I set off early from Portreath. The beach is deserted and I can look back at the headland I walked over yesterday. It doesn’t seem as steep as I remembered.
I follow a road that winds as it climbs up the hill, losing the sea view. I am looking forward to branching off on the coast path, but I soon come across a common problem.
The footpath is closed. This must have happened a few years ago because there is a piece of fence blocking the way and the sign has been changed around so that the ‘coast path’ finger points along the road.
I climb up and look over the fence – but the cliff has crumbled and there is no alternative, I have to follow the road.
At a layby, I find I can rejoin the coast path but then, suddenly, a white van pulls up. This causes me a momentary pang of anxiety. I am never worried by other walkers, but a man in a van on an isolated road is a different matter. He watches me with a frown on his face as I walk past. Feeling uneasy I speed up.
Rounding the curve of the bay and looking back, I see the reason why he was watching me so intently. He is relieving himself by the side of the layby. I resist the urge to take his photograph.
Instead I take a photo of the cliff whose crumbling top forced me to deviate. Beyond is the bay where Portreath lies nestled, its harbour and beach are just out of sight. The tall rock sticking out of the sea is called Horse Rock and Gull Rock is visible beyond. In the distance I can see Godrevy Island with its lighthouse. The farthest promontory must be St Ives.
I always love looking back and tracing my previous walks along the coastline.
Ahead of me the path sticks to high ground on the sloping cliff and I walk along the tall fences of Ministry of Defence property, where my map indicates there is an old, disused airfield. Far ahead I can two rocks poking out of the sea. These are either called Bawden Rocks or, alternatively, the much more descriptive name of Man & his Man.
It is a lovely August morning. The air is clear and fresh and I meet nobody else. I fall into an easy rhythm and feel I could walk a hundred miles without tiring.
I come across ruins of past industrial buildings and/or military installations. Not sure which. Ahead I can see a village. That must be Porthtowan. I am making good progress.
There are many sections of this walk where the cliffs have slid down into the sea and in some places the path runs very close to crumbling slopes. The harshness of the eroding landscape is softened by carpets of wild flowers on either side of the path.
Port Towan beach is a lovely stretch of sand in a cove bounded by rocky cliffs. The waves, despite the calmness of the day, are large and the sea is full of surfboarders.
The best view of Porthtowan, from the point of view of photography, is from the other side of the bay.
Over the headland and I am soon looking down at another beach, Chapel Porth. This one is narrow with a steeper descent down the cliff. The waves are funnelled into the cove and the water is wild and exciting.
[Later I discover that Chapel Porth is home to the World Bellyboard Championships!]
I stop and buy an ice-cream from the single shop next to the car parking area. I eat it slowly, putting off the steep climb up the other side of the gully. (Did I really believe I could walk a 100 miles without tiring?)
When I struggle to the top, I see the path ahead is wide and clearly marked. It climbs slowly across open heathland and winds through the remains of industrial buildings.
There are a number of sightseers strolling about and I feel a surge of resentment that I have to share my coastal path with mere ‘tourists’!
The tall building with a chimney is the remains of the old Towanroath mine pumping engine house. They claim some of the finest tin in the world was mined here.
At first I wondered why they use these flimsy constructions. The cones look fragile and seem unlikely to deter an inquisitive explorer.
But later I realise that I have been walking past conical clumps of heather – without understanding that this is a deliberate device.
Over time, the heathland plants climb up and embed themselves within the man-made mesh. Thus constructing a substantial and scenically attractive ‘cap’ and sealing off the treacherous mine shafts.
I believe I am approaching St Agnes’ Head. But, when I get there, I realise I’m mistaken. This little finger of rock is only Tubby’s Head. St Agnes’ Head lies a mile further along the coast.
Yet again, I am confused by having to switch maps. For my walk today I’ve been using the OS Landranger Map no. 203, which covers the end of Cornwall: the long coastline all the way from Lizard Point, round Land’s End, through St Ives and up to Tubby’s Head. But this map stops short of St Agnes. From here I suddenly realise there is a gap before the next map (no. 200) takes over at Perranporth.
A gap between the maps? I can’t believe it. Have they really missed St Agnes off altogether?
No. I realise my mistake. There is an insert box on the number 203 map and this covers the short piece of coastline running from Tubby’s Head to St Agnes’ Head and then onwards to the town of St Agnes. Whew! I’m glad there is an explanation.
I find a rock and perch my camera on it and manage to take a self-portrait. Then I hurry onwards. The extra, unexpected piece of coastline has added more than a hour to my walk and I am nervous about missing the last bus back to Portreath.