Freathy is a strange place – a collection of huts on a slope overlooking the sea. Today the sun only shines intermittently and the wind is still cold, blowing from the east. The horizon is hazy, but I can see all the way back to Rame Head.
The South West Coast Path runs alongside the coast road. Ahead, to the west, the shore curves around. The nearest headland must be Looe. Beyond- is that Lizard Point in the very far distance, lost in the blue haze of the horizon? Can I really see that far?
A mile along the path, and I come to Tregantle Fort. This is a ‘Danger Area’ on the map and is used as a firing range. But today is Easter Sunday and all is quiet. When not in use, the range is open to walkers – as long as you stick to the permissive footpaths.
I go through the green gates and head down the steep hill. I walk along a track covered in dog faeces (yuck) and meet a few dog walkers – including two women with several dogs, one of which appears to have diarrhea. The women make no attempt to clear up after their pets. I have grown to dislike people who walk with dogs on public footpaths. There must be considerate dog owners out there, but too often they seem to regard our paths as doggy toilets. So instead of admiring the view, you have to constantly watch where you’re putting your feet.
At the bottom of the hill, I find myself on a lovely little beach. Very nice. But a dead-end. I retrace my steps, panting up the very steep hill and back to the green gates. The coastal path must go up the hill, not down. It would be a good idea to have a signpost at this point.
The view along the firing ranges is spectacular. It must be great fun shooting here.
At the top of the hill is the long, grey edifice of Tregantle Fort. It was built in the 19th Century to defend against the French and has been used for military reasons, on and off, since then. I am not sure if it is occupied at present. The South West Coast path crosses in front of the fort and it seems eerily silent as I walk along – but the many windows give the impression I am being watched. I carefully stick to the marked footpath.
Walking across farmland on the other side of the Fort, I am horrified to see a bull on the footpath. But there is no way round. I approach warily, avoiding eye contact. Luckily the animal seems docile and moves off as I approach.
The next part of the walk is easy, following a grassy path along undulating countryside. The last section is along a golf course and some golfers have to wait for me by the T, before they can continue playing. One of them mimics my walk, swinging pretend walking poles and waggling his hips. Rude man. (Along with dog walkers, I am not too fond of golfers either.) The wind is blowing a gale and I hope they have a miserable game.
I am shocked to realise it is nearly midday. I have been walking for two hours and have not made much progress – what with my deviation down to the beach at Tregantle and my hesitation crossing the field with the bull.
My plan is to make Seaton for lunch and Looe before the end of the day. I try to walk faster. The wind is behind me and helps by blowing me down the slope.
If the walk down into Portwrinkle is easy, the walk up the other side is pretty strenuous. I find myself alone on the footpath. As I climb higher, the wind strengthens, blowing cold from the east. It is still mainly coming from behind although, as the path curves, I am sometimes buffeted by sideways blasts. I find this exhausting. Despite the hard climb, I am freezing cold and glad I’m wearing my woolly hat and ski gloves.
On a piece of high ground, I stop for a rest and have a nip of whisky and a bar of chocolate. I have discovered that whisky and chocolate go very well together. I feel better after this.
Onwards. The path climbs higher still. Below me is scrubby vegetation on a steep slope with the sea and rocks beneath. Above me is a field of windblown grass with sheep.
I notice a farmer is walking around on the field. Every so often he bends down and picks something up. As I draw nearer, I see he is picking up tiny lambs, giving them a quick wipe, and releasing them to run to their mothers.
Then I realise there are lambs being born in the field.
Close to the fence where my path runs, I spot a ewe who has just given birth. The lamb, still bloody from the delivery, struggles to its feet and starts trying to suckle. Its sense of direction is not yet fine-tuned as it is butting between its mother’s front legs.
She may have another lamb to follow – most sheep have twins – and the afterbirth has not yet been delivered. I’m too cold to hang around to see what happens next. After taking a few photographs, I walk on.
What a windblown and cold start this is to life for these little lambs. I wonder why the farmer didn’t choose a more sheltered field.
From here, I follow a narrow path that winds close to the edge of the cliff, through brambled areas. The views are wonderful. The coast below is rugged. The sea surprisingly calm, although the waves rear up into frothy foam as they roll into the shore.
