On the road again…

So after the optimism of my previous post hoping that I would make it the 9miles to Perranporth, well I did, only it was 3days later than planned. It turned out that I wasn’t better and needed to rest, so that I did. In 48hrs I managed to crawl out of my tent to check out an ‘Alternative Skills Fair’ at an Ecologic Park next to the campsite (where I learnt about a Cornish Apple Project) and to the local beach at Porthtowan plus the cafe for some toast when I was getting my appetite back. It was Monday when I got on my way to Perranporth.

  • Day: 6
  • Started at: Porthtowan
  • Finished at: Perranporth
  • Miles: 9
  • Miles from LE: 60
  • Duration: 6hrs (9:15-15:15)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

Set off just after the rain had stopped and the only thing I fancied eating were Tangfastics so that’s what I ate! Got to St Agnes in good time passing one of the many mine shafts that scatter the coastline around here. Very atmospheric and evocative given my current reading material of Poldark – highly recommended, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like period fiction/drama.

Mine shaft in the mistMine shaft in the mist

The pub in St Agnes would’ve been awesome if I had felt better, lots of fresh seafood and attached to a brewery, what more can you ask for? Ah well, there’ll be others. Instead, I forced down some lemonade and a few chips and went on my way. Got to Perranporth YHA in the increasingly heavy rain but it wouldn’t open for check-in for a couple of hours so I went and explored Perranporth and one of its pubs. Once I finally got in I immediately fell in love with the hostel. It’s very small but perfectly formed and the format works so well. It’s capacity is about 20ish and it feels very much like a home from home with stunning views to boot (when the cloud lifts!).

View from Perranporth YHA View from Perranporth YHA

Those 9miles took it out of me as I still wasn’t able to fuel myself properly and since the weather forecast was looking poor, I took another day off…! I know I know, if I keep going at this rate I’ll never get to John O’Groats, but I don’t plan on getting gastroenteritis more than once! Rather than slob about in the hostel all day feeling frustrated and lazy, I took a bus over to the county town of Truro and visited the museum and cathedral. In the rain on a midweek lunchtime it wasn’t all that, but I could see that the cobbled streets would be very charming on a busy sunny summer day. The warmth of the hostel and the other people staying there did the trick and when Wenseday came I finally wanted to eat something, so after a cereal bar off I went; ‘On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again…’.

  • Day: 7
  • Started at: Perranporth
  • Finished at: Mawgan Porth
  • Miles: 15
  • Miles from LE: 75
  • Duration: 8.25hrs (9:15-17:30)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: Sharp’s Own

The route began by crossing Perran Sands in the rain and over the dunes towards Holywell. On the beach I met a guy walking the entire SWCP who told me he had just met a couple who were walking LEJOG but that was an hour ago so they were now 2hours ahead. At my pace I wasn’t going to catch them up, ah well, so near and so far from meeting someone else doing what I was doing, perhaps there will be others?

Around the corner, I trimmed off my first corners of the coast path – Kelsey Head and Pentire Point…dun dun duuuur. Well I’m not walking the SWCP so I’m going to trim off as many corners as I want! In doing so I wandered in to a very quaint village called Crantock and found a cafe for I a bite to eat. I got chatting to the lovely owner/chef (Jon) and it turns out he spent his career in the outdoors as a montain guide, had done many solo walks and kayak trips around the Scottish Highlands and Islands, plus he’d heard of the Rockhoppers! Anyhoo, as I came to pay he told me he was enamoured by my story and so my breakfast was on the house! Well I welled up at this sign of generosity, it was such a nice gesture and sent me on my way towards Newquay with a spring in my step. (FYI – it was the Cosy Nook cafe, but don’t all rush at once with tales of long distance hikes, I don’t want the guy to go out of business!). Then I got to Newquay…

Welcome to Newquay Welcome to Newquay!

Perhaps a tad unfair, although this was one of my first encounters as I entered from the west. It was the largest town I’d been though thus far and it was a bit of a shock to the system. The streets seemed packed and there was so much hubbub, it put me in a spin, so I just motored through as fast as I could. This brought me to Watergate Bay, which was an unexpected find, it was absolutely stunning. From the top it appears to be a standard cliff top, but get down on to the beach and there is evidence that the high tide surges right up to the base of the cliffs and cuts away at the rock leaving caves at the bottom of this huge and dramatic cliff face. Standing at the bottom and looking up I felt so tiny and insignificant, it was just awesome. Plus there are streaks of purple running through the rock…I’ve never seen purple rock before. Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay

From here it was just a couple of miles on to Mawgan Porth and my campsite for the night; Magic Cove. When I arrived the owners were out but I had couples coming over to help, almost tripping over themselves to offer me tea, coffee or anything else I might need/want – wow today has been all about generosity and has given me a nice warm glow inside! Well that and the first beer I’ve had in days!

