Day 055: Portreath to Newquay
Distance: 22.04 miles
Ascent: 7992 feet
Weather: Sunny Spells, AT TImes Strong Easterly wind
Accommodation: St Christophers Hostel, Newquay
So, the day stated of well with a large full english breakfast courtesy of the Portreath Arms, and then it was onwards and upwards, literally. The path took me up onto the cliffs from Portreath, where I was flanked by the cliffs on one side and a disused airfield on the other. There were 2 steep stepped sections, one with 119 steps in a row (don’t know why I counted) which was tough with the backpack on, but the rest of the going was fairly easy to Porthtowan. Porthtowan seemed more of a local’s village than a lot of the holiday cottage villages around these parts.
As always it was a climb back onto the cliffs from Porthtowan, before heading down again not long later to a lovely little gulley and cove Chapel Porth. This is a little cove with no real development, but there was a tiny café in the carpark which I presumed would be shut, but the shutter was wound up as I walked passed and it was very tempting to stop for a tea but decided to head on a bit further.
It was a steep climb back onto the cliffs, where I passed several mine shafts and chimneys including Wheel Coates. Most of these particular mines were for tin with a small amount also going for copper. The wind had really started to increase and was now a very strong headwind, I presume this is the beginning of the Beast from the East. It was strong enough that I was glad the paths were wide and not too close to the cliffs edge today. The path gently carried on around St Agnes Head before descending steeply down to Trevaunance Cove (St Agnes). Just as I was approaching the lifeboat crew were scrambling a rib across the rocky foreshore and out to sea, I presume this was a real call out because due to the conditions not sure they would have been doing a practise. In the cove I popped into Drftwood Spars pub for some respite from the wind, and had a hot drink by the fire before heading of again after a short break.
After Trevaunance Cove there was only one more steep gully to climb in and out of before the path which was of good quality gradually followed the cliffs edge to Perranporth. Luckily the path was actually slightly down the sloping cliff edge so there was some protection from the wind.
Even though I had remembered in the morning I have to now admit (though didn’t at the time) that on arrival at Perranporth I had completely forgotten I was meant to meet someone at Perranporth. This could have been very embarrassing, I will blame fatigue and being battered by the wind for this. Fortunately, on arrival I heard someone shouting my name, and it turns out I had turned up at exactly the same time as the Jessel’s. We all headed to a little café where they kindly treated me to lunch, we had a chat and then the whole family joined me for a little stretch of the walk along Perran Sands which was really nice.
As the tide was still quite high I had to follow the path over the dunes between the two beaches which I was still able to walk on. At the end of the beach the coast path very steeply climbs up through the dunes around a little quarry and back onto the cliffs. This part was very tough because as anyone who has tried walking up dunes knows it is very hard, and these dunes and sand covered lower cliffs were fairly high.
After skirting some form of military base on the headland it was back down to the dunes at Holywell, where the path winds its way through the maze of the dunes. I really liked this part, even if the sandiness under foot was tough going. From the dunes the path climbed back up around two more headlands before hitting the stunning Crantock Beach.
I had one final challenge of the day which was to cross the Gannel river. There were supposedly a couple of different footbridges steadily further inland, with the ones close to the sea only being crossable near low tide. Fortunately the tide was low, so I should have been able to cross the very lowest and closest bridge, but was surprised to find half of it missing. My initial assumption was that it had been washed away, but it turned out the reason wasn’t so nice. This lower bridge is at the location of the summer ferry and stairs which make up this part of the South West Coast Path. The ferry doesn’t run in winter but the owner of ferry and cafe apparently decides to remove the second half of the bridge in winter which provides access free of charge at low tide, so people can’t access the stairs when the ferry and I believe also his café are not open. So if you are ever in the Newquay area I would recommend not using this ferry in summer or the café.
So, I had to walk up the estuary for over a kilometer to get to the other tidal footbridge which fortunately was crossable, and after a short walk along Fistral Beach which was a lovely finish to the day and was unsurprisingly filled with surfers I made it to Newquay and booked into a hostel for my rest day.
So a good day, with a variety of different scenery and I am now glad to be on my rest day after a long week.