St Mawes to Plymouth
May 22 to 29 2013
Day 1 to Jago Cottage, Trewartha, Portloe TR2 5QJ
I travelled down by train the night before to Falmouth, returning to Dolvean House. I didn't get the St Mawes ferry until 10:15 as I had to go back and retrieve my pole that I had left outside a shop. Then the Place Ferry was full, so the ferryman had to make an extra trip. Consequently I didn't start walking properly until about 11:30. I had wrapped up well for the ferries, but the sun soon came out and I was able to pack away my sweater and anorak. There was a fairly strong wind most of the day, and I ended up catching the sun, though not too seriously.
The walk from Place to Portscatho is very pleasant and not too challenging. After that it becomes rather more up and down, particularly after Nare Head. Once I had reached Portloe there was still about a mile to Jago Cottage. I had been given clear instructions but I was relieved to reach the house as for a long time I seemed to be heading nowhere. It was a relief also to know that they were providing a meal, as I reckoned I had done about 15 miles that day, which is enough for the first leg. However it meant that once I was in my room I never stretched my legs all evening, and consequently I was as stiff as a board the next morning.
Day 2 to The Mandalay, School Hill, Mevagissey PL26 6TQ
This was not quite so long a day, but still challenging. The weather was quite warm, but still windy, but I remembered to put my sun cream on this time. Having made my way back across the fields to Portloe it started getting interesting quite early on going quite high up onto the cliffs then back down to the sea at West Portholland. I hadn't yet bought a sandwich, and the facilities here (and in several other places) were described as seasonal, ie they were shut. The path then went round Dodman Point, where the visibility was good enough to get great views. I think I could see as far back as The Lizard. The wind seemed to have eased off by now, but this was because it was unusually coming from the north west, and it was odd that as the path turned inland to Gorran Haven it suddenly got very blustery - not what I understood to be the meaning of "haven". There was a cafe on the edge of the village where I picked up a very tasty sandwich. Suitably refereshed the rest of the route to Mevagissey was quite comfortable.
The directions to Mandalay started from the main car park which it took me a while to find, and it was quite a climb, but I received a very warm welcome and was told that though my room was small I could expect a large breakfast in the morning.
Day 3 to Boslowen, 96 Par Green, Par PL24 2AG
The breakfast was certainly large, but very salty, and I could taste it for most of the rest of the day. I was not interested in buying a sandwich for my lunch, but had nothing apart from water until early afternoon when I bought an ice cream.
The weather was generally quite sunny, but with a strong wind again coming from the landward direction. There were a number of stiff climbs in the first half of this day's walk, and not just on the cliffs. In the village of Pentewan there is a pretty steep road to climb which takes you to a few houses and the church, which was actually joined to a house. The guidebook suggests an alternative route around the harbour, but it looked like private land. The path then takes you to Black Head, where there are again fine views and then through Ropehaven woods where it is necessary to stick to the path when there are several diversions off to the right which would no doubt lead to a pleasant beach but also a dead end. The path from Porthpean to Charlestown has been recently reinstated, and you can see where there have been comparatively recent cliff falls, where parts of the cliff have plenty of vegetation but the next bit is completely bare.
Charlestown harbour had a tall ship moored in it. The route then becomes rather urban before passing along the edge of a golf course. Not surprisingly there were no golfers around, because the wind would have carried any loftily driven balls out to sea. The route into Par was then straightforward, and Boslowen was easy to find as it meant continuing for 100 yards or so along a road that was on the official route. I received a warm welcome there, and after showering I walked about a mile to Polmear for my evening meal.
Day 4 to Hormond House, 55 Fore Street, Polruan PL23 1PH
A more normal breakfast this morning. It was still windy, but there was bright sunshine so I wore sunglasses for the first time. The path went along the beach but ended up at Polmear by the pub where I had had my evening meal. However at this point there was a major diversion due to a cliff fall near Polkerris. So instead of walking on the cliff tops, we were directed along the Saint's Way (the route from Padstow to Fowey) then all along roads to Polkerris.
Once back on the path there was a nice scenic and fairly demanding stretch to Gribbin Head. However by this time I was starting to feel unwell, probably still the after effects of the Mandalay breakfast, but possibly my sunglasses were an old prescription. Up to then I had generally not been wearing my glasses at all while I was walking. Shortly after Gribbin Head I was nearly sick, and I certainly did not enjoy the rest of the walk into Fowey. I was only glad that this was the shortest section of the week, only about 7 miles. Being a bank holiday the place was quite busy. I sat around for an hour or so, then caught the ferry over to Polruan, where I sat on the quay side feeling sorry for myself. I had had nothing since breakfast other than water, but I ate an apple and felt much better. I made my way up the hill to Hormond House, where Sharon (?), looking after the place instead of the owner, Bella, who was away, greeted me warmly. After a shower and a rest, I was able to go back into Polruan and have a proper meal.
Day 5 to Schooner Point, 1 Trelawney Terrace, West Looe PL13 2AG
I felt much better the next morning, but decided to forgo cooked breakfasts for the rest of the trip. They had been one of my real pleasures until Mandalay, but I didn't want to take any risks, and in any case there was usually a good selection of cereals and fruit, so I wasn't going to starve. I shared breakfast with two walkers, one of whom had done Minehead to Par in 2012 in just two stages - she had now found a friend to accompany her for the rest of the coast path. The other two had never walked to Polperro and had no intention of doing so. It was Sunday, and Hormond House is opposite the parish church, but unfortunately there was no service that day.
