July 7, 2018
We were woken up at 7:30 am by the gardener using a weed-whacker outside, but we were tired from yesterday’s long walk so we slept in for a bit longer. So when we went downstairs for breakfast, much to our surprise Caroline was sitting there waiting for us! She had taken the night train from London and then a taxi from Redruth to the hostel to meet up with us. Her plan was to walk the next two days (the weekend) with us and then take the night train back to London.
So we packed up, adding some of her stuff to our luggage transfer bags, and headed out into the usual hot and sunny weather. The first thing we did was to stop in Lizard to buy some lunch food, especially pasties from Ann’s Pasties. From there we headed through some fields to the coast path, joining it near Church Cove.
The first part was easy, as we passed along the cliff tops with their serpentine outcrops, although there were a few downs and ups to deal with. Our first main landmark was the small village of Cadgwith, a very pretty village where a few houses had thatched roofs. And soon after that there was Kennack Sands, where we stopped for lunch at the Beach Café and bought drinks to go with our pasties.
From here it was a steep climb to the next headland, and then along paths through gorse which never seemed to reach the cliff top. The area seemed rather remote, with no villages and very few farms. And the afternoon was very hot and Caroline didn’t have enough water, so we shared some of ours with her, hoping it would last until we got to Coverack.
But as we neared the village we came across a trail diversion. Oh no! we thought, but it wasn’t a long diversion. As it turned out the cliff collapse had taken out the rocky version of the trail, leaving the version which was much nicer, with some sections through trees.
We caught up with Caroline at the hostel after a very steep climb up School Hill. Check-in wasn’t until 5 pm, so we had an hour to wait, so we sat on the lounge chairs outside, out of the sun. And their wi-fi was accessible from there.
Both of our rooms were on the top floor of the hostel; Caroline’s room faced the ocean and ours looked out over the village. After showers, dinner was at 7 pm. We had booked dinner at the hostel, which meant that we didn’t have to go down the hill to look for places to eat. We had Angus beef burgers with chips and treacle cake with ice cream for dessert. A very good deal for £9.95!
July 8, 2018
We decided to not get up too early this morning, but we were woken up by the sound of the extractor fan from the bathroom downstairs. Oh well, we got up anyway, packed our bags, and went downstairs for our breakfast. The menu was Full English Breakfast so we helped ourselves, and we were ready to leave by about 9:30 am.
Today we had two inlet crossings to make, one across a stream which can only be crossed on foot at low tide on dodgy rocks, and the other across an inlet where the boat doesn’t run near low tide. However the tide appeared to be on our side in both places and the boats would be running.
We headed down the hill into Coverack first. The village is quite lovely, with many of its buildings having thatched roofs. As it was Sunday the streets were very quiet, and our plan of buying some food for lunch was foiled. But we hoped to find a pub or café along the way.
A lot of today’s walk was actually at sea level, which meant that we didn’t have the steep downs and ups to negotiate. Soon we came to the part of the walk which went through a big rock quarry. Our book said there would be a path through the quarry and we should watch out for working vehicles. But that was written a few years ago; now the quarry appeared to be long closed and the path ran safely along the outside. (There was a sign warning about unexploded munitions.)
From there the trail ran up and over a headland and then up through a farm field, where we came to the back of a barricade! We scrambled over the barrier and read the sign, which said the path had been diverted. So we’d been walking on a closed path. And now that we thought about it, we had noticed a red plastic barrier at the start of the path through the quarry. But it had been leaning on a picnic table and didn’t have any signs on it, so we didn’t think much about it.
So we arrived in the village of Porthallow at 11:50 am, just before the pub’s scheduled Sunday opening time. But did we stop there to get lunch? No, we decided there would be some sort of café at the Gillan Creek crossing and carried on along the coast.
From here the track went up and down but it was still easy walking. There was also a forested section which made a nice change from being out in the full sun. Soon we arrived at Gillan Creek, where there were already four people waiting to cross in the little boat. It didn’t take long for the boat to ferry us all over, but we found that our hoped-for café consisted of an ice cream freezer in the marina office. So we had ice cream for lunch.
Onward to Helford, which was only two and half miles away. We had heard someone at Gillan Creek say that the temperature in their back yard was 31°C, so we were glad that a lot of the walk was in the trees. At Helford we waited again, for a larger boat which crossed a larger inlet. On the other side was Helford Passage, where we stopped at the Ferryboat Inn for snacks and drinks. But we weren’t staying there; our hosts at the Trengilly Wartha pub in Nancenoy had given us the phone number of a local taxi service.
So we used Caroline’s phone to call Clive from the bar and he said he’d pick us up at the car park at 4:25 pm. The ride to Nancenoy took about 20 minutes along narrow shaded roads. During the drive we arranged our other trips: Caroline would go to Truro at 5:50 pm to catch the night train and then we would be picked up at 9:30 tomorrow to return to Helford Passage.
Caroline had a shower and then headed off to Truro, and we had showers too and then went down to the bar after it opened for dinner at 6:30 pm. Rosemary had lamb chops, which she didn’t think much of, and Paul had the local mussels as per Caroline’s suggestion. They were very tasty but they were also very labour-intensive to eat.
July 9, 2018
It seemed like an anticlimax, but we still had one more day of walking on the coast path. And it wouldn’t even be a full day! We packed up our bags and then had breakfast; Clive was already there, having done his regular school bus gig, and he took us back to Helford Passage.
Once again the day was sunny and hot. It seemed hotter today than other days so we were glad we had a shorter walk. And we could walk a little bit slower, too. The trail was easy to walk on and went through fields and woods as usual.
We passed a National Trust site named Durgan, with a few houses and lovely gardens. We reached the beach at Maenporth around noon, but that was too early for lunch so we carried on for about an hour, to Swanpool. Here there was a beach café, where we had a garlic ciabatta and a fruit smoothie for lunch. Luckily we were able to sit at a table with a shade umbrella, which was very pleasant. We weren’t in any hurry so we lingered over our meal.
It turned out that Swanpool was a suburb of Falmouth and it was only a matter of minutes before we arrived at our hostel, at 2 pm. Check-in wasn’t until 5 pm but there were some other guests sitting outside and the front door was open so we went in and sat in the lounge.
The hostel owner, Judi, was definitely surprised to find strangers sitting in her lounge and also somewhat annoyed that the other guests let somebody walk in. But she checked us in and showed us our room at the top of the house. This was good because we could have showers and get into “clean” clothes.
We went out to have a look around Falmouth before dinner. The harbour was full of boats, from small pleasure boats all the way up to two hulking grey naval-looking ships. And surprisingly there were people swimming at the dock! The town looked quite prosperous compared to Penzance, with a variety of shops.
Rosemary had checked out the reviews of local fish-and-chip shops and we decided on the Harbour Lights shop, which overlooked the harbour. Rosemary had cod and chips and Paul had haddock and chips, which were both good but we thought the Balancing Eel in St Ives had better fish and chips.
And that was the end of our South West Coastal Path for now. No doubt we’ll come back some time and start the next section by taking the ferry to St Mawes. When we reach Portsmouth, which isn’t very far, we will have walked the whole coast of Cornwall.