Sunday 17th July 2016
Although I’d opted to stop for lunch a few hundred metres south of Kynance Cove and away from the mass of sunbathers, I also knew that I wasn’t too far from Lizard Point; one of the highlights of this walk, as set out when I had initially planned it.
Lizard Point was just one thrown too far. I was hungry and, although my lunch box was ill-prepared, I was aware of the benefits of stopping sooner; unsure of exactly how much further I would otherwise have to walk.
Whilst walking along these cliffs, I spotted a blue tent (centre of the photo, above). A wild camper? Someone less conspicuous than Phoebe Smith, author of Wild Nights?… Probably just a fellow day-tripper, hoping for shade on scorching afternoon with no hint of a breeze in many places.
I pushed on with my walk; eager to visit the true southernmost point of mainland Britain.
I must’ve absently passed by Pentreath Beach without taking any photos, as I soon approached what I now know was Venton Hill Point – hailing from an area close to the Mendip Hills, I regard this as “Cornwall’s Crook Peak”… It’s not nearly as high, of course and, with a number of people intending to reside at the top, I passed on the limited opportunity to climb up and explore for myself.
Beyond the bull (in a field complete with a warning sign), I saw the first signs of greater civilisation than I had seen for several miles. However, if you were looking to turn inland at this point and head for Lizard village, you would have to negotiate the cattle.
Fortunately, the South West Coast Path evades all of that.
I find it a ‘silencing’ sensation, each time I near an extremity of England’s coastline.
Walking the SWCP through Dorset, I’ve always known that the north of France lies ‘somewhere’ to the south, even though I have not been able to see it. At worst, you might reach Guernsey or Jersey ahead of the mainland.
South of Lizard Point (and, ignoring a collection of tiny islands off the west coast of France), a longer journey exists ahead of the north coast of Spain.
Suddenly, I was no longer walking alone again, on the approach to Lizard Point.
Ligaments in my left knee had already grown quite sore and those steps on the descent had not helped my cause. I’m all for climbing steps on and ascent but, heading downhill, I’d rather take my chances on a slope. At least then, you can zig-zag and lessen some of the strain.
Above: my southernmost view from the true southernmost point of mainland Britain.
Lizard Point, I’m pleased to say, was not the ‘tourist trap’ that Land’s End is regarded as being. I was not asked to pay £9 in order to have my photo taken next to any sign and I wasn’t over-encouraged to visit any shops or buy useless tat.
There were people around, don’t get me wrong. If you café hadn’t been packed, I might’ve stopped for an overdue cup of tea or an ice cream. I was a little disappointed there was no information point here… Unless I missed it. There was a National Trust booth, one small shed selling stuff and a number of people recording timelapses and wildlife, in the direction of which my walk was about to continue.
This had felt like a good place to end a walk and I believe the car park is even managed by the National Trust (I’m a member).
But, on passing the lighthouse and Hounsel Bay, I knew I still had a few miles to go, in order to meet the target that I had set out to achieve.
Studying my map, it looked as though the way ahead was going to remain reasonably level. I could not see any sharp drops or ascents.
A manned lookout station exists ahead of the point at which I would turn north for most of the remaining miles. Looking now, I realise that those ‘mysterious flags’ I tried to identify at Clevedon seafront last year were probably Cornish, after all. This station is apparently run by volunteers and they welcome the donations from visitors. A number of people (again, German, based on their language) were sat on the slope to the east side, enjoying/suffering the sun.
A few yards on and a small German family had sought shade beneath a rock, pointing out to sea. I don’t know whether they were ‘true’ coastal walkers but you can probably see how how it was…
Also nearby, I’ve no idea what this structure was… Some kind of beacon for ships? I’d seen nothing else like it along this stretch of coast.
Cadgwith seemed a very long distance away, despite my beliefs that it was little more than an hour’s walk. Vegetation was on the rise, as I found myself walking alone, again. There was no breeze and, in mid-afternoon, I felt as though it was getting hotter.
Marching on, with grass now reaching up above my ankles, I found it hard to pinpoint precisely where I was on the coast path but, I likened this rock formation to “Cornwall’s Durdle Door”. Only, there were no crows of people below me and I doubt that public access is easily permissible.
This might’ve been near Prilla Cove or Kilcobben… All I knew was that I had past another potential stop at the hotel who displays their restaurant’s menu alongside the coast path… I was unlikely to see another invitation before the end of this walk but, without a sign that would openly ‘welcome’ coastal walkers, I feared I may have wasted my time and energy in taking the short detour.
It was further along this stretch, near the end of a short and unexpected ascent, that I met a man heading in the other direction who was too happy to stop for a quick chat…
He’d parked at Lizard Point, had walked to Cadgwith across the mainland and was now returning to his car along the coast path… I didn’t ask what car he drove but I was certain it was the same man I’d met a day earlier at Lanhydrock! He also told me he was staying in Falmouth – just like “The Man From Essex”.
