Today is a day of glorious sunshine and ferry rides. I walk at a slower pace than normal – both to take in the magnificent views and to snap photographs. I linger at St Anthony Head, surrounded by the brilliant blue sea and stunning vistas.
This is the view looking towards St Mawes, my first destination. Falmouth is beyond, further up and on the other side of the estuary.
The first section of walk is up and down cliffs and along green slopes. I love the yellow gorse and the pine trees – both so evocative of coastal walking.
St Mawes sits across on the other side of the mouth of the Percuil River. It has a castle – looking rather squat and unimpressive at the opening to the river.
To avoid a long walk up the Percuil river to the nearest bridge, I am going to take the ferry. Thank goodness it is summer and the ferries are operating – I remember my long detours earlier in the year and the extended walks I had to take up and down estuaries and rivers.
The ferry crosses from an area marked as ‘St Anthony’ on my map, but the ferry takes its name from a renovated mansion called Place House and its associated estate and is called the ‘Place Ferry’.
On my way to find the ferry quay, I stop to admire the view across the water – a splendid view of St Mawes.
The first ferry embarkation point I come across has a notice saying it operates at high tide only. It is clearly low tide now, and so I follow signs that point further along the bank to the low tide boarding point.
On the way, I meet some fellow walkers who have just come over from St Mawes. They joke that I am walking the ‘wrong way’ along the South West Coast Path. Then they tell me they think the ferry has packed up until the afternoon – 2:30pm they think. I am horrified by this news. It is only just gone 11:30. This is going to seriously disrupt my schedule.
I am relieved to find the low-tide quay – a metal gangplank sticking out into the water – and the ferry sign. I am in the right place. But my heart sinks because there is no ferry on this side of the crossing and the sign is blank where there should be a ferry timetable displayed.
I have no alternative but to wait and hope the ferry turns up. Just as I am beginning to get downhearted, I see a little boat chugging over the water towards me.
In fact the tide is too low for the low-tide quay to be used. Instead, the ferry comes alongside a slippery concrete walkway a little further along the bank. I hurry towards it, nearly slipping on the slimy rocks. A couple with a small dog clamber out of the ferry. The dog slips on the walkway and falls towards the water, suspended from its lead. There is a moment of panic – during which I think the dog is going to hang itself – before a man manages to grab its swinging body and hoists it onto the shore.
I make my cautious way along the slippery surface and climb into the ferry. At first I think I am the only passenger going back, but another couple arrive, breathless in their hurry to catch this crossing.
I notice the name of the ferry on a sign fastened to the side of the small cabin area.
“Is this ferry really called Livingstone?” I ask.
“Well, that’s my name too!”
What a coincidence. (People often struggle with determining whether my surname has an ‘e’ on the end or not, and I see they have had the same problem with the ferry’s name and have used both spellings – just in case.)
After the excitement of the slippery boarding, the ferry crossing itself is uneventful. The quay at St Mawes is somewhat more impressive than the one I have just left and towers over us as we pull up alongside it.
My ferry ride has only just begun. I catch another ferry from the same place. This one takes me over the main body of water from St Mawes to Falmouth. The ferry-boat for this stage of the journey is considerably bigger and crowded with people.
As we come into Falmouth, I am surprised to see the extensive range of ships that are in the harbour – everything from small sailing ships to passenger cruise ships to large industrial looking vessels.
On land again, I struggle through the busy streets of Falmouth. The pedestrian area near the ferry quay is crowded with meandering people and I get impatient with the loitering crowds. Don’t they know I have serious walking to do?
The South West Coast Path follows the road as it climbs out of Falmouth town, heading towards Pendennis Point and the castle. Below the road is a dockyard and, from the advantage of height, I get intriguing glimpses into the internal workings of the industrial area of the port.
It is Sunday and nothing much is happening, but I do get to see this enormous ship in a dry dock. A surreal sight.
Beyond the dock area, a footpath drops below the road and runs above the water through woods. This is very pleasant, despite the noise of traffic on the road above.
Sadly, it seems they have a problem with Japanese Knotweed here too. The plant itself is very attractive but, unfortunately, it takes over an area and grows rampantly, strangling the other plants. The UK has no natural ‘predators’ – by which I mean insects, slugs or other pests – to impede its growth.
I miss seeing Pendennis Castle, which is above me on the high point of the headland. But I do come across a little fort that I assume was a remnant from the Napoleonic wars. Later I discover this is Little Dennis, a 16th Century blockhouse built in Tudor times.
I stop in the car park at Pendennis Point. Despite the sunshine, there is a blustery wind and it is chilly. There are a good number of cars parked but the area is surprisingly devoid of people. I realise they are all sitting in their cars. This is a particularly unique British past-time: to take a Sunday drive to the coast and then spend the afternoon sitting in your car.
I treat myself to an ice-cream and then continue on around the Point, following the road again, towards the beach below.
I exchange text messages with my hubby. He has misunderstood where I am and has been looking for me up by Pendennis Castle. We meet on the coast road. He looks out of breath and rather sweaty. It has been a steep cycle ride up to the castle.
He goes on ahead to find a pub for lunch, while I saunter along the promenade. It is very pleasant here, although much of the beach seems to be rocky and bare of sand except at its highest points. Ahead, at the far end of the promenade, I can see a wider sandy area and that is where I hope we can find a pub.
