The sky is grey. My husband drops me off in the small car park at Predannack and I walk through fields, past cattle, to pick up the South West Coast Path again.
I see a couple of serious walkers. I really admire people who undertake this walk the hard way, carrying huge rucksacks on their backs.
Once around Predannack Head I can see along the rocky coastline to Mullion. This section of the coast is popular with a fair number of people out walking the path. Busy for a dull Monday morning.
Mullion Cove has a pretty little harbour surrounded by interesting rocks. The sun comes out and people are walking around the quay side. I don’t see many boats. I wonder if they are all out fishing? Or has that industry died here?
Beyond Mullion Cove I walk up and over the next headland and past a grand-looking hotel. There must be fantastic views if you stay in a room overlooking the sea.
The next little bay is called Polurrian Cove and has a small sandy beach.
Beyond Polurrian Cove, I walk over the top of grassy cliffs and see a strange, large monument ahead of me. At first, I assume this is a war memorial of some sort.
On getting closer, I realise this is a monument to the Marconi wireless station at Poldhu, from where the first ever wireless signal was successfully transmitted across the Atlantic.
On the 12th of the 12th, 1901, a radio signal – a repeated Morse code transmission of the letter ‘S’ – was sent from the station on these cliffs and picked up by Marconi from his listening post in Newfoundland, Canada. It was a tremendous achievement.
Further information about this ground-breaking event can be found at www.hamradio.piatt.com. It is hard to believe this only took place just over a hundred years ago. We take wireless technology for granted now.
While I was walking around the Marconi Monument, I saw a kestrel hovering above. It was fairly low, about 10 feet above the ground. I walked forward cautiously, hoping to get a photograph before it flew away.
I managed to get within a few feet of where the bird was hovering. One great eye swiveled around to inspect me, but it didn’t seem worried about my presence. I focused my camera and managed to snap a couple of shots.
Suddenly, the bird fell out of the sky.
It hit the ground a few feet away from my foot and lay as a lifeless hump of disorganised feathers among the tufts of thick grass.
For one terrible moment, I thought I had scared the bird to death. Maybe its heart had stopped beating? Or maybe the effort of swivelling its eye around had caused a catastrophic brain haemorrhage?
I had caused this beautiful bird to drop stone-cold dead from the sky. How awful!
I held this thought for a moment – maybe a couple of seconds in total. I was just thinking I should swing my camera up and take a photo of the dead bird when – suddenly – there was a flapping of feathers and the kestrel rose up from the grassy tuft and flew away. In its beak was a tiny mouse.
Relief. I hadn’t killed the bird after all.
Then irritation. I had my camera in my hand. Why hadn’t I captured this moment? What a stupid woman!
Beyond here, I walk past a nursing home – commanding a spectacular position on the cliffs – and come down into Poldhu Cove. This has a sandy beach, crowded with families, with a stream running right across the middle of the bay. The sun has come out. I stop at the beach-side cafe and have a cup of tea.
The next cove I come to – Church Cove – is barely marked on my map, but it turns out to be a lovely place with an unexpectedly wide stretch of beach and another meandering stream running across it. There are families on the sands and it seems a popular place.
On the opposite side of Church Cove, a few yards from the beach and looking incongruous in the setting, is a small church and its attendant graveyard.
This is St Winwaloe, the Church of Storms.
The building is built of drab grey stone and has a short, stumpy tower, half-submerged in the cliff side. It looks so unexciting, that I don’t bother going inside.
I take a few photographs and walk onwards.
Later, I find information about the church on the Internet and I regret not stopping to have a look around. It dates back to the 13th C, although most of the building now standing was constructed between the 15th and 16th C.
I suspect the church warden spends a lot of time fighting off the encroaching sands and I wonder how long the church will survive. The cliffs beyond have suffered from coastal erosion – with evidence of recent rock falls and land slides causing diversions to the South West Coast Path.
I am growing tired and hungry by the time I reach Halzephron Cliff and begin to make my way down into Gunwalloe Fishing Cove. The path winds around the side of a steep slope and is so overgrown that I stop to ask someone if I am still on the right track. I am heading for the Halzephron Inn and lunch.
When I get clear of the undergrowth, I come across this lovely sight – a long beach of bright sand stretching out into the distance.
It takes me longer than expected to get to the pub. I pick up a text from my husband. They stop serving lunch in 5 mins and he has ordered some fish cakes for me.
The pub is not down by the beach, but some hundred yards or so up the hill. It is almost empty. Luckily they offer to warm my fish cakes up again. It is now more than 15 minutes past serving time.
A couple arrive shortly after us and are told the pub is no longer serving lunch. Cream teas then? No. They start serving those in an hours time. (Sigh – why do some British pubs still have such restrictive rules around when their customers can and cannot eat?)
After lunch, my husband rides off on his bike and I walk down the lane that leads to the shore.
The official South West Coast Path heads up and along the top of the cliffs to my right – but I choose to walk along the beach. The stretch of open sand looks too inviting.
After half a mile or so, I realise the sand ahead is obstructed by rocks that come right down to the water. Maybe I can scramble over the rocks and get to the beach beyond? Or maybe there is a way of climbing up the cliff to the path above? Nobody else is walking down this end of the beach and so there is no one to ask. I stand uncertainly. I really don’t want to walk the final half mile along the soft sand, only to find I have to walk all the way back.
Reluctantly, I turn around and retrace my steps back to Gunwalloe and pick up the proper coast path. This runs high up along the side of the cliffs and is narrow in places, so that when I meet a group of other walkers I have to balance precariously on the slope beside the path, waiting for them to pass. (Our B&B host told us that a young walker died falling off the path recently when he was frightened by a dog. I find I can’t stop thinking about this and wonder if it happened here.)
After a mile and a half, the path comes down from the cliffs to cross a flat area of sand called Loe Bar. This sand bank separates the sea from an expansive fresh water lake, known as Loe Pool. It looks very attractive.
I ignore the official path that leads up and over the tops of the cliffs. I want to walk along the beach again and, this time, I am determined to make it to Porthleven along the sands.
But again I find my way blocked again – not by cliffs, but by a large pipe through which a torrent of water is gushing. Is this the drain off from the lake above? Although the stream is narrow, it is too wide to jump over and flowing far too furiously to risk trying to wade through.
I decide to try to find a way over the rocks that lie above and behind the pipe. It is a scramble – hands and knees job – but I make it over and down onto the sand on the other side.
As I approach Porthleven, I begin to meet other people on the sand. Despite the blue sky, the air is cool and nobody spends long in the sea.
This is a very enjoyable section of my walk today. The cliffs above the sand are a wonderful mixture of different types of rock – with many interesting shapes and different colours. Some are pockmarked with caves.
When I reach the sea wall that marks the start of Porthleven village, I stand and look back along the glorious stretch of beach that lies behind me. Beautiful.
I walk along the side of Porthleven harbour, past parked cars and an area with pubs and shops, to reach the roadside where my husband is coming to pick me up.
I have arrived earlier than planned and I have enough time to sit at the harbour side and eat an ice-cream while I wait. Another great day of walking. What will tomorrow bring?
Walked today = 11 miles
Distance walked from the start = 1,146.5 miles