Stephanie Boon hiking on the South West Coast Smiling at the camera.

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South Cornwall Hike Day 4, Head Rest

A small harbour is crammed full of small boats with old fisherman's cottages on a hill behind

Mevagissey looks stunning!

160-MILE HIKE ON THE SOUTH WEST COAST PATH, SOUTH CORNWALL – THE JOURNAL

Day 4, Pentwan To Towan Beach

Pentewan, Mevagissey, Gorran Haven, Portloe and Portscatho, finishing near Towan Beach

Monday 29th August 2022 (August Bank Holiday)

  • 23 miles
  • 77.5/160 miles complete
  • Weather: 22 degrees, bright sunshine all day

Head Rest

Wow, what a difference a few days off-trail make! Cutting the hike for a couple of days was obviously the right thing to do; my head feels rested after the swelling anxieties of last week. I managed to sort some things out ready for an upcoming weekend on Dartmoor which has eased my anxiety a bit – but really, why didn’t I sort it out before I left for the hike? Because I’m an idiot and tried to do too much? Because it was an impulsive decision to drop everything and go right at that moment? Something like that. But right now it’s irrelevant because here I am on the path again, excited and raring to go.

I’m sticking with the plan I made on day 3 though and this will be a single South Cornwall over-nighter from Pentewan to Falmouth (28 miles or so). ( I’ll complete Falmouth to Land’s End when I get back from Dartmoor.)

Mevagissey

Mevagissey already. I’m savouring a morning coffee overlooking the sparkling harbour as the village wakes up to enjoy the bank holiday. There’s a group of fishermen drinking tea upstairs and I guess they’ve already finished work for the day, and here’s me barely even started and I’m already sitting down – Pentewan’s only a couple of miles back along the coast.

 

Mevagissey on the South Cornwall coast path: a large wooden boat with several masts is in the foreground on glistening water

What better place to have a morning coffee?

I’ve got no plans for how far I’ll walk today (that’s the absolute freedom and beauty of wild camping) other than aiming to reach at least midway on the overall mileage so there’s no rush for the two ferries to Falmouth tomorrow.

Often, life at home feels restrictive dictated by circumstances out of my control, here though I’m entirely autonomous. I decide how far I’ll go, which path I’ll follow, where I’ll linger or shelter, which landscapes I’ll ‘breathe in’, who I’ll pass the time of day with, who I’ll smile at but walk on by. I decide where I’ll sleep, pitching late and leaving early so no one knows I was there – an ephemeral presence. A passing through – so many metaphors come to mind.

Oversight

There are times I need things though, and not just food and water. Today, as the heat and sun rise and I sit in the cafe looking out of the wide open doors, I realise my suncream’s still at home on the kitchen table. I berate myself: I burn very easily.

A fruitless search for suncream begins in the small shops around the harbour, but there’s nothing to be had. Still, there’s Gorran Haven ahead and it’s time to get moving.

The Path From Mevagissey To Gorran Haven

It’s an easy stretch of path compared to the climbs of previous days and the tides were right for views of long sandy beaches, stacks and small rocky islands. I watched cormorants standing sentinel on the rocks, looking out to sea or drying their outstretched wings, and listened to the distinctive cries of oystercatchers and gulls. And the colour of the crystal clear sea…what can you say? It’s one of my favourite colours to paint, mixing emerald greens and cerulean blues, and it creates a longing for something I’ve neglected for far too long: painting. I’m baffled as to why.

 

I'm smiling at the camera with dramatic cliffs and headlands behind me. You can just see a tiny village nestled into the cliff in the background

Making my way to Gorran Haven

Gorran Haven is a small fishing village (sadly, it’s more accurate to call them Airbnb or holiday-cottage villages these days) with narrow winding streets and traditional granite cottages. It boasts a couple of lovely beaches as well as an attendant beach shop – and a post office/convenience store! No bleddy suncream though.

What sort of idiot leaves theirs at home in the middle of a heatwave? We know the answer to that but I guess it means I might stop worrying/moaning about my feet for a while (which are doing fine btw, after a change of shoes – ironically, here’s an article on how to care for your feet!). I just have to suck it up and burn, painfully.

 

Forran Haven, South Cornwall: a narrow winding street with traditional granite Cornish cottages with bunting strung between them against a bright blue sky.

Gorran Haven

Gorran Haven To Portloe

Next stop, Caerhays Beach (aka Porthluney Cove) where there’s a cafe selling ice cream and the dreaded sugary drinks I seem to crave in this heat. First, there are about 4.5 miles of walking (and crisping!) to do.

 

A stunning long beach stretches along the bottom of a headland in South Cornwall

Vault Beach

 

A view looking down to the sea from the cliff tops of South Cornwall on a summer's day

Breathtakingly clear turquoise and ultramarine seas on the way round to Hemmick Beach

 

I'm standing on top of the cliffs smiling at the camera and a long sandy beach is below me in the background

Hemmick Beach at low tide

 

South Cornwall, UK. A large sandy beach with rocky island seen from the cliff tops

Hemmick Beach

Coming down to Caerhays Beach was a bit of a shock. The car park was rammed and the beach full, which you’d expect, but what happened to the cafe in the wooden ‘shack’? It seems to have spawned and sprawled all over the place with huge marquees and bars and tables and chairs everywhere. When did this happen, or is it just for summer? The last time I was here, not that long ago, it was definitely more wintry, nowhere near as busy and it definitely didn’t look like this. Or maybe my memory’s playing tricks.

