Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Gwithian to Porthtowan

 Map - http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/69239480
Godrevy Island and lighthouse

Well rested after a very comfortable night at the Godrevy House apartments. Our breakfast was straightforward – cereal and boiled eggs for Richard; a bacon sarny and boiled eggs for me.  The only problems were lack of marmalade, and the fact that making toast sets off the smoke alarm. This must be a universal issue whenever smoke alarms are installed.
With the prospect of a gentle day we decided to go round the Godrevy Point / Navax Point peninsula, as does the SWCP. Very exposed to the Northerly, but quite spectacular. Seals on the beach beneath the cliffs – Richard counted over 25.
Then it was four long cliff-top miles before the final push into Portreath.  Foaming waves beneath, undulating cliffs. Entertainment provided by an RAP Sea Rescue helicopter on a training sortie. It hovered close to the cliffs – with the wind pushing it inwards – and then let down a winch-man on some of the coastal rocks. Obviously dangerous; impressive to watch.
It's not always possible to
follow the marked trail
Flying these things isn't for the faint-hearted!
(not Prince William - he's currently in the Falklands)
The last mile and a half into Portreath proved surprisingly difficult. This whole stretch – from Portreath to St Ives – is described in the guide as “easy cliff-top walking”. This is not the case over the last stretch into Portreath. I suppose if you’re going the other way – the way the guide is written – the tough bit is soon behind you, and the rest is relatively easy.  But that’s not the case when you’re going from West to East.
Not for the first time the final half mile into Portreath itself felt more like a mile and a half. These North Cornish ports are well in from the general run of the cliffs, and sheltered from the elements – at least when the prevailing wind is blowing. Not so much on a Northerly, though.
Portreath is an ancient mining port, which was apparently always difficult to enter and leave. Now the old quays have been built over with rows of rather ugly terraced houses.  Everything is basic – no attractive architecture, just rather tasteless modern development. A simple, rather unprepossessing pub, where we had a couple of drinks and a bit of a rest before tackling the rest of the day’s walk.
There was an encouraging sign as we’d done most of the climb out of the village stating that it was just 2¾ miles to our destination, Porthtrowan.  They proved to be a hard few miles, and felt more like nearly four than the advertised number.  Much of it was along the boundary fence of a defunct airfield, which still had “Ministry of Defence – Keep Out” signs at 100m intervals, but rather incongruously was mostly given over to what we assumed had originally been cauliflowers, but which were now just decapitated brassica stems.  Hundreds of acres of them!
A typical dip in the South West Coast Path
I was surprised towards the end of this stretch to see a wonderful male Black Redstart.  Unmistakeable. I must check whether these are common here, or whether we chanced across a rarity. It was certainly not in the standard built-up or derelict environment, but I guess cliffs aren’t that different from some of the other places they’re encountered. (Later research revealed several sightings this February, but not in prior years.)
Not unexpectedly the SWCP saved the best (or worst!) till the end.  There were two severe valleys to cross, each with steps down and then up on the other side.  We saw our first serious walkers on the first, going the other way.  The chap complained that “nowadays” he felt it was almost worse going down than up.  I think it’s about even. Going down can certainly be uncomfortable, but going up can be plain exhausting.
Even after the second valley it was still a good mile or more until Porthtowan.  The hotel was on the way in to the village.
Towards the enRichard Dale all togged up for the SWCP in a brisk Northerly Wind
Basically, this looks like a good example of what a hotel should not be. Small, poorly furnished rooms; various things that don’t work; not warm enough even if the heating is kept on constantly.  We suspect the owners are new; we wish them luck, but wouldn’t hold our breaths.
Down the hill to the Unicorn for dinner, which was inexpensive and surprisingly good.  (Little choice, but we both elected for steak, which was very satisfactory.)  Then up the hill for an early night.
No mobile reception anywhere!

Cloudy; about 8C, but colder later, with strong Northerly wind. 20.89 km. Tracking failed in middle part of the day – added 1km. 5 hrs 5 min (estimated); 592m ascent; 558m descent. Plus 60/60 to dinner later.

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