Mawgan Porth

Mawgan Porth

Days 4 & 5

  • Day: 4
  • Started at: Gwithian
  • Finished at: Portreath (Nance Farm YHA)
  • Miles: 9
  • Miles from LE: 46
  • Duration: 5hrs (9:30-14:30)
  • Trig points visited: 1 (SW592435)
  • Ales imbibed: Cornish Buccaneer, Wooden Hand Brewery

I thought I’d have a slightly shorter day today, and spend a night in a hostel, just to mix things up a bit. Headed north from Gwithian and up to Godrevy Point and just around the corner is Mutton Cove but there are no sheep to be found, instead a large seal colony. Unfortunately some other hikers did not see the ‘keep quiet’ signs and promptly scared them all off into the water but I did manage to get the camera and binocs out in time.

Seals at Mutton Cove

Seals at Mutton Cove

From there is was mostly flat across the top of the cliffs. Stumbled upon an unexpected cafe at Hell’s Mouth but far from hellish, I demolished a very tasty cream tea and was off on my way again. When I arrived in Portreath I headed straight to the bakery to pick me up a ‘Hiker’s Lunch’; pastie, doughnut and a drink for £4.50 – bargain and delicious! The sun was blazing and so headed for the beach and was the only person to scurry into the shade. It then occurred to me that it was a Wednesday lunchtime and apart from the pensioners and toddlers, why were there so many people on the beach and not at work…?! It didn’t trouble me for long, instead and I spread my towel and read my book.

Knees on the beach!Knees on the beach!

After picking up some supplies, I headed up through Illogan Woods out of town and up to the YHA – a lovely and very fit elderly couple (70s/80s) let me follow them to the hostel as that was where they were heading. I think the YHA needs to re-brand to ‘Hostel Association’, from my experience there are certainly very few youths in hostels, it’s mis-selling!

To cut a short story even shorter, I then spent the next 36hrs either in bed or near a toilet for I had been afflicted either by something I ate (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the pastie, more likely my dinner) or a virus.

  • Day: 5
  • Started at: Portreath
  • Finished at: Porthtowan
  • Miles: 5
  • Miles from LE: 51
  • Duration: 2.5hrs (11:30-14:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

(I’ve decided not to include days off in my day count…these are walking days, not elapsed days.)

Having not eaten for 24hrs I was feeling a bit sluggish but wanted a change of scenery so ambled along to the next village of Porthtowan. Experienced my first rain of the trip, which didn’t particularly help my mood but the clouds did part long enough for me to pitch my tent, crawl in, cook some soup and then have a nap. I’m hoping to make it the 9miles up to Perranporth tomorrow so that I can stay here: (I have options if I’m still struggling.)

Perranporth YHA

Perranporth YHA

Days 2 & 3

  • Day: 2
  • Started at: North Inn, Pendeen
  • Finished at: Trevalgan, nr St Ives
  • Miles: 12
  • Miles from LE: 24
  • Duration: 8hrs (9:00-17:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

Packed up a very dew soaked tent and set off to Pendeen Watch with a sore throat ☹️.

Morning shadow
Morning shadow

An uneventful day on the whole, lots of reminiscing of the Rockhopper trip to Cornwall last year. Revisited a short stretch in the opposite direction from Bosigran to Zennor. Weather very similar – warm sun with a nice cooling breeze. The ups and downs between Gurnard’s Head and Carn Naun Point got a bit tiresome towards the end of the day and I had already done a mental inventory of what I could potentially live without- a lighter bag does mean more enjoyment and not less ‘comfort’. Arrived at Trevalgan and my goodness me, the facilities were closer to a spa hotel than the campsites I’ve become accustomed to. For example last night’s shower was in the corridor between the bar and the pub garden/smoker’s shelter. It was a cold shower, not particularly clean, had people traipsing right outside the door and the smoke wafted in just when you thought you were clean. At Trevalgan it was immaculate (you could eat off any of the surfaces), there was underfloor heating, a hairdryer….you get the idea – chalk and cheese. And I very much appreciated this cheese(!). Although they had no licence to sell beer I did buy some local bacon.

  • Day: 3
  • Started at: Trevalgan
  • Finished at: Churchtown Farm, Gwithian
  • Miles: 13
  • Miles from LE: 37
  • Duration: 7hrs (9:30-16:30)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: Porthbud, Bude x 1.5

Woke up with a stinking cold…harrumph, ah well I guess I’ll just walk it off. Was sent on my way from Trevalgan with a fresh pain au chocolat and demi-baguette which were very welcome. I headed straight for St Ives Post Office and forward posted on to Bude about 1.9kg worth of kit – if I then don’t need it I’ll post it home from Bude, but this way I have options. Ooh the inclines and declines were definitely easier, I could get used to this. The rest of today’s walk came into view and it looked like a lovely pleasant strole along the beach:

Carbis Bay
Carbis Bay

Well, not all was as it seemed.I snuck past the first headland just before the tide, but the Hayle Estuary gets in the way before the next bay. It was very low tide and the estuary looked so tame; ‘surely I can just take my boots off and wade the 5-6meters of shallow water?’. Well apparently there are dangerous strong currents and quick sand, so I took the delightful 3 mile detour through a bit of industrial estate, across a dual carriageway and past other suburban landmarks in order to end up a stone’s throw from where I started. The rest of the day was along the beach so I decided to let my feet breathe, they sighed an almost audible sigh of relief- they’d been let out!

