caravan for tea, chocolate biscuits and – later – several large whiskies, dried all my soaking clothes on their radiator, charged my phone, let me cook the food I’d bought for dinner on their cooker, and left their car unlocked so I’d have somewhere to go in the night if my tent leak got too bad. It’s testament to the warmth of their hospitality that the wonderful evening I spent chatting with them eclipsed all the trials of the morning. I was as lucky with the people I met today as I was unlucky with the weather.


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Time and tide

Having to adjust your plans to suit the tides is, I’m sure, an integral part of the Coast Path experience. I was happy, therefore, not to have missed out. Honest.

Heading onwards from Wembury it’s an easy 30 minute walk to catch a ferry across the River Yealm, which operates from 10am-4pm. From there it’s a further three to four hours’ walk to the mouth of the River Erme, which can only be forded at low tide. I checked my tide tables and discovered low tide was at 10:21am, so that should be no probl…wait a second…oh. I considered:
1. Walking round the Erme – an eight mile detour, which would necessitate a night’s rough camping as it would make the day infeasibly long and there are no campsites on the way
2. Getting a taxi round the Erme – about £25 (ouch!)
3. Waiting a few days until the low tide time aligned with the ferry better – but I didn’t want to lose that much time.

With hindsight, I was so focused on the Erme I missed the obvious solution: to make an early start and either walk or taxi round the much shorter (maybe two miles?) road route around the Yealm instead. But by the time that thought had struck me the tide had long since turned, and to be honest after two tough days the prospect of being packed and ready to go by 6am was not at all appealing. Deciding I’d earned a more relaxing day, I left the alarm off, strolled mid-morning to the Warren Point ferry slip, and cooked up a better plan with the help of Billy the boatman as he took me across the Yealm.

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Billy very kindly checked the tide times and the shipping forecast for me, suggested a good walking circuit for the afternoon and pointed me towards the campsite. And he drove up the hill after me when he realized he’d given me the wrong time for low water, which was really above and beyond the call of duty. And as a result of all that planning and advice, I’m camping tonight in Newton Ferrers, less than two miles as the crow flies from where I stayed last night!

But I’ve not been idle. Having pitched the tent I did an eight or nine mile loop around the cliffs (including five miles of the Coast Path) to save time tomorrow. I’m glad I did. Despite a showery start when it looked like the weather was only going to deteriorate, by the time I’d pitched the tent, eaten lunch and walked back out to the cliff top at Beacon Hill it had turned into a lovely sunny afternoon – much too good to waste.

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The route back round to Noss Mayo was reasonably level and easy, and despite the soreness in my legs from the last couple of days I made good time: it’s wonderfully easy without the pack! As a result, there was plenty of time for a delicious cream tea in the riverside tea garden in Noss Mayo. It was so tasty I gobbled it all up before I remembered to take a photo. Luckily the view lasted longer!

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The tea garden’s owners, Cathy and her husband Andy, were as friendly and helpful as Billy had been, warning me of a campsite to avoid in Bigbury-on-Sea and suggesting another much nicer one. And when I stopped off at the convenience store on the way back to the campsite I found the staff, and even the other customers, equally friendly and chatty. The pub in Wembury last night was the same. Stuffed full of local River Yealm mussels, sun-kissed and bowled over by how friendly and welcoming everyone has been, I might never want to leave this beautiful corner of Devon.


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Exposed

It’s ironic that I should find myself on one of the most exposed campsites of the trip on one of the windiest nights. High on a hill-top above Polperro, the site had panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, but there was not so much as a small bush between my little tent and the howling gale. It was a noisy – and slightly anxious – night, but happily the tent and I emerged unscathed and set off towards Looe.

The hills were starting to get quite steep and I was entertained by the sign at the bottom of one slope. The photo doesn’t do the gradient justice; I would be hugely impressed if anyone could cycle up that incline, even without the steps!

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I arrived in Looe at lunchtime and since this would be my last full day in Cornwall I sought out one last ‘farewell’ pasty. Or, more precisely, two: a prize-winning bacon, cheese and leek (fully deserving of its laurels) and a slightly left-field rhubarb, apple and custard, which I put in my pack for later. Two pasties at one sitting was a bit much even for me.