In fact, what we find is even better – a large, attractive cafe with a good menu and comfortable seating both inside and out. We choose to sit outside in order to keep a watchful eye on hubby’s bicycle.
This is the main sandy beach for Falmouth – Gyllyngvase Beach – and it is busy with people. We sit in the Gylly Beach Cafe and enjoy watching the various ‘beach’ costumes. Because it is Sunday, people are wearing a range of outfits from casual T-shirts and shorts to prim Sunday-best suits.
After lunch, hubby goes off on his bike and I continue my walk along the coast. My final stop is Mawnan, but first I come across Swanpool Beach and the first beach huts I have seen (I think) since I crossed over into Cornwall.
Swanpool beach is very pretty. There are a number of people trying to sunbathe and some in the sea in rubber dinghies. It is cold, despite the sun, and I notice people are turning red – not realising they are burning.
I set off again and am overtaken by three young men.
They look like serious walkers with a lot of kit on their backs- or maybe they are simply prepared for a long day on an isolated beach. Two of them are wearing really colourful shorts. They even put my husband’s cycling gear in the shade. I wonder if the guy in the middle, the one wearing dull black shorts, feels left out.
Once I get above Swanpool Beach I am able to take in the view and I realise how the beach has got its name. There is a large pool behind the sand area. Very pretty scene. It reminds me of some of the beaches in Dorset and Devon – where a sandy strip often separates the sea from inland lagoons.
The next stretch of walk is easy going. I walk along a well-worn path running along the top of cliffs with clear blue sea below.
I reach Maenporth, where there is another nice beach. I stop and have a Coca Cola at the beach cafe. As usual, I have to ask for a straw to go with the bottle. Why do people think it’s acceptable to serve bottled drink in a cafe without a straw or a glass to drink it with?
Beyond Maenporth is Bream Cove. The land along the sea is mainly owned by the National Trust and this makes for an unspoiled walk through greenery. Ahead is Rosemullion Head – a low-lying promontory covered in grass and gorse.
A white yacht is anchored in the water off Rosemullion Head. I can hear the shouts of young men and the occasional splash. When I get nearer, I realise they are swinging from the mast on the end of a rope, arching out across the sea and dropping into the water. Looks like fun.
From Rosemullion Head there are fantastic views across Falmouth Bay. Small ships are sailing, a larger liner is making its slow way down the far coast and off to sea. In the distance I can see Zone Point and St Anthony Head – where I started my walk this morning. I’ve come a long way! I congratulate myself on my rapid walking progress, before remembering that much of the distance has been covered by ferry rides.
Looking to the south, I see the way ahead – where I will be walking in a few days time. [Later, I realise the nearest headland is Dennis Head and the furthest one is Porthoustock – where quarrying work has bitten large chunks out of the cliffs.]
I come across a hostile gang of large bullocks on Rosemullion Head. They block the path, congregating in front of the stile where I must exit their field. I walk towards them, avoiding eye contact and trying to look confident. They put their heads down and turn to face me. One of them paws the ground. He is BIG and looks angry. My heart starts thudding and I back off and take a long detour to get around behind them. They watch me, looking menacing.
I walk as far away from them as I can – almost in the hedge – but I hear their hooves behind me on the path. I resist the temptation to break into a run and walk quickly, head down, until I reach the safety of the stile.
Only when I am safely on the other side of the fence do I dare to look back. Two of the bullocks have followed me and are only a few yards behind.
A man and his son appear on the path ahead. They stride quickly towards where I perch on the stile, talking to each other and ignoring me and not seeming to notice the bullocks. I try to warn them but, before I have a chance to formulate the words, they leap over and are in the field. The bullocks – so terrifying a minute ago – simply turn tail and run away.
The rest of the walk is uneventful. The sun is sinking low and is in my eyes. I turn and take one last photograph of Rosemullion Head, Falmouth Bay beyond, the promontory of Zone Point and – it takes me a moment to work it out from the map – the contour of Nare Head in the far distance.
The path enters an established wood. The slope is steep and bare under the trees – which are old with twisted trunks. The path diverges and different tracks wind through the trees. The low sunlight sneaks in beneath the leafy canopy above and lights up the ground with a golden glow.
I meet a woman taking photographs, attracted like me by the dramatic light in the wood. When I ask her if it far to the car park at Mawnan, she says it is quite a way. That surprises me. I thought it was just above these woods.
I emerge on the other side of the woodland and the path slopes down across a field. I must have missed the turn to the church. I ask a couple, walking a dog, the way to Mawnan church and they direct me down the hill. I know this is wrong and pull out my map again. There is a definite footpath leading straight up and into Mawnan. I go back along the track, walking through the woods but keeping to the highest path I can find.
More by luck than anything else – none of the footpaths are marked – I end up at the church. It is lovely and old with a decaying churchyard. My husband has just arrived and we pose in the porch of the gateway to the church, using the camera’s self-timer to take photographs.
This is the end of my walk for a few days and we are going home. The area is beautiful and I can’t wait to start walking again.
Miles walked today = 10
Miles walked in total (from King’s Lynn) = 1099