I bought a can of drink and an ice lolly and managed to find an empty picnic table amidst all the chaos – the perfect spot to get out my stove and ‘cook’ up the equivalent of a Cuppa Soup. Actually, it was a pasta thing (called a Mug Shot, I think…) and I needed the calories, but God, eating something hot in 22 degrees wasn’t fun!

A low turretted castle in light stone sits in a wooded landscape

Caerhays Castle at the back of Porthluney Cove

Thankfully there’s a bit of woodland to walk through before heading round to the hamlets of East and West Portholland. These are owned by, and painted in Caerhays Estate colours (currently a sludgy yellow), by the William’s family, local land owners who built their fortune from mining. The estate has been in the family for about 150 years, once the ancestral home of the Trevanions. Nowadays, it’s famous for its collection of magnolias, rhododendrons, and azaleas and is open to visitors when they’re at their showiest in spring. I’ve never visited, but maybe one day (the lives of the impoverished working class that built the wealth of these people interest me more).

Portloe To Portscatho

This brings me to Porloe another sleepy and surpisingly colourful fishing village a little way along the coast. Stacks of plastic crates, buoys, and lobster pots, the same small fishing boats that are always hauled up into the cove, the juicy colours of cottage doors and window frames – I feel myself thrum like a tuning fork at the deliciousness of it all. There’s a bench partway up the cliff where I sit and look down the steep-sided valley for a few minutes, imagining the colours laid out on a palette. (I realise there’s a theme developing here…)

 

2 small fishing boats are pulled up onto the harbour of a tiny cove. One of the boats is called 'Jasmine' and there's a stack of brightly coloured crates in front of it

Portloe fishing boats

 

Looking across the cove to some white cottages with brightly coloured windows and doors nestled on the cliffside

I love the colours of these cottages in Portloe

I’ve walked between 13 and 14 miles by now despite all the stopping! so any more count as ‘bonus miles’. It means I won’t have any trouble catching the ferries tomorrow, which is a relief – no rushing.

It’s always a good feeling to get to this stage in a hike and, unlike last week, I’m riding a high.

Nare Head

I stopped dead in my tracks though on Nare Head. The cliffside was burnt close to the ground in a gorse fire and still smelled of fire, like that smoky ember smell you get when you come downstairs in the morning after sitting at a warm fire the night before. It’s a shocking reminder of the heatwave and how weather patterns are changing in a relatively short period of time.

 

A view across burnt scrub on the top of the cliffs with the sea in the background

The burnt gorse stopped me in my tracks

 

A view across to a derelict cottage on the edge of the cliff that's blackened by fire

Looking back at Mallets Cottage and the scarring from the recent gorse fire

Portscatho And On To Wherever I Pitched That Night!

I know I can pitch up somewhere fairly discreet around Nare Head, but I’m not ready to stop – there are still plenty of miles in my legs. But the closer you get to Portscatho village the fewer places there are, so it means walking beyond it and probably pitching well after sunset. Worth a punt I think – and maybe I can pick up some suncream for tomorrow. (Nope! The convenience store closed 20 minutes before I got there.)

My water was low and I needed to replenish that too but when I passed the pub in the village, hopeful, people were spilling out of the doors into the late sunshine. Wealthy holiday-makers dressed in their everyday finery – I felt like I’d be as welcome at the bar as a bad smell. In fact, I probably was a bad smell! So I walked on, looking for somewhere to sleep knowing I only had a few hours to walk the next day anyway.

 

A small green tent is pitched on a patch of dried grass with a view of the sea behind

A perfect spot for a wild camp at the end of a long day’s hike (although this photo was taken the following morning)

Stony ground but a soft sleeping mat. A minor slope and the soporific sound of high-tide waves. A message to my son, a quick look at messages I’d received during the day. The soft light of my headtorch turned lamp, some writing, and then, finally, a sound sleep after 23 miles of fantastic hiking. South Cornwall is definitely the place for head rest.

Today’s Trail Costs:

  • Train fare to St Austell: £4.25
  • Bus to Pentewan: £2.60
  • Breakfast/drink St Austell station: £4.65
  • Coffee Mevagissey: £3.00
  • Cold drinks: £2.70

 

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More Entries From This Journal

  • Day 1 Plymouth, Kingsand-Cawsand, Rame Head, Whitsand Bay (14.5 miles)
  • Day 2 Portwrinkle, Looe, Polperro, Lantic Bay (20 miles)
  • Day 3 Lantic Bay, Fowey, Charlestown, Pentewan (20 miles)
  • Day 4 Pentewan, Mevagissey, Gorran Haven, Portscatho, Towan Beach (23 miles)
  • Day 5 Towan Beach, St Anthony Head, St Mawes, Falmouth (5 miles)
  • Day 6 Falmouth, Helford Passage, Gillan, Coverack (19 Miles)

Want More From Cornwall?

Plan Your Hike On The South West Coast Path The Easy Way!

Newquay To Perranporth And On To St Agnes – A Stunning Coastal Hike

Saints’ Way Cornwall: 30 Glorious Coast To Coast Miles

 

Thanks for joining me today; I hope you’ll pop in tomorrow too for my 5th day on the trail. Don’t miss it – click the green button below and you’ll get an email when it goes live. Until next time…

Happy hiking!

Stephie x

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