Sunday 17th July 2016
In this first instalment of last Sunday’s walk, I take my first miles along the South West Coast Path through Cornwall, having already covered a portion of Dorset and most of the short stretch through Somerset.
This was officially my first full day in Cornwall, having spent the night inside my tent. With a lack of breakfast available on site due to a faulty hob, I was up and away sooner than I might otherwise have been.
My walk began in the village of Mullion – a short drive from the campsite near Cury Cross and arriving at a car park I was familiar with, having collected a takeaway from this village only hours ago. Mullion has two car parks, both of which are free to use without restriction. There were signs advising that donations are welcome but I didn’t see anywhere in which to deposit my spare change.
Again, it’s one of those places where, as a coastal walker, I’d have happily paid £1 to park all day.
It was almost 9.30, by the time I had my boots on, backpack ready and suncream plastered over my exposed skin. From the car park, I initially followed the road in a west to north-westerly direction before turning right on a narrow footpath signed for Pollurian Cove (this was the first time I had glimpsed the sea since driving down the day before). Beyond here, I turned right and crossed a field with almost too many waymarks; heading towards Angrouse Farm, where I would then follow a farm track towards the coast.
Mullion Cove had already crept in to view but I wanted to join the coast path a little further north at Poldhu. Ahead of me, was the Mullion Cove Hotel.
Infront of that, was the Marconi Centre. This site is significant because it was from here that the first wireless signal was successfully sent across the Atlantic Ocean and received in Newfoundland. This was at the dawn of the 19th Century and we’ve come a very long way since. A few miles inland and you would also find Goonhilly Earth Station, which once housed the world’s largest dish of its kind (my visit there came on a different day).
This wireless station, from what I saw outside, is managed, in some way, by the National Trust. Opening hours weren’t until 13.30 and so, it was an opportunity I had to miss.
I crept through a kissing gate in search of the unsigned coast path, where I took the photo you can see, above… At the same time, my eyes picked up the trail of steps contouring the hillside. Back on the road and I officially joined South West Coast Path in Cornwall.
Making my way around the western face of the hotel, I found that, of the two paths ahead of me, the one lying closest to the coast had been fenced off abruptly… There were no warning signs but I presume there’s a growing risk of these cliffs collapsing with erosion.
A stone monument, dedicated to the wireless station, towers over the sea below. Nearby, in the aptly named ‘Wireless Field’, some of the original wireless transmitters remain.
After a busy Saturday of driving, delays, organisation and minor-frustration, I was walking the coastline.
I felt as though I had a good idea of what was going to follow on this walk… A study of the coastline’s elevation revealed a number of undulations. Having walked sections of this path through Dorset in recent years, I had expected it to be very hard, at times.
..A good breakfast would’ve been essential… Where mine consisted of a mug-full of semi-skimmed UHT milk and two chocolate chip cookies. I’d ventured in to the local Spar shop, with the hope of buying a sandwich for my lunch.
There are a number of coves along the total distance that I covered and this next one (above) is Polurrian Cove – a name I had absently glazed over, with the many other ‘highlights’ that the average visitor would know of.
It was incredibly quiet before 10am and, naturally; descending down in to a cove leaves you having to climb back up the other side.
A lifeguard was on duty, with the power and force of those waves drowning out all other sounds.
Very soon after that, I found myself descending towards Mullion Cove.
Suddenly, there were people about… There was also a car park, mere metres away from the cliff edge.
On the way down to the harbour, I noticed this letter ‘D’ engraved in to the face of a stone or rock:
Beyond Mullion Harbour, I could see Mullion Island which, according to my OS map, is National Trust land. To my left, as I prepared to turn up and tackle my next ascent, people were sat outside the local café drinking tea and coffee… I was sorely tempted to stop. Yet, I knew that I was barely two-miles away from the car park, with one ascent and many more miles to follow.
