I set off from Charlestown in a steady drizzle. According to my map the South West Coast Path follows the road out of Charlestown and goes around the back of the village of Duporth before rejoining the coast. I don’t know why the official route appears to take this deviation because, at the bottom of the harbour road, there is a footpath sign pointing straight up the cliff. This is the path that I follow, climbing up and out of Charlestown.
Despite the dull weather, the harbour looks very attractive below me.
Usually I avoid setting off for a walk in the rain – but we are only down in Cornwall for a long weekend and I need to make the most of the next few days. The weather forecast has promised it will clear up later.
This snail is enjoying himself.
I stow my camera away in multiple layers of plastic bags and promise myself that I will buy a waterproof rucksack one day.
There is a path leading down to the beach from the South West Coast path and a sign says it’s for residents of Duporth Village only. The Duporth Village website claims that Duporth beach is a private beach. Shame on them. I believe the beach below the high tide mark really belongs to the Queen but, if you own the access route to the beach, you can prevent people getting onto the sand.
Duporth Village is a new development on an old Butlins site. The local planning authorities should never have given permission for development without insisting it included proper public access to the beach.
Across St Austell Bay I can see Gribbin Head with its day mark tower. It looks gloomy.
Further along I get a better view of Duporth beach and can see there have been a number of recent landslips and rockfalls. Erosion is eating away the cliff and will, eventually, threaten the properties that look over the sea. I wonder if they will be expecting public money to shore up their private beach?
I come across an old lookout tower and get some great views across another beach. This is Porthpean beach, a much more inviting place than Duporth.
The weather is still too grim for good photography, but later the sun comes out. At a place that I think is called Phoebe’s Point – I take a photo looking back at Porthpean beach. In the distance is St Austell and, on the horizon, one of the weird pyramid structures that seem to dot the landscape in this part of Cornwall. (On closer inspection, these mystical structures turn out to be the heaped-up debris from old mines.)
I’m not sure why, but this section of the path seems to have attracted numerous signs of various sorts. Here are a selection.
Japanese Knotweed is a real menace and this was only one of a number of similar signs I found in the area. One sign warned that the rain might have caused ruts in the surface of the path. Really? How very inconvenient of nature. And another sign warned of badger activity causing holes.
A few yards later, I do come across a deep hole in the middle of the path and I assume this was the remains of an old set. It seems deserted now, with nothing visible inside but a few old cobwebs.
When I poke my walking poles down into the hole, they almost disappear. Gosh. It is deep. If you put your foot in here by mistake you could easily break an ankle.
I thought I was making great progress, but the path takes a dive down into a valley. On the other side, I can see the steep slope leading up and can already anticipate the tough climb ahead.
The cause of the dip is the stream running down to the sea at the bottom of the valley. There is a lovely bridge across the water – and yet another warning sign, beautifully handwritten, warning of missing slats in the bridge.
After climbing up out of the valley, I reach a small hamlet called Trenarren, where I join the road for a short period.
No tipping and motorists beware of thieves.
From here, I head down a track towards a promontory of land called Black Head. Because of the proximity to the road, I meet a few dog walkers. One kind lady points me in the direction of the right path – the one that sticks closest to the coast.
I stop to take another photograph of Gribbin Head. It looks much brighter in the sunshine and now I can see another promontory behind it – is that Pencarrow Head? Where I met the bulls? I think it is.
I think I’ve reached Black Head already. I stop, sit down, have a drink, relax. I’m making great progress. It is national ‘Get Walking Week’ – first day today. So I tweet a few of my photos, using #walkweek, to @loveSWCoastPath.
It comes as a rude shock when I pull out my iPhone to check my position and realise I’m only at Gerrans Point – not Black Head.
Black Head, when I do get there, is beautiful. It is a dead-end promontory, site of an old fort and covered in bright flowering gorse. It looks gorgeous and smells of coconuts.
I take photographs of the views on either side. To the east I can see back across Saint Austell Bay and the course of my last walk. To the west there is a beautiful clear cove below me – and a long drop down to rugged rocks.
In the distance, to the west, is a beach. That must be Pentewan, where I am meeting my husband for lunch. The walk along the coast seems much hillier than I would have predicted from looking at my map. I am going to be late.
The next section is hard walking. The path winds up and down some very steep slopes. But it is beautiful. The views are fantastic. A section of the walk is through woodland.
I come across a private house. An artist must live here because I also come across some odd carvings.
The woods are full of flowers. Bluebells. Wild garlic. Primroses. Lovely.
I puff and pant up the slopes, meeting a few other walkers on the way. They are, as usual, all coming towards me – I am walking the ‘wrong way’ round the coast.
From a high point, I take another photograph looking back along the undulating coastline. There is Black Head. Beyond is Pencarrow Head. In the far distance (difficult to see on this reduced version of the photo) is Rame Head. Beyond that – something else?
I pull out my binoculars and try to work out what part of the coast I am looking at, beyond Rame Head. [Later, when I check on my map, I believe I could see all the way back to Bolt Tail and Bolt Head – in Devon!]
I stop looking backwards and continue onwards. Below me is Pentewan Beach. I see caravans. Oh dear. It looks like one large holiday camp. My husband will be disappointed by my choice of a stopping place for lunch.
But, actually, Pentewan turns out to be much nicer then first impressions suggest. A proper little village. A lovely beach. And a pub.
We eat in the pub garden, sitting in the sunshine. We watch seagulls and rooks arguing about left over chips on the tables. The pub serves food all day from 1st May – how very civilised. The beer is good and the cider is wonderful.
After lunch, I continue my walk along the South West Coast Path which, at this points, ends up following the road. As I leave Pentewan behind, the path strikes off to the left, still following the route of the road but well separated from the traffic.
I have another steep climb up another hill. From the top there are great views back down to Pentewan and its lovely beach. In the far distance is St Austell and I can still see the pyramid on the horizon.
I am growing tired, but the next section of the walk is fairly easy. I walk beside agricultural land, along the top of cliffs, past sweet-smelling gorse. The sea is blue. The sun shines intermittently. It has turned into a beautiful day.
Ahead I see Mevagissey. Two large sailing ships are moored just outside the harbour entrance.
The path runs down towards the harbour. There is a sweet little lighthouse and people walking along the walls.
Mevagissey is a beautiful name and the place lives up to my expectations. It looks even better when the sun comes out and lights up the water and the coloured houses in the streets.
I have arrived early, having made swift progress since lunch. I stop and buy an ice-cream and sit on a bench overlooking the harbour, enjoying the sunshine. I would imagine this place is crowded in the height of summer. Today there are a few holiday makers now, but not many. It may be a bank holiday weekend, but the cold weather and recent rain has scared people away.
Boats and ships make great photographic subjects. I take far too many photos while I wait for my husband to come and pick me up.
Miles walked = 7