From Plymouth I took the ferry to Cremyll. I walked through
the woods of Mount Edgcumbe to Cawsand
- yet another seaside haunt of my childhood. Next day saw
more fine walking around Rame Head, then
up and down among the holiday cottages above Whitsand Bay and through the Tregantle
Firing Range to Portwrinkle. Downderry, Seaton and Looe followed - more familiar
places of my youth. Susan had come down to replenish supplies, and we met at the
guest house above the harbour.
Day 20, from Looe to
Polperro and on to Polruan, was, so
the guidebook said, the toughest stretch on the South Cornwall coast path. Some
steep climbs, but nothing compared with north Cornwall or even east Dorset. The
scenery was spectacular, and as a bonus there were basking sharks to watch from
the cliffs above Polruan. I took the ferry across to Fowey, and headed out to
Gribbin Head with its curious striped
daymark (like a lighthouse without the light). Then past the tiny village of Polkerris
to the B&B at Par.
Next morning was easy going past
the china clay works and the suburbs of St Austell. After Porthpean the route
reverted to the classic ups and downs of coast path walking. Eventually I reached
Mevagissey - a place with even more traffic problems than most Cornish fishing
villages. Then round Chapel Point,
with a magnificently sited house on its tip, to Gorran Haven. The next stretch
was one of the finest, and at Dodman Point
the coast opened up to the Lizard. At the Dodman I was disconcerted to find that
the youth hostel at Boswinger, whose answering machine had confidently predicted
plenty of beds, had just sold its last bed. Fortunately the B&B next door
had a room. Whenever I walk past a youth hostel with a full car park and no room
for a walker I remember the days when cars were verboten at youth hostels - but
I suppose the YHA like everyone else has to make ends meet.
logistical problems next day. There is nowhere to stay between Portscatho and
the ferry to St Mawes, and the last ferry leaves at 5.15 pm. Portscatho seemed
too short a day, so I decided to aim for the ferry, confident that I would have
no problem finding accommodation in a town as big as Falmouth. The path past Portloe
was tough in parts, but mostly easy going, and I reached Place in good time to
catch the ferry to St Mawes and the connecting ferry to Falmouth. Then another
problem: I rang a dozen places and knocked on another dozen doors, but the whole
town was full. Everything from the backpackers' hostel to the 4 star hotel was
booked solid. My last chance was a B&B at Mawnan Smith, 5 miles south of Falmouth.
Yes they had a room - but they were just going out for the evening to a wedding
party and would not be back till late. Something in my voice must have betrayed
my desperation, and they suggested that I went to the party at the Red Lion and
picked up the key. So I pitched up at the pub at 9 PM, drank a toast to the happy
couple, and headed gratefully to bed.
The coast path
round the Lizard peninsula is deservedly popular, and I had many more walkers
for company for the rest of the trip. First, there was more water to negotiate.
I took the ferry across the Helford River, and then, a few miles further, waded
across Gillan Creek. South of Porthallow
the path diverts inland to avoid some coastal quarries, then it was easy going
to Coverack and its well-sited youth hostel.
I had seen
basking sharks every day since Polruan,
but the best sightings came next day. Basking sharks are enormous - 30 feet or
more, the second largest fish in the world. Near Kennack Sands a group was close
inshore where the water was clear. I sat for ages watching them from the clifftop.
Cadgwith - a picture postcard village
- I met one of the few Cornishmen left on the coast. He told me that most of the
village houses were second homes, a few occupied full-time by incomers.
Cadgwith the path led past a series of spectacular coves and headlands to Lizard
Point. There, people were waiting their turn to be the southernmost person
in England. Then I headed half a mile north to my B&B in Lizard Town.
headed north from Lizard Point next day on one of the most scenic stretches of
the whole coast path. At Kynance Cove
the path squeezes between the sea and the bottom of the cliff, and at Mullion
Cove the basking sharks were out in force. Then, past Gunwalloe, I left the granite
cliffs of the Lizard and traversed gentler slopes to the gravel beach of Loe Bar
More grand scenery next day - tiny coves
and rugged headlands. After Prussia Cove
St Michael's Mount came into view,
and matchstick people walking across the causeway to the island. From Marazion
I trudged along the beach to Penzance and through the town to the youth hostel.
to Land's End is a comfortable one-day walk, but I decided to make it an easy
2-day stroll. I had a good look round Mousehole,
had a leisurely lunch in the cafe at Lamorna Cove, then tackled the very rocky
stretch to Tater-du and on to Porthcurno for the night. Susan had driven down
to join me for the last day's walking. Next morning we both
scaled the steep steps beside the Minack
Theatre. At Gwennap Head the buildings of Land's End came into sight. Then the
spectacular end to the walk, past Nanjizal
Cove to Land's End itself.
It is customary for walkers to be sniffy
about Land's End.
OK, there are tacky exhibitions and gift shops. But it is a magical place, with
dramatic seascapes, views out to the Scilly Isles. Popular places are usually
popular for good reason, and Land's End makes a fitting end to England.
reached Land's End 28 days after leaving Oxford, on 7 July, which was my 60th