Cornwall Coast Path – Port Issac to Boscastle

Walked from: Port Issac
Walked to: Boscastle
Walked with: Annette
Distance: 14 long miles
Home for the night: The Wellington
Weather: Lots of it
Photos: Delabole Point / Jacket’s Point / Rocky Valley / looking back from Willapark

Today was a series of steep climbs and descents punctuated by a wide variety of weather conditions and random sights; tap dancing seagulls in Port Gaverne, (sea)foam parties in a large number of coves, and a castle reputed by some to be built on the birth place of King Arthur (where Annette and I might, just might, have had a pretend sword fight). It was also a day of walking through a very beautiful landscape with very few other people around – we didn’t see a soul for the first three and a half hours!

It should be noted that not all 14 miles are created equal. Some are really easy. This particular set of miles consisted of quite a lot of hard ones, exacerbated by the slowing effect of a pretty fierce winds – which would explain why it took us the best part of eight hours (less 40 minutes for lunch) to complete… As it’s still early February, that meant we rolled into pretty Boscastle right around the same time as dusk.

There are about four deep valleys in a row near Jacket’s Point where you suffer the heartache of climbing steeply out of one only to (almost immediately) begin your descent into the next. Cornwall has some harsh geographical features going on and they were in full evidence today. Tomorrow isn’t looking great either!!!

Luckily we were blessed with a pub at lunchtime today. Even better, it was nice – thank you for being there to The Port William pub in Trebarwith Strand; the lemonade was much needed, the pork burger was delicious and the wifi was pretty whizzy!

I had thought the post-lunch bit would be easier than the first half of the day, and the bit to Tintagel Head and the ruins of the castle was fairly straightforward, but I hadn’t noticed the National Trust’s ‘Rocky Valley’ on the map. Oh, and the rain came… But now I’m in my hotel, I’m clean and dry and I’m going for a beer. Good times. Who wouldn’t go on a walking holiday in Britain in February!

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Cornwall Coast Path – Rock to Port Issac

Walked from: Rock
Walked to: Port Issac
Walked with: Annette and Kat
Distance: 12 miles
Home for the night: The Slipway
Weather: Blowing old boots
Photos: Near Padstow Bay / Annette and Kat in action / stormy sea / bit more stormy sea

Who would be daft enough to go walking on the South West Coast Path in the middle of a long period of torrential rain, flooding and land slips? When the whole of the south west is cut off from the rest of the country because rail lines are either falling into the sea or submerged by flooding? Take a wild guess…

Anyway, context of the walk established, I can tell you that we actually had a fantastic day, thanks to spectacular scenery, stormy seas and the rain gods choosing, for this day only, to show their benevolent side.

We started by the Ferry at Rock (where a sign in the ladies toilets warned of the dangers of flushing tea bags down the pan; odd), quite quickly putting the calm waters of the bay behind us. By the time we got to the beach at Daymer Bay we were seeing the full on stormy sea in action, and although we had some beautiful rolling countryside off to our right it was hard to tear our eyes away from the waves crashing against the headland and each other – a stunning display of nature in all its furious glory.

Made it to Polzeath quite quickly, which looked bewilderingly like a dozen other Cornish seaside villages I’ve wandered into over the years, and then it was on to Pentire Point, still with views back to Padstow Bay. And while the wind was with us all day it really made its presence felt there. Which didn’t really help when the hail started its attack… Fair to say, the weather was a bit too exciting at times… Huge relief to get to beautiful Rumps Point and have the wind behind us again!

A short lunch stop by Lundy Bay (yes, Lundy from the Shipping Forecast – what fame! what celebrity!) to refuel and after having a nose at tiny little Doyden Castle (built by some rich guy in the 1800s to entertain his friends in) and taking the less hardcore path Port Issac we had ‘arrived at our final destination’ before 3pm. Which was why I really had to have a cream tea. Even though I don’t drink tea. Or like cream… Well, it is my holibobs…

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Cornwall Coastal Path – Gorran Haven to Charlestown

Walked from: Gorran Haven
Walked to: Charlestown
Walked with: Me!
Distance: 11 miles
Home for the night: T’Gallants Guesthouse
Weather: Dry, still, sunny later. Fab really.
Photo: View

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Fabulous walking today. Beautiful scenery, perfect weather.

