Tuesday, 31 October 2017

South West Coast Path Section 30 Place to Pendower

St Mawes
Walkers travelling east from Falmouth have a significant barrier in the shape of the River Fal.  This huge estuary needs two ferry rides to become reacquainted with the South West Coast Path.  The ferry from Falmouth to St Mawes runs all year round but the one across to Place only runs in the summer months and this restricts progress without a lengthy taxi ride or walk around the estuary.  When walking this section of the path I had decided to stay in St Mawes and this proved to be a very agreeable base.  It is a town that is surprisingly remote - all ferries to Falmouth stop around 6pm and the nearest other towns of Truro and St Austell are some distance away.  Luckily there are most things you need here and the ambience of the place is lovely especially on a summer's evening.

Public transport for the next few sections of the path are quite tricky.  I saw that there was a bus that ran from Treworlas to St Mawes that was in striking distance of the Coast Path.  There is a nice big car park at Pendower Beach that is free but be warned it gets very busy so come early.  I was first there on this particular day so could have my pick of spaces - I was the envy of many potential parkers when I got back a lot later in the day!  I actually got there with lots of time to spare before the bus arrived and waited at the spot where I assumed the bus stop was (although there was no sign).  I waited almost half an hour and only had another five minutes to wait when a kind gentleman stopped and gave me a lift into St Mawes.  I was extremely grateful as his extra speed meant that I was able to get the ferry half an hour earlier than I had planned.  Strangely I have never hitch hiked and thought the days of people picking up strangers was long gone.  I was glad to be proved wrong!  The irony was that I chose this day as the only one that the bus was running and I didn't even take it!

The cost of the Place ferry was rather more than I expected for such a short trip.  It seems they cater more for day trippers than single fares for the day return was very little more and represented much better value.  No matter the cost though - I always think that the sections that include a ferry ride are that bit extra special and this was no exception.  As with yesterday it looked to be a nice hot day coming up and I was rather glad of the shade afforded to me on the opposite side.

Place House
Place House was immediately apparent on the other side.  This fine looking building has been in the ownership of the Treffry since the 13th Century.  The imposing frontage of the house was built in th early 19th Century - the house clearly has had a lot of remodelling over the years.  It isn't generally open to the public except on a few special occasions and so I had to make do with admiring the frontage and moving on.  The path takes a route around the perimeter of the estate and drops in to the church at the back.  The church of St Anthony is not a functional church - it is looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open to the public.  I took the opportunity to look around inside, enjoying the cool interior very much.

St Anthony's Church
From the church the path loops around the headland of St Anthony, initially around the inlet of the River Fal through some cooling woodland.  At the entrance to an attractive looking house that I saw on the opposite shore to Place House I walked up the side of a field to the top of a slope.  when I got there I found a welcome seat where I paused for a drink.  I was soon joined by an old couple walking in the opposite direction.  We passed the time of day before I headed on around the peninsula.  This was delightful walking and not too hard.  The peninsula was dotted with Scots Pines and gorse bushes and the views out across the Fal Estuary were truly amazing and endlessly fascinating.  Across to St Mawes I could see the Falmouth ferry and the colossal bulk of St Mawes Castle.  I hoped to pop in there later in the day to look around.

St Mawes Castle
As I turned direction at Carricknath Point the lighthouse at St Anthony's Head came into view.  This was to be my next destination and I soon got there after trudging up a small hill.  The heat was starting to build now and I was very thankful of the toilet block at the top in the old fort that once protected this headland and the entrance to Falmouth Harbour.  I freshened up and then went to enjoy the view.  Surprisingly it isn't really possible to see the lighthouse from here - somehow the path manages to climb up above it and keep it out of view.  I did make someone's day here though - what I took to be a grandmother and her young adult granddaughter had come up here for a visit and I took their picture for them after seeing them struggle to do a selfie.
St Mawes View

After my good deed I plodded on eastwards.  The next few miles to Portscatho were relatively easy walking and this was the perfect antidote to yesterday's exertions.  Away from the estuary and the coast had a more familiar look - rocky cliffs, impenetrable sandy beaches that could only be reached by boat and lengthy views along the coast.  I soon got into my stride and it felt good to have a little breeze in my face and plenty of life in the legs once  again.  After about a mile I passed by a familiar couple - the very same that I had seen on the other side of the peninsula.  Theye were clearly doing the circular walk based on the old fort that is advertised in the guide book.  A good choice I thought - they were clearly enjoying their adventure as they were in good spirits as they greeted me once again.
Fal Estuary

