Padstow to Porthcothan

The journey to Padstow, made by train and bus, has gone like clockwork, the main point of interest being Bodmin Parkway station. We were expecting something on the scale of Exeter, but instead… well, let’s just say it’s not a bustling metropolis. The journey along the Devon Riviera is incredibly scenic, and at one point the track runs between red cliffs and the sea. Padstow is really nice, with the feeling of somewhere that has re-invented itself from a sleepy holiday town to a chic destination – must be fish cuisine that is responsible. It has something of that same ‘happening’ feel that characterises St Ives, also lots of restaurants, art and antique shops. But we are too tired to do much more than swallow our dinner and go to bed – we already slept for two hours on arrival.

The next day we have a good start – friendly cats at the B and B, out with the travelling Marmite (they never have it), lots of repacking and fiddling with rucksack straps, and then away! Two immediate irritations. Firstly, what to do with a leaky, heavy one-litre water bottle which needs to stay upright. Also one of our rucksacks feels unbalanced. The water bottle ends up in a trouser pocket, the rucksack problem is not totally solved today.

We leave Padstow through something that looks like a municipal park, on tarmac paths. This soon gives way to a hellish climb (aren’t they always, just after breakfast?) firstly to St Saviour’s Point. We can’t resist the chance to walk along the beach at St George’s Cove. More big climbs up to Gun Point – but possibly only big because we’re out of practice, or because we went at them too fast. Up to the coastguard lookout after Hawker’s Cove, which was officially re-opened a week before we came through, according to a friendly coastguard.

After this is the run into Trevone, past Round Hole, a collapsed cave. It had a path running down into it – some people are mad… It makes us appreciate how the miles are disappearing on this relatively flat ground. Trevone has a lovely beach with rocks and sand, but sadly no radio reception so we can’t listen to the news while having our lunch. Time for some paddling and people-watching. A dog is trying to chase a tennis ball it can’t see properly in the surf. A pleasant hour but we’ve covered a shade under six miles and we have a shade under eight to go. It seems impossible that we can actually walk in excess of 14 miles with these rucksacks on this path but, shhh… it appears to be going well so far.

Back onto the clifftop for a while than surfers and a long sandy beach at Harlyn Bay. Up onto Cataclews Point for a well-earned sit down, round Mother Ivey’s Bay then out onto the headland. The miles are still disappearing under our feet and there is a good sense of getting along. From the point we can see back to the satellite station near Bude and even, we think, Hartland Point. Unfortunately, Mother Ivey’s Bay has a lot of ugly development and a sewage farm.

Another Round Hole (where did the stuff which fell into it go?) and we feel good, as we are now heading towards Porthcothan. Booby’s Bay is rocky and very impressive. Constantine Bay is sand and surfers. The sea is a milky blue, and there’s some lovely evening sun. The gorgeous scenery is spoiled a bit at Treyarnon Bay by a caravan park and here we do start to feel tired. Theoretically it is only two miles across a couple of headlands, but we are a bit grumpy and worried about finding our way to the B and B.

Here we are overtaken by a jogger, of all things, and find an Iron Age fort divided into three ‘fingers’ by erosion. Some disappointment that we can’t see anything of the beached ship at Lee Bay. At last, after a couple of false hopes, Porthcothan. Down a mosquito-infested path, no phone reception. The B and B at first appears miles off but the walk, although uphill, is not too bad and is aided by the owner very sensibly putting an OS Grid reference on the little map with directions that she posted when we booked. We are presented with tea and cake on arrival and engaged in wide-roaming conversation. Porthcothan only has one choice of eating venue – described by our hosts as ‘the dodgy pub’ – but the food is not too bad, and we have a game of pool. Small pleasures…

Start: 10.30am; lunch: one hour approx; end: 7pm; time on path: 8.5 hours.