I started off my day with a stomach lining breakfast made by Bob (who also paints some lovely, and very colourful, pictures) from Harbours Reach B&B. I can highly recommend both his hot chocolate and his scrambled eggs: delicious. Thanks Bob – I didn’t get hungry again until nearly 2pm!

The walk to Mevagissey was pretty straightforward, and I took my time chatting to couples I met along the way and admiring the still sea and dramatic green fields. There were also quite a lot of peeing sheep, but I don’t suppose it’s polite to talk about them. Not in any great detail anyway…

Mevagissey itself seems like a nice, if touristy, place to spend some time, and it does that picturesque thing very well. The walk from there to the little village of Pentewan was a little harder than my guidebook said it would be… But the walk up to Black Head which followed was easier than the authors had suggested: I reckon they must just have been tired by that point! I recommend the stone memorial to Cornish poet & historian AL Rowse (on the approach to Black Head) as a great spot to sit back and enjoy the sun while enjoying the consumption of a huge Cornish Pasty and 7up lunch.

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Cornwall Coastal Path – Falmouth to Gorran Haven

Walked from: Falmouth
Walked to: Gorran Haven
Walked with: Me, myself and I
Distance: 20 miles or so
Home for the night: Harbours Reach B&B
Weather: Wet
Photo: View from Prince of Wales Pier, Falmouth

I know from past experience not to plan 20 mile plus walking days in Cornwall. It’s too bumpy. And yet today I managed to plan a 23 mile trip along a stretch of coastline with quite a few ups and downs. When my B&B had given me a 5pm arrival deadline. I’m an idiot.

Started my long day by arriving at Truro, fresh off the sleeper train, just after 7am. Got onto the train to Falmouth and had breakfast there waiting for the first ferry of the day to take me to pretty St Mawes and then a second ferry (slight bigger than your average rowing boat, but not a lot in it) onto Place, where the days walk really started.

I’ll confess now, I started with a shortcut, skipping St Anthony Head in favour of walking straight to Killigerran Head, where my coastal walking ‘proper’ commenced.

Despite the fact that I was accompanied by rain and low-ish visibility, it was still clear to me that this part of Cornwall, the Roseland Peninsula, is very pretty indeed. I’d have taken all sorts of photos today, if it hadn’t a) been too wet to take my phone out and b) been for the fact that my phone died, unexpectedly as it had been claiming 15 per cent battery life just seconds before, as I was taking the ferry over to Place. That also meant that I had no idea at all what time it was all day…

Anyway, the walk into Portcatho was quick, easy and easy on the eye to boot. The path got a lot more undulating after that, with a series of short but steep climbs and descents on the approach to Nare Head (where I also managed to fall over in quite a spectacular fashion. No injuries but ended up with very muddy walking trousers. Oh, and of course I picked the one bit of the path where other people were around to witness it. Oh, how those workmen laughed…). By the time I got into Portloe I was pretty knackered – and still had nine miles to go. Good thing I was walking on my own today, because I’m pretty such that would have been the point where my normal walking buddies would have lynched me…

Still, Portloe turned out to have two things I really needed: a public loo (where I verified that yes, I actually was drenched through. Damn my so-called waterproofs) and a posh hotel/bar called the Lugger Hotel, where I drank a very welcome if eye-wateringly expensive pint of restorative lemonade (standing up – I was way too wet to sit on anything).

Got a bit confused about where to go heading out of Portloe but got there eventually and then it was on to West and East Portholland, where the seasonal cafe I’d been praying was open was very much shut. Woe was me: I’d have loved another drink at that point! I knew another cafe was coming up right by the entrance to the odd looking Caerhays castle… also closed. Boo. Eventually fell upon a lone bench just past the standing stone looking down on Pothluney Cove and sat there aching and chain eating chocolate biscuits for a restorative while.

