Potthallow to Falmouth
“In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Porthallow in the morning is a symphony of grey beach and grey sky.
And there’s a strange apparition on the shingle.
But I’m up and away and heading for the vivid green uplands I can see from the seashore.
I leave by some concrete steps, passing John’s weather forecast.
The stone is dry and it is indeed not raining! Impressive.
I soon discover that the Path has some surprises in store for me today. Some wag has moved the sign for the Coast Path, sending me immediately inland on a pointless hike along the road.
When I realise the mistake, I’m reluctant to turn back. It’s always unwelcome to retrace your steps. I’ve just climbed a hill. I’m tempted instead to press on and work my way back to the Path further along.
I should heed Philip Marsden’s advice, when he wanders into a bog in Cornwall:
“The logic is always to go on – hopping boldly from tussock to tussock, even as the tussocks grow further apart, as they quiver at your footfall. It is a logic that should be firmly resisted: Retrace your steps! Go the long way!“
I fail to resist the logic, and I spend half an hour tramping through cow fields, climbing fences, doubling back and consulting the map with increasing desperation.
Eventually, more by luck than craft, I find myself on a hill above Gillan Creek and scramble down a steep slope, through bushes and nettles, to emerge back on the treacherous Path. At this point it is a narrow dirt track between hedges, overlooking a bucolic inlet.
Within 300 yards, another lapsed cliff sends me on yet another detour a mile inland. (Incidentally, this is the 5th or 6th such detour on this trip alone. I’d better hurry up and complete the coast path, while it’s still there.)
Having trekked inland, I now face another dilemma: it’s a mile back out to the mouth of Gillan Creek. But there is no guarantee that the tide will be low enough to cross the Creek on its stepping stones. If the tide is too high, I’ll need to schlep back the same way to where I am now. The alternative is to plot an inland route to Helford.
I take the easy option. So far, in about ninety minutes’ walking, I’ve been on the actual Path for maybe three minutes.
I walk along the road to the pretty village of Manaccan, which has a church, thatched cottages and a beguiling pub (for which I am sadly too early).
I then continue on a path through a cornfield and then woodland, to the equally pretty hamlet of Helford.
Helford sits at the mouth of a small creek at the side of the Helford estuary. This is packed with sailing boats, and looks glorious this morning.
At a small jetty, I have to open a brightly-coloured wooden board to summon the ferry, which duly appears from the other side of the river, and carries me across.
I’m still too early for lunch, so I limit myself to a coffee and pastry in the popular, busy and extremely welcoming Ferryboat Inn.
It’s a lovely spot, where I could happily spend longer: a tranquil expanse of calm river, fringed with wooded hills. But plenty of people messing about in boats, kids in bright life jackets, people paddling kayaks.
I head off, through fields and gorse, with low trees between me and the river. I pass Trebah and Glendurgan gardens, both of which I have visited with the garden-loving Boss, on family holidays.
I soon reach Toll Head, a high ridge which shelters the bay, no doubt contributing to the sub-tropical conditions that help the gardens flourish.
I love this area. When I have visited in the past it has always stuck in my mind, and I once used it in a science fiction story – Once There Was a Way.
Through a heavily-wooded glade on slopes above the sea, and out onto easy grassed slopes approaching Rosemullion Head.
The sea is very calm, like the surface of a village pond.
A lonely sailing boat off the coast looks impossibly romantic.
Now that I’m back on the Path, and making good progress, I regain my Zen. Offered the choice of a short path across the headland, or a longer route around it, I opt for the scenic route around.
But somehow, on the far side, the devious Path gives me the slip again, and I find myself on an imposter footpath that takes me inland. I encounter a road, and consult the map, to find I’m half a mile off-track.
It’s a coast path. How hard can it be to stay on it? I should only need to keep the sea on my right.
Along more roads, arriving at last in Maenporth, where I eat lunch on the beach, among chilly holidaymakers enjoying a palpably end of summer day at the beach under a sky of slate.
I have again done the bulk of the day’s miles before lunch, and afterwards it’s easy walking as I approach Falmouth.
I arrive in Falmouth late in the afternoon. I’m tired from my four days of walking. So, of course, I’m thrilled with one feature of the town.
But more pleased with the discovery of the establishment called Beerwolf Books.
It’s a bookshop.
And a pub.
We need one of these in Lewisham.