17. South West Coast Path (North Cornwall)

173. Holywell to Watergate Bay

Sunday 27th January 2019
For the third year running I decided to do a four day trip at the end of January – a time that fits in well with work. Leaving home at about 4.50am on the Sunday morning drove down from Nottingham to arrive in Newquay at about 9.30am. Tried to book in at the Best Western where I had stayed on my last trip but discovered that I had actually booked the Great Western which was just down the road. Drove the few hundred yards to the Great Western and in looking for the car park managed to drive down a narrow lane by the side of it and get stuck at the bottom near the beach at Tolcarne Point. There was a sign saying that there was no turning point but I had ignored this and had to reverse all the way back up the narrow lane which was a bit difficult round hairpin bends but provided some entertainment for those having breakfast in the Great Western. Eventually left my bag at reception ready for the evening check-in, parked in a public car park across the road and then got a taxi from outside the railway station to St Piran’s Inn, Holywell. (GR767589)

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On Holywell Beach (GR769589)

It was extremely windy today with gusts of up to 60 miles an hour predicted. It was also very cloudy with temperatures of about 6 or 7 degrees, but feeling much lower with the wind factor. An ideal situation for wearing my new piece of walking equipment – a trapper hat. Not particularly attractive but at least it can be kept on your head.

Set off from the pub with the choice of climbing up the dunes which looked pretty horrific or to go along the beach that might have been difficult in the high winds. Eventually took the sand dunes route which was OK to start with but then got very steep with soft sand.

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Sand Dunes at Holywell (GR766590)

Left the sand dunes to enter The Kelseys, National Trust (GR768596) after a good exfoliating sand blast. Walked down to the cliff edge and a grassy path above impressive waves.

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Holywell Bay and Gull Rocks (GR767594)

The wind eventually got too much and I struck off inland to cut off part of Kelsey Head (GR765605). Although it was a really good grassy clifftop path across Kelsey Head it was just impossible with the wind making me roll about like a drunk all the time.

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Savaged by sheep above Porth Joke (GR771604)
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Porth Joke (GR772604)

Eventually dropped down to the little footbridge at Porth Joke (GR773604), at which point the path climbed up the other side onto the low cliffs above the beach at Porth Joke and then on out towards the sea and Pentire Point West.

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Kelsey Head and surf at Porth Joke (GR772607)

Again this was a really nice grassy cliff top path, but unfortunately it was very, very windy and I again cut off part of the headland at Pentire Point West (GR773610) and headed towards The Gannel where hopefully it would be a bit more sheltered. The path twisted and turned tortuously near the cliff edge mainly with hedge towards the sea which was actually useful shelter in this wind. A bit up and down in fact with 42 nicely cut stone steps at one point, very nicely evenly spaced too and then onto a wide track. (I often complain about steps even though they are often in places that might otherwise be impassably muddy, but the problem is when they are uneven in height and/or length whereas these were like stairs at home).

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Pentire Point East across Crantock Beach (GR773610)

After a couple of hundred yards a sign to a path down to the beach had a warning about steep sand cliffs. I went to look and it was quite scary so continued on the track which eventually became a path around the back of the sand dunes. Followed the marker posts across the dunes to reach the car park at Crantock Beach (GR789609). Turned left down the car park and then right on a path at the end out on to Crantock Beach.

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Crantock Beach (GR790610)

The tide was low but there did not appear to be a way along the beach so I retraced my steps up the car park to take the continuation of the original path. This went up a few steps and then left on a track past a few houses where there were daffodils almost in bloom in late January (GR790610). The track soon became a path above the estuary of The Gannel and continued on between hedges towards Penpol.

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Path towards Penpol (GR793611)

Just before Penpol the footbridge across The Gannel could be seen but looked very much submerged.

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Up The Gannel (GR798609)

Continued through the woods to reach the road at Penpol (GR98606) and turned left to cross a ford over a stream which I initially thought was The Gannel. It was nearly completely dry with just a trickle under the roadway so I soon realised my mistake.

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A tributary of The Gannel (GR799607)

Following the signposted path to Newquay which after a few hundred yards went out onto the sands to reach the footbridge over The Gannel (GR799610). The bridge was more like a boardwalk just about at water level which was why from a distance it had looked submerged.

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Footbridge over The Gannel at Penpol (GR799610)

At the end of the footbridge climbed the concrete steps and then up to a cul-de-sac and turned right (as I thought) into Newquay. Immediately got lost in a relatively modern housing estate. Every road seemed to be a cul-de-sac and in the end embarrassingly had to ask someone how to get out onto the A392 main road. Followed the road into Newquay and visited the Towan Blystra Wetherspoons for a beer (fairly typical Wetherspoons clientele for a Sunday afternoon) (GR815617). The weather had not got any better really and it was still very windy, getting cold and beginning to rain.

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The Great Western Hotel Newquay (GR813617)

Although not really feeling much like it I decided to continue on to Watergate Bay so as not to mess up my plans for the four days. Walked the road out of Newquay past all the bigger hotels including my own, the Grand Western (GR816619) that wasn’t grand at all really.

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Great Western Beach, Newquay (GR819620)

At the end of the road (GR828626) dropped down the grassy bank to a path leading to Porth Beach (GR830627). Went past the Mermaid Inn that looked a bit better than most but not a whole lot really.

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Porth Beach (GR828626)

A long hard climb (for this time of day anyway) on the road above Whipsiderry Beach and then opposite the Sands Resort Hotel (GR833633) took a cliff top path off to the left. This was another good grassy cliff top path above Watergate Beach with very good views ahead to various headlands including Park Head and Dinas Head but always battling against the wind. Reached Watergate Bay (GR843649) which was a strange place dominated by blocks of apartments in horrible grey. Anyway stopped here and waited for about twenty minutes getting colder and colder to catch the bus back to Newquay.

Days from Chepstow   173

Miles today   10.6

Miles from Chepstow   2109.4

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