Spotting fellow humans at the beach before the climb up to Penare, I ascertained it was 4pm and not the 3pm I’d been guesstimating, and decided to cut a mile off the walk by only seeing the Stone Cross at Dodman Point from a distance, and walked across the headland by Penare rather than go all the way round it.

My final weary-legged approach into Gorran Haven took me past Vault Beach and Maenease Point, all very picturesque and, most importantly dry – I walked the last hour of my otherwise soggy journey in sunshine!

A mainly wet and demandingly long day but I loved it. And slept really, really well.

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Coast to Coast, Day 14

When – Friday 17 May 2013
Where – Glaisdale to Robin Hood’s Bay
Distance – 19 miles
Walking with – Annette, Dr Dave & Original Steve
Home for the night – Northcliff B&B
Weather – Dry. And in the morning it was even sunny. Bonus!

Fourteen days and 200 miles away from where we started, Annette, I, and a gaggle of great people we’ve met along the way finished the Coast to Coast walk today. Apparently around 7,000 people a year think it’s a good idea to walk across the north of England on a two week or so holiday. Around 30 of us finished it today, having spent the last two weeks bumping into each other in pubs or on the trail, swapping C2C gossip and tall tales (count yourself lucky I never told you the tale of Barry and what happened to his chaffing underpants) as we went. It’s been fabulous. Even the bits where I walked freezing cold and utterly sodden, in fog, for hours on end. Here’s how the last day went…

It was only fitting that Annette and I did our final walk of the trip in the very good company of Dr Dave & Original Steve, who we first met on Day 1, climbing up Dent Hill on our approach to the Lake District. With 19 miles left to cover we set out shortly before 9am with some sunshine and blue skies turning out to accompany us on our way.

A very pretty walk, much of it along the River Esk or through forest, took us through the picture postcard villages of Egton Bridge and Grosmont, where the Whitby to Pickering steam train was ‘snapped’ as we waited by the railway crossing. A steep but satisfying climb up a quiet road took us back up onto the moors again – and what a view from Sleights Moor. Stunning. Photos were taken and one of them is below. More moor (tee hee) walking took us down to Littlebeck, where we stopped for cake by a bench, and where Dr Dave got to use his Swiss Army knife for the first and only time on the walk to cut Annette’s cake. I’m pleased to report that the operation was a complete success.

We only gave ourselves about 30 minutes of walking between there and the lovely outdoor tea rooms at Falling Floss, where we felt compelled to stop again (and where we saw the Gang of 15, having originally said what we thought were our farewells to them a few days before). WHAT a 30 minute walk though – Little Beck Wood is enchanting, with waterfalls, a hermitage and, I swear, if you look hard enough, you’ll find pixies and fairies in those woods too.

After the woods came another climb and then we were up on Sneaton Low Moor, which we thought was a bit boggy: until we got to Graystone Hills, which is actually a moor. A very boggy moor. ‘Walk on water’ Original Steve seemed to get across unscathed (or so he KEPT telling us), and Dr Dave didn’t do too badly. Annette and I? We did less well, and apparently my exclamations as I repeatedly sunk into the bog were just a long line of expletives. Luckily no swear box was in sight, otherwise I’d have been bankrupt. Suffice to say, the last bit of my walk didn’t involve dry boots.

After 10 minutes of trying to figure out where the footpath was we headed down a farmland track and then by road to Low Hawsker and then High Hawsker… where we stopped for our third refuelling break of the day at a tea room by the holiday camp. Yup, the four of us were on our final victory lap of the C2C relay, giddy on the excitement of being so close to finishing, and we were ‘tea-stopping’ at every opportunity. Although that may be me interpreting that through a Ibuprofen haze – funny how they never seem to talk about left shin injuries with professional sportspeople. Bet they have some fancy name for it. Anyway, it was hurting a bit by that point, and Dr Dave prescribed more drugs as the answer to my woes.

Right after the caravan park was… (Cue drumroll) the North Sea – our final cliff top approach to Robin Hood’s Bay and Wainwright’s Bar at the Bay Hotel. After two weeks of walking it was a slightly surreal experience to be walking down into Bay (as the locals call it), to be greeted on arrival by many of our new walking friends we met along the way (a lot of whom were, of course, called Steve).

