Sunday, 12 November 2017

South West Coast Path Section 32 East Portholland to Mevagissey

East Portlemouth
My last day for this particular trip and the longest section that I walked across the four day sojourn.  Again I opted for a circular walk here because of the lack of available public transport.  This walk was based loosely on walk number 28 from Pathfinder Guide number 5 Cornwall Walks, although that one goes only as far as Portmellion and I added the additional one mile into Mevagissey and from East Portholland in the morning.  As a circular walk this was much more satisfying than the previous leg, partly because the headland lent itself to being cut off by an inland route.

Caerhays Castle
I parked in East Portholland and was one of the first to arrive in the morning.  I guessed that this would be very busy later as the bank holiday weather was doing everybody proud.  The tide was in when I arrived suggesting that later at the right time for the visitors it would be out.  The sun hadn't quite penetrated the western side of the hill that flanks the hamlet and so on my way up I could see a heavy dew still in place.  The path began where the road ran out - in fact it looked like the road had been abandoned as the tarmac carried on albeit at a much reduced width as the nearby vegetation had encroached.

The initial hill wasn't too big, just a nice little workout to get the juices flowing.  Soon I was in familiar countryside walking along a path hemmed in by gorse bushes but also with the odd apple tree thrown in.  I wondered whether these had all sprouted from the same original tree?  Certainly they would be good for foragers after free food as they would go nicely with the blackberries.  As the slope flatted out a bit the path came out into a large field and although the path officially ran around the edge I followed the desire line straight across diagonally, which looked rather easier in terms of the descent as well as cutting off a little distance.  Ahead of me I could see the first big milestone of Dodman Point brooding under the sunny sky.

Hemmick Beach
I soon came out into a road and headed down a steep hill to Porthluney Beach.  On my left as I rounded the last hairpin corner at the bottom I came upon a familiar sight - Caerhays Castle.  This was used in the filming of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children in 2016, a film that I had seen only a few weeks before coming.  It isn't a true castle, more of a crenellated manor house that was designed by John Nash (who also designed the Royal Pavilion in Brighton) and built between 1807 and 1810.  Despite its slightly preposterous design (for which Nash is well known) it does fit nicely with its surroundings and the deer park laid out in front of it.

On My Way to Dodman Point
I continued along the back of the beach and watched with fascination the preparations underway at the official car park opposite for the coming of the day's visitors.  It looked like they were expecting a lot!  Strangely, given how popular the weekend was the castle itself was closed to visitors for the season and would not be reopening until Spring 2018.  It seemed like a strange decision, although often these places open only for as long as they are required to rather than to take advantage of the commercial opportunities afforded.

Dodman Point
I left the road at the other side of the valley and began to climb up Black Rock.  This was a little bigger than the last climb and I took advantage of a seat part way up to get some drink inside me and enjoy the view back across to the castle and the  cove and beach.  Already visitors were arriving although some of them looked rather rather hopeful with their surf boards.  It was never going to be a great day for them as the sea was like glass and there wasn't a breath of wind likely.  As I continued up the hill I was very pleased to be afforded shade from the trees that covered the headland (and perhaps a clue as to how it got its name).

Dodman Point View
Any notion that this would be a foothill on the way to the top of Dodman Point was soon dispelled by the fact that once at the top I had very little flat ridge before descending  once again almost back to sea level to Hemmick Beach.  This delightful little beach was overlooked by a cottage that must surely have one of the best locations along this stretch of coast.  I don't suppose they welcome the cars parked outside though - they must cause some chaos for traffic as they blocked off the passing places.  Looking at the ford at the bottom of the hill it was surprisingly full of water - not sure I would like to drive through that.

Lamledra Farm
Three miles in now and Dodman Point was signposted as being only a mile away.  I was surprised and pleased at how soon I had reached this point.  The heat of the day was building but I was pleased to be getting this stretch out of the way before the heat of the afternoon really kicked in.  The long slow climb to the top of the headland was eased by the magnificence of the views opening up across Veryan Bay.  As I got towards the top I passed a family group also making their way up this significant climb; they were the first walkers of the day that I had encountered almost two hours in.