Bare feet in the sand and sea, aaah.
Bare feet in the sand and sea, aaah.

Arrived at Gwithian over the dunes and have headed to the local ‘PH’. Today was mostly flat and either tarmac or sand which was drastically different from Sunday and Monday, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

And so it begins…

  • Day: 1
  • Started at: Land’s End (from Sennan)
  • Finished at: North Inn, Pendeen
  • Miles: 12(+1) (Sennan to LE)
  • Miles from Lands End: 12
  • Duration (incl breaks): 7hours – 10am to 5pm
  • Trig points visited: 2 (SW354313 & SW363337)
  • Ales imbibed: Tribute and Proper Job

Slept well which was a bit surprising, given I’ve had a bit of a nervous tummy for a day or so, with the big day looming. Woke at 8 and lazily packed up, some cursory research informed me that Lands End wasn’t going to be ‘open’ until 10am. And I wasn’t going anywhere until I’d got the obligatory photo taken and my verification form stamped. Adrenaline was pumping as I was filling in the form and my brain was jumping all over place as I tried to remember my own address but I managed!

Photo at the Lands End sign
Photo at the Lands End sign

After a warm, two handed handshake from the photographer at the sign accompanied by well wishes, I was off! At last, it feels like aeons ago that I made the decision to walk the length of Britain and it was finally happening. That adrenaline was still flowing as I headed off and barrelled along for the first 5miles – classic case of starting out too quickly! I soon slowed down.

I took a quick detour to England’s one and only Cape; Cape Cornwall. (I refreshed my knowledge with the correct definition; ‘a headland at which 2 seas converge’.)

My pack at the Cape
My pack at the Cape

Then it was on towards the many mine shafts of Botallack, Levant and Geevor. In the heat of the full sun I was grateful for the cool sea breeze but still applied ample sun cream. I was feeling the difference between my usual wild camping camp and this pack. This pack is definitely heavier. I think I’ll soon be taking a serious look at my kit and jettisoning non-essentials. But, but, but I need it all, hmmm.

Total Botallacks!
Total Botallacks!

I’ve finished up at my target for the day; the North Inn, Pendeen which has a camping field out the back. No sign of any blisters but a few sore joints. Time for a shower, dinner, a stretch and then an early night me-thinks.

Sensational sunsets on the Scillies

Early on in my journey my mild fears of a rough ferry crossing were quashed – the Scillionian had broken down ‘for the first time in 25 years’. I was informed that they would try to get us all on to a flight from Land’s End airport as there was ‘slim chance’ she would sail today. As I got to the front of the queue; ‘sorry the last seat of this morning has just been booked, come back in 2 hours and we’ll see what we can do. We might be able to charter extra flights’. The subtext was; ‘it’s absolutely bloody chaos, we’ve no idea what’s going on so give us chance to figure something out, we just need to wake up all the Cornish pilots’. On my return 2 hours later; ‘sorry no further update but I’ll take your name and phone number and someone might give you a call, if not return in 2 hours’. Having already done too many laps of Penzance I opted to laze about in the sunshine and read my book. The silence was broken with a phone call and I was booked onto a flight at 3, so it was into a minibus and off to Land’s End airport. When we arrived we were told our flight was running an hour late(!) but then I was bumped up to a seat on the next outbound plane with a Saga-type group – with my very overweight luggage but without my confiscated camping gas. (More about that later!)

The Skybus Twin Otter
The Skybus Twin Otter

The flight was an added bonus, a little 17 seater with stunning views and a delightful chit chat with the lady I sat next to. She was a relatively recent widow who had met another widower on the trip and proceeded to tell me ‘I think I’ve pulled!’. This was no Club Med 18-30s…this was an OAP coach holiday, whatever next?!

View of St Martin's
View of St Martin’s

So I had finally arrived! After pitching up at The Garrison and having dinner with a local ale (Ales of Scilly – Three Sheets) I headed down to the coast to see the historic defenses.

Spoilt for choice at The Garrison
Spoilt for choice at The Garrison
Wouldn't want to get in the way of this beast!
Wouldn’t want to get in the way of this beast!

