I catch the bus from Portreath, arriving in Perranporth at 11:00 am. A late start which gives me 5 hours of walking time to cover the 10 miles to Newquay, and a spare 20 minutes in which to find the bus station.
Perranporth Beach looks lovely. The sands have been manicured, flattened and swept clean by some sort of machine. There are chairs, windbreaks, beach volley ball, sandcastles.
When the tide is low, I think you can walk all the way along the beach to Ligger Point and Holywell.
The official South West Coast Path climbs up a crumbling cliff with a large red sign:
Up I go. The view from the top makes the climb worthwhile.
Looking back to the southwest, I can see Perranporth beach beneath me and the cliffs along which I walked yesterday.
Looking forward to the northeast, I see the wonderful stretch of Perran Beach ahead. It is an odd shape – running dead straight instead of with the usual curve. But the shape doesn’t matter. 2 miles of sand walking! It will make a lovely change from scrambling up and down cliffs.
Down on the beach, I walk on damp sand close to the waves. The clouds are light, the sun shines intermittently, the air is clear and fresh. It’s a wonderful walk.
Although the beach is lovely, the central part is empty of people and there is nothing much to look at, apart from hundreds of jelly fish, washed up on the sand.
I take far too many photographs, forgetting I am supposed to be hurrying. If I miss the last bus back to Portreath, I face a very expensive taxi-ride. And that is assuming I can get a taxi. Unlike the midlands, where taxis are everywhere, I have learnt it can be very hard to find one in Cornwall.
With my average speed of 2 mph, I should be able to make the last bus. But yesterday’s walk was tough and I wonder how hard my walk will be today.
Above the beach is an extensive system of sand dunes, and the lack of road access means the middle section of the beach is deserted. But I do come across this motley collection of people with their equally motley collection of… well, things, I suppose.
I’m always worried when I take people’s photographs. Do they mind? This group seems happy to pose and I get a cheerful wave.
Eventually I come to the end of the beach.
The climb up the cliff looks punishing.
The DANGER signs are off-putting too. Ah well, onwards.
The path is very narrow and zigzags with crumbly sand underfoot, so that for every step you take upwards you slide several inches backwards. It is hard work and I am soon sweating.
I begin to hate sand and start longing for solid rocks instead.
Half way up, I meet a family coming down and have to stand aside to let them pass, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to have a rest.
Ten minutes of hard slog, and I emerge at the top. The view back along Perran Beach makes it all worthwhile.
I round Ligger Point and see beautiful green water in Hoblyn’s Cove, with Penhale Camp beyond.
The next stretch of the South West Coast Path skirts around the camp. I walk in a narrow gap between two fences, feeling rather hemmed in. The buildings have that blank-faced look of military architecture. I feel I am being watched, but the place seems deserted.
Glad to move on, I follow the path upwards and come out onto flat land at the top, heading for Penhale Point.
But here I find a weird contraption.
Collections of large metal hoops are surrounded by wooden fences. What are they? I decide they can’t be very important from a military point of view because their defence is only a flimsy fence. But the DANGER signs are a deterrent.
Non-ionising radiation? I’ve come across those signs before. Radio waves? Possibly. I move on.
Ahead is Holywell beach, another straight-edged length of sand. Inland are grassy dunes and I can see over the next headland. The town in the distance must be Newquay. I’m nearly there!
But I am about to make a bad mistake. If I’d taken more notice of the view, I would have seen I could easily walk along Holywell beach without obstruction.
When I get down to the beach, I go inland a short distance to cross over a stream and I see some official South West Coast Path signs and decide to follow them. (I think this route must be designed for high tide when the beach is covered.) The path is poorly signposted but leads me across the dunes.
Dunes! Up and down. Plodding through sand so deep it threatens to come over the top of by boots. The uphill climbs are thigh-numbingly hard. The downhill slides are calf-wrenchingly difficult. I am soon sweating and out of breath. It takes me half an hour to get across the short stretch of beach.
When I eventually reach Kelsey Head, I am thirsty and exhausted, and I have to stop for a quick snack and drink. It is nearly 2:30pm. The last bus leaves in less than two hours.
But the next section of the walk is lovely, as I come across the unexpected joy of the beautiful Porth Joke. (What a strange name!) I meet other walkers and have to resist the urge to stop for chats. I’m running late.
I overtake large groups, like the one in the photograph above, rudely cutting through the line of walkers. They’re not going fast enough.
The next headland is Pentire Point West. I decide to take a shortcut, missing out the tip of the peninsula to save myself time. This is another near-fatal mistake. The footpath is clearly marked on the map, but far from clear underfoot.
Anyway, at the top I have a great view across the bay to Newquay. The beach ahead is Crantock Beach.
Looking out to sea, I can see right up the coastline. In the near distance is Pentire Point East and a rock called The Goose. Much further away is a finger of land with a lighthouse. That must be Trevose Head, 10 miles away as the crow flies. Longer by foot.
Back to the walk.
But I can’t get over the stile. Bramble bushes have grown up – thick and thorny- on the other side. I lean over and begin to beat them down with my walking poles.
Just then a young man appears. He has been following me. Undaunted by the brambles, he leaps over the stile and tramples them down. I think he probably gets his legs terribly scratched – but he doesn’t make a fuss.
Then he helps me across the stile. I am very grateful.
From here there is an easy path. It’s a popular route and I would have enjoyed this more if I wasn’t tired and worried about the time. I have an hour and 10 mins before the last bus leaves – and there is a ferry crossing to contend with.
Onwards. To Newquay.
Crantock beach is lovely. At the far end of the beach is the mouth of the river Gannel, but the water is gentle and clear. The banks are crowded with families and it seems a safe place for young children.
You can wade across the river at low tide. I am tempted.
I take the ferry over. It costs me £1.30 to cross about 10 yards. Penny per yard, I think it is my most expensive ferry crossing yet!
On the other side are a brutal flight of steep steps. I hurry upwards. Right at the top is a café and I am very tempted to get a cold drink. But the café has been strategically placed here to tempt sweaty people who have climbed the stairs, and there is a queue.
I hurry on, walking along residential road now, worrying about the bus.
But I do stop to take a photograph of the marvellous view up the River Gannel. Beautiful.
This part of Newquay is called Pentire and, at the top of the road, is a cabin selling drinks. I buy a bottle of pop and walk, almost running, down the road towards the town, swigging as I go.
It is a good mile to the bus station, but I make it with 10 minutes to spare.
The journey home turns out to be very exciting. The bus is a double-decker. But, it is clearly a long time since a double-decker travelled this route and branches have grown across the road. Twigs and leaves whip into the windows at the front of the bus and batter along the sides, making great clattering and scratching noises. It is a noisy journey and somewhat nerve-wracking. But we make it to Portreath without breakages.
Miles walked today = 9
Total distance = 1,246