A bit further along I had an encounter with something less welcome.  I became aware of a small helicoptor that was taking off, flying a loop of about a mile radius and then landing.  It was annoying once but after the sixth time I was going spare.  I couldn't get past this area fast enough!  I guess it was flying lessons or taster flights maybe?
St Anthony's Lighthouse

After meandering around ripening corn fields and up and down the undulating coast I came to Kilgerrin Head.  The onward view from here was quite spectacular and I took the opportunity to pause here for a while and just admire it.  I was pleased that I had brough binoculars with me for it gave me the opportunity to view some of the more distant places that could just be picked out.  In particular I was quite excited to see Rame Head way off in the distance.  I stayed for quite a time until a young family came along.  I sensed that they wanted my seat and as I had been there a while I took my leave of it much to their relief.  I reckon they had wanted it for their picnic.

Heading East
Just ahead was Towan Beach and this was a lot more popular than Porthbeor that I had passed a little earlier.  That was probably because there was a convenient car park and tea bar nearby!  All things are relative of course - it wasn't what you might call rammed in spite of the great weather.  I passed by along the low cliff above and passed by plenty of dog walkers along the way.  I sensed that several of the dogs were pretty eager to go in the sea too!

Porthbeor Beach
The coastline got lower and lower as I headed on towards Portscatho.  This could only be described as a stroll in SWCP terms.  I haven't walked along such an easy stretch for quite a while.  As I reached the village of Portscatho the offshore activities seemed to intensify, while inland I passed one of those temporary tent cities that are so popular in these parts.  From my angle it looked horribly crowded but to be fair that might have been an optical illusion.

Tea Van
When I arrived at Portscatho it was clear that I had arrived on a special day.  It was the annual Regatta and the whole place had turned out in force.  There were hundreds of happy people enjoying everything this little corner of Cornwall had to offer.  I think notionally it was about some yachting race offshore but it looked like this was rather incidental to what was going on landside.  I felt like a bit of a gatecrasher as I wandered through but th smell of the barbecue was a bit too much for me and I succumbed to a fabulous and welcome cheeseburger.  I then washed it down with what I took to be a pint of cold lager only to discover to my disappointment that I had actually chosen cider - that didn't go down nearly so well.  I am pleased to report that Portscatho is a most agreeable place and even when summer fair isn't on it would make for an excellent stopping point for refreshment (just check what drink you are actually buying!)

Tent City
Just beyond Portscatho was Porthcurnick Beach and this was truly busy - here I was to see the bizarre intensity of beach sport, in this case cricket.  I am always amused by these games, usually played by middle aged men that judging from their physique never play sport at any other time of year.  Yet the competitive spirit lives on and the games seem to have special significance.  Further on from the beach and the Coastwatch bods were busy keeping tabs on all the vessels partaking in the Regatta - I wonder if they had a sweepstake?

I pushed on and soon the activity was far behind me.  The crowds of people soon thinned out and the last group I saw were busy picking blackberries - I didn't blame them, the crop looked fantastic.  The last couple of miles of this walk was largely solitary but somehow the car never seemed to get any nearer.  The going was a bit tougher too - at one point I went clear down to the beach only to have to climb back up to a smilar height from where I started within a few hundred metres.

At the top of this hill I had a most unusual encounter - with a slow worm.  I haven't seen many of these over the years as they normally dart away into the undergrowth.  I've alsways thought that slow worm is a real misnomer but this one was accurately named - it didn't move a muscle and was obviously enjoying the last of the summer sun.  It certainly wasn't going to move on my account even though I almost trod on it!
Packed Beach

For the most part the rest of the walk was through bracken and bramble bushes and apart from the odd glimpse out it was a bit of a trudge.  I focused on the white house that I had parked close by and eventually I got there after much undulation of the route.  Although each of the hills were quite small and easy going the combination of them were quite energy sapping and I was pleased to reach journey's end.  My first glimpse of Roseland was lovely and I certainly had the appetite for more - the onward route would have to wait until tomorrow though and that will be the subject of my next blog entry.

Slow Worm

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