SW COASTAL PATH. Portreath to St. Agnes.

 A short day.

I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast chatting to a couple walking the whole coastal path to celebrate their retirement. They had every day planned out, accommodation booked and were walking like clockwork when they passed me yesterday. I’m not sure how much they were enjoying it as they didn’t have much to say about the scenery, wildlife or exceptional weather. I reflected on my attitude to long distance walking and when I was younger it was probably exactly the same, partly personality trait and partly the necessity of time restraints. Indeed we would choose a route no matter what length, within reason, divide the mileage into a week and do it, often entailing 25 miles a day: a race against the clock. My regular walking partner back then came to retirement and we set off on a journey across the Pyrenees with no time limit and no pre-booking, it was a revelation to him how it changed your outlook. We were able to do short days to start to avoid burn out, we had time to explore off route, time to sit out the worst of the weather, could change our plans when needed [in fact ended up walking in the opposite direction for the majority of the route] and best of all time to sit and enjoy the scenery and realise how lucky we were. Choose your own style. I won’t see that couple again as they race ahead but I hope they enjoy their last two weeks.

Today I opted for a short walk to St. Agnes, the mileage will remain short but it is surprising how the day itself lengthens.

I walked steeply up the road out of the village, the cliff path has been eroded so its best to keep with the road for longer until a signed path across a car park. Two blokes were enjoying the view before driving back to the midlands after a family reunion, they really seemed to appreciate the wild coast. A lady who had moved here from Sheffield 30 years ago was walking her dogs, she had an airbnb in Portreath. The dogs needed a wash after rolling in Badger excrement. The next encounter within a few minutes was a man who was down on holiday with his daughter when she had gone into labour ending up in Truro Hospital giving birth to a Cornishman, his first grandchild – I think he needed a brisk walk.

The path along the headland was separated from some military land by never ending fencing. A spooky dome appeared. Below were deserted beaches. Ahead were deserted tin mines, Wheal Tye, where some attempt had been made to preserve and protect with unsympathetic concrete. There were interpretation boards everywhere including a bold statement  –  On 13 July 2006 select mining landscapes across Cornwall and West Devon were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, placing Cornish mining heritage on a par with international treasures like Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. 

A steep decent into Porthtowan brought me abruptly onto a busy road and I was glad of a break at the cafe. There’s something about these surfers’ cafes that I’m missing, inexperienced part time staff,  basic  beefburgers and coffees at exorbitant prices accompanied by some indecipherable electro music. As long as they are near the action and there is outside seating then its OK.  At this one I ordered a coffee and croissant and after an inordinate time two croissants and the coffee arrived, I said nothing and whilst enjoying the fare a new waitress turned up with another croissant!

The penalty to pay was a steep uphill where I chatted to a lass originally from Sheffield out on a run along the coast in training for a mountain marathon. Apart from running she was keen on surfing and climbing. She sped off into the distance. Soon I was dropping down again into Chapel Port which was just a car park at the end of a lane. The car park was full yet more cars, mainly expensive 4x4s, kept coming down only to be turned around and sent away.  A steep pull and I was back on the bleak tops where there was more evidence of previous mining activity with a couple of atmospheric pump houses. Notice the mine shafts, topped with conical grids (known apparently as Clwyd caps).

I was crossing St. Agnes Head standing out into the Atlantic waves. There seemed to be an abundance of sea stacks on the coast here, one group curiously named ‘Man and his man’.  As I started the descent guess who should come past but the fell runner, she had done well over ten miles since I last saw her.

I didn’t have any reliable maps so out came my phone to navigate me into St. Agnes. without dropping me down to Trevaunance Cove which can wait till tomorrow. The village was delightful, winding streets, old pubs, interesting church, brilliant B and B [with a mining engine house in the back garden] and not least a good fish and chip shop.


Quite an interesting short day.




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