As we strolled down to the beach for the ceremonial dipping of our boots in the sea, Dr Dave and Annette suddenly made a run for it, beating Original Steve to the finish in the closing moments of our 200 mile walk. Very, very funny. We were lucky enough to get the moment – along with some shots on the beach, captured by photographer Steve, who really truly is a proper photographer.

More photos, then the Gang of 15 disappeared up the road to their bus and we went to the pub for a beer. And then another beer. Our long walk was over. The shin will heal but the memories will last a lifetime. Thank you to everyone who has spent the last two weeks walking the Coast to Coast. You are some of the kindest, best humoured, & most wonderfully eccentric people I’ve ever met, and I had an absolute ball.

Photos, from top to bottom: the view from Sleights Moor, our first cake break of the day, the first view of Robin Hood’s Bay, Dr Dave & Annette making a dash for the sea, (left to right) Original Steve, Dr Dave, me and Annette dipping our boots in the sea, True Bromance – Photographer Steve (left) & Australian Steve (right), The Gang of 15 heading off for a final time.

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Coast to Coast, Day 13

When – 16 May 2013
Where – Clay Bank Top to Glaisdale
Distance – 18.5 miles
Walking with – Annette
Home for the night – The Arncliffe Arms
Weather – Sunny. Not a drop of rain. Incredibly good visibility.

Yesterday may have been mist-magedon, but as is often the case with Britain weather, today was another story entirely. Blue sky, sunshine, hardly any wind and incredible views. It was, in fact, a perfect walking day. It was a day to walk until your feet drop off. Which is why Annette and I changed plan and walked 18.5 miles instead of the 8.5 we had originally planned, and why tomorrow will now be our last day on the Coast to Coast.

I’ve cycled through the North York Moors before, and it was a bit soul destroying – the thrill of the downhill ride diminished by knowing you were about to have to gain all that height all over again. And I didn’t come away with a real sense of how beautiful the moors are. Today I got what an absolutely stunning part of the country they are. It was, I think, my favourite day of the walk along with the stroll along St Sunday’s Crag.

We set off from Clay Bank Tops shortly after 8.30am, climbing for the first 15 minutes or so. And then we were on top. Looking back we could see just how stunning the mist-hidden countryside was that we’d passed through yesterday, and what a fabulous day of walking we had in front of us.

After 12 days of walking, today’s route was a treat; wide, smooth tracks, much of it on a former rail line made for easy walking all the way – we seemed to fly along Carr Ridge, Urra Moor, Bloworth Crossing and Farndale Moor. No map reading required, just the ability to keep putting one foot in front of another and to repeatedly comment on the beauty of your surroundings. A picture tells a thousand stories, so I’m going to leave it to the ones below to give you the general idea.

Our next moor was High Blakey, where we stopped for a lemonade at the very nice Lion Inn, the fourth highest inn in Britain. Bumped into the very funny Andy and Laura there, last seen in Richmond. A bit of road walking later and we met up again at Fat Betty, a squat looking white marker where tradition dictates you should leave a food offering and take one in return. We walked along with them a little further, catching our first glimpse of the North Sea (cue moment of great pride as I realised I really have almost walked all the way across the country) but Annette and I were determined our lunch stop needed to be in Great Fryup Dale, so we stopped on a stone bench by an old building called Trough House.

The final couple of hours walking along Glaisdale High Moor and then Glaisdale Moor were still beautiful, but to honest I was tired by then and although the footpaths were still very clear, they were a tad more stony, requiring more attention. The final walk down through Glaisdale village may only have been a mile but I swear it took forever – for the first time on this walk, I was properly, comprehensively knackered. I couldn’t even finish my second pint of beer. It was 8pm and my bed was calling, loud and very, very clear!

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Coast to Coast, Day 12

When – 15 May 2013
Where – Osmotherley to Clay Bank Top
Distance – 13.5 miles
Walking with – Annette, and later on Dr Dave and Original Steve
Home for the night – Newlands House B&B, Great Broughton
Weather – Absolutely pissed it down. Mist. Wind. You get the picture.

