There is no doubt about it – this is surfing country! For my first foray on the
This was the first of my
I parked in Perranporth, which despite being out of the main season and on a Sunday was still quite expensive for the day. The bus over to Newquay was rather a long trip, passing as it did through every hamlet and out of the way village on the way and took nearly an hour for the trip that ought to have taken about 15 minutes. Still, as I mused on the way, for once I had almost no timetable whatsoever today – I even had a 24 hour parking ticket! My only deadline was the time at which it was likely to get dark tonight, around 8pm if my instincts were correct.
With that in mind I didn’t rush to start the day’s walking, choosing instead to amble around Newquay which despite the bad press it gets, I found to be a rather agreeable place. Of course it helped that the weather conditions were once again stunning and if anything better than yesterday! I bought myself a paper and found a nice seat, but reading didn’t come as naturally as I’d hoped, partly as I seemed to have stumbled into some kind of mating ritual put on by a couple of the local starlings! Their courtship provoked much amusement from me, as it was soon clear that the female wasn’t ready despite all the wooing that was going on by 3 or 4 potential suitors!
I decided that the paper could wait and continued on my route after stocking up on provisions. A glance at the route ahead suggested no opportunities to stock up later so I made sure I was well catered for, including with a staple of any packed lunch in these parts – a freshly baked pasty! The ultimate in fast food in these parts makes for a handy packed lunch, since everything you could wish for is wrapped up in pastry.
I headed out along past the harbour and some sheltered sandy coves, where people were just getting started ready for another superb sunny afternoon. There was much activity in the harbour itself, with boats being readied for the season after the long winter lay off. In the cove next door a couple of people were getting sea kayaks ready for what looked to be a perfect day for that activity with lovely calm seas all around. High above the harbour was an unnaturally level piece of ground, which I soon discovered was for crown green bowling. The idea that there was enough demand for the activity to warrant such an engineering job rather staggered me!
Eventually I cleared the main part of the town and passed by The Huer’s Hut, a whitewashed lookout building dating from the 14th Century. This rather odd looking building was originally designed as a lookout for shoals of fish offshore. Word would then get down to the fishing boats who would scramble to take advantage. As it turned out this wouldn’t be the last Huer’s Hut I would see this week, but it was probably the best example!
From the Huer’s Hut I wandered towards a very fine looking hotel built prominently on the headland of Towan Head. As I got closer to the headland though there were other interesting sights, such as the old lifeboat station with a slipway that was 1 in 2! That must have been a scary ride since it was a considerable distance to the bottom. Hauling the boat back up to the station couldn’t have been very convenient and apparently it took eight horses to bring it back to the top after landing at a nearby beach. The one advantage this site did have was that boats could be launched no matter the state of the tide. Further up onthe top ofthe headland was an old coastguard lookout tower, performing a rather different function from the Huer’s Hut. This was for the authorities to be on the lookout for smugglingand boats indistress mostly, but now just acts as a curiosity for tourists.
From the lookout I got my first proper view of
I passed just beneath the magnificent hotel that I had seen earlier, the grade II listed Headland Hotel that was apparently the setting of the film version of The Witches by Roald Dahl. This red brick building dates from 1900 and the front bedrooms must have unrivalled views of Fistral Beach although I have a feeling that not many surfers actually stay here…
At the other end of
After finishing my pasty I headed on enjoying the smells of the vying blossoms of the gorse and hawthorn lining the path to
After crossing the small river that flows into the sea at Porth Joke it was on to the next headland, this time Kelsey Head. On the way to the headland I caught sight of a couple of interesting natural features – the first a swampy section of path covered in kingcups, an unusual colony for these parts. The second was rather more mundane – the amazing colours of the various species of lichen that cover most of the rocks in these parts. Offshore was a small island known as ‘The Chick’. I sat and looked through the binoculars at any signs of seabird life clinging to this rock that is probably left completely alone by people. Yet, despite the loneliness of the rock and the fact that it would no doubt provide a safe haven,therewere surprisingly few seabirds hanging around, save for a few gulls. I was amused though by the presence of a surf board – perhaps the surfer had found the biggest wave in the world andbeen runaground! I never did see the surfer however. Given its location it probably wasn’t going to be nicked…
On the other side of Kelsey Head was the much larger
I had a little problem finding my way back on to the path on the other side of
The next set of cliffs around Penhale Point and Ligger Point were a much different character to what had gone before. Just inland from the path is a military camp, which looked rather deserted now. The accommodation was rudimentary – mostly consisting of some old fashioned Nissan Huts and a very bleak looking house stuck right out on the headland. There were all manner of installations, mostly I assumed to assist with communications. All this infrastructure was overlaid on top of some old mine workings and an iron age hill fort that had mostly been subsumed into the surroundings.
The coast itself was also pretty wild here with some fierce vertigo inducing drops alongside me. Because of the military camp the section occupied by the path was fairly narrow and I couldn’t help thinking that these next couple of miles weren’t for the faint hearted!
As I rounded Ligger Point, I came across the biggest beach yet today and probably the finest I have seen in
Luckily for me my way up into the dunes was marked by an interesting sculpture someone had fashioned out of all manner of marine debris including fishing nets and waste materials. It looked quite spooky pointing out to sea! I headed up into the dunes and away from the coast path, which proved to be a bit of a slog. I was curious to see St Piran’s Church, a church that had been buried and reburied by the sand to the point that there wasn’t much left! It was quite a slog through the dunes and eventually I found the place after a couple of false alarms and a number of markers which helped me. Only the outline of the church was left, and an earlier place known as St Piran’s Oratory, a short distance away was now completely reburied after vandalism had been wreaked on the old place. It seems that the locals gave up on fighting the shifting sands many decades ago and both churches are only remnants of previous settlements in these parts that have now been reclaimed by nature.
Having come to see St Piran’s I now faced the daunting prospect of retracing my steps. I decided that I would try and cut off the corner and this proved to be a good idea since I actually found it easier to navigate knowing that Perran Sands Holiday Centre would be on the way & provide a decent landmark in an otherwise featureless place.
Once I had found the main path again I soon ran into some paragliders, this time having a good deal more success than those I had seen yesterday at Teignmouth. I would imagine that the view from above is just as exciting though! Eventually the going underfoot became easier as sandy paths gave way to rocky ones again. By now I was pretty tired after all the dune walking and was very relieved to descend finally into Perranporth. There was still a huge amount of activity on this sunny Sunday evening and no sign of people in a hurry to leave the beach. I couldn’t blame them!
This was a relatively easy walk, with few climbs on the way although the sand dunes were definitely a sting in the tail at the end! The combination of sand dunes and rocky cliffs was an interesting one and I couldn’t help feeling that I had made the right choice of walk to help me get acquainted with the