I take more photographs.
Ahead and below me I see a village. At first I think I have arrived in Seaton, until I check my map – this is Downderry.
It is 1:30 pm by the time I get down into the village of Downderry. The path ends on a road lined with houses and I walk for some distance with no sight of the sea. I find a footpath that should lead along the side of a school and down to the beach, but a hand written signs warns the path has been washed into a stream. So I am forced to continue along the road. Luckily it is quiet, but narrow.
I stop for lunch at the Inn on the Shore and, despite the restaurant being fully booked, they find me a place at the bar and I order some tasty fish cakes and cider. There is free wi-fi access in the pub, so I check the tide tables and leave the pub at low tide. With the tide out, I can walk along the beach from Downderry to Seaton, avoiding the alternative route along the road. It is lovely to be walking on sand again.
I shelter from the wind, behind a rock, and take photographs. Ahead is Seaton and Looe. Behind is Rame Head. It is dwindling in size, the ruined chapel on the top still just visible as a small bump on the headland.
Between the sand and the sea is a band of rocks. I love the different colours – grey and russet and gold, with blue rock pools between and the occasional splash of green seaweed. I wish I had my paints with me. But then I would never finish my walk…
Seaton sits on a bay of exposed, grey sand, with its beach cut in half by the River Seaton. More of a stream than a river, the flowing water is too wide to jump over and moving too rapidly to risk trying to wade through. I take to the road again, and cross by the bridge.
Walking up the hill on the other side, I take another photo looking down on Seaton beach. Downderry is hidden behind the curve of the shore. Across the wide bay is the ever-present Rame Head.
Walking out of Seaton along a road, I look forward to finding the footpath that runs through National Trust property above the cliffs.
I debate with myself. Should I try following the path anyway and see if I can scramble through? But I am put off by the thought of wasting more time investigating what might be a dead-end.
I decide to follow the road instead. I walk through farmland, the sea invisible behind fields and trees. Traffic is light. After a while, I come across more deviation signposts and head down an even smaller road – a track really. The next mile or so of my walk I meet only two people – a walker with a rucksack and a farmer in a car. He slows down to a crawl and pulls over to the side of the narrow road, scratching the sides of his vehicle on branches in the hedgerow. But, instead of being irritable he smiles and says ‘thank you’ as he passes me. I love Cornwall.
The road ends and a footpath leads down to the village of Millendreath. As I emerge onto a village road, I get a glimpse of sea again and a view of Looe.
Ahead is a woman sitting on a deck chair. She seems a bit stiff and doesn’t look up to acknowledge me. You can see her in the photograph, in blue trousers, sitting by the road. As I draw alongside and get a better look at her, I realise she is a stuffed dummy!
There is a collecting box beside her, for donations to some local charity.
Millendreath has an air of exclusiveness – a ‘posh’ place. There are newly built houses, some very contemporary. They look expensive. The place seems empty and I wonder how many of the houses are holiday properties and how many people really live here. It’s a bit soulless.
I come across the little Millendreath Beach. I would imagine this place is normally quite sheltered and pretty in the sunshine. But now the weather is wild, with a gale blowing straight in from the east. The sea is grey, the sky dark, the waves noisy.
I walk up the hill from Millendreath, first along a road and then along a path above the cliffs, heading for Looe. This is the last stretch of my walk. I pull out my phone, intending to let my husband know I am nearly there. But, to my dismay, I find my phone has stopped working again. Despite repeated attempts to get it to power up, it insists on turning itself off.
I give up with my phone and carry on.
I am tired and pleased to see Looe below me. I look across to West Looe on the other side of the river and contemplate tomorrows walk. Then I head down the path and into East Looe.
My husband has difficulty driving into Looe, due to closed roads. He ends up coming down a tiny road, barely wide enough for a motor vehicle. I meet him at the quayside in West Looe.
Later we realise the road closures were due to a terrible landslip a few days ago, which caused the collapse of several houses and the death of a woman. Poor Cornwall. It’s had more than its fair share of bad weather.
Miles walked = 11