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What makes for travel adventure in this day and age? I reflect upon this over my holiday reading: “The Sudden View” – a literary classic written by Sybille Bedford in 1953. This account of an extended visit to Mexico relates the tale of 2 women travelling by steam train through the southern US states, across the border to a land they know only through reputation and tenuous recommendation. It’s a journey not just into the unknown but into a bygone age of travel.

The Sudden View

The Sudden View

Today’s world feels distinctly smaller. Travel has become more of a commodity and destinations a marketed product. At least that’s how it feels sometimes, but the truth is that a sense of adventure always comes down to personal experience. There may be few untrod paths these days but there are many untrod by us individually.

Imbued by the spirit of discovery I set out on a circular coastal walk from my quaint holiday cottage in Fowey. The sun is out and my weary knees are not complaining for a change, or maybe I’m just not listening as I head out through the fields of corn.

Correctly spaced

Correctly spaced

Having recently planted sweetcorn in our allotment I’m very pleased to observe a 40cm gap between rows as this is pretty much how I set out my own planting, albeit on a rather more modest scale

There’s a very rural feel to this walk so far. With no sea view yet I could be in Shropshire but for the faintest taste of salt in the air. Gradually there are more clues. The path gradually descends and a lone seagull hovers briefly before gliding back over the tall hedgerow. Am I imaging it or are herring bone walls a coastal thing?

Herring bone wall

Herring bone wall

It occurs to me how relaxed I have become. Walking is brilliant for emptying your head of all that everyday nonsense you carry around unwittingly. I’m in the moment and ever so slightly blissful.

In the moment

In the moment

My first human encounter givs cause for concern. A jogger running toward me stops to ask me which direction the sea is in. I had rather hoped it was in the direction she had come from…

Fifteen minutes later the verdant passage takes a sharp left and drops reassuringly towards an imagined coast. And there – out of nowhere – is a sudden view.

My sudden view

My sudden view

I can see a grand country cottage set in immaculate grounds across a placid lake. A duck paddles into view. I hadn’t expected this. When the path reaches the shoreline things begin to make more sense. The small lake sits behind the arc of Polridmouth Cove.

There are two sides to Polridmouth Cove

There are two sides to Polridmouth Cove

This scene is enchanting. The southwest coast path intersects a manicured postcard cottage view to the right and the rugged Cornish bay to the left. The effect is quite intruiging. There’s not another soul to be seen and I spend a couple of minutes absorbing the view in a world of my own.

Tranquility

Tranquility

Unlike the relentless crashing waves of the north Cornish coastline this southern sea is flat and inviting. There are countless flat stones and I feel compelled to skim some. I skim some. The beach is mine alone. I long to be a resident of the adjacent cottage, just a stone skim behind me. This is a bubble I wish to remain in.

Nothing says Joy like dogs on a beach

Nothing says Joy like dogs on a beach

The bubble bursts. Three scallywag friends race across the sands, their excitement palpable! A lady, their owner, hoves into view with a look of mild exasperation. One of her hounds is joyfully playing with a ball that belongs to a dog in the adjoining cove and now she will have to take it all the way back and apologise to the owner. Such a British scene.

Onward and upward

Onward and upward

It’s time for me to move on. Gribben Head beckons. The path heads up onto the cliff over a lush carpet of grass that appears to have been meticulously mowed. I’m reminded of a similarly idyllic climb some 15 years ago upon suspiciously perfect spongy lush grass atop the commanding chalk cliffs on the Isle Of Wight towards The Needles. That was a hot summer dream of a walk, capped off by the king of cream teas at a remote farm cottage. That cream tea…

Do look back

Do look back

Over my shoulder the coastline unfolds past Polridmouth Cove to the Fowey Estuary and the hilltop extent of Polruan, then beyond. The land of smugglers. The land of Poldark, if you are a BBC marketing executive or an employee of the Cornish tourist board.

Not a lighthouse

Not a lighthouse

The monolithic Gribben Tower has been on my radar since the descent into the cove, but only now do I realise it isn’t a lighthouse. In fact it’s an 84ft tall “daymark” intended to help sailors pinpoint Fowey harbour. An information board tells me I have visited at the wrong time of month to go up the tower. It also claims that regional author Daphne du Maurier framed many of her novels around this headland, with Rebecca specifically set at Polridmouth – a mere stroll from her latter years dwelling in Menabilly.

No seals today

No seals today

As the path continues due north it flattens up and offers clear vision over the wide bay to Charlestown – if only I could recognise it. I hope to spot a seal basking on the rocks below but today they must be out fishing. The walking is easy and broken only by the passing of a comically endless train of ramblers. I start of with Hello, and transition through Guten Tag to Grüß Gott as I realise this is a German, no – Bavarian walking party. I have encountered a lot of Germans enjoying this part of Cornwall. They get it.

Polkerris Bay

Polkerris Bay

The miniscule harbour at Polkerris Bay provides a peaceful sanctuary for the few who are visiting today. Limited access and parking mean that the beach can never become too crowded, while a pub and hip beach café mean visitors are well catered for. There’s time to pause for a coffee whose mediocrity is forgiven by the friendliness of its serving.