First Glimpse of Gorran Haven
I paused at the top of Dodman Point for quite a time.  From here it was possible to see virtually all of the route I had walked this weekend and even to the Lizard beyond.  The top of the headland is marked by a large cross and I strategically positioned myself to take advantage of the shade afforded by the cross.  It was quite a relief to be out of the sun for a few minutes - it had got to me a bit as I climbed to the top of the headland.  The cross itself was not here to commemorate anything in particular - just to the glory of God and had been put here in 1896.
Gorran Haven

After draining  more water and feeling suitably rested I pressed on, allowing another group to take up the sitting position they had been looking at with envy all the time I was in place.  For me now the path would be descending for quite a time into the village of Gorran Haven, as yet still out  of sight.  The next couple of miles were quite remarkable scenery as I descended slowly along the back of the rather inviting looking Bow Beach.  On top of the far headland was a very attractive grey building that I am guessing was something to do with Lamledra Farm.  The view from there must be quite amazing for I saw it coming from a couple of miles away.
Activity at Gorran Haven

Just before the headland in the distance the path descended rather more sharply down to the beach and this was a well used route by beach visitors.  They obviously have to save enough energy from their day at the beach to walk back up to the car park at the top.  Briefly I was among a lot of people going down to the beach itself but I soon left them as I turned left to carry on along the coast path while they turned right for the sand.

Heading Uphill Through Gorran Haven
At this point the character of the walk immediately changed again.  From a long view ahead and an easy path I had a rocky headland to negotiate.  There were a few family groups coming in the opposite direction and I stood to one side a couple of times to allow the small children to negotiate the rocks.  In a couple of cases the steps were as tall as the children!  Almost at the last minute the village of Gorran Haven came into view and this was a very welcome sight as I was looking forward to some lunch by now.  I decided to stop at the first available place - a small cafe just off the path at the edge of the village.  I wasn't disappointed for I had a great view over the cove and a fabulous smoked mackerel salad to eat - it was just what the doctor ordered after my morning's exertions.
Vertiginous Cliffs

Feeling refreshed I wandered down through Gorran Haven.  As with so many seaside places the smell of fish and chips was heavy in the air and there were seemingly hundreds of visitors to this little place.  In many respects these small Cornish villages get inundated during the summer months and they seem almost unable to cope.  Yet there is something about the mood and the excitement that I really enjoy as I walk through.  Largely the coast path is quiet so these encounters remain brief and I am soon out in solitude again.  In the case of Gorran Haven the whitewashed houses looked spiffing against the powder blue sky and you could almost be forgiven for thinking that you had been transported to the Mediterranean.

Chapel Point
As I climbed out of Gorran Haven I passed by the ubiquitous line of coastguard cottages and one of them had a wonderful old 1930s car parked outside.  It all looked a bit Famous Five I thought.  I wonder what the old coastguards would make of the gentrification of their houses?  The climb out of Gorran Haven was significant but eventually I reached a magnificent flat part of the coastline that afforded some great views out across Gorran Haven behind me to St Austell and the china clay quarries ahead.  I stopped here for a while to enjoy the view across St Austell Bay and found that I could see all the way to Rame Head, the headland that is at the outer reaches of Plymouth Harbour.  It was definitely worth being here on such a clear day!

First Glimpse of Mevagissey
My eye was drawn to Chapel Point down below my vantage point.  This was an impossibly pretty spot enhanced by the foresight of the developer who built some fine looking houses on the end.  It isn't often that something man-made enhances the landscape but it really did in this case.  I descended to the cove that the houses overlook and found a few people enjoying its peace and quiet.  I passed a National Trust sign saying Bodrugan's Leap.  Naturally this sparked my interest and I discovered that from here in 1487 it is said Sir Henry Bodrugan made a tremendous leap over the cliffs into a waiting boat and fled to France. He was being pursued by an army of Sir Richard Edgcumbe for treason.

After rounding the cove I caught my first sight of Mevagissey in the distance and I was pleased to see that it didn't seem too far away.  I had to negotiate the cove at Portmellion and passed by more places geared up to serve the tourists that come here.  It seems that any place of note on this stretch of coast is given over to beach activities with chips, ice creams and pubs available to anyone visiting.  Portmellion was no exception to that and as I passed through the competing smells of chips and roast dinners hit my nostrils.  The beach was surprisingly quiet although there were a few people messing around in boats and conversations were being held across the water from people in different boats.  Their days looked a lot more relaxing than mine!

