Last night was windy and I emerge from my tent to find sodden guy ropes dangling from the sides free from their anchors. Moorings restored it’s my first chance to take in my surroundings clearly. There are some ugly clouds but a strong wind should blow it over and past in due course. I’m becoming something of a weather forecasting expert this week. My neighbours pitch is like the Marie Celeste. Their car has been absent since I arrived yesteday and their camping chairs sit outside laden with soggy beach towels suggesting that they popped out yesterday for a brief errand only to succumb to some dark tragedy that saw them never to return. More likely they got sick of the rain and booked into a B&B.
I’m going to walk today whatever the elements throw at me and with head to toe waterproofing I set off across the sand dunes looking like some cross between Scott of the Antarctic and Lawrence of Arabia. The footpath leads through a deserted caravan sales park (no salesman is good enough to shift anything on a day like today) and a squall hits me face on with horizontal rain stinging my eyes. I’m Scott of Arabia and hence undeterred. Onto Perranporth beach which is devoid of people aside from a man walking two decidedly reluctant collies. It’s high tide and the beach must be vast at low tide. The rugged conditions only serve to bring to life the views and by the time I reach the end of Penhale Sands the rain has departed and I can peel some layers off.
I have been following the dog walker under the principle of Zen navigation, whereby I just assume he knows where he is going and follow blindly. When he climbs into his Range Rover where the beach meets a looming cliff and drives the 2 miles back to Perranporth the way he came this is looking like a flawed strategy. After a little exploration it turns out there is a coastal path after all which climbs steeply before hugging the cliff edges around Ligger Point and then Penhale Point, which both offer yet more sublime views. Here the wind threatens to lift me off my feet, which doesn’t happen or there would be no blog today, but it’s good news for me and bad news for the blogging community.
This stretch of coastal path skirts a military base that looks as if it has been slowly deteriorating since the end of the cold war. Some rusty razor wire looks a little menacing but this comes to an abrupt halt and an eminently scalable wooden fence takes its place. A series of foreboding no-entry signs are then somewhat undermined by the massive wire mesh gate which has been left open so that anybody can enter the compound. The winds of change have left this place behind. Meanwhile a flock of birds are propelled inland by the easterly gale, probably involuntarily.
It’s 11am by the time the path descends into Holywell Bay and time for a pot of tea at St Pirans Inn. I’m their first customer of the day and by way of welcome Phil Collins retches out of the speakers. It is beyond me how after all these years neither he or anybody from his record label have had the decency to come out and publicly apologise for his solo career. Even a written statement read out on his behalf by a solicitor would be a start.
A visitation to the local store for a postcard yields another interesting chat with a local, who seems quite impressed that I have walked “all the way” from Perranporth. He has lived here 8 years and done it once but he doesn’t go there because it’s not as nice as Holywell. There’s probably a little truth here in the sense that Holywell is prettier and less commercial but tonight it will be sonambulent while there will be discos at Perranporths finest night venues.
A deviation inland sees the dunes make way for fields and it’s onto Crantock for lunch. The Old Albion is a sturdy stone Inn with a smuggling past that promises fine food and ale. It is therefore depressing to enter and find that not only do they have no food on but the beer is Carling and they have Sky Sports in the main bar.
A few steps opposite sits the Cornishman and this has an extensive menu including daily specials as well as some interesting tipples. Here though the chef has popped out (for lunch?!) and any food order will be at least half an hour. Fortunately a nearby tea room comes to the rescue and the ploughmans I order materialises suspiciously within 90 seconds of my order. There be odd things afoot in Crantock.
The worst part of a day walk comes after a pub lunch when cooled limbs and preoccupied digestive systems are rudely stirred into life to lug ones body up a steep hill. I am incentivised however because I want to see the brilliantly named village of Cubert at the top of the hill (see link if this makes no sense)…
…and also there is a wonderful looking pub called the Smugglers Den Inn that lies in an innocuous hollow (I know about because I drove passed it yesterday in the rain). It is an oasis of character and real ale.
My choice of Skinners “Smugglers Ale” is an obvious one and it goes down all the better because of the miles of walking through the wind and rain it took to get there. To cap it all off the sun is out and I take the opportunity for a photo. Self portraits have become trickier due to the transformation of my camera tripod into a bipod after a screw came out. I myself am almost a monopod having jarred my knee earlier scrambling down a dune. I’m hoping that the beer will help the healing process.
One of the major natural assets I have yet to mention is the extensive network of mature hedgerows bounding the fields and narrow lanes. This ecosystem supports a wide range of wildlife and today in particular I have seen countless birds winging from one hedgerow to another as well as butterflies, bees, colossal dragonflies and a few shy & nervous hairy things. I say “natural” asset but there is a certain amount of landowner custodianship involved in the protection and extension of this network. I know that in the Peak District there is a formal management program to cultivate and renew hedgerows and I wonder whether a similar scheme exists locally.
In stark contrast to todays meteorological pot-porri the evening has put its neck on the line and opted for blazing sunshine above cloudless skies (doubly gratifying as the test match at Lords is now off for bad light). After a much needed shower it’s time to seek out and indulge in the finest Friday night entertainment that Perranporth can offer. This is not quite the lottery it might seem as I know there is a band on at the “Watering Hole” bar which is situated directly on the beach. Getting there is the first obstacle as the footpath signposted from the clifftop dumps me in the golf course and then I’m on my own. Not a major dilemma on the way down as it’s light & I can see the bay but I shan’t be coming this way back up in the dark. The next obstacle is the beach itself due to the full blown sand storm that forces me to navigate with my eyes almost closed. Once inside the real ale is superb and I settle down at the only free table only to be chucked off 10 minutes later because I’m sitting where the band are going to play. So that’s why the table was free.
The venue is soon packed to the gills with mostly locals winding down for the weekend and the covers band soon has the dance floor packed, save for the occassional break to restock with beer or to re-attach the bands’ promotional banner that habitually drops off the wall onto the drummer. Several beers later I trudge over the flat sands and up the mile long hillside road in the pitch black. This route prevents me from the possibility of falling into a bunker but unfortunately does result in me stepping “in” the large roadside carcass of a recently deceased furry thing.