My route breaks from the coast at this point to return inland across farming country. A mercifully brief steep climb leads to a farmyard with outbuildings that I want to nose into but there are workers about so I pause only to admire the tractor.

The mighty Ford 3000

The mighty Ford 3000

Tractor enthusiasts (they do exist) would share my appreciation for the beauty of this beast. As a child I had a die-cast model just like this. This is either a modern clone or really just that old, though it looks in good nick. The surrounding fields hum with activity as machinery works the land. My path is cordoned off for a detour around a field of crops being harvested today, before crossing the Saints Way – a 27 mile walking route from Fowey on the south coast to Padstow on the North.

The divine path

The divine path

This strikes me as a fun 2 day trek for some future visit, to be topped off with fish and chips plus a pint of Doom Bar overlooking Padstow harbour.

Every inch of land on the path back to Fowey appears to be cultivated. Where is the fallow field? After half a mile two cottages flank my way and outside one stands a trestle table bearing surplus produce beneath a hand written sign that says Help Yourself. I liberate an oversized cucumber with lunch in mind. But the walk isn’t quite over yet and there’s time for one final sudden view.

Happy as pigs in mud

Happy as pigs in mud

I love pigs. Any creature that is happy dozing in a puddle of mud has my admiration. This small holding is home to a couple of sows and a litter of not-so-thin piglets. One of the mums sniffs her way over to see me. What can I give her? I have nothing … oh, the cucumber.

Feeding time

Feeding time

Poor mum. One of the piglets is pestering her for milk and she doesn’t seem in the mood. Eventually she gives in and is besieged by little snouts all wanting a feed. So much for the easy life.

Ten minutes later I’m sitting in my cottage garden with a cool drink. The GPS tracker records the route at around 6 miles over a leisurely 3 hour period. I pick up my book to find Sybille is getting to grips with Mexico City but all I can think about are the images and sensations of this morning’s mini-adventure. Reading can wait for a dull day at home. There are more untrod paths to discover here – starting with one that leads to lunch…

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Joining my parents for a walk on Christmas morning has become something of a tradition for me and this year there were perfect conditions with crisp snow on the ground and a clear blue sky overhead. The circular walk started from Ambergate, headed uphill via Alderwasley and then veered towards Crich until the A6 where we took in a pub and returned along the frozen canal.

Here’s the proof…

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Arthur Dent could never quite get the hang of Thursdays. For me it’s Tuesdays. There’s plenty to be indecisive about. I’m awake later than expected (welcome, but no early getaway), the weather forecast is intermittently apocalyptic and I’m not sure whether my limbs will protest about another full days walk. Sod it, I’m off to St Merryns for a circular walk of the headland west of Padstow – an area unknown to me. I park up at the imaginatively named Cornishman’s Arms and slip on my walking boots. The publican is out trimming his hedges and I offer a cheery wave intended to suggest I will pop in after my walk but which may have been interpreted as “thanks for the free parking sucker”. I’m equipped with a compass and a print-out of an OS map. There are some immediate concerns as regards navigation. I’m not sure of my starting point on the map and my printer ran out of black ink making the blue sea unnervingly similar to the blue fields.

Harlyn Bay should be North so I head Northish breaking out at the coast half a mile west.

Coastal Cove

Coastal Cove

Harlyn is a true surfer’s beach with few concessions to tourists that might stumble across it.

Surf School

Surf School

An unannounced downpour sweeps over but I dodge it by popping into a shop. Retracing my tracks west back along the coastal path towards Mother Ivy’s Bay I spy another black cloud and this time a rocky outcrop keeps me dry until it passes. My luck has to run out soon. The coastal path is quite level and easy going and around each corner there is another rocky cove below. As I reach the edge of the natural bay a large life boat station appears mounted extremely high up with a very long slipway. The proportions set against an improbably dramatic series of free-standing rock stacks give it the look of a thunderbirds prop.

Lifeboat Station

Lifeboat Station

I cut across the headland now partly to shorten the route and partly in my impatience to get to Stinking Cove! The land crossing is a scant half mile wide and the view from the middle takes in the sun, sand and blue sea of Harlyn to my left and the dark storm lashed maelstrom of Constantine Bay.

Storm over Constantine Bay

Storm over Constantine Bay

With the wind pushing the bad stuff my way I break into a jog to reach a cliff-side quarry for shelter arriving just in time only, to find my hide-out pre-occupied by a family sitting out the rain. The grandparents are seasoned walkers and the least phased by the weather but the younger generation – well they’re nesh. It stops. We bid our farewells and I follow the coastal path South to Constantine Bay – another surfing mecca. It’s then an easy and uneventful stroll back to St Merryn save for my failure to find the pub again, until I realise the Cornishman’s Arms is actually in a neighbouring village. Doh!

