A sandy day today – lots of dune walking and beaches. I started the day in style with a clotted cream scone and coffee on the beach at Perranporth, before heading up into the dunes for the first part of the walk.
Having looked at the map there didn’t seem to be a route back up at the end of the beach so I attempted to follow the path, but soon found myself ‘in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike’ and ended up wading through thigh-deep dune grass. I did however see an adder, coiled in a perfect circle at the edge of the path about 3 inches from my boot – it uncoiled itself slowly and slithered off into the grass before I could get a photo. After a bit of trekking through the dunes I eventually found my way back to the path, only to see what appeared to be a path up to the SWCP from the edge of the beach – could have saved myself the effort after all!
The path then skirts round MoD training grounds, with hair-raising signs saying ‘don’t touch military debris, it could explode and kill you’ which at least leaves no room for ambiguity. Unfortunately the MoD property continues up onto the headland, where you are restricted to walking between two wooden fences, surrounded by Stalag 17-style prefab grey cabins and razor wire, all of surpassing ugliness. It was a grim change from the unspoilt wildness of the other countryside. I had a snack with my back to all of it, muttering to myself about being a human rights lawyer.
After all the military bits it was down into Holywell for more dune walking, then on to Crantock, all of which was very pretty and full of dogs and day walkers. Despite The Book’s exhortations to avoid the ferry across the Gannel, it was high tide when I reached the shore and I opted for the short boat ride across the river rather than a long trek inland. I felt guilty, but not much. An exorbitantly-priced lunch in a cafe overlooking the river, and then down into Newquay.
Let me say at once that I am not a surfer, and so it’s possible that the charms of Newquay have completely missed me. The beaches are, of course, lovely – Fistral beach was especially picturesque and the path framed by wild roses and mallow – but Newquay itself is the armpit of the route so far. It was horrible. Lots of new-build apartments looking as if they have been cobbled together from oddments from the local sidings warehouse, pavements covered with gum and cigarette ends, a surprisingly high proportion of drunk people, and everything feeling as cheap and unpleasant as possible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t walk across the beach as recommended because the tide was too high, so I toiled through the town, hoping to get back to the clifftops beyond as fast as possible.
Once back on the clifftops, I was just beginning to relax when, coming up to Watergate Bay, thumping bass reached me – turns out today was a beach festival run by the hotel (paid entry natch). The music was audible about 2 miles in both directions. I tried hard not to begrudge all the people on the beach their post-exam celebrations, but admit to having some uncharitable thoughts.
The last bit of the walk was great though – the path high up above the sea with excellent views all around. I had my heart set on a pint in Mawgan Porth but Arran and the kids foiled me by driving into the car park just as I reached it on foot, so we opted for fish and chips on the beachfront at Bude instead.
We’ve moved (I say we, but of course it is Arran doing all the hard work whilst I am walking) to our second campsite, which is near Bude and is on a farm – Rowan is wildly excited by the horses in the paddock and the five ducks wandering round the site. The next few days of the walk, up through Bude and Hartland Point to Clovelly, are supposed to be some of the toughest on the entire walk and I am thinking carefully about how to make them manageable – I don’t think that my fitness will allow me to do a 23 mile day with 2400m of ascent! Tomorrow I hope to make it to Port Isaac (another ferry, from Padstow to Rock this time – I’m no purist).
Highlights: Fruit scone with clotted cream on the beach at 8am (breakfast of champions); seeing a snake in the wild for the first time ever; finding my phone again after it dropped out of my belt holder in the dunes; the Gannel ferry; beautiful wildflowers (yellow iris, foxgloves, cow parsley, tiny yellow orchids, campion, and some others I don’t know) by Porth Joke; two enormous wigwams, complete with grand toilet van, in a field outside Bre Pen; a lovely welcome at the new campsite.