Rather than go back down into Polruan, I walked up the hill and then cut across to join the official path, and was rewarded with magnificent views of the estuary. It was sunny again, but I decided not to wear my sunglasses. The route to Polperro is quite tough with a lot of fairly steep climbs. You arrive at Polperro very suddenly - you go round this corner and suddenly there is this bustling fishing port. Actually the tide was out, and the sea didn't reach the harbour, but the place was full of tourists. I found a cafe that was not too busy and had a welcome sandwich.
The path is a lot easier once you get past Polperro, and the last part into Looe is more built up. I found Schooner Point quite easily, though it was a final strenuous stretch for the day to reach the front door. A welcome pot of tea was provided, before a further ascent to my room - the Crow's Nest.
Day 6 to The Finnygook, Crafthole PL11 3BQ
This was probably the shortest section of this trip, but the weather forecast was not good - there was no sight of the sun after about 9.15. The route was marked strenuous, moderate in places.
Once you are out of Looe there is quite a stiff climb. Eventually a road is reached, but at the point where the route was supposed to leave the road there was a sign to say that the path was closed due to another cliff fall. Instead we were to continue along the road virtually to Seaton. So it looked as if we were spared a strenuous section. The choice then was between beach and road between Seaton and Downderry, so as I had already missed a significant portion of coast, I chose the beach, which was fine as the sand was reasonably firm. However it was not clear when we were supposed to leave the beach. I passed a slipway and continued some distance after it, but the only exits after that seemed to be going into back gardens, so I returned to the slipway.
From there to Portwrinkle was more challenging. As I reached the edge of the village, the rain started to come down. There was a good cafe on the front where I bought a sandwich, and then made my way the half mile or so inland to Crafthole. The Finnygook was a busy pub, with modern accommodation. Though it was still early afternoon, I only went out again briefly as the rain had really set in. They served a very good evening meal.
Day 7 to The Rusty Anchor, Plymouth PL1 3DJ
Guests at the Finnygook are requested not to go down for breakfast before 8.30 as it might set off the burglar alarm. Unfortunately these instructions seemed to apply also to the chef and the duty manager, who was in a complete flap when I went down at about 8.31, trying to lay the tables and get out cereals, milk etc. When she had sorted herself and established that we had everything we needed, she asked if we minded if she went back upstairs for a shower. The only others staying were a group of 6 walkers, also on their way to Plymouth.
The weather had improved, and though it was overcast much of the day, I don't think it actually rained more than a few spots. I made my way back to Portwrinkle and joined the path along the edge of the golf course. After this was the Tregantle Firing Range and the red flags and the sound of gunshot indicated that we were not allowed through, so I had to follow the diversion along a main road. At this point, looking inland there is a fine view of the Tamar estuary. However the route is the other way, back to the coast.
There is rather more road and footpath until you reach the coast again, where you can see clearly Rame Head, which looks a lot closer than the four miles indicated on the signpost. However by the time you reach a 3 mile indication, it doesn't look any nearer. When you reach Tregonhawke, it is not always clear which way the official path goes, as there are a number of chalets to the seaward side of the main road. You are never sure whether what looks like the path is not in fact the way to somebody's back garden. In the end I probably went along the main road more than I needed to. Once out of the village, the route to Rame Head was straighforward. I diverted off the path to the headland and its medieval chapel.
Further along at Penlee Point you get a proper view into Plymouth Sound, then it is on to Cawsand, where I bought a sandwich and ate it on the beach. Cawsand is joined onto Kingsand, where I went rather further than I needed to along the beach, coming to a dead end. On the edge of Kingsand you enter Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, which you stay in all the way to the ferry at Cremyll. I didn't see any deer that are supposed to roam there. There is still a bit of climbing to do, particularly a diversion round a cliff fall, but this was not one of the more challenging days. The last part takes you through ornamental gardens, and I felt a bit out of place with my walking gear and pack among the daytrippers.
The ferry crossing was fine as it was not too choppy. At the other side I was not sure whether to follow the official route, as it was supposed to pass the Rusty Anchor, or follow the instructions I had been given. I chose the latter, but ended up going well out of my way, partly because I went right rather than left at the barracks, but also I was told it would take 10 minutes which was very optimistic and I was not sure even when I was going in the right direction whether I had got it correct. In the end I found the place and was welcomed with a much appreciated pot of tea.
Day 8 to Mount Batten
I was booked on a train leaving late afternoon, so I was able to explore the official path within Plymouth. This is the only extended urban section of the whole path and I found it interesting in a different sort of way. Some of it was industrial, some suburban housing, some parkland. Generally it was clear to follow, but after Hooe Lake the route goes down Barton Road which ends up at a naval base. Well before that you need to turn left to Turnchapel, but the road to it was not clearly marked. It looked as though it was an entrance to an industrial site so I missed it the first time and had to ask directions. Turnchapel could pass itself off, with its narrow streets, as a fishing village not a suburb of Plymouth.
Shortly after that you arrive at Mount Batten, which has nothing to do with the royal family but is named after an 18th century admiral. It is also probably the only mountain in the world that you can climb in five minutes from sea level! Mount Edgecumb on the other side of Plymouth Sound is slightly more challenging. From Mount Batten I took the ferry back to the Barbican, the original harbour where the Mayflower sailed from.