And I wanted to leave room to check out one last Cornish ice-cream. Treleavens has a sizeable number of outlets across the South West, but are based in Looe. With more awards than any other Cornish ice-cream producer it would be rude to leave the county without sampling their wares, right?! It was very tasty but my enjoyment was marred by my decision to eat it as I walked. I hadn’t realised that the Coast Path out of Looe went up quite such a steep hill. It turns out even the best ice-cream can give you indigestion with enough exertion during its consumption!

The initial ascent out of Looe wasn’t the only thing the guidebook didn’t properly prepare me for. The three miles between Looe and Seaton were a total roller coaster, and I started to doubt whether I’d have the stamina to get to the campsite I was aiming for. Fortunately, although the path subsequently went over a couple of the highest cliffs in the area, it went up and stayed up – unusually for the Coast Path – before dropping down to thd fabulously named Portwrinkle.

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That just left the weather to deal with. It was a cool, grey day and high up on the cliffs I was continually buffeted by the full force of the wind. By Portwrinkle I felt I’d earned the desert pasty! From there it was still another couple of chilly, wind-swept hours, across the MoD training area at Tregantle to Tregonhawke, the last campsite I could find before Plymouth. Although I chose it purely for its location, turned out to be one of my favourite camping spots of the trip. Not a campsite proper so much as a standing permission by a friendly farmer for Coast Path walkers to camp by the side of his fishing lake, it had only a toilet and a drinking water tap by way of facilities. But I was happy to forgo some creature comforts to have such a lovely spot all to myself for the night.

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Paradise regained

‘Here we go again!’ I thought, emerging from my tent to find everything wreathed in fog. Happily, I got a reprieve from having to go out in it by the discovery that there were no laundry facilities at the next two campsites. With an urgent need for clean pants and socks, it was clearly imperative that I do my washing before I left – and drink tea and eat biscuits while I waited! But eventually there were no more chores to do and nothing for it but to start walking.

It looked like it might be brightening up, and I’d not been going 10 minutes before I had to stop and rummage in my pack for my shades and my sunscreen. It felt like an age since I last needed them! And as I walked down the lane away from the campsite a wonderful view opened up across the fields and down to the sea: quintessential English countryside, complete with the tiny Tregaminion church. Who knew that was there?! I started making my way round Gribbin Head, and was quite startled by the views back across the bay to St Austell. There were the massive spoil heaps from the china clay works, the factories and the docks. If I hadn’t have read about them in the guidebook I’d never have suspected their existence yesterday. As it was, they were much more extensive than I’d imagined.

It turned into a glorious sunny day, and though the paths were still muddy and overgrown the fresh breeze, and the late start, had dried out the grass. That alone made it a huge improvement on yesterday and in some places, like the area around the enormous Gribbin Head day tower, the going was refreshingly easy.

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I didn’t expect it would remain so, however; the seven mile section from Polruan to Polperro was reputed to be particularly tough. I fortified myself with a pasty in Fowey, admiring the unusual knitted decorations all around the harbour railings as I ate, then caught the ferry across to Polruan to run the gauntlet…

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It was fantastic fun! It’s true there were more, and steeper, ascents and descents than on previous stages, but it was still nowhere near as tough as the roller-coaster cliffs on the North coast. The paths were mostly clearer and drier, and the terrain much more open so the spectacular scenery was in view most of the time.

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It was a world away from the thankless trudges through a sodden overgrown strip between a high hedge on the seaward side and a farmer’s field on the other that have characterised the last few days. As I strode along the remote paths, drinking in the views I remembered why I wanted to walk the Coast Path – and fervently hoped the worst of those ‘jungle paths’ are behind me now.


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Misty moisty morning

The fog this morning was almost as thick as yesterday, and the forecast even worse. But since I had already established, like so many others before me, that the weather forecast and what actually happens bear little relation to each other in Cornwall I started walking and waited to see what happened. Walking in the fog was a strange and unsettling experience. I don’t normally feel afraid, even when walking alone in remote areas, but with the fog concealing who or what was out there I felt surprisingly nervous. Continually peering round me into the gloom I was still startled by the unexpected appearance of another person on the path, or in one case by the emergence from the murk of an entire headland!

The other thing I quickly grew to dislike about the fog is how it clings to the vegetation. Every blade of grass drooped under the silvery weight of water droplets – droplets that were readily transferred from the grass to the tops of my socks, and from there down into my boots. Five minutes after leaving the campsite I could feel the water creeping down round the sides of my feet; after an hour of pushing through the wildly overgrown paths I had to stop and pour the water out of my boots, so unendurable was the squelching – and the extra weight. And that was before it started to rain.