Looking inland, from the heights of my second climb, I could see a wind farm – quite possibly, the one at Goonhilly Downs, near the Earth Station.
It was here, also, that I did decide to stop and have my non-brunch. You see, I happened to find the one Spar shop in the UK that [possibly] does not sell ready-made sandwiches. I paid £1 for a cheese an onion slice, that had already warmed from within my backpack.
From my food hamper at the campsite, I had also acquired two chocolate bars, a packet of crisps, a box of raisins and two items of fruit… To last me the entire walk.
Beyond Mullion Island, I could see a boat or ship approaching from Helston, maybe Penzance. Were these visitors, booked on to a tour to visit the small mass of land that was littered with hungry seagulls?
I recently spent a reasonable amount of money on a WalkStool Comfort. At this time, I found a comfortably-shaped rock to perch on but you can see the lightweight, collapsible structure secured in my backpack’s left pocket.
I’d also remembered to equip my badge for the #Walk1000Miles challenge, on the off-chance that another participant would be… Following close behind!
It was a little sad to be leaving behind the vague familiarities of all I had seen so far. Perhaps next time, I walk northwards from Poldhu.
This may’ve been beneath Higher Predanneck Cliff, as I continued south along the western edge of the Lizard Peninsula. I passed the occasional walker – some, just exercising their dogs – but this whole scene felt far more remote and perhaps even ‘rugged’, compared to the populated places I had seen in Dorset.
Descending from Predannack Head, I’d have to encounter a small herd of cattle, before climbing up the other side. Having not seen anyone else around, I was concerned about how they may react to a stranger, on a day where temperatures would soar to around 24°C… Two of them had horns! One studied me carefully as I approached and I was grateful to be able to pass without incident.
Parc Bean Cove or Ogo-dour Cove [I can only presume that’s untranslated Cornish…].
Temperatures were rising, as I passed George’s Cove on the approach to Vallen Head.
I felt as though I was making great progress. I didn’t fancy chances in an area I now refer to as “Cow Point” and instead left the official SWCP coast path momentarily, cutting across the ‘neck’ of Vallen Head to rejoin.
Where further paths would divide, I would stick to the one that lay closest to the coast. With one cow as my witness.
People were emerging, suddenly, having not seen another human soul for the past two-miles. I realised I couldn’t be too far from the next car park and tourist trap, as I prepared to turn east along Kynance Cliff.
Somewhere along the top, here, I stubbed my toe one too many times and landed flat on my front. There was no audible laughter from the Germans behind me and it left my right knee looking like a better match for my war-torn left; days after football match in which I learned why you shouldn’t attempt sliding tackles on astroturf.
I could hear voices. Children and adults alike. Men with DSLR cameras and sandals were making their way up the cliff towards me, while I stood back and admired what looked as though a cliff had previously fallen.
Kynance Cove was somewhere down and ahead of me.
Descending steps towards the beach, I found the last few treads had possibly weathered away, while the platform to my left was apparently fenced off for safety reasons. It left me having to make an awkward scramble down the rocks.
Once on the beach, I decided I wouldn’t stay long and quickly spotted the next set of steps across the bay. People were all over the sand and, in order to try and avoid the barrage of windbreaks and toasting torsos, I scrambled along the large rocks beneath the cliff face (almost losing my balance), whilst passing by my second café so far.
It was a long way to the top from here and, part way up, I had to step aside and give way to what appeared to be a German Ramblers group – I don’t wish to sound racist or stereotypical but, everywhere I went in Cornwall on that weekend, there were German people and I’m not saying that simply because they all had Deuter backpacks (which was also true). I’m used to passing foreign travellers and adventures on previous coastal walkers but a distinct proportion of the population of Germany was present in Cornwall, last week.
Moving on, slightly, from the hustle and bustle of the latest cove; I found a quiet space on the grass and stopped for lunch, approximately halfway along on my walk, if no slightly further.
In my next post, I’ll take you through my walk to Ruan Minor near Cadgwith.