Porthcothan to Newquay

Opinion was divided on today. Half of the party felt that we romped through, the other half was suffering afflictions including a dodgy knee, low spirits and a lack of sleep, and so had rather a worse time of it. We left Porthcothan disappointed. The shop only opened between 8.30am and 10.30am and we were 20 minutes too late. Porthcothan has a half-hearted air, as if it has had too long a season and wants the tourists to go home. It was also a hard place to shake off, thanks to much strap adjustment and a relaxed landlady who took our photo at breakfast (as she does to all her guests) then went off to London leaving us to lock up. We were also held up by a copy of the Daily Telegraph containing an opinion poll showing a seven-point gap between the Tories and the Lib Dems. There’s been a council by-election at home, and we don’t know the result. Maybe Newquay will have a cybercafé.

Apart from all of this, the exit from Porthcothan is not memorable, but it is followed by an unpleasant drop at Porth Mear. The valley is not too deep, but once again we are suffering for walking fast. An energetic, talkative walker we meet says he has done between here and Falmouth and is just walking bits again for fun (fun?) and to keep his hand in. He says they keep “adding bits” and that the bits total 30 miles! What can he mean? Depressing if we have to double back to catch up with new bits. Park Head is difficult to spot – it is supposed to have a spectacular cliff castle but we don’t have much luck in trying to spot it. Even though we are quite experienced in spotting earthworks and almost every other headland we pass has one. We take a photo of an area that looks about to slip, only to find that the guidebooks say it has been like that for ages.

Bedruthan Steps is quite lively. The beach, far below, has many black specks – people – and the well-constructed viewing points are popular. But how are these rocks different from so many others on the coast? Spectacular yes, unique no, and rather lucky that a road runs nearby.

Coming towards Mawgan Porth we see a slow worm (snake) on the path: it knows we’re watching but does not flee. Not long afterwards a crocodile of children snakes towards us and are pressed against the wall beside the path by their adult mentors. Andy is tempted to go along the line shaking hands and asking “what exactly do you do?” There was obviously something in his photograph-punctuated breakfast as he greets the sight of some steps with a brief rendition of “Tragedy” and what he chooses to claim is a dance in the style of pop group Steps. Lisa (our Lisa, not Lisa from Steps) tells him not to be so bloody camp.

Mawgan Porth is a straggly, tacky settlement that rambles down one side of the valley. It redeems itself somewhat with a pub lunch, bitter shandies, a second-hand book stall and an Inspector Morse-style Jaguar, but apart from these attractions it’s very forgettable.

Griffin’s Point is a slog as you climb up to walk along the rampart of yet another fort – glad we don’t have to run up, painted blue and yelling while waving a spear. Walking is hard enough. Soon afterwards and chocolate-and-juice stop reveals a) an unnerving amount of hunting spiders and b) the realisation that what Andy had thought was our final destination was actually several miles into the next day.

By now we are walking above Watergate Bay – the drop into it reveals a handsome hotel which the RAF can be relied on to commandeer as an officers’ mess whenever there’s a world war. It’s a steep climb out but we’re on the home stretch now. As always, the home stretch lasts forever but the hotel is on Porth Beach – very helpfully sited. A last convulsive twitch of the path takes us out onto Trevelyne Head where we venture over the spectacular bridge to step briefly onto the head itself (another fort of course).

The hotel is functional, well-run and friendly. Nothing to complain about but nothing to get excited about either. We walk into town for food (a mile each way). A noisy party of peroxide teens drives us out of the Mexican we’ve been looking forward to and into an Indian across the road where the food is good but does not always bear much connection with what you ordered. And so back to the hotel and bed.

Start: 10.50am; lunch: one hour approx; end: 5.25pm; time on path: 6.5 hours.