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It was only a couple of hours to get from my campsite back to Gorran Haven and on to Mevagissey, but that was two too many. By the time I arrived in the town I must have looked downhearted as well as very wet; I walked into a shop to be greeted with “Oh, you poor thing!”. But in Mevagissey I found two things to lift my spirits: a travel size tube of toothpaste (just as mine was running out and I feared I might have to carry a full size one around) and some wonderful handmade fudge. Best of all, as I left the fudge shop chomping on a particularly tasty piece of their ginger variety, I found it had stopped raining.

And I needed all the encouragement I could as I fought my way through the paths after Pentewan. Tripping on branches and tangled tussocks of long grass, slipping on the slick sticky mud, a couple if times I came within a whisker of falling over. But I wasn’t the only one struggling with the conditions. As I passed one field of cows a particularly friendly one came running across the field towards me, only to find her attempt to brake on the slope down to the fence turned into a high-speed skid. For a split second our eyes met in a shared moment of mutual terror. I didn’t figure that a few strands of barbed wire would save me from half a ton of cow moving at speed. Happily, at the last second she regained traction and we never had to put it to the test, but it was a close call!

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Shortly afterwards there was more good luck: in the woods round Hallane, I finally found some paths that had been strimmed back. I was almost more relieved by that than the near miss with the cow! Free at last to look around, there still wasn’t much to see through the heavy fog. A glimpse of what was probably a very attractive rock arch, if I’d been able to see it clearly, was as good as it got.

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After all the challenges of the terrain on such a damp, gloomy day, I was uncharacteristically happy to finish the day on Tarmac. The historic harbour at Charlestown, little changed from the 18th century with its rows of old cottages and tall ships, was easy to like.

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But as I skirted St Austell, I found that even the A3082 into Par had a certain qualities I was for once fully able to appreciate!


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Humbled

I emerged from my tent this morning to fog so thick I could barely see 20 yards. Since a key feature of walking the path is the stunning views I dawdled about the campsite hoping it would clear as the day warmed up, but it was just as thick at 9:00 as it had been as 7:00. I ummmed and ahhhed and eventually decided that, since it wasn’t actually raining, I really ought to walk. To that end I went over to the washblock to retrieve my boots from the drying room, donned them and strode confidently out towards the tent…and into pouring rain. I just couldn’t face two soakings in as many days and decided there and then to take the day off.

Having eaten all the food I’d bought with me yeaterday I was glad when the rain stopped after a bit so I stayed dry as I walked into Gorran Haven for supplies. A lovely small village with a little beach and tiny harbour I was surprised to see it had as many as three (small!) churches. But the most interesting sight for me was the purported 16th century smugglers cottage.

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In half an hour I’d seen all the village sights. What to do with the rest of the day? If I’d been there tomorrow I might have attended the Mevagissey Ladies’ Choir concert!

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As it was, I had no other option but to head to the village cafe for a cream tea. Though not able to knock Falmouth from the top spot it was nevertheless enjoyable, and the first to use a scone with sultanas: a bold but successful innovation! It also introduced me to Cornish tea, as in tea actually grown in Cornwall. I’d had no idea that there was a tea plantation in the UK, so Tregothnan tea came as a complete surprise. But it had a distinctive, light flavour I really enjoyed; I plan to mail order a stock when I get home!

Exiting the tea shop my attention was caught by two cars in matching orange ‘Spaceships’ livery. Spotting a poster in the rear window of one I snuck over to have a look. They turned out to be the support vehicles of two guys (one Brit, one Kiwi) who have set out to run the entire Coast Path in a fortnight to raise funds for, and awareness of, mental health issues. That’s the equivalent of running one and a half marathons every day for a fortnight, which would be impressive enough on smooth, flat roads but I’ve seen first hand the terrain they have to cover. For all my complaints about the weather, and the mud, and the overgrown paths, I am fundamentally walking the Coast Path because I enjoy it. But I can’t imagine enjoyment is anywhere on these guys’ radar. I had a great conversation with Phil, one of the support drivers, while he waited for the runners to arrive for some food, water and ice for their injuries. As they came into view I left them all to it, humbled by the pain they are prepared to endure for a cause about which they clearly care deeply, and the magnitude of their achievement compared to my own modest effort.


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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…