After speaking to Mum and Dad, Scilly produced a stonking sunset and on the way back to the tent I happened upon my local which was in the dungeon of the castle hotel – it was a great pub – and I sampled another Ale of Scilly this time; Dungeon Brew.

Sunset no. 1
Sunset no. 1

The next morning it was off to Tresco to explore. The top half of the island with its 2 castles – one was Cromwell’s the other belonged to King Charles I – was stunning, and felt quite wild. The sea continuously crashed against the rock but the coastline was abundant with seabirds, butterflies and wildflowers – a lovely place for some contemplation. I walked onwards to the capital of Tresco; New Grimsby (via the lovely Ruin Beach Cafe) which was so polished it felt like a model town – a very nice twee one though. I then wandered through the Abbey Gardens which were full of very exotic plants and flowers, were nicely laid out and had long and enticing views round each corner.

Tresco Abbey Gardens
Tresco Abbey Gardens
Golden Pheasant at Tresco Abbey Gardens
Golden Pheasant at Tresco Abbey Gardens

On returning to St Mary’s I took a look in the nice gift shops, galleries and imbibed another local ale in the Mermaid Inn (which features quite heavily in the book by the former Scilly policeman!). Once again after dinner there was another fine sunset – a slightly more muted affair compared to the previous night but delightful nonetheless.

Sunset no. 2
Sunset no. 2

Thursday morning I packed up and headed to the Isles of Scilly museum and learnt about the ancient history of this archipelago, some of the large scale shipwrecks that have occurred on the rocks around the islands, gigs, smuggling and much much more. Then it was on to yet another island – St Agnes (and Gugh which is connected by a sand bar at low tide) – where I was to spend my final afternoon and evening on the Scillies. I did a lap of the island(s) and made sure to dip my toe in the sea off the most south westerly point of the most south westerly inhabited island of the UK, I guess this unofficially marks the start of my journey to Unst (where I plan to dip my toe off the most north easterly point of the most north easterly inhabited island of the UK). Snappy journey titles on the back of a postcard please!

Me, literally dipping my toe
Me, literally dipping my toe

Following a nice hoppy beverage at the local, and a little bit of rockhopping out along an isthmus to Burnt Island I reclined in my tent to read and watch another lovely sunset.

Sunset no. 3
Sunset no. 3

This morning the Scillonian was back in full working order however on an amended schedule due to an impending storm coming from the Atlantic so it was an early start and we set off for Penzance at 10:30. It turns out my worries of a rough crossing were well placed. It was grim. The boat pitched and rolled and slammed into the rough seas (gale force 8 was forecast by the met office) and quite quickly everyone turned a shade of green. I was totally consumed by the seasickness for the full 3 hours but fortunately managed to keep my breakfast down. Once we were safely docked into the harbour the staff showed their signs of relief at arriving claiming ‘that was up there’ in the stakes for one of the roughest crossings and would score 15 out of 10!

* Edit: I forgot to finish the story of the camping gas which I surrendered at the airport. Well Graham the check-in guy took it home and looked after it and then delivered it back to me at Penzance backpackers, how nice was that?! Thanks Graham!

So my advice would be go to the Scillies they’re fantastic but take the plane!

Pirates of …Brixham

Turns out not all the pirates are in Penzance, rather, they have a penchant for Brixham.

I’m in Penzance awaiting a ferry to the Isle of Scilly in the morning…some  feelings of nervousness given it is one of the roughest sea crossings in U.K. waters, and affectionately known as ‘the stomach pump’ or ‘the Sickonian’ (Scillonian). Hmm perhaps a light breakfast for me then.

On the way here I stopped for a few nights with some friends and family in Stoke Gabriel and Brixham respectively. Amongst other things I demonstrated my tent, savoured some fish and chips, and tried to get over just how many pirates you can get in one small seaside town.

Demo-ing my tent in Emma & Alex's back garden
Demo-ing my tent in Emma & Alex’s back garden
Brixham Pirate Fest
Brixham Pirate Fest

Hey ho…well it’s off to the Scillies I go – wish me luck! The adventure for real – sort of – begins…

Currently reading: The Life of a Scilly Sergeant by Colin Taylor.

The preparations are almost complete…

Maps to study and guidebooks to read.

I’ve got a lot of things to do before I leave and one of those things was to set up a blog, so that’s something I can tick off the list!

So this is my walking blog where I plan to document not just my big adventure for this year; walking Land’s End to John O’Groats this summer, but hopefully many more walks in the future.

I’m off on my final ‘training’ trip with the mountaineering club that I’m a member of; the Rockhoppers. We’re going to the Isle of Arran over Easter and a few of us will be extending the trip to explore the wilds of Jura too. That will also be the first test of trying to post blog entries from the ‘field’ as it were. So come back and visit soon to read about that and LEJOG which I currently plan to commence on May 7th.