Monday, 6 November 2017

South West Coast Path Section 31 Pendower to East Portholland

Pendower Beach
There is a lengthy section of coast between Pendower and Gorran Haven where there is no public transport at all and for a while I had been trying to decide how to deal with this part of the SWCP.  Fortunately for me a cursory glance through my Pathfinder Guide Volume 5 Cornwall Walks provided some much needed inspiration.  It was actually the next section that prompted my strategy but this section also worked courtesy of a modified and extended version of walk no. 20 from this book (Portloe  and Veryan).

Nare Head View
As with the last section I parked at Pendower Car Park and again I bagged the first spot :) The beach was virtually deserted at this time in the morning and I dropped down to the stream at the bottom of the hill.  As I did so I passed what looked a very forlorn sight -that of a failed hotel that now looked  very sorry for itself.  I suspect the lack of access is what put paid to it - definitely off the beaten track!  There was another clue at the other side of the stream - large numbers of campers on the stretch of land just behind the beach.  I reckon ultimately it was a more attractive proposition for the type of clientele that the hotel had been hoping to attract.  It looked like the day was just getting going for them. Sizzling bacon an the sound of a kettle whistle sounded like the best kind of alarm to me!  They took no notice as I passed by an soon I was up and away on a nice level stretch of track.

Kilberick Cove and Gull Rock
I knew that the level stretch of walking wouldn't last long and so it proved.  I did appreciate the cooling effect of the dew on my boots - the grass was surprisingly wet considering that it was still the end of August.  There was no doubt that the seasons were changing though - mornings were not as warm as a month earlier although by mid morning the heat had risen to much more like the summer that I knew it still was.

ParcCaragloose Cove
The next hotel was a far cry from the last.  The path climbed up the slope to plot a course behind the building and away from the sight of the guests who come here for the views.  I'm sure they don't like looking at scruffy hikers puffing and blowing their way by.  A hint of the kind of guests who come here was provided by a helicopter landing pad outside at the back.  I crossed it and then went out into the road that runs down the side.  At the bottom of the slope was a small car park.  Spaces were clearly at a premium as thy were already full at this early time in the morning.  Activity on the beach was also building - Carne Beach is obviously a popular one!

My first big destination of the day was Nare Head and this loomed on the horizon. Even though it was still early the heat was building fast and I was pleased to be getting this climb out of the way quite quickly.  As I plodded towards my goal I took a step to one side as first a scruffy looking dog walker came my way and then a very fit looking female runner who made light work of the slope.  She obviously had made Nare Head her goal of the morning for she soon passed me in the opposite direction having reached the top seemingly without breaking sweat.  She made me feel like a couch potato as she did so.

Portloe Church
Just shy of the top of the slope I fond a very conveniently situated seat and sat and enjoyed the view from there for quite awhile, particularly as it was lovely and shady.  I could now see the full sweep of the bay across to Portscatho where I had walked through the festival earlier in the weekend.  I stayed until being approached by another couple coming up the hill.  I took my leave of them and pushed on and was pleased to see that the path stayed level for some distance at the headland.  That enabled me to get some of the energy back that I had expended going up the hill.  Offshore at this point I passed by Gull Rock - I was pleased to look at that but less so down the vertiginous cliffs to my right.

Just beyond Rosen Cliff and the path took a loop around the magnificent looking Kilberick Cove.  The view was all the better for having it  completely to myself - the small number of people I had thus encountered seemed to be behind me now.  I had to lose  a fair amount of height as I rounded the cove an as I went down through a field of sheep I crossed the path of a whole gaggle of people heading down to the beach far below.  I did think they had a better idea than me - it was really too hot to be walking.

Looking Back at Portloe
The path got almost down to sea level as I traversed the next cove and I knew I would have to pay for it with another big ascent and so it proved after a section of boardwalk.  All the time I could feel the couple that had almost reached me at Nare Head gaining on me and somehow their presence kept me going on the route.  It was with a sense of relief that I reached the top.  I passed a couple looking up the details of a bed and breakfast that we passed below.  I didn't want to interrupt them but I couldn't help thinking what a great choice they were potentially making.  The view from the front of the building must be pretty special given its location at the head of the cove.