I slogged up the hill out of Portmellion to make sure that I completed the path as far as Mevagissey (although the route shown in the Pathfinder Guide looked tempting) and at the top of the hill I jumped out of my skin as a bunch of boy racers came out of nowhere and roared past me.  I was thankful that I hadn't tempted to cross the road.  Seeing the direction they were headed they would have had no chance going at that speed for very much further for the roads through Mevagissey are extremely narrow.  
Portmellion Beach

Despite the fact that it had been four and a half years since I set off from Mevagissey for the onward leg to Par it felt  like no time had passed when I rounded the hill at the top to be greeted by the view over the harbour.  I like Mevagissey a lot - it really is one of the quintessential Cornish fishing villages and still has something of a fleet using the port.  I wandered right down to the harbour front and rewarded myself with a nice big ice cream and cold drink before contemplating the return leg to East Portlemouth.  It still seemed rather odd doing a loop like this - I'm not sure I would generally want to do it as I felt like the job was done at this point.

After sitting on the edge of the dock for a while enjoying the ambiance of Mevagissey and watching the comings and goings of the other visitors I summoned up the energy to wander up the hill back out of town the way I came.  At the top of the hill I looked for my onward path but didn't find it so went along an alternative route at the end of the road.  This took me down a tree covered lane and into Penwarne, a lovely looking farm that looks like it doubles as a holiday apartment complex.  I wandered through the deserted farm and then out into an open field where I met a woman that looked a bit lost.  She explained that she was looking for her son and I was almost as relieved as she was when he ambled over the field to be reunited with her.  I guessed that they were holidaying here and the son had decided to explore.
The Ship Inn

I pressed on really feeling the heat now that I had left the cooling breeze of the coast behind.  The cows in the field were clearly feeling it too as they had gathered in a shady corner of the field and didn't much like my presence when I passed them.  They looked at me as though I had something to do with the heat.  Eventually  I got to the bottom of the valley and passed by Galowras watermill where I entered a small wood.  Every section of path through woods was really valued now as the shade was so much more comfortable to walk through.

I had a nasty shock as I left the wood for ahead of me was perhaps the steepest climb of the whole four days of walking on this trip.   I puffed my way up, having to stop a couple of times on the way.  The thing that I found curious though was that the grass had recently been mown on this path.  I would not have liked to do that job, no matter the type of vehicle employed!  I was so thankful when I got to the top of the hill, a point marked by a large hedge with a hole in it that I had to go through.  It had an air of mystery that wasn't nearly so exciting as I imagined as beyond was just another grassy field.  Ahead was the large tower of Gorran Church, where I was headed next.

Gorran Church
On the way to the church I passed by yet another item lost by a fellow walker - this one looked like a GPS device although I didn't examine it very carefully.  It looked like an expensive loss though.  I wandered along the tree lined path to the church - a most attractive route.  By now I didn't have the energy to look inside the church but wandered by content to enjoy it from outside.  I crossed a busy road and passed by a pub that looked in good health despite the diminutive size of the village it served.  Thankfully road walking was at a minimum here and I soon crossed into fields.  In fact the onward path crossed a number of fields before reaching a road.  I passed a dog walker who clearly thought I was mad for she wondered if I was on my way to the pub.

Treveor Fishing Lake
I had a little road walking now but it wasn't too bad for there were no cars to worry about.  I soon reached the large farm of Treveor; one that had clearly diversified to good effect.  The main business was dairy farming and ice cream was also made here.  In the back of the farm was a campsite and down the road further it looked like they were digging out a fishing lake.  Good on them for giving people what they want.

Porthluney Cove
I felt now that I was on the home stretch for I turned off the road and headed down to the small but perfectly formed hamlet of Trevagarras.  The houses looked very pretty and a quiet haven away from the busy coast.  Yet for beach lovers it was only half a mile down to the beach at Porthluney Cove where I now returned several hours after I had passed this morning.  By now the beach was an awful lot busier than it had been and the car park was jam-packed.  The Pathfinder route stopped here but I still had the couple of  miles back to East Portlemouth to do.  This time I decided to climb via the road - that way I could deal with it quickly and know that when I got to the top it would be all downhill to the end.

East Portlemouth Beach
When I got to the top I could see the little watch house that I had passed by this morning.  I was amused to see that you could get married there - it would have to be quite a private ceremony as it is so small!  Climb over and I could enjoy the downhill back along the path that I had so enjoyed earlier in the day.  When I got back to East Portlemouth my boots were straight off  and I was on the beach giving my feet the cooling they deserved.  I think every walk should end this way!

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