South Cornwall Hike Day 9, Autumn Days
160-Mile Hike On The South West Coast Path, South Cornwall – The Journal
Day 9 Porthleven to Lamorna
Thursday 13th October 2022
Weather: Sunny and warm after a chilly start, getting to about 16 degrees
Index to all entries from this South Cornwall Hike
Porthleven – Penzance Section
I was up and out of the house before dawn, which is something I can only ever say as the days shorten. It was tough – I mean, out of the house before 7 am in the pitch dark! It’s anathema to me – I think I was a bear in a previous life and just want to hibernate. Still, the two-bus route ran on time and I was in Porthleven at 8:45 and hiking just before 9.
Autumn Arrives In South Cornwall
Ethereal cloud inversions over the fields had turned to a cool, watery light as the bus rolled into the harbour. Autumn is here in all its loveliness and the still, crisp air had me wrapped up for the first time this season. Including gloves. Generally, you should ‘start cold’, the idea being that you won’t have to stop after 30-minutes exercise to ‘de-layer’. Not today. I was wrapped up for 14 miles. Admittedly, I was a sweaty mess by the time I got to Penzance!
Up on the cliffs, it was just me and my shadow for miles, a restful easing into the day. The light was superb, glistening on the sea behind me, spotlighting the rocks ahead. And the colours of the sky, the clouds – it’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
It’s easy walking all the way to Penzance, 14 miles, but there are still rugged cliffs to enjoy and plenty of surprises as you come round a headland or over a hill. Like the first time you see St Michaels’ Mount out in the bay, sea mist on distant headlands, rocky coves…even the thatched ‘shed’ that’s been dilapidated for years. I want it for a studio. Wouldn’t that be good? I’m surprised noone’s turned it into an Airbnb to be honest, but seriously glad they haven’t.
Things begin to change a bit once you see St Michael’s Mount. You know Penzance isn’t too far along the coast, a bustling town with the lure of a late lunch – my carrot on a stick! First though, there’s a slog in store…
Penzance – Lamorna
Tarmac. I hate it with a vengeance, but whichever national trail you hike there always seems to be a fair share of it. There are about 7 miles of the stuff on the next section of the South West Coast Path between Marazion (St Michael’s Mount) and Mousehole, and normally my heart would sink at the thought of it. All that relentless pounding makes your feet ache under the weight of a rucksack – and tarmac usually means traffic.
Today was different because I’d planned my lunch break for Penzance, about 3 miles in. Food was all I could think about by now and I was looking forward to a big dose of calories for the more strenuous section ahead. But between the pretty late lunch and the final few miles of ‘proper’ hiking to end the day, lie Newlyn and Mousehole.
Newlyn And Mousehole
There’s something a bit rough and ready about Newlyn that comes as a welcome diversion after the morning’s bucolic scenery. It’s a busy fishing port with a reputation for fierce rivalries and hard-drinking fishermen (Gavin Knight’s excellent book The Swordfish and The star: Life on Cornwall’s most treacherous stretch of coast really gets under the skin of the communities in this part of the world) – and the everpresent stench of fish!
Then, a mile or two around the coast, there’s Mousehole, with a reputation for its Christmas lights, most of which are still clinging to the harbour walls throughout the year!
It’s a typical fishing village full of holiday lets and second homes, with people crammed into the narrow streets every summer. But right about now, the tail-end of the season, it’s a whole lot quieter and easier to navigate your way through as you get closer to the more demanding part of the hike.
South Cornwall Has A Few Quirks…
There are many quirks to enjoy first though, and I love this part of the world all the more for it – here are just a couple of random things that caught my eye (so many more, not enough time!).
Keep your eyes open and you can entertain yourself for hours.
Round The Coast To Lamorna And Beyond
Next is Lamorna – solid rock – impressive but it seems to imbue everything with its hardness, there’s no softness in the landscape here. Old quarries and their attendant spoil heaps are lit up by the low sun, cottages holding on below. But on this section of the hike, Lamorna is where things start to get more strenuous, and definitely more fun. The path twists and turns, abruptly rises and falls, then disappears and you’re scrambling over rocks and boulders right on the cliff edge. Add the fading light to the equation and it feels a bit exciting!
I started to look for somewhere to pitch up, hoping to get beyond the next bouldery beach at St Loy but I knew I wouldn’t make it before dark. The trouble is, there aren’t many places before then so you have to be keen-eyed. (One of the benefits of solo hiking though is that you don’t need much space.)
When I found somewhere I took it, despite the fact it meant my last wild camp to finish off the south Cornwall hike wouldn’t have spectacular views. Not that that mattered because it was grey and overcast anyway.
Sunset is getting earlier and earlier now, and by 7.30 it was pitch dark. When darkness falls I usually make an instant hot chocolate and snuggle up to watch the stars or get ready to hunker down and sleep. But 7.30? I wasn’t tired even after hiking 21 miles – and there were no stars to gaze at! What to do?
Typically, there was no mobile reception which meant there was no message to my son for his reassurance that I was ok (forethought meant I’d done it earlier). There was no listening to podcasts, no sorting photos or writing (I hadn’t even brought a pen and paper). There was just me and my thoughts and, eventually, the soporific sound of rain and sea.
Once the restlessness had fallen away it was absolute bliss… Peace. So hard to come by, so absolutely necessary.
Today’s Trail Costs
- Travel: 2 buses from Truro to Porthleven £5.00 (day pass)
- Drink and snacks: £3.05
- Lunch: £9.95
- Meal deal for tomorrow (day 10): £5.30
Read More South Cornwall Journal Entries
- 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, St Anthony, St Mawes, Falmouth (6 miles)
- Day 6 Falmouth, Helford Passage, Coverack (19 miles)
- Day 7 Coverack, Cadwith, Lizard Point, Kynance Cove, Mulllion (Predannick) (18 miles)
- Day 8 Mullion Harbour, Gunwalloe, Porthleven (8.5 miles)
- Day 9
- Day 10 St Loy, Penberth, Land’s End (10 Miles)
Where Next? Try These Guides To National Trails
My south Cornwall hike is nearly done – one more day to reach Land’s End! It’ll be a short day (10 miles) but the scenery’s spectacular and I can’t wait. Don’t miss it – click the green button to get email updates when new posts go live!
Thanks for reading – see you tomorrow for the final installment.
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