Walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in the winter of 07/08.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Tintagel to Trenance

One of the things I'll have to give up when this journey is over is enjoying a full greasy English breakfast every day, or I'll end up unable to walk anywhere ever again. After another superb example this morning I set off into warm sunshine and blue skies.

The first stretch was described as one of the most challenging of the coast path by the guidebook, with seven deep and narrow valleys to cross, the last four in such quick succession that there is no chance to get your breath back. It ends up being a little disorientating as you jump between admiring the rock architecture of the cliffs while waves crash beside you, and wandering along the tops while looking down on the sandy bays far below. It is, however, pretty spectacular stuff, with sights such as the steep rock faces of 'The Mountain', isolated by landslips, and culminating in the first glimpses of the attractive twin fishing villages of Port Isaac and Port Gaverne.

After that, it was time to leave the coast path for a while, as it heads onwards to Rock to catch the ferry to Padstow. I managed to resist the temptations of the short cut offered by the boat, mainly because it wasn't running today. Rarely travelled paths across rolling fields took me southwards, and it was interesting to be once again struggling with hedges, fences, muddy streams and not always knowing where to go after the helpful wooden signposts of the national trail. Eventually Wadebridge was reached, which as the name suggests, allowed me to cross the estuary and get onto another handy disused railway bed.

Although this was busy with people taking advantage of the unseasonal weather, and despite managing a good pace, it seemed to take a long time to reach features I could see in the distance, cuttings through the rock, elegant thin metal bridges, the dark rich muds of the creeks as they joined the estuary and the sprawling houses of the town of Padstow. A couple of little footpaths provided short cuts across the forked headland and led to sand dunes and a return to the coast path. Easy walking along grassy cliff tops led past numerous little rocky coves and inlets, the landscape becoming wilder as you get further away from civilisation.

The sun was setting as I reached the famous Bedruthan Steps; the tall dark stacks had an imposing presence in the fading light. It was time to call it a day, and I asked about accommodation in the next pub I came across. I was directed up a steep hill and struggled to find the little hotel in the gloom. Today I've walked at least thirty three miles, a total that would have been daunting if I'd known this morning. With a pleasant ache in my legs and my ego massaged by the reactions of the other guests, I'm glad I did.

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