That’s enough walking – the rain is winning the battle today. In a moment of inspiration I know just what to do. I drive to Port Isaac where I know “The Crows Nest” pub will allow me to read a book with great views of the sea from inside or outside. It’s sunny but the rain inevitably arrives so I sit in the cushioned window and now have the benefit of being able to listen to the locals chatting about all and sundry. An 80s rock balad compilation loops through a few times and it’s the right soundtrack to the heavy raindrops blatting off the deserted decking outside. The landlord tells me he hopes it is a really bad storm because we may get to see dramatic lightening strikes out at sea and the thunder echoes around the bay. The days when the local folk prayed for their sea-faring brethren have clearly gone!

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The eye mask I was given on a long haul flight does the job and I wake at a respectable 6:20am and not the break of dawn. A tentative peak outside reveals the sun glistening off the morning dew, but no obvious black clouds. A quick shower and breakfast then I’m off down the hill with the smug feeling only the early bird knows. Padstow is barely awake and I traverse the deserted harbour to catch the early ferry to Rock. It’s not there and more concerning it appears to be moored up and unmanned in mid channel. A quick call to the harbour master tells me they are refuelling. In the river? I feel a little sheepish for my misplaced cynicism therefore when the other foot ferry chugs out of the harbour and up to the boarding slope. All the same I suspect the “refuelling” had more to do with bacon sandwiches than diesel. It’s just me and a guy in a Chelsea top on the way over to Rock. He tells me he is staying at a hotel on the other bank and had already popped over on the first crossing to pick up a paper. Out smugged.

Tim on ferry

Tim on ferry

Black Torr ferry at Rock

Black Torr ferry at Rock

The walk up the coast from Rock towards Polzeath is captivating and my camera barely gets a rest. Extensive grassed sand dunes offer a tangle of routes between the beach and the links golf course. Pairs of butterflies dance together in the long grass that offers perfect habitation for them.

Dunes

Dunes


An apple tree sits incongruously next to the footpath. Is this the result of some once discarded apple core? I resolve to chuck my own apple core later on and check on its progress in a few years time. A few golfers are enjoying an early round, some dogs are being walked and the occasional sweaty jogger lugs by.

Daymer Bay

Daymer Bay


One particular jogger floats by with a broad healthy smile, perky dog in tow and I wonder whether I have drifted into a Special K advert. The ambience is spoiled only by the man taking a leak behind a solitary windswept tree. I couldn’t wait.

The first few beach goers are setting up stall in Daymer Bay, parent hammering in wind shields and kids happily splashing around in the water oblivious to the temperature. It’s high tide and a rocky outcrop forces me to take the headland walk over to Polzeath. A black cloud looms ominously. Is this the shower I was warned to expect? Coffee on a bar balcony offers views of the bay and shelter if the rain materialises. What can I see? Polzeath is a surfer’s paradise with an expanse of beach and guaranteed surf.

Surfer dudes

Surfer dudes


Hundreds of wet-suited hopefuls are out in the bay, some salt crusted regulars and others under tuition at one of the surf schools that trade in the bay. Some eastern European conversation drifts over from the next table to remind me that the cove is not the well kept secret it once was.

Armed with a pasty I head for the hills and cross the headland to Pentire Glaze. Last time I was here “The Rumps” were sunbathed and deserted and I decided there could be no more striking coastline in Britain. This time the predicted rain arrives and I take shelter beneath a small rocky outcrop and watch trawler PW20 laying lobster pots in the frothing soup far below. It is still awe-inspiring.

Tim sheltering

Tim sheltering

After 20 minutes the rain eases off and I strike up a purposeful march anticlockwise along the rugged coastal path towards Hayle. As the estuary comes into view I have the perfect view of a massive black cloud unleashing a squall as it blows down the Camel from Bodmin Moor. There is nowhere to hide this time and I know I’m going to cop it so there is nothing to do but keep walking. The unwaterproofed parts of my attire get drenched, the salty water stinging my eyes but in no time it’s over and a following westerly breeze starts the drying process. As the beach comes into view it becomes apparent that the surfers have been not the least deterred by the rain and it occurs to me they probably welcome it because it clears the shallows of bathers who block their routes to shore. The tide is out now – Polzeath Beach assumes massive proportions – and it is possible to walk the two miles back to Rock on the sand without using the coastal path. And what a walk! The sun returns with a vengeance and I have a seemingly limitless expanse of pure sand almost to myself (wait until school breaks up next week though).

Tim on sunny deserted beach

Tim on sunny deserted beach

I am struck by the great tidal range as the Black Torr ferry at Rock departs from a point several metres beneath its arrival point this morning. I decide to spend a couple of hours in the balcony bar of the Waterfront Inn overlooking the Rock waterfront lined with small sail boats and dingys. Time to read and also I will catch the ferry once it has restored Padstow as its destination – at low tide it drops passengers off a mile out on the beach. The return trip when it comes around sees the boat packed out and two cyclists struggle to fit their bikes aboard.

The rain is done for the day and so am I. No swanky quayside eatery for me. It’s a much needed shower and a couple of beers in the tent, plus whatever Tesco have to offer.

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