The BBC weather forecast today is ‘wet’. The BBC rarely lets us down.
But it is still dry when I start walking along the side of Porthleven Harbour. I stop to take photographs and to allow a group of walkers go on ahead of me. There are around 10 of them and they seem to have an official leader. I rather hoped they would be heading the other way, but no, they were walking the same way as me. I prefer walking alone, so I hang back to get some distance between us.
The path ahead is gloomy. Low clouds shroud the headland and the sea is grey. (In the photographs, it looks more cheerful than it actually was!) It begins to rain. Not too badly. Just a steady drizzle. No problem. I can cope with this.
The group of walkers stop at a memorial cross and I decide to pass them. They are discussing whether to continue. I hear the words ‘dangerous’ and ‘not worth it’. But I am brave – an intrepid walker who fears nothing – so I carry on.
I stop to take photographs during a brief lull in the drizzle and a voice behind says ‘excuse me’. I nearly jump off the path. It is the darned walkers. Unfortunately, they, too, have decided to carry on. Perhaps it was the sight of me striding ahead that gave them to confidence to continue. Now they overtake me.
I wait to let them get well ahead. Call me fussy, but I don’t want to be trailing in their wake. It spoils the illusion of a brave walk, on my own, battling the elements. While I wait, I take more photographs. The view behind me is dismal. I rather hoped to be able to catch the golden sweep of Porthleven Sands – but it doesn’t look particularly golden under today’s gloomy skies.
Now the rain pelts down. I am walking along an exposed section of cliff with low hedges but no trees – not even a reasonably sized bush to shelter under. Within a couple of minutes my trousers are soaking wet. My arms are still dry under my jacket and my rucksack is protected by its new waterproof cover. So I am not unduly concerned. But I have the horrible feeling that the water is going to start pouring down my legs and into my boots.
Never mind. I decide to ’embrace the wet’. This sounds like a good mantra. I start reciting it as I march along in my cloudy, wet world. ‘Embrace the wet.’ The path is overgrown. Wet branches lash against my legs. Through gritted teeth I chant, ‘Embrace the wet.’
I reach a high point where the path flattens out. Ahead I can see the chimneys of old mines. This is Wheal Trewavas.
The rain stops and find some flat rocks overlooking the sea. I manage a self-portrait.
Nearing the old mines, I walk along a path surrounded by gorse, the flowers faded to orange and draped in a strange fronds of some other plant, a bright coral-pink. It is really weird and looks like someone has stretched knitting wool across the bushes.
I stop by one of the mines and take photographs.
I try to imagine the miners working away in the pit and hauling rocks from deep underground.
Later I learn the Wheal Trewavas mines were copper mines (not tin mines as I first thought). The shafts stretched under the sea and the miners lived with the constant fear of the sea breaking through and flooding the passages. [You can read more about the mines on the Helston History site]
I make the most of the break in the rain and walk onwards, stopping to look back and take photographs of the ruined mines with Porthleven in the distance.
In front of me is a small bay known as Rinsey or Porthcew Beach. I gather you can swim here and sand is exposed at low tide. But the tide is high today and the sea looks most uninviting. The land around belongs to the National Trust and includes a preserved copper and tin mine known as Wheal Prosper. The ruined structure has been ‘renovated’ and is in better shape than the Wheal Trewavas buildings, but as a result is less evocative and exciting to look at.
Rinsey Head is a high promontory with a large building perched on its slopes. This used to be an office building for the mines but, as I get nearer, I realise it is now a private house and later find it is available for holiday lets. What a stunning place to stay.
It begins to pour with rain again.
The footpath is passing through private property (belonging to the house above) and I am impressed by the well maintained path and by the politeness of the signs. I am used to curt commands: ‘Keep to the path. Private land.’ Here the sign says: ‘You are welcome to walk on the paths indicated.’ Other landowners could learn from this!
It is raining heavily now. I come down off the cliff and onto Praa Sands – a mile of sandy beach. There is no shelter and the rain lashes in from the sea. I am the only person walking on the sands. Head down, I plod along and am soon soaked through to my underwear.
Suddenly a buggy appears at the far end of the beach and roars down towards me. I recognise the uniform of a local lifeguard. How embarrassing, I think. He is coming to rescue me! Would I accept a lift if he offers me one? But my dilemma is resolved when he doesn’t stop, just whizzes by and carries on to the end of the beach, turns round and hurtles back. He is just doing a regular check of the beach to see if anyone is in trouble.
At the west end of Praa beach is Sydney Cove. Here there are some buildings and a cafe. I meet my husband who has parked a few miles further on at Perranuthnoe and has walked to meet me. Rather irritatingly, he is not as wet as I am.
We have a cup of tea and cake for lunch. I think we are the only customers.
Before we have time to dry out completely, we set off again. ‘Embrace the wet.’
I am sure this would be a spectacular walk on a fine day. Pirates and smugglers used to haunt the area. The coast is dotted with numerous tiny coves, each one edged by sharp rocks. Bringing a ship safely in must have been very tricky. Prussia Cove, Piskies Cove, Cudden Point. Romantic names.
We come across a sign explaining that the area is being used by the University of Exeter who are studying wild cabbages.
A wild cabbage project sounds interesting.
[Although the URL is incorrect, I did track down a site that belonged to a ‘Cabbage Girl’ and I left her a message. No response. Whether the cabbage project is still ongoing remains unclear.]
My husband has been telling me of his adventures on the way to meet me. He said he hadn’t realised how dangerous coastal walking was.
Dangerous? Yes. One part of the path ahead, he tells me, involves a mad scramble over wave-lashed rocks. I wasn’t looking forward to this at all.
Luckily, when we come to the ‘dangerous’ rocks we realise he must have simply missed the proper path which turns out to be a very safe amble along the top of a low cliff above the beach. My husband doesn’t believe in map reading. Amateur!
He shows me the path that he took and it does appear to lead down to the rocky beach. I have to admit it seems very misleading.
I am relieved when we reach Perran Sands and the walk is over. I did my best to ’embrace the wet’ – but it was hard work.
Miles walked = 8.5
Total from start = 1,155
High points = the copper mines.
Low points = getting soaked on Praa Beach.