Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Porthtowan to Crantock

The Beach Hotel, Porthtowan. But a long walk down to the sand!

The heating failed overnight; the room was about the same temperature as out of doors. At breakfast the reason became apparent. The dining room had a prominent display of a planning application completely to rebuild the property. Apparently this had been rejected as originally submitted, and was due to be resubmitted with a simple change from hotel to residential use – but would actually become a time-share.
We left as soon as possible, at about 8:40. A long day lay ahead.
Porthtowan was without any form of mobile connection, and it proved impossible to save the previous day’s travel report until we were a mile out of town. This already seemed to have drained about 25% of the battery, which had been fully charged overnight.
St Agnes Head - turn sharp right
The first descent and ascent was after about 2km at Chapel Porth – virtually to sea level.  A long climb then to St Agnes Head, where the coast and path turned sharply right towards the East. Spectacular cliffs, with old mine workings evident everywhere. A hard stretch then at Trevaunance Cove. The first part was picturesque, but the beach was completely covered at high tide. Climb over Blue Hills, where I discovered that the bottom zips of my rucksack had come undone, and that my rain gear and towel had fallen out.  Fortunately a woman walking her dog alerted me to the fact, and I was able to recover the waterproof trousers and towel immediately, and the waterproof jacket after retracing my steps a couple of hundred metres. The rucksack cover, however, proved a total  loss. I think the cause must have been Richard inadvertently opening the zips when, at my request, unhitching my walking stick at my request. I had been too lazy to take off the rucksack: an error not to be repeated!
After the climb from the second part of the cove – where there was a visitor attraction where tin was still being extracted and sold as a memento – the rest of the clifftop walk to Perranporth was stunning. Striking mine buildings, old spoil tips, and wonderfully colourful cliffs. They look as it they have every kind of mineral – reds, yellows, greens and blues. Easy to imagine that this was a serious mining area. I had not recollected this from earlier visits to the area, but had obviously not explored this part of the coast.
Perranporth was much more developed than I had remembered. There were a number of hotels and apartment buildings around the mouth of the stream that flows into the bay, and it was much larger than I recollected from the 1980s. We crossed the stream, and called in at the Waterside Inn. An extremely welcome cappuccino followed, and we realised that we had already walked over ten miles since breakfast. The only disappointment – discovered only a mile later – was that Richard had left his walking staff at the café.

Looking South across Perran Sands. 3 miles from Perranporth

There was then the long walk along Perran Sands. Fortunately the tide was out, so we did not have to divert inland over the huge dunes behind the sands. At the end we climbed up around the military training area at Penhale Camp – more undulating cliffs – before arriving at Holywell. Nothing here was open. Nowhere was it more evident that much of Cornwall closes for the winter. This is where we saw the last evidence of coastal mining.
Despite accumulating fifteen miles already, we decided to take the long coastal route to Crantock rather than cutting across the golf course, which had been the original short-cut option. It was well worth it. This area – Kelsey Head and Pentire Point West – is particularly beautiful, with smooth rabbit-cropped grass and great sea views. It was also the first time I had noticed sheep grazing since leaving Land’s end five days ago.  The crossing of Porth Joke was particularly attractive, with a low cliff of slate to clamber up on the far side, though only after getting one of my boots rather wet when wading the stream that runs across the sands.
A rare glimpse of sunshine - Crantock Dunes; Newquay behind
The last stretch was a very attractive drop in to Crantock beach, and a modest climb into the village itself. After the preponderance of awful, unattractive villages and interminable campsites this was a welcome change. The heart of the village is very pretty.
The best part was our B&B – Carden Cottage, right in the heart of the village, run by Bernard and Pat Clark, who had moved from Peckham to Cornwall fourteen years ago. Tea to welcome us, and the Clarks a charming couple who take a clear pride in their operation. Very comfortable rooms with en-suite facilities, at an extremely reasonable £40 a night (though Richard, booking later, had to pay £42!)
An early dinner at the Cornishman, an excellent local pub, and then back to our B&B.
The longest day, but certainly the best and most rewarding so far.  And to bed before ten (though disappointed beforehand to see Arsenal hammered 4‑0 by AC Milan at the San Siro!).

Cloudy; about 8C, still with strong Northerly wind. 30.4 km (estimated). Tracking could not start at outset because previous day’s trip was still to be saved, and battery exhausted by mid-afternoon.  Then said 22.5km; added 1.5 for early morning, and 6.4 for the last bit of the afternoon. 8 hrs 40 min (including half-hour break in Perranporth); 868m ascent; 866m descent. Plus 30/30 to get mobile reception and for dinner later.

Map -
(incomplete; insufficient battery to last all day)

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