My family have started a challenge to walk the whole of the South West Coast Path. So far we have had 13 visits down there and completed 372.5 miles. Various members of my family join us but my son, Scott, and I are the ones that have done every leg so far. This September we fitted in a quick visit of 4 nights and continued our walk.
Charlestown – Polruan (10 miles)
We stayed at The Seaview Holiday Village in Polperro. (A special offer rate from the Daily Mail meant that we booked 4 nights for only £60 total). We drove down and the chalet we were allocated was spacious (albeit a bit bare and “beige”). However it was ideal for our next leg of the walk. We finished our last walk in Charlestown and so after a good nights sleep we headed off in the car and parked in a car park in Polruan. We then got the ferry over to Fowey and I have to say that the towns of Polruan and Fowey, on either side of the river are the most stunning towns we have come across so far. This part of the Coast Path was the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier, Kenneth Grahame and many other writers and artists. It was a lovely ferry ride and once landed we headed to the bus stop and caught the bus to Charleston to start walking again. It was about a 40 minute ride but when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised by the lovely old harbour in Charlestown. Very authentic and olde-worlde it is relatively untouched by development and even has tall ships there. Supposedly it has been
used as a film location for years. The Eagle Has Landed, Poldark and The Onedin Line were some of the productions it was used for. After a quick walk around the harbour we headed off and today was relatively easy walking. It was mainly along cliff tops with the rare ascent and descent to compete with. (Anyone reading my last review will remember that we were, last time, carrying all our worldly goods on our backs and attempting about 14 miles a day!) I am pleased to say this time we only needed to carry small bags with water bottles etc as we were returning to the same location each night. This made it so much easier for me especially and, after the long hikes from last time 10 miles felt like a doddle (well maybe not a doddle but easier!). We passed Carlyon Bay with it’s great expanse of sand. We had to walk through a very busy golf course with sheer cliffs on one side and the chance of being hit on the head with a flying golf ball making this the most perilous part of the Path we have encountered! We passed the remnants of the China Clay industry and had to follow the road through Parr and then back onto the coast past the impressive Parr Sands. The next village we passed was Polkerris which is yet another perfect Cornish fishing village and once past this we zig zagged up to Gribben Head. There is a Day Mark (like a lighthouse with no light) which is a red and white candy striped 84 foot tower built in 1832 to enable sailors to distinguish the Gribben from the other South Cornish headlands. We did a quick detour up to look at this and then headed down into Polridmouth which is situated between two sandy coves with a lake behind it. The beach house behind the Easterley Cove is the building that gave Daphne du Maurier the inspiration for Rebecca. (Manderley is based on Menabilly, a village up the valley, where the author lived for years.) The Path then passed through some picturesque woods and through Readymoney Cove. We were then back in Fowey and another nice ferry ride across the river saw us reunited with our car in Polruan. It was an easy walk and the weather had been amazingly hot. Some of the view points were spectacular and it is probably one of the prettiest walks we have done on the Path so far.
Polruan – Polperro (7 miles)
What a difference a day makes! We woke up this morning to pouring rain and grey misty clouds. When we do drive down to do our walking, it becomes like a military manoeuvre to work out where to catch buses or leave the car etc. Today we had discovered that a bus went from outside our Holiday Village to Polruan so we left the car and wearing our wet gear waited for the promised bus! It was on time but sailed right past us! The driver waved and shook his head. What did that mean? We were trying to come up with a Plan B and thinking about going back to get the car when, 5 minutes later, the bus appeared again! It seems he had previously had some school children on the bus and could not pick up passengers when there were children on the bus! (Living in London myself, I am very spoilt when it comes to public transport and do not know how people manage on public transport in rural places like Cornwall, it seems that the drivers make up their own rules and sometimes, when there are only 2 buses a day, they just decide not to run one! It amazes me! Also when we got on the bus we paid for two tickets (bus fares are so expensive down there!) and I jokingly said it was a shame it wasn’t gone 9.30 so I could use my bus pass and the driver said “Oh, I would have taken it anyway, we don’t take any notice of that 9.30 rule down here!”. Unfortunately we had paid by card so couldn’t get a refund!) But enough of me ranting about rural buses, we arrived in Polruan and started off on the Path again.
The weather was so bad today. I would like to describe the walk but to be honest all I saw were crashing waves and wind driven rain that sprayed into our faces like little hail stones. My son had to keep grabbing hold of me to stop me being blown over. Luckily the wind was blowing inland otherwise I may very well have gone over the cliffs and not been here to write this review! Where the path went downwards it was like walking through a running stream and it wasn’t long before our boots were sodden. It took us about 4.5 hours to walk 7 miles. The Guide Book says this is one of the finest stretches of walking between Falmouth and Exmouth but I will have to take their word for it. The dramatic crashing waves and enormous spray was quite awesome and despite being soaked through to my underwear it was very bracing! Part of the route was through National Trust Land at Bottle Neck Rock. Then the path dipped down to Lantic Bay then up again to Pancarrow Head which I found very confusing as we were then on a headland with water on both sides and I really struggled to think what way we were heading! (I think this is why my son insists on accompanying me on this venture, left to my very bad navigational skills, without him I might have headed back the way we had just come!) We also came across group of wild horses blocking the path and trying to encourage them to vacate the path for us was a little tricky! We saw another Day Mark (a white one this time) in the distance and then Polperro came into sight. It had stopped raining by then but we squelched our way through the town. The tide was out and I understand that it looks much nicer when the tide is in as all the little waterfront houses then look like they are floating on the water. It was a lovely little place and, had we not been dripping all over the place we might have stopped at one of the little pubs there. Instead we climbed up the other side of the town and found our way back to our Holiday Village. A warm shower had never been more welcome!
Polperro – Looe (5.5 miles)
We woke up to sunshine again (although more rain had been predicted). We just had to walk back down into Polperro Town to join the Path this morning and we had a really easy amble today. The first thing we passed was the War Memorial shared by Polperro and Tolland at Downend Point. As we came into Tolland Bay there was a little café and then we passed on to the smaller Talland Bay East. The views down from the cliffs were stunning, flat dark rocks where we kept trying to see seals (but didn’t spot any). We stopped on the beach for a picnic opposite St George’s Island (also known as Looe Island) which is a Cornwall Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve and you can hire a boat to take you out there. We then continued along the Coast Path into Hannafore and saw, in a field, the remains of the Chapel of Lamanna which was built by the Monks of Glastonbury in the 1100’s. It was then a one mile walk into Looe. There is a bridge that divides the East and the West and it is very picturesque. Then the heavens opened! We found a nice pub for a pub lunch (The Black Swan) and then later got the bus back to the Holiday Village. A very easy walk today so we didn’t feel too tired or achy this evening.
The next day the weather had turned bad again so we decided to head straight back to London. We did 22.5 miles on this trip so we have done 395 miles so far.. just another 235 to do!