Seven of us have taken the words of John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist, to heart. We’re hiking (and eating) our way along the Southwest Cornwall coast of England. We began a week ago in Falmouth, a lively tourist enclave and busy working port.
To reach the coast path, we rode two ferries, the first one, the Tamar Belle, took about 20 minutes. The Captain stayed up top, holding his adorable dog. I had hoped he might let us take care of the dog while he captained the boat.
Instead, we got a talkative Irish man who opened his mouth and didn’t stop until we parted company in St Mawes, a smidgeon of a water town.
We waited only a few minutes for the next boat—slightly bigger than a rowboat. Maximum of 12 passengers at a time for the 5 minute ride, where he let us out onto a floating dock, from where we finally put our boots on the ground at close to 11:00 am.
We decided to head to St Andrews Head for lunch. First stop was the little church behind the huge Dalton family mansion, Place House. Approaching the church on a shady lane, we walked between old and new graves, the old headstones leaning precariously.
The church is beautiful, ancient—some of it even from medieval times. From the church we went up steps into the woods, a sun-dappled lane soon took us over toward the shoreline that we followed the rest of the day.
The trail is well maintained by The National Trust. Everything is so green, then punctuated by so many beautiful wild flowers, especially lush purple rhododendron.
Though the distance was only about 2 miles, it took til 12:30 to reach the observation point above the lighthouse at St Andrews Head. The continuous ups/downs made me feel out of shape and every day of 68 years. I felt occasional despair, just wanting to ‘get there.’ Nevertheless, I loved the wide-open, grassy part of the trail that led down toward the water.
Approaching the headland, we had an uphill slog to get to the Car Park, a few cottages, and at last the bathroom in a bunker!The observation point is also a military bunker. We plopped down on the ground by it for lunch with a glorious, 300-degree view of the beautiful blue water, that we’re quickly becoming used to on our right as we walk.There was a handicapped-accessible path to the observation point. I have to believe that’s to be sure the WW II vets can go there. That war is still so much a part of the landscape in England and the rest of Europe. We’re basically just across the English Channel from Normandy in northern France.
There was a handicapped-accessible path to the observation point. I have to believe that’s to be sure the WW II vets can go there. That war is still so much a part of the landscape in England and the rest of Europe. We’re basically just across the English Channel from Normandy in northern France.
We realized at lunch that we had another 4 miles to reach Porthscatho, our destination for the day. This stretch felt the most like a slog to me, though it was incredibly beautiful– azure water on the right, a profusion of wild flowers on the left, often with ‘rampant vegetation’ closing in around our legs on the trail.
There are lots of people walking their dogs along this trail. Here we are, over-prepared in all our gear, hiking boots, poles, long pants, big backpacks, contrasted with day trippers in street clothes, nice shoes, often rather dressy looking. Proper English middle-aged couples cruising along.
I think they’re walking as far as we are, they aren’t even carrying water, which is the heaviest part of my backpack.
The weather was perfect. Bright sunlight all day, mixed with constant wind which was actually welcome because of the intense sun and how hard we were working to cover the trail.
Most of the time we were walking along dramatic, high cliffs. Occasionally the trail took us down to the water’s edge, but not often. At one point, we caught site of a kestral riding the wind currents. It had orange feathers above, black below. He harnessed the wind and stayed still in one spot, letting the wind hold him up. At one point, he dropped his altitude, repositioned to face the wind to hitch a second ride. We were hypnotized watching him dance on the wind.
Shortly after that, Mary pointed out how the wind was making an emerald field of wheat undulate sensually on our left. It looked like velvet—magical!
It was a varied, beautiful hike and we were all exhausted when we finally reached the cottage at Pencabe, with its colorful flower garden leading up to it. On our left, our book predicted: “where a sudden left turn reveals the village of Portscatho.”
We had been hoping for that ‘revelation for at least two hours. We gleefully reached the Plume of Feathers pub for a celebratory beer.
It was a perfect place to wait for our ride to take us to our guest house in Veryan, a short (but not walkable) distance away.
Veryan is an inland village with a welcoming vibe that we couldn’t resist, and especially the warm hospitality of Tim and Heather at Treverbyn House. www.treverbyn.co.uk