Monday, 13 February 2012

St Ives to Gwithian

No cramp overnight, but an awful lot of aches!  Thighs, calves, buttocks, back – you name it. It took a long time to get to sleep, and frequent careful adjustment to avoid pain.
Richard Dale and I left instants before the luggage transfer people arrived to take the bags on to Gwithian – so the chap had to ring the doorbell. General conclusion: the Grey Mullet was OK – and obviously well-patronised by people working in the area – but very cramped and rather uncomfortable.
St Ives Bay looking North - Hayle estuary just visible
Having expected totally level walking all day, I figured I must have climbed over 100m just in leaving St Ives.  A climb up past the railway station, another at the end of Carbis Bay, and a third at the end of the path round Carrick Gladden.  Wonderful views over St Ives bay and the mouth of the Hayle River, with endless breakers in the sunshine, and a great view back to St Ives itself.
After that it was well-established paths through the dunes to Lelant.  Lots of 18-inch high blackthorn bushes in thickets. Is this as big as they get in this sort of environment, or are they just starting out in life? At the end of the dunes we turn past a house called “Ferryman’s Rest”; were he still operating we could have crossed the river here and saved ourselves five mainly rather dull miles of walking around the Hayle estuary.
More of a Summer notice thazn for this time of year
On the West side of the inner estuary there are nice middle-class houses, Victorian and later, which are unfortunately separated from the water by the railway – so no way to have aq boat at the bottom of the garden.  On the East side of the estuary it’s much bleaker, and then a rather grim housing estate before getting into Hayle itself.
Hayle was, we learn from the landlord of the pub we stop at (the Royal Standard), the great engineering centre of Western Cornwall.  It was also, he claims, the second largest port in Britain in terms of cargo handled.  (I find this hard to believe, particularly with all the competing claims. When?) It’s now very run down, with a vast area on the South side of the quays looking particularly derelict.
There had been talk, apparently, of establishing a marina here, and various other proposals put forward by Peter de Savary, who had invested in the area with this in mind.  However his ideas fell on stony ground, and as a final gesture, and to prevent anyone else succeeding where he had failed, sold much of the estuary to the RSPB for £1.
Fortunately the rain which was threatening before we stopped failed to materialise, so it was dry as we set off to the North across the remains of the old bridge – currently closed to vehicular traffic as they build a new one.  This is part of a huge regeneration project taking shape on the East side of the outer estuary.  Diggers, concrete structures, fences, earthworks, activity everwhere.  It’s impossible to gain any impression of what it will look like when it’s all finished – but there’s a huge amount of (presumably well-co-ordinated) activity going on.
After we’re through this, it’s into a coastal mess of little chalets, larger houses, hotels, etc., all on the Eastern corner of the estuary. It feels as if this ought to be strictly summer country, but there is a surprising number of people around.  Eventually we get past the last of the buildings, and after a couple of hundred metres following the acorn signs of the SWCP (not seen since before Hayle) get down on to the beach.
A deflated kite-karter
This is one of the great beaches of North Cornwall – three or four miles long, nearly half a mile deep at low tide, which is how it is now. It’s great for kite-surfing, kite-karting, walking the dog, just enjoying.  We watch all this as we walk North.
Unfortunately the wind gets stronger as we walk, and though it’s not enough to whip sand into our faces it’s certainly uncomfortable.  We are very glad to be able, after three miles, to turn inland for Gwithian.
This is a tiny village –  a church, a pub, and a few houses.  Our accommodation is just a few paces away, and is excellent – self catering apartments, one each, recently equipped with everything one could want, spacious, and warm.
A relaxed afternoon, then a meal at the local pub, accompanied by a boisterous newly-acquired Labrador called Maverick.  Very friendly, and good food.  Then (as seems to be normal on this trip) early to bed.

Fine but cloudy, with a fine spell late morning; about 8C, with strong Northerly wind. 19.60 km; 5 hrs 15 min; 100m ascent; 80m descent (estimated). 

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