Veryan Bay
The path down into Portloe was delightful and a welcome relief after all the climbing.  This small fishing village is almost completely hidden until you are on top of it.  The port itself is very tight and that probably explains why the lifeboat that was once stationed here didn't last long.  The station was built in 1870 and the boat lasted until 1887 when the RNLI pulled out; the boat never having performed a single rescue!  I headed around the port and watched all the antics of the day's visitors playing in boats.  Some young boys were jumping off the breakwater and having the time of their lives as they did so.  The water looked super inviting and was probably as warm as it looked.

Red Admiral
I hunted for a shop but didn't see one which was pretty annoying - I would have to wait until Portlemouth before I knew there was one.  I plodded on past the old lifeboat station (now a wonderful looking house) and out on to the coast path once more. As I did so a microlight plane came buzzing overhead - what a great way to explore the coastline (even though it was annoying to the rest of us!). Portloe is an enchanting place and probably worthy of a stopover if you can find a room.  Being a late booker and on a bank holiday weekend I never really stood a chance.

Descending Into Portlemouth
The path between Portloe and Portlemouth was rather easier than had gone before.  The climbing was less severe and the going a little easier although the rocky nature of the underfoot conditions meant that a lot of care had to be taken.  Mostly I had only gulls, cormorants and shags for company now and the path was flanked with bracken and heather for the  most part.  Views along the coast were pretty special although Portlemouth never really seemed to get any closer.  There was a sting in the tail before I got to this next milestone along the way - a pretty steep climb up on to a plateau above the twin villages at Portlemouth.  I then had to lose all the height almost immediately as I descended into West Portlemouth.  It was tempting to stop on the coast here but the shop was over in the other village at East Portlemouth.

East Portlemouth
I decided to take this short extra distance along the sea wall, which was rather harder than it looked for I had to negotiate my way round all the sun worshippers that had made this their day's spot.  Although they were all good humoured about it I decided that  I wouldn't go that way back.  When I got to the shop I was hugely relieved that it was open.  Normally it doesn't open on a Monday but being Bank Holiday they had relented.  I'm not sure I could have managed the return journey otherwise!  I grabbed myself a sausage roll (they were out of pasties sadly) and a welcome cold drink before contemplating my return.  This was as much coast path as I was going to do today and I wanted to return via the shortest route possible.

Veryan Church
My first priority was to get back to West Portlemouth and I decided to brave the side of the road instead of the sea wall as I didn't want to test the goodwill of the sunbathers.  From here I continued up the road towards a house called Boswague where I was to take footpaths across the countryside to Veryan.  That was the theory anyway.  When I got to Boswague the path was clearly off limits - the farmer had put enough obstacles in the way that I decided that the road was a better option and I ended up having to have a lot more tarmac walking than I wanted.  It wasn't too bad at first but the road seemed to get a lot busier as I continued and by the time I reached Trewartha I was really not enjoying myself.  I managed to dive across a field but even this was hard going and I couldn't complete the official path across it and went back on to another nearby road.

Melinsey Watermill
Fortunately I ended up on a path eventually and had a much better entrance into the village of Veryan coming into the bottom of the village by a delightful pond and alongside the church.  I was too tired to want look around it even though it looked like it warranted more attention.  I instead looked for the local shop that I hoped would sell me a much needed ice cream.  I felt I needed one at this stage.  Sadly the only ones they had were factory made ones - not what I was looking for at all.  I had to settle for some drinks and moved on.

Woodland Walk
I weathered some more road walking down to the wonderful old Melinsey Watermill.  The road down to it was super busy and I had to almost bury myself in the hedge a couple of times as the cars thundered by.  The mill was a blessed relief to me for at last I found somewhere that would sell me an ice cream.  They didn't have too much left though so I was glad to have anything - many of the flavours had run out.  My relief here was also that the road walking had finally come to an end!

Pendower Beach
My onward route from the watermill followed the small stream that it serviced down to the sea, about a  mile and a half altogether.  Mostly this was along a beautiful woodland path and on the way I passed through another watermill complex although this time not working. When the beach finally came into sight I was massively thankful.  The first thing I did was to wandered out on to the sand; find a quiet spot away from the crowds and paddle my hot feet in the wonderful cooling seawater.  That set me up for the lengthy drive home!

Pendower Beach
This section of coast was very beautiful and it was a lovely first half of the walk.  The return was pretty horrific though and I cannot recommend it.  Do yourself a favour and try and find a place to stay in Portloe (or even walk inland to Veryan).  It'll save a lot of unpleasant road walking and wasted effort!

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