If it was him, I don’t think he recognised me. But he told me he was about to turn seventy-four years old and was still happily walking the coast, albeit in shorter stages than some. I regret not asking but, to be honest, I spent a portion of the weekend trying to remember the name of that National Trust property without cheating and didn’t want to make a fool of myself! ‘Pen-something’, it wasn’t!
As we passed each other, than man informed he had left Cadgwith ‘forty-five minutes ago’, at a time when I thought I was really close… He also warned me of the impending storm that was due to arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday – by which time, I would’ve left Cornwall, anyway.
At the edge of Cadgwith Cove, I left the coast path and turned inland; climbing a series of roads before a right-turn in to the village of Ruan Minor. From here, I would take the bus back to my car in Mullion…
Finding the bus stop wasn’t much of a challenge, having done my homework on its location, the likely cost and frequency of stops (which was very good, for a Sunday) – all in advance of the drive down. What I didn’t find, sadly, was a shop selling cold drinks and ice cream (something I had not looked for). Another man was occupying the bus shelter. I felt both confident and uncomfortable – on the one hand, it meant that a bus was likely to arrive soon… On the other hand, I’d have to stand or sit awkwardly next to him, after struggling to understand the timetable (I very rarely ever use buses) and not knowing what to do when I eventually step on to the vehicle.
So, instead of all of that, I continued my walk along the road to the church on the corner, which has been largely ‘retained’ by nature. After taking a few photos, I found a shaded seat beneath the lychgate.
Soon after that, a bus arrived, heading in the ‘wrong’ direction… It made a three-point turn at the road junction, before pulling up at the shelter I’d passed a little while earlier… There were people already on and, without having consulted the timetable, I decided I would bide my time and wait for the next one…
It was then that I wondered over to the stop and realised the next bus – the last of the day – wasn’t due for another two-hours!
Initially, I sat down and tried to wait it out… This lasted about twenty-minutes and, as is typical of the Lizard Peninsula, I could not get a phone signal. Ruan Minor is one of the few villages I’ve come across that retains a working phone box – I only learned this by listening to a woman who was also visiting the area and audibly telling the recipient of her call that they were ‘having a good time’ and that they could not get a signal either.
I knew there was a pub down towards Cadgwith Cove but it was a steep drop to get there, meaning a tiring climb back up to get to the same place… Still, it would kill some time and I might be able to buy a cold drink.
I begrudgingly paid £3 for a pint of watered-down orange juice (with ice) that wasn’t quite as cold as I had hoped and took the last shaded seat in the outdoor area; casually overhearing a local councillor putting the world to rights. Somehow, I made that drink last half an hour; reluctant to buy another, as I would still need change for my bus fare.
Huffing and puffing back up the hill, I returned to my soft seat with a good forty-five minutes to spend wondering just how far I could’ve walked across the mainland within the same two-hour period… Would I have arrived back in Mullion already?
As it happened, the bus arrived a good five-minutes late, with no other passengers on board. There is only so much I understand about buses, though…
I climbed aboard and simply asked the driver if he was stopping at Mullion (to ease my own uncertainty and peace of mind). To which, he replied “I’m going [somewhere else] first, pal!”. I said ‘okay’, not understanding his tone and asked for a ‘single’ – which, from my limited experience of bus travel is, I believe, the equivalent of a one-way journey.
Why don’t we have school lessons on ‘How to take the bus’?
£3 was the fare, as expected. I hope he was at least grateful that I had the correct change on me. I accidentally sat in the spacious fold-down seat for wheelchair users but, with no-one else riding along, I saw no reason to move. Observing the interior of this bus, I did smile when I read the sign on the driver’s door, stating that you should ask them questions and that they are here to help.
I really do not understand buses.
After the next stop (I think it was Kuggar), the driver made two ‘undesignated’ stops along the A3083. Each time, he was waved down by passengers with return tickets… But these were road corners and there was no stop.
Are passengers allowed to do this? What would happen if I tried this on the A370 near Bristol?
As we continued in to Mullion, further anxieties arose within me… Was he going to stop at each of the two locations or, would I have to push the button? Fortunately, the bus came to a stop (close to the Spar shop that didn’t stock sandwiches) where another passenger was waiting to get on. I took my chance, paid my thanks and got off.
That was officially the second time I’d used the bus since… 2001!
Will I do it again? Well, I certainly see the advantage, when it comes to linear coastal walks. I’d like to. But first, I must look for a YouTube video on ‘how to use a bus’…
By the end and, as I returned to the campsite around 19.00, destined for the shower, I felt hot without being overly tired or in pain. Maybe the orange juice did help. It was as if I could’ve walked another fifteen miles of that coastline the next day. My ‘neighbour’ in the tent next door was intrigued to hear of my walk. I was pleased to have walked my first miles of the SWCP in Cornwall and I look forward to more in future years.
Total distance of this walk: 15 miles
(Including 2.5 to 3 miles of non-coastal walking)