Whilst in the midst of the global pandemic and being placed on furlough. The UK Government had allowed campsites to open and lifted traveling restrictions.
A friend of mine Gavin, suggested it’s time for an adventure and possible attempted a few days walking and camping.
Over a couple of cups of tea, we discussed all the options which included a coastal walk from Penzance.
In late September in 2019 I had walked the section from St Ives to Sennen Cove, staying in a reasonable priced B & B at Pendeen. This particular charity walk turned out to be in an horrific storm and with diminishing light. It was one of the hardest walks I have ever undertaken. I vowed that I would return but in the middle of the summer.
Why I did my first Cornish Coastal Path Walk
I discussed this challenge with Gavin and he agreed to it with an additional opportunity to walk a little bit more of the South West Coastal Path.
Our aim was to simple complete the section between Penzance and St Ives. We had four days and booked campsites for three nights. Simple… I wished!
We set of in the afternoon of Tuesday 23rd July to get to Penzance with a simple plan of leaving early Wednesday and complete the leg before dusk.
The chosen campsite or only one open was placed in between the local Tesco supermarket and what can only be described as a bird sanctuary for Peacocks. It was far from quiet and a tranquil start to this adventure.
We used this noise to our advantage as we wanted to leave at dawn and get ahead of the tourist. We left at 0600, after showering, breaking camp and moving the car.
Prior to leaving, Gavin had read a good guide book and felt confident that we could achieve our aim. I reviewed the Southwest Coastal Path website and ignored their recommendations to break the leg up into three days. We felt that we could manage this within two days and walk the first day with 65 liter rucksacks with full kit. The second with a lightweight day bag.
The next few paragraphs explain what happened and what we achieved. #WhenWillILearn?
Penzance to Lands Ends .
Imagine the noise of four Peacocks, it’s similar to the noise a cat makes when crying for its next meal into a microphone. It is a noise as far removed from an operatic production of the Lion King.
This noise had most of the campsite up early and ready for the day ahead. To add to the shrieking birds, Penzance is at the end of the Southwest Train line with trains to Plymouth and London every 30 minuets. There is also helicopter flights and daily ferries from dawn to dusk to the Silly Islands. Plus the noise of the industrial fans that keep the Local Tesco’s shop cold!
We started, tired and partially deaf at the eastern entrance to Penzance and set of with our hiking kit as if we were on a Dofe expedition. The town is busy even at 0600, we followed the path through the town past a new painted lido and through the fishing sector of the town and on to the beautiful town Mouseall.
This first section took about 90 minuets and is mainly on flat paths and without to many distractions other than the beautiful coast with all the shades of blue you could wish for. Within a short time we had forgiven the campsite and it’s surrounding wildlife started to take pictures and relax into the day ahead.
Mousehole is a small pretty fishing town with a few shops a brilliant little toilet block, which was timely and clean. Almost ready for two fully grown men’s morning ablutions.
Mousehole and it’s harbour can be described as that tranquil place you go too in your head when things are grim.
The harbour had drawn a few of its locals in for a morning swim. One chap on the side of the harbour wall was carrying out his own version of a Fitt class that Joe Wicks would of been proud of.
Mousehole is certainly a place worth walking into and out of. I’m not sure there is a carpark?
We freshened up, devoured our breakfast bars, a couple of plums and had a big drink of water and then set off to the next section.
This section continues on the road side through to another very small sea port consisting of about a dozen houses and a car park. At the end of the car park the coastal path takes on a new terrain.
This new terrain can only be described as
Your having a laugh!!!
We had to climb over collapsed rock faces, some of the rocks being a meter high, squeeze between narrow gaps and walk along the edge of cliffs. We managed to stay on the path, managed not to fall into the brambles or the sea and when we reached the beach at St Loy my heart sank again into my stomach.
My next challenge was a beach side ramble, balancing on top of boulders whilst wearing a full rucksack.
This has to be one of my biggest mental achievements. I honestly felt that I was going to have to crawl like a baby to avoid falling in between them. I even contemplated ditching my 65 litre rucksack, which was now feeling like I was carrying a small animal on my back!
The pictures below do not show the dimensions or my facial expressions. My new white cane was a helping hand, although it did bend when I missed judged a gap between the boulders.
When I caught up with Gavin, who had made it to the other side was sat in the shade. The time was about 1100 but my head was saying it’s time to stop walking and set up camp. I had hit that “wall”, the “wall” that athletes talk about when running great distances.
The sun was now turning into a problem as it got hotter and walking along the coastal path we had little shade we began to burn and become effected by the heat.
Whilst sat in the shade, we started to look at the garden and house that lay behind the trees.
Wow.. this was one of the most peaceful places I have seen. The gardens were full of exotic flowers and plants. A running stream and grassed lawns that were both flat and cut as if a game of tennis was to be played.
Like Mousehole the location is best seen as you walk in and out of it. The place has two dwellings with one of them being a bed and breakfast. Please have a google and check out more.
The next section took us through up and down sections of path that are repetitive. Now, this repetitive section was a very beautiful repeat but due to we had been walking for between 4 and 6 hours and with the sun and hitting “The Wall”. I had stopped noticing some of the beauty spots and pushed forward in hope of lunch and a long rest.
