Marazion to Porthleven

Today we started off doing field edges, then spent some time trekking over rocks, then we found a café at Praa Sands open for lunch. Some nice clifftop walking dotted with gorse, heather and a sprinkling of industrial archaeology, followed by a descent into the pretty little fishing port that is Porthleven. Tiring but uneventful, crowned by a B&B landlady who confiscated our boots on arrival.

The path is not wholly without interest, of course. Prussia Cove sounds like it ought to be a Daphne du Maurier novel, alongside Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek. It’s not – it’s a confusing place consisting of two coves, neither called Prussia, and a spattering of buildings which presumably bear the name, but which could hardly be described as a settlement. The path becomes confusing here too and we made it through accurately by very close reading of the South West Coast Path Association trail guide and by following the fat snake of cables laid down by a TV company filming there. A last surprise awaits as, just when you think you are through and out the other side, you find yourself in a sort of ampitheatre, a sunken circle with a tall curved house pressing down on you on each side.

Almost the first thing you come across when you reach Praa Sands is a cafe, and we needed no persuasion to stop and put our feet up on the benches in its garden. The remarkably good-humoured youth serving was happy to bring us an endless supply of chips and cold drinks and then he and his mother – who was cooking – reminisced about taking part in the John’o’Groats to Land’s End charity walks done by cricketer Ian Botham. Andy took a business card for the cafe but his since lost it, so cannot confirm his memory that the name of the cafe suggested it was owned by a former England teammate of Botham’s which would explain the link to him.

Wheal Prosper is that rare thing, a mine engine house on Cornwall’s south coast. It’s a fine sight, but not an unfamiliar one. Less familiar is the view increasingly coming into focus – the dark rock and brooding flatness of the Lizard peninsular. One very bloody obstacle before it is Trequean Cliff, a drop of quite unnecessary steepness that makes you want to ring for a helicopter when you reach the bottom and are faced with an immediate climb back up.

But despite these moments of interest, it’s fair to say we have had days that have contained more to write home about.

The evening, however, was a far more memorable proposition. First of all there was a pub with a very good vegetarian menu – actual choice! – next door to the B&B. Good dining and hot baths, neither of which can be relied upon, are elevated to the sphere of religious experience after a days’ hiking. Both had been noticeably absent thus far and the prospect of a bath was still several days off. But the meal was excellent – mushrooms with a choice of cream and garlic or port and stilton sauces; cheese and vegetable Wellington and a spinach and nut risotto with Parmesan; peach cheesecake which appeared home-made and not bought in – and a nice bottle of red wine to go with it all.

The pub’s dining room was a bit unusual too. It had trompe l’oeil murals of fishermen and fishing boats all over the walls, which were also painted in places to resemble bricks, oak panelling and even as if the plaster had come off altogether. The woman acting as waitress was charming – she was about to move to St Ives to run the Stennack post office, and indeed we popped in and said hello to her there just over a week later.

All well and good. A pleasant evening. The unusual bit was falling into conversation with the woman at the next table who had been quietly reading a romantic novel until we started chatting – her husband was playing in a pool contest down in the harbour.

Apart from the general friendliness of the area that allows such conversations to develop at all, the odd bit was it turned out they hailed from an area of London just a quarter of a mile or so down the road from where we live. This is not the first time that this has happened. Last year in St Ives the couple running the café across the road from our cottage had lived in both Twickenham and Norwich and displayed an uncannily similar recollection of that city. And the builder we found in our basement (an old pilchard cellar being done up), hailed from Harlington. Later in this holiday we met a third bunch of restauranteurs, a family this time, who had relocated from Twickenham to St Ives.

It seems there are more people in Cornwall from west London than there are from Cornwall. I blame the proximity of the M4. Is someone trying to tell us something?