The first beach I come to in St Ives is called Porthmeor Beach. I stop and have a cup of tea and a cream scone in a café overlooking the beach. I opt for a booth out of the sun. It is 4:30 pm but still blazing hot.
Artists come to St Ives for the light and for the views. I was expecting to be disappointed, as I often am, by this tourist-hyped place. But it defies my expectations. It is gorgeous, beautiful and utterly enticing.
I walk past the Tate St Ives and, after rounding the headland, find myself looking down on another, smaller, beach.
I walk across the sand and round and along a road and into St Ives proper. The pretty harbour is dotted with small boats and lined by another sandy beach.
Cafes and pubs are strung along the quayside, doors and windows flung wide, and from every opening comes the sound of loud shouting and excited cheering. What is going on?
“Come on Andy,” people are roaring.
Then I remember. It is the day of the Wimbledon men’s final. Andy Murray is playing Novak Djokovic. It must be match point. But it seems endless. The noise continues, off and on, all the way along the harbour-side of St Ives.
Beyond the harbour, I have to climb up the road and cross another headland and here is yet another beach – Porthminster Beach.
I walk along the beach. No hurry. There is plenty of time before the train leaves. St Ives is served by a branch line from the tiny station of St Erth, from where I plan to catch the mainline train back to Penzance.
St Ives station lies a few meters above the beach and the platform is already packed. I am surprised because I wasn’t expecting to find a crowd. Later I realise that St Ives has an established ‘Park and Ride’ scheme and most of the passengers are heading for the car parks further up the line.
I try to buy a ticket, but the ticket office is closed. When the train arrives, I find a seat but many people have to stand. I wait to buy a ticket on the train, but nobody comes.
Carbis Bay, Lelant, Lelant Saltings, Saint Erth. The line is said to be one of the most beautiful in England, with great views. Unfortunately, the vegetation is so lush and the trees so high, we spend most of the time travelling through a green tunnel and only get occasional glimpses of the sea.
At St. Erth the platform for the mainline train is crowded and everybody looks very glum. I think that Andy Murray must have lost the tennis. But, listening in to people’s conversations, it seems the previous train has not arrived and is now running 40 minutes late. After another 20 minutes, the platform overhead display suddenly clicks and it is clear the last train is never going to appear. People mutter. The station is unmanned. There is nobody to complain to.
We wait. An hour later, the overhead display clicks again. No train for another hour. People are visibly angry. Somebody confronts the ‘help’ point and holds a heated conversation with a far-off operator.
“Signal failure,” she announces to the rest of us. “They have no idea when a train is coming, if ever.”
St. Erth is a non-place. Outside the station there is not a house to be seen. And no taxis. I try to look up taxi numbers on my iPhone but the battery decides to die. A group of four people appear to be phoning someone and I go up to them to ask if I can use their phone. They have just ordered a taxi and it is a five-seater, going to Penzance. Would I like to share. YES!
“Who won Wimbledon?” I ask while we wait.
Miles walked today = 10
Total miles = 1,205
Wild life seen: many cows, one adder, a few seals.
– Zennor Head and the Mermaid Cove.
– Finding out St Ives was as beautiful as everybody had said it was.
– Learning that Andy Murray won the men’s single title at Wimbledon.