17. South West Coast Path (North Cornwall)

170. Gwithian to Porthtowan

Monday 29th October 2018

The Garrack Hotel in St Ives was a very attractive hotel but some way out of town so it would have been a mile or so into town for a pub last night with a hard climb back up the hill afterwards. Instead, the hotel had a very good restaurant and I had a good meal last night, pork belly, and a good breakfast this morning. The same taxi as last night picked me up and took me back to the Red River Inn – a mistake that did not become obvious until the end of the day.

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Godrevy wildlife sign (GR584422)

Beautiful morning, clear blue skies, sunshine, cold but no wind like yesterday. Continued through the village from the Red River Inn across the flat area behind the bay to the Rockpool café and just after that turned left on a road signposted Godrevy (GR588420). Certainly is very cold this morning but nice and still. The sand dunes around here are massive and on entering the National Trust area the road and footpath beside it start to climb up. Reached the National Trust car park where a sign listed what wildlife might be seen. Taking a close look it can be seen that someone has added dog and human which were indeed the most plentiful wildlife. (Reminds me of the village pub in the Yorkshire Dales where a sign offered a reward for the finding of a lost Harris Hawk while the Specials menu beside it offered ‘Local Harris Hawk’).

Followed the boardwalk path out to the point at Magow Rocks (GR582423).

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From Magow Rocks over Gwithyian Beach towards St Ives (GR584422)

A good path ran parallel to the road heading towards Godrevy Island and Lighthouse. Just past the second car park took a grassy path off directly towards the beach, signposted ‘The Beach’. This led to Godrevy Point (GR581433) immediately opposite Godrevy Island and lighthouse with views all the way back to St Ives.

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Godrevy Island and Lighthouse (GR580433)

Soon after the point reached Mutton Cove (GR 584432) with several dozen seals lying on the beach and a number of people ringed around a fence looking at them. A sign asks you to talk in whispers with no sudden movements so as not to scare the seals. This looked a bit superfluous given the noise of the wind and sea and the considerable distance away which the spectators were. The seals were more likely to disturbed by someone leaning over too far and falling amongst them (despite all this coastal walking, or perhaps because of it, I am still very wary of cliff edges).

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Seals at Mutton Cove (GR584432)

There were even more seals in the next part of the cove and and a diversion away from the edge after a fall. Entered National Trust The Knavocks, a very open headland, and the path climbed up to Navax Point (GR592435) where there are good views ahead to St Agnes Head.

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From The Knavocks back to Godrevy Point (GR588433)

There was also a good view of the next part of the walk along the clifftops and it didn’t look too scary really but this was probably an illusion (indeed it was, the devil is always in the detail which in this case was a number of sets of steps). It seemed to have got a little warmer – either that or I had warmed up through walking. Anyway very pleasant walking weather on good paths. Left The Knavocks over a massive stone stile over a dyke, the type Cornwall seems to specialise in (GR594430).

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Fishing Cove (GR599428)

The path led across a field and then upwards between hedges to almost reach a road but just before the road turned left on a path to arrive at the Hell’s Mouth Café (GR604428). Interesting that I deluded myself into thinking I might have done this extra bit last night. I don’t think I would have achieved it. Stopped for a cup of tea.

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Rocks at Hell’s Mouth (GR604429)

A good fairly flat path along the top of the cliffs at Hudder Down went through the gorse to reach Deadman’s Cove (GR611431). The Land’s End Explorer map ends just before Deadman’s Cove which feels significant even on my electronic versions – I have definitely turned for home now. From Deadman’s Cove there was a long steady climb up through the gorse bushes on a good path up to the road where the path levels off. Reached a car park at North Cliffs and realised that there are actually two Deadman’s Coves so there was another one to go. A good flat footpath continued along the clifftop passing several car parks to reach the second Deadman’s Cove on Reskajeage Downs (GR628433).

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Coast on towards Portreath and Porthtowan (looks flat and easy but isn’t) (GR650431)

Reached and crossed another car park at Basset’s Cove (GR639441). Mention of all these car parks make it sound unpleasant but the path is along the clifftops and the road does not intrude.

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Cliffs towards Portreath (GR621430)
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Crane Islands from North Ciffs (GR625431)
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Steps up from Porth-cadjack Cove (GR641445)

Soon met the first ‘devil in the detail’ as the path dropped steeply down to a plank bridge (GR641446) and then steps up again at Porth-cadjack Cove. The pain is very swiftly repeated as steps lead steeply down, across a small footbridge and steps up again at Carvannel Downs (GR642448).

The path levelled out as it went round Western Cove (GR646451) and the dome that must be on the airfield at Portreath can be seen (and had been visible for some time).

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Western Cove (GR646451)

Reached Portreath after a steep descent and had a couple of pints of Lushingtons Pale Ale in the Portreath Arms (GR657453). The village was decorated with large red poppies in readiness for next week’s centenary Remembrance Day. Bit of a strange place Portreath – it has an old harbour but is surrounded by modern housing and nothing much in the way of pubs, shops, etc.

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Approaching Portreath (GR648453)
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Portreath Arms with Remembrance Poppy (GR657453)

Set off up Lighthouse Hill and as the road turned right the footpath has been diverted because of a cliff fall so continued up the road steeply, past the first car park to reach a signpost off to the left for the coast path. Met a woman here who told me about all the steps between here and Porthtowan which was not very encouraging (particularly given the recent experience at Porth-cadjack Cove and Carvannel Downs). However Porthtowan is only 2½ miles according to the signpost. Soon reached the perimeter fence of Portreath Airfield although there is not much to be seen apart from a vegetable field within the perimeter. A little further on the horrific steps at Hayle Ulla (GR664463) came into view with the dome that had been a landmark for some time off to the right. So a steep descent of the steps and a steep climb up the other side followed.

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Steps at Hayle Ulla (GR663463)

The path continued to follow the perimeter fence gently descending. The airfield does seem to be one huge vegetable field with a dome in the middle of it. It was quite easy along here but then I met a Dutch or German guy that tells me there are two more sets of steps to go. The first set of steps were down into Sally’s Bottom (GR679469) if it is permissible to say such a thing. Used my normal step climbing technique. Climb ten steps and whether tired and breathless or not (which I am of course) sit on the eleventh step and take ten deep breaths.

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Sally’s Bottom (GR678469)

At the top passed some unusual military installations and what I originally thought was a chimney but was probably a landmark for the shipping. A gravel track led fairly gently down towards Porthtowan and then at the first houses on an asphalt road more steeply down into the village and the Unicorn pub.

Apart from the obvious pleasure of finishing the day’s walking with a pint I usually find that bar staff are very good at ordering taxis for me. In this case the barman was unable or unwilling to be very helpful so I spent some time trying to re-learn how to use public phone boxes as there was no mobile signal. Eventually got a taxi back to St Ives. The mistake at the start of the day ? It was getting a taxi to Gwithian rather than driving – the return taxi fare was £65 although the kindly driver reduce it to £55.

Days from Chepstow   170

Miles today   12.2

Miles from Chepstow   2086.0

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