Distance Walked: 140km
Distance covered this section: 104km
- April 19 – St Just to Treen (16km)
- April 20 – Zennor to Lelant (18km)
- April 21 – Lelant to Portreath (25km)
- April 22 – Portreath to St Agnes (12km) and a short bus trip in the rain to Perranporth
- April 23 – Perranporth to Newquay (20km)
- April 24 – Newquay to Treyaron Bay (13km) with a 7km bus ride in the middle due to strong winds on the headlands.
Leaving the Youth Hostel at St Just (ironically dominated by mature age hikers doing parts of the coastal track*) we had a series of overcast days that suited the moorland scenery perfectly.
*(actually that’s an over statement. Here is a link to the website of one awesome young person called Fiona Quinn staying at the St Just YHA who is stand up paddle boarding Lands End to John O’Groats.)
The path was boggy in places but the mud wasn’t deep. However, we took quite a while to cover the ground because of all the interesting distractions along the way.
First there were Bronze Age – Neolithic sites to explore. A burial mound high up on the cliff had views back to Lands End and an entrance facing out to sea. It dated back some 4500 years.
And a stone circle near St Ives had a very distinct head stone in a rock quite different to the other 13 black granite stones in the circle.
The path also went through areas that have been mined for tin since 2500BC. Abandoned buildings from the 19th century suggested a fairly grim recent past.
In Potallack valley an information board noted 138 children worked in one mine. The valley continues to be mined today but at least most of the kids are in school!
We had just been reading about the harvesting of arsenic crystals at one site when we saw this…
Decided not to refill the water bottles in that stream!
While the rest of the country basked in record April temperatures (29 degrees) the sea mist focused our attention on the spring flowers along side the rugged but well maintained path – Black hawthorn, primroses and violets.
And as the geology changed from granite to slate we noticed a change in the stone walls which took on a herringbone pattern.
The path was quite isolated but wove past numerous villages and towns. We did go through St Ives, a serious tourist destination with narrow lanes, cranky drivers and the highest density of fudge shops in Great Britain.
The sun shone as we walked from Lelant to Portreath. On Gwithen beach the low tide meant we could wade through a gap in the cliff through truely icy sea water. British surfers, of which there are quite a few down in Cornwall, are pretty hardy.
We have had a variety of reactions from the British we have encountered. Some keep a very cool distance, seeming mortified to bump into a couple of bedraggled hikers, while others are really passionate about the coastal path and keen to chat. At Gwithen we spent about an hour outside a tea shop (of course) exchanging hiking stories with a couple from Bristol. We realised we were outclassed when we discovered Ian mountaineers and leads hikes throughout the world. He walked a little way along the path with us and set us on our way towards the nearby 100 strong seal colony. We were doing our usual job of looking moderately disoriented as he generously noted it can sometimes be tricky to rejoin a path after a break and when you are full of cake!
The Portreath youth hostel was some way off the path, so next morning Dave picked a cross country route back to the coast. We weaved along 12kms of almost deserted lanes and bridle ways relying on Dave’s masterful navigation skills as he found a wiggle through to a repurposed tin mining tramway via a footpath that wasn’t even on the map.
We pretty much missed Newquay having made a high tide detour which brought us to our hotel without going through the harbourside centre of town. The Hotel Bristol (bit confusing) clearly had a grand past. Previous guests included Prince Charles, Michael Caine, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Bothan and Eric Clapton!! Would have been a bit of a scrum at the breakfast buffet. Haha
Finally in high winds we made our way to the grooviest YHA on the Cornish coast at Treyanon. We have a rest day here tomorrow.
Despite occasional bad weather the walk has been very lovely so far and we are feeling reasonably fit. However its comforting to know that help is on hand along the track as long as you can work in base 3…
The two main challenges at the moment are first finding reasonably priced accommodation that is available when we need it – the fingerprints of Adam Smith’’s invisible hand are all over the B&Bs of Cornwall (joke for the economists amongst you). Second Elaine is struggling to find an appropriate response to the question….
Would you like instant or filter coffee?