Sunday, 7 July 2013

Porthcothan to Newquay - walking the South West Coast Path mil

Porthcothan Bay
Despite the disturbed night I felt remarkably fresh this morning and chatted cheerily with the people in the (massive!) tent next door. I watched enviously as they not only sat up but walked around inside before lying down in my tiny tent to get dressed.

Unidentified bird
Horizontal dressing isn't something I recommend. I spent ages looking for my shirt only to find I was lying on top of it and trying to get into my shorts with my knees scraping the roof of the tent was a pain. Eventually I emerged from my orange cocoon feeling rather hot and bothered and sat outside for a moment to recover from the ordeal.

A chap came over from the opposite side of the field to talk about the walk. 'I used to do a lot of hiking,' he said. 'I did the Land's End to John O'Groats jobbie ten years ago.' It had taken him 99 days and that was going via Cape Wrath.
'That's really impressive I said, 'it took me 23 days to cycle it.'
'The thing I loved about it was the freedom,' he went on, 'nothing to worry about except what you're gonna eat and where you're gonna sleep.'
'And the views,' I said.
'Oh the views you take for granted,' he said laughing.
Porthcothan Bay Stores
He was right, that was why I was lugging this tent with me. I wanted the freedom, if only for a few days. When I packed up and left he was sitting outside his tent, watching me go. I had the feeling he might hit the road again sometime soon. I hope so anyway.

I was too early for the campsite cafe but around the corner Porthcothan Bay Stores were selling coffee and warm pasties so I sat at one of the tables in the sun enjoying my breakfast. It was only just nine o'clock and already it was warm. The long-promised heatwave has, it seems, finally arrived. The beach at Porthcothan is a beautifully sheltered cove after which the path climbs up and runs along the top of cliffs. Just off shore were the Trescore Islands and between them was a channel of startlingly beautiful turquoise water. Oystercatchers wheeled around the rocky outcrops, calling with an insistent peep-peep-peep; they sounded exactly like those squeaky toys beloved of small children and puppies.

Trescore Islands

Strawberries and Cream in honour of Wimbledon 
I walked out to the end of Park Head. Looking back there is a fine view of Bedruthan Steps. I had noticed these marked on the map and had been slightly concerned about them. 'There must be a lot of steps to warrant a mention on the OS map,' I thought to myself. I had therefore been mightily relieved to discover (from a postcard at the shop that morning) that Bedruthan Steps are not actual steps at all, but rock formations which according to legend were stepping stones for the giant Bedruthan. Well, I say according to legend - the 'legend' was invented by the Victorians to entertain the tourists. In honour of Wimbledon final day I opened a box of strawberries and covered them with large dollops of thick Cornish clotted cream. Andy Murray was in the final today and although I am not a big tennis fan I was hoping to get somewhere in time to watch the match. Just in case he won. Sitting there in the sunshine, watching the sea pounding on the rocks, cliffs stretching away in both direction, was glorious.

Bedruthan Steps
Bedruthan Steps were very impressive, great lumps of granite strewn across the beach, left isolated after the erosion of softer rocks which once surrounded them. Steep steps lead down to the coast and a rather nice set of stone ones lead up to the National Trust shop and cafe at the top of the hill. I chose the latter and the pot of tea I drank there was most welcome.

This section near Bedruthan Steps  is clearly popular
The path dipped down to the coves of Mawgan Porth and Watergate Bay which, unsurprisingly, were packed with surfers, swimmers and holidaymakers - crowding the small carparks and spilling out of the cafes. I pressed on towards Porth beach and then Newquay. My feet were killing me and I was insufferably hot. The rucksack didn't seem such a good idea now and I looked enviously at walkers with little or no luggage. I also realised I had not taken on nearly enough food or water. The last thing I had eaten was the strawberries and cream hours before. By the time I hobbled into Newquay I was exhausted, hungry and bad tempered.

The original plan had been to continue through Newquay and out the other side. But then I came across the Towan Blystra, a Wetherspoon pub. The tennis had already started; they were serving Sunday roast; the beer was less than £2.00 a pint and they had WIFI. There was also a campsite half a mile up the road. It was, as they say, a no brainer. I would be going no farther today.

I ordered a pint of Marston's Old Empire IPA and a roast chicken dinner and settled in front of the telly. There were only a handful of us watching, tennis it seems is not as popular as surfing in this town. The beer went down so well I had another one and when the food arrived I realised I was so hungry I couldn't get it in my mouth fast enough. Sated, I watched Murray win Wimbledon and ordered another beer before limping to my campsite down the hill.

Distance: 10 miles
Total Distance:  190.5 miles
Accommodation Ranking: 6/10
Accommodation Cost: £9.00 per night.

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