18/8/2015 – Newquay to Perranporth (10.8mls)

Back in North Cornwall the plan was to walk from Newquay to Godrevy over 3 days, but the weather had other ideas!

We had booked a B&B Trevian Lodge in Perranporth for 3 nights, travelling down on the Monday afternoon so that we could walk Newquay to Perranporth on the Tuesday, Perranporth to Portreath on  the Wednesday, leaving a short walk from Porthreath to Godrevy on the Thursday before driving home. Trevian Lodge, run by Nick and Jenni, is an excellent B&B – we had the best room in the house with a huge bathroom and a view to the beach at Perranporth and overlooking the location of the former home of Winston Graham, Nampara Lodge. Everything was well thought out, no keys to worry about as all doors were key coded, good breakfasts and friendly service from Nick.

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On the first morning we set off after breakfast to catch the bus to Newquay. As we have found with many of these coastal walks, the buses go in, around and around and back out of villages and it is not always evident where the bus stop is – in this case there was just a rusty piece of metal sticking out horizontally from a lamppost – the main part of the sign having presumably dropped off some time ago. With only a handful of people on the bus, much time was spent touring the Perran Sands Holiday Centre where nobody got off and nobody got on, but eventually we got to Newquay where again we seemed to go around in circles until an old chap next to us, overhearing our confusion, suggested that we get off at the next stop!

The next challenge was to cross the river Gannel on the south side of Newquay. The official SWCP book lists 4 alternatives depending on the state of the tide, the wind and whether a cafe is open from where a ferry sometimes operates across from Pentire to Crantock Beach. Depending upon the crossing chosen the route can be shortened by 2 miles or extended by 4 miles. We opted for the official route which crosses a footbridge which ‘appears’ between 3 and 4 hours either side of low tide. The route from where we got off the bus took us through a housing estate and our first attempt to find the bridge took us down to the banks of the Gannel where we thought the bridge should be but – NO BRIDGE. Retracing our steps we spotted some SWCP stickers on lampposts which confused us even more until we asked a local man who looked at his watch and pronounced that the bridge would ‘appear’ in the next 10 minutes and showed us where to go. This was in fact very near where we had first tried but now, out of the rapidly receding tide, appeared a wooden causeway which people were starting to cross in bare feet …

Crossing the Gannel at Newquay

Crossing the Gannel at Newquay

On the other side of the river it was mud, but thankfully firm enough to walk across to the opposite bank where we were able to clean up and but our boots back on. Here we met a very friendly local lady with her family in tow who told us about the area and, most importantly from Fiona’s viewpoint, where there was a recommended cafe called “C-Bay” on the headland about a mile away. Walking up the estuary was a delight with magnificent views to the start of Crantock Beach where the ferry crosses from the Newquay side of the Gannel …

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The path then went away from the beach through The Rushy Green, huge sand dunes, and eventually rehugged the coast at the west end of Crantock Beach …

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… where we found the C-Bay, a former hotel and now luxury apartments. After a welcome cup of coffee and piece of cake we continued along the coast, past a quiet bay called Porth Joke which the SWCP guide says is an excellent place to eat lunch as long as you bring you own!, eventually rounding Kelsey Head to arrive at Holywell Beach…

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We had originally targetted finding some lunch here but neither of us was that hungry so we carried on to the top of the opposite headland where we had a biscuit, water and a lie down in the glorious afternoon  sunshine and admired the peace and calm of the view.

The next bit of the coastal path was not as attractive, skirting an army camp called Penhale Camp – lots of weird non-ionising radiation loops (or so the notices told us), communication aerials, nissen huts and other assorted buildings but not a soul in sight. The path here skirts the barbed wire of the camp and many fenced off disused mine shafts until at Ligger Point the first sight of the 3 mile stretch of Perran Beach appear …

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Once down on the beach it was just a boring hard slog along the beach – but probably better than following the sand dunes at the back of the beach. The reward at the end which kept us going was the thought of a pint at the beach bar in Perranporth! Being such a lovely day the beach was rammed with the Great British Public …

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Why they all congregated at this end, even right next to the big dustbins, when they had the whole 3 miles of beach to spread out in was beyond us. Looking at the state of many of them we suspect it is because they weren’t capable of walking any further and it would then of course be too far away from the bar and the chippy! – meow!!

On the whole we weren’t impressed with Perranporth – the main street consisted of ice cream shops, chip shops, trinket shops, surfing shops and an Indian restaurant. We did however find tucked away off Beach Road a very good bistro called The Willows which had a varied menu and friendly service, so we ate there every night of our 3 night stay.

An excellent and successful first day. We had been aware for a few days that the weather forecast for Wednesday was not good and we had even packed an extra days clothing in the expectation that if it was a washout we could do everything that we wanted to do over the following 2 days.

As expected, Wednesday started wet, not lashing down but steady, heavy drizzle which soaks within minutes. The main problem of staying in a B&B is that there is usually nowhere to sit and read when the weather is bad, other than ones bedroom, and after breakfast the owner wants the guests out so that rooms can be cleaned. We therefore ventured down with our books to the deserted town and found Chrissy’s Tea Rooms just about to open. We were the only two there so with 2 cups of coffee and a toasted teacake to share, we read our books and chatted to the cheerful lady owner. After a while, in small groups, the shop was suddenly packed with elderly locals, women on one side and some men on the other – knitting came out and there was a general buzz about the place. We were concerned, just reading our books, that the owner would kick us out, but NO, she appeared with the coffee pot, filled up our cups and said we could stay as long as we wanted. Eventually, we concluded that the rain was set for the day and therefore that we should get in the car and go somewhere so leaving the tea rooms to a chorus of goodbyes from the locals we went back to the B&B and off to the Lost Gardens of Heligan at St Austell.

Having been there several times in the 25 years since the gardens were discovered we were’t expecting anything new but it is always very interesting to tour the grounds and vegetable plots and fortunately the rain eased a bit shortly after we arrived. This year they have become licensed for weddings and as we arrived it was clear that there was a wedding that day – not the best day with the brides dress trailing along the muddy paths! One of the staff was telling us that Tim Smit’s daughter (Tim Smit was the originator of Heligan and also the Eden Project) was the first one to get married there earlier in the year, and it had rained then as well!

With all this uncertainty about the weather I had been constantly planning and replanning alternative bits of the planned walk – a tricky task involving much consultation of bus routes and times. In fact I reckon I will enter for Mastermind with the specialist subject of “The summer timetable for the #s 57, 86 and 87 buses around North Cornwall” – I’m worried I’m turning into a BOF! Anyway we woke up Thursday morning and, whilst not raining, we could hardly see the sea and, bearing in mind the forecast for Friday was equally uncertain, and the fact that 2 people had fallen off the coast path in the previous 24 hours, we decided to sack the rest of the walk and drive home straight after breakfast.

So, disappointing that we only did 11 miles instead of the planned 30 miles but we’ll just have try again next year – as long as they don’t change the bus timetables!!!

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