I’m writing this sat in a warm coffee shop on the main street out of Falmouth, rain impacting the full length windows as an elderly local shakes the drops of his flat cap as he walks to the counter. I’ve been here since Thursday night, 4.5 days ago now, which is exactly the time it took me to complete the first leg of my journey.
The 80 miles from Plymouth to Falmouth were so much more inspiring than I’d ever have thought. Rightly or wrongly, I had an image that this section of the walk was purely a functional one; it would get me to a point where I could then begin to surf and explore and experience all the coastline has to offer. I was so very wrong. From the moment I stepped off the ferry at Cremyll and started my walk through Mount Edgecombe Country Park, every mile was different. In the first day alone I began in cultured gardens, grading into dense and lush forests containing inaccessible inlets and coves before emerging onto the barren, open and wild peninsula of Rame Head where the only life was that of the gorse bushes in full yellowing bloom. Rounding the corner and dropping into the lee of the wind, the sun shone through the clouds casting iridescent rays onto the gently textured ocean. The scene ahead was vast. With views extending back down the peninsula to Whitsand Bay and onward to Seaton and Looe, eyes struggled to define any real structure and all that was left was a silhouetted outline of the coastscape during a dramatic and beautiful sunset.
All this on day 1, and it was a theme that would continue all the way until Falmouth. As you walk out of the pleasant town of Looe in the wake of St George’s Island, the next section of the coast path climbs around the corner to reveal Talland Bay. Nestled between two protruding sections of cliff, the bay is secluded and felt decidedly warm when sheltered from the stiff easterly that hugged the coastline this day. The bay is a mixture of sand and rocky bottom, giving the water texture and colour that lends itself more to a painting than actuality. Wild flowers line the path and an abundance of butterflies take advantage of the shelter to flitter in the warmth of the spring sunshine.
A short jaunt around the coast yields the harbour of Polperro. I managed to find a room in the quaint Penryn House Hotel situated at the top of the town, and what struck me most was the quiet. All that could be heard was the sound of birdsong and swell from the distant ocean as the sun descended behind the cliff above. Greeted by Anna, we discussed the day’s walk and what lay ahead before she recommended a pub for the evening and showed me everything I could need during my stay.
There was a welcoming atmosphere to the whole town, and grabbing my camera I staggered through the aches and pains down to the waterfront to snap the picture perfect harbour setting. Polperro has to be one of the most beautiful towns in Cornwall. Working fisherman clean their boats on the low tide and the bustle of the local pub rings out across the harbour as people discuss anything and everything about the days past. Succumbing to fatigue, I limp back up the hill in preparation for tomorrow and what was likely to be one of the hardest stretches of the path yet.
This town has everything; a beautiful setting, harbour-front restaurants and pubs and an atmosphere that mixes a working harbour and holiday vibes. Independent bakeries and boutique shops line the winding and tight streets that are pedestrianised due to their inaccessibility. It is a ‘must visit’ for anyone seeking that quintessential Cornish town, and I will most certainly be venturing back to stay there again.
Wandering through the towns of Fowey, Charlestown and Mevagissey over the next two days, more unrivalled scenery accompanied quaint little harbour villages that disrupt the coastal route along open and wild cliffs. As Thursday came round, and feeling rested from a night in the YHA at Boswinger, I made good early progress before stopping for lunch in Portloe. The path was tough going but I had my sights on Portscatho, a small town about 5 miles walk from the Place Ferry to St Mawes and onward to Falmouth, the end of this leg of the journey. My morning motivation was low, but gradually grew as my knees became warmer and walking became easier. I made Portscatho at about 4.45pm, and with one eye on St Anthony’s head in the distance and another on the evenings weather forecast, I decided to push on and try to make Falmouth this evening. What I didn’t expect was just how beautiful this final section was to be.
I approached the Roseland and St Anthony’s head having already covered 14 miles of the path that day. The path climbs and then descends in and out of fields giving way to the sands of two main beaches on the southeast of the headland. As you cut back on yourself the contrasting setting is such that you could be forgiven for mistaking this for a whole new section of coast.
The waters become calm and clear and the lush growth of plants return in shelter of the prevailing weather. Each cove provides something new, and breathtakingly refreshing. Stopping on the wooden footbridge a mile out from the ferry landing, the water is so clear that you can clearly define the ripples in the sand metres below the surface. The neighbouring views over St Mawes and Pendennis Point provide a decorative backdrop to the countless sail boats and shuttling ferries running through Falmouth Bay. It is amazing how the start and end to this whole section of path is so similar. From the Rame Peninsula isolated from Plymouth, to the wild and barren Roseland just a stones-throw from Falmouth, both sections of this coast lay quiet and pristine overlooking their contrasting counterparts. It is a beautiful way to finish this section of the walk; a quiet and remote coastline that shows that with willing and a little adventurous spirit some of the most inspiring parts of our coastline are sometimes a lot closer than we think.
Knees sore, back stiff, and all my clothes in dire need of a wash, I arrived in Falmouth just after 9pm and slept like never before. 80 miles in 4.5 days. I was pleased with that, but now I needed calm and to focus on why I am actually here. The next stage of the journey is completely the opposite of what I’ve done so far. It is about taking it slow, experiencing every single cove, surfing every wave, and of course finding every pub and cafe along the route too (I wonder if anyone has ever stopped at every single one…?).
Inclement weather is in the forecast, and I knew I had been too lucky so far with the sunshine and warmth of early May. This next few days promises to be testing, wild, open and exposed but with a surfboard by my side and a wetsuit in my bag, I hope it will be equally as enjoyable and inspiring as the 80 miles previous.
Wish me luck, for now I’m going to finish this coffee and look at what is to come.