South West Coast Path: Perranporth to Portreath

In which: blister plasters do their job ● the morning starts with fog ● mines start to make their presence felt ● I am introduced to bat castles ● sea fog is a beautiful thing from above ● I walk along the route of the London-Land’s End motor trials ● the MOD tells me to keep out ● a daymark heralds Porthreath

Date: 22 August 2010
Time of walk: 0905 to 1525
Today’s walking: 19.6 km
Progress along SWCP: 19.4 km
Estimated ascent: 780 metres

Getting up, I replaced the blister plaster on the base/back of my left heel, and added a new one on the ball of my right foot, both making a huge difference. My left ankle twinged for the first time this morning, so it will be necessary to remember not to over-stress it, particularly in descent.

At breakfast I was somewhat surprised to see that outside it was foggy. I hadn’t really looked out of my bedroom window as it only looks out onto a car parking area with other houses beyond. Still, there were hints of blue sky which promised better things soon to come.

A foggy view from the guesthouse this morning in Perranporth
Cligga Point just visible through sea fog
A rather incongruous manhole cover on this otherwise rural path
Mine workings on the way to Cligga Point
A helpful gap between the granite hosts the South West Coast Path
More mine remains
Looking down on Hanover Cover, named after the packet boat that was said to be carrying gold coins valued at £60 000 when she was wrecked here in 1763, though a recent dive found no gold. The large granite stone marks the edge of a ‘sett’, an area of ground granted to a group of men for ore prospecting.
The mine shafts have generally been capped, but many of them have been capped with these ‘bat castles’, to keep them safe for wandering humans but allow continued access for bats including the rare Greater Horseshoe
A beautiful view: from the cliff tops, looking out over the sea fog
Fog drifts in to the valleys of Trevellas Porth and Trevaunance Cove
And out to sea I can still look across the top of the fog banks
The fog is lifting at the coast – looking back over Hanover Cove to Cligga Point
An airfield from the Second World War, now used by gliders
The valley of Trevellas Combe
On the far side is the path used every Easter for the London to Land’s End motor trials
It’s not very car-friendly
Looking down on the boulders at the western end of Trevaunance Cove – some of them are very regularly shaped
A final look back to Trevaunance Cove
The way to Newdowns Head opens up with mist finally starting to disappear completely
…though there’s still some behind
But half an hour later that too is clearing
Having rounded St Agnes Head, the way ahead past beaches to Porthtowan
Towanroath Engine House, Wheal Coates
Looking back to the same spot across Chapel Combe
Some of tomorrow’s walk to Godrevy Island with behind it St Ives Head
Looking down on the beach at Porthtowan, where I’m hoping to find a drink
A kissing gate whose purpose in life has disappeared, as I walk alongside an old airfield
Looking into Sally’s Bottom
It’s a steep descent and then fairly steep ascent out again – typical of the SWCP
Apparently these steps are Portuguese granite – what’s wrong with Cornish or other granite wasn’t stated
Another feature of the old airfield
Another down-and-up at Hayle Ulla, with the airfield fence still keeping the path company. In places there were regular signs saying “MOD Property, Keep Out”, with on the other side a rather ordinary looking field of crops rather than any secret military equipment.

After three days seeking some sunshine, I was now feeling that it was too hot. I began to wonder whether packing some shorts would have been more sensible than the fleece, fleecy hat, third base layer and two pairs of gloves I’d brought, none of which I’d used. But then I reached a section of brambles and nettles up to waist height and I was reminded why trousers are really essential.

With my GPS telling me it was just 2.16km to go into Perranporth, I had my last sit down and the second of the Diet Coke cans that I’d bought at Porthtowan. Almost without my noticing, the sunshine had gone and it was overcast: that was no bad thing as it had been rather hot earlier for walking, but the cloud didn’t look thick enough to produce any rain. After 17km or so of walking so far today, I was feeling rather weary, and not a little anxious about what this presaged for my much longer walk tomorrow. It had been a surprisingly hard walk today, with no real sections where you could just stride out, with lots of the walk being slightly rough under foot – nothing too major but requiring constant attention.

A daymark signals that Portreath is beyond that next headland
The beach at Portreath and part of the twisting entrance canal to the harbour

The final bit of the SWCP into Portreath was diverted due to landslip, so I walked down a quiet road with views over the beach and what for boats looked a somewhat awkward-looking long entrance to the harbour area, where some sort of festival was going on – people were making a lot of noise, anyway.

At the Portreath Arms I was shown to Room 7, on the second (top) floor, pretty much over the front door. The pub was an old building so it is normal to expect some of the floors to be uneven, but an unlevel toilet feels very odd. An inevitable problem with staying in a pub is the noise, sometimes from people downstairs but nowadays from all the smokers lurking outside the door, which also creates the additional hazard of the smell of smoke drifting upwards to my open bedroom window – very annoying. The mattress on the bed was very thin: this isn’t in itself necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re going to have thin, you’ve got to have firm. Sit on this one and you hit the base of the bed with quite a thump.

Before dinner I went out for a walk round the small town, and explored other eating options but in the end settled on my own pub. I got some provisions for tomorrow from the small supermarket across the road. I briefly contemplated not eating much tonight, as I was feeling weary and not especially hungry, but I was glad I did as my appetite returned once I was downstairs. There were lots of noisy kids in the bar – I don’t complain about people being noisy in enjoying themselves, but the constant running around the pub was annoying. Eventually they left and I moved through into the main bar area from my “quiet” dining room to finish my second drink and also finish my second book of the holiday – I’m glad I shoved a third book into the suitcase at the last minute.

Fortunately it started to rain about 7.30, very hard, so all the noisy people and the smokers outside went away and the remainder of the evening in my room was quiet.

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