Lunch Time Spot
Around 1300 hours, now hour 7 of walking. We arrived at Porthcurno the famous beach where we had our first telephone wire from overseas… the beach can only be described as a golden sandy beach that had access via the road and lay beneath the rock side Minack Theatre.
We reached the cafe, bought pasties and several cans of pop and sat down to watch the many tourist drivers tackle a narrow hillside road leading to car parks. It was a strange moment in time. This time enabled us to sit in the shade, ditch our bags and talk about anything other than we still had three hours of walking left.
Boom, refreshed we set up the hill to regain our journey in the Southwest Coastal Path.
This next section was our final stretch, this took us along a more level section and with stunning views of small golden sandy beeches packed with families seeking freedom from the COVID -19 pandemic.
The paths were now getting busier which gave us chance to talk to people, ask fact finding questions and generally have a giggle. Gavin even became a hero.
Hero’s come in all shapes and sizes.
The opportunity to become a hero also happen at the most randomness of times.
We have now been walking 9 hours in heat and have managed to smell like we had run several marathons. Our hunour is at the highest as we can now see Land End’s epic white buildings , shining in the distance. When were walking behind several Chinese tourists wearing white T-shirts, jeans and shiny new shoes. They were congregating around a Southwest Costal Path Gate.
These gates are not made of wood but of galvanized metal hung with high precision engineering on free standing posts. For long distance walkers you recognize the wealth of an area by its fences and gates. These gates were of wealth!
This is when Gavin, superhero was able to step in and save the tourists day.
They were basically baffled on how to open the gate. This gate was stopping them from going forward and the other one several miles behind was similar. They asked us not “how to open” but “can you open”. Gavin, simple stepped past them, avoiding contact as we are still social distancing and flicked the latch and opened it and walked through.
He did leave it opened so they could Hurd themselves through. He even politely mentioned the gate opens towards you. I did relate to their problem as I often find myself stuck and unable to find doorways extra.
By this time, I have regressed to a teenager and I am wetting myself as the situation was beyond redemption. I had a mental image that they had been stuck for hours if not days running between gates as in some sort of challenge escape room. Trying to work out how to open them or if they should in fact climb over them. Perhaps it was the effects of the sun and amount of time we had been walking?
After this humorous situation we carried on plodding, counting the minuets and wishing we were sat at Lands End, finished for the day with an ice cream in our hands.
After 11 and 1/2 hours of walking covering 30 kilometers we eventually made to the end bought an ice cream and made an adult decision to get the bus to the campsite and amend our initial aim.
When enough is enough
As you can imagine by the time we got to the campsite, set up camp and had tea we were ready to sleep.
A short note on the campsite. It is a fantastic family site with the basic needs, showers, washroom a cafe and shop. The location is the real reason why you would stay. It’s a big hop, skip and a short walk you land on a beautiful sandy beech. It is also on the local bus route between St Ives and Penzance and the local surfers beach at Sennen Cove.
After a 10 hour sleep, I woke up ready for another days walk. This day was without our full kit and enough food to get us to lunchtime.
The idea was to get up and start our walk before breakfast and stop at the National Trust cafe at Cape Cornwall.
The weather was polars apart from the day before. It was both windy and very wet. We walked off wearing waterproof clothing and by the time we arrived at Cape Cornwall we had signs of hypothermia and found that the only food stop was closed due to the preventive pandemic guidelines.
We walked for a further hour and decided at 1130, after 17 kilometers that we would walk off the path in search of food and a warm dry place.
After a short walk past a rural butchers residential we found a bus stop at Morhav and jumped on to the first bus to St Ives and found a cafe that had room for two wet hungry men.
After a warm drink and a meal we ran out of St Ives busy streets onto a bus to Penzance to collect the car and go back to Sennen. We showered, changed and walked to Sennen Cove in search of beer, chips and people. This turned into a great time with the locals and other people on their own expeditions.
The middle bit
We had decided to walk back towards Lands End and back and then make our way back to North Devon. This walk was a breeze as we had slept, washed and eaten. We made the 5 kilometers with a chance for some pictures and back to car before it became flooded with day trippers.
The few days away was a great way to change the furlough routine and walk along the coastal path. Thank you for reading this blog and keep your eyes open for further updates. I will add loads more photos to the Instagram page and as always thank you for taking the time to read my blogs
I do have to write a recommendation about the campsite at Sennen.
On arrival, after our long days walk the receptionist had a sense of humor and yet managed to reassure us of the COVID rules and procedures.
She highlighted the cafe that served a hot meal that changed daily. We simple paid and booked our meal straight away and handed over our phones so they could charge them up whilst we eat. Again this was managed safely and only we touched the phones.
The shower blocks, were planned and had plenty of space to disrobe shower and dry without having to balance on a wooden floor.
The pitches were big enough for a car and two lightweight tents.
All in all. The perfect spot to use as a home for three days of walking along the southwest Coastal path.
I hope that this blog is read and afterwards you feel positive about blind and visually impaired people being able to complete long walks.
I loved the whole experience and would go again and try to walk the section. I would use this experience and the previous ones to make it more manageable and aim for the perfect experience.
Thank you to Gavin for taking the pictures and helping me along the walk especially when I hit the “wall”.
A thank you to Mrs I’ for letting me go and for putting up with me hobbling about when I returned.