Today could, even should, have been a whole lot worse than it was. As I starred out of my hostel window at the pouring down rain I lamented my failure to bring my waterproof trousers with me and consigned myself to the fact that I was going to be wet and cold all day.

And then a miracle happened – Annette met me by the start of the walk with a pair of waterproof trousers! Given to her, to pass on to me, by Steve the photographer! AMAZING! My day picked up right then and there. Then Annette told me she’d seen our two original Coast to Coast walking buddies, Dr Dave and Original Steve (so named because he was the first in the long-line of Steves we’ve encountered on our cross country trip) in the village and that we were all headed to the same place tonight. Fab! We thought we’d lost all our C2C buddies after saying goodbye to the Gang of 15, but no, there were the first two people we’d met and walked with on the very first day, a week after we’d last seen them in Shap.

Quickly pulling on the best present in the world ever (AKA the magically appearing waterproof over trousers), we set off into the rain and mist back up the hill to Arncliffe Wood. I won’t bore you with lengthy descriptions of the beautiful Scarth Wood Moor, the forest we walked through or Huthwaite Green. Because we couldn’t sodding see anything. You’ll note, in fact, that all the pictures below (taken when the rain abated enough to risk getting my iPhone out for a second) have a certain, um, ‘misty’ quality to them.

On the steady climb up to Live Moor we spotted two familiar looking backpacks on the backs of two equally rain-sodden walkers ahead of us – Dr Dave & Original Steve. Hurrah! Misery may love company but so does One Woman and Her Maps, and the waterproof trousers meant that I was actually in a pretty good mood – despite a nagging ache in my left shin that I am continuing to be very brave about.

Together the four of us walked the largely flagstone-like paved route across Live Moor and Carlton Moor, pausing occasionally at what was supposed to be a great view point to giggle and make ironic comments as we peered into the mist and cloud that surrounded us. ‘Great views east and north to Middlesbrough and the North Sea’ promised the Coast to Coast path Trailerblazer Guide. ‘Not sodding likely’ proclaimed we, as the rain and cold wind continued its assault on our sanity.

Even the building site where a cafe used to be (Lord Stones Cafe is no more, Coast to Coasters) couldn’t dampen my spirits, and teamwork meant we did eventually locate the path behind the pile of sand and dirt the builders were obviously trying to put us off track with. The climb up to Kirby Bank was a great way of warming up a bit, and I’m kind of glad we couldn’t see down as the glimpses I got from the edge seemed to suggest a pretty vertiginous drop…

A steep descent and a bit of a climb later and we were at the Wain Stones, a striking looking outcrop of rocks you’ll see in one of the photos below. What you won’t see in the picture is the four of us going slightly off-track trying to find our way around the stones and doing a bit of scrambling on a very narrow path. Or the startled look on the faces of the group of schoolchildren who were suddenly confronted with Steve emerging from the mist, seemingly from nowhere, shouting ‘Here’s the path’…

A short walk along Hasty Bank, another steep climb down and we’d reached our destination for the day: Clay Bank Tops. Dr Dave & Original Steve were being picked up from there, but despite their best efforts couldn’t persuade their B&B to give us a lift too, so Annette and I hot-footed it the 2.5 miles downhill into Great Broughton where we were staying. A blissfully hot shower and change into (all) my dry clothes later, and we headed to the local pub where I managed to drink four pints without them really touching the sides, have dinner and meet the two maddest Coast-to-Coasters of our trip, Andy and Yogi. They are walking the C2C in seven bonkers days, carrying 25k rucksacks (they say – I tried to pick one up and think it was heavier) with them as they go. Impressive? Insane? Both. Clearly they are both ridiculously fit, but, from the number of times they’ve got lost, I’d also say they are crap at map reading. They reckon they may have walked 300 miles instead of 200 by the time they get to Robin Hoods Bay. Sounds about right! It’s not just the places making this trip, it’s also the people, and we’ve been meeting some brilliantly bonkers ones.

Photos from top to bottom: the wood climbing back out of Osmotherley, Annette emerging from the mist, Original Steve and Annette walking towards the Wain Stones, Original Steve looking on in bemusement at one of the many fire risk posters we encountered on the walk

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