SWCP 2016 Day 9: Port Isaac to Padstow May 22nd
Definitely a Race
Padstow was a major landmark to me, the end of volume 1 (of 4) of the official trail guide. Getting there requires taking a ferry from Rock, after an 11.7 mile hike from Port Isaac. An optional ferry back at the beginning of this trip would have cut 6 miles off the estuary walk between Braunton and Westward Ho!, but I’d walked that the full way.
Here, there was no trail option, and if I missed the last ferry, I had either a long bus ride, or an expensive water ferry.
I looked up the time of the last ferry the night before, and then promptly forgot it.
I had breakfast with the other guests at the B&B, a party of German hikers. They were ready before I was, and our host couldn’t carry us all at once, so they headed out and he came back for me. It was about 10:15 when I hit the trail starting from where he had picked me up last night and then downhill to the harbor, past the pub where I’d had supper, around the harbor and up the other side.
The day was gloriously clear and in the 60s, ideal hiking weather. This stretch had a total of just under 3000 feet ascent/descent, while never getting over 250 feet: a lot of up and down until midafternoon, but mild compared to around Bude or Tintagel. Then fairly flat for the last stretch. Once I’d climbed out of Port Isaac, I had a view back to Tintagel, with the old church and the slate quarries visible (in an enlarged photo, or with binoculars if I’d had them). And a distant stretch of coastline, which again with magnification proved to include the satellite dishes at Cleave north of Bude, all the way up to Hartland Point where I’d been hiking 5 days ago!
More waves crashing on rocks (but less spectacular than some prior stretches), more wildflowers, more birds, beaches, mineshafts, follies… A beautiful day’s hike, but the niggling worry about the ferry.
A few highlights along the way:
· Views from Varley Head past Glengarden Cove and Kellan Head, all the way to the Rumps of Pentire, where the trail would turn south to Rock.
· Bronze Age tumuli near the scenic Downgate Cove — leaning over the fence to get a picture of the tumulus, autofocus chose the fence rather than the tumulus. This would have been a good place to use a high f-stop, but I didn’t realize the problem. Oh, well, the fence is pretty with the lichen on the stone, and sea thrift on top — and the picture along the coastline is even better.
· Doyden point just past Port Quin, with its early 19th century folly Doyden Castle, and old antimony mineshafts
· Lundy Beach and nearby Lundy Hole, an arch remaining from a collapsed cave. (Named, like Lundy Island so prominent earlier, for the local word for puffins.)
· The Rumps of Pentire, probably the most photographed locale on this stretch, and the site of Iron Age cliff fort with some of the earthworks still visible. (See photo at top)
When was that ferry? 5:30 stuck in my mind. It was 3:40 by the time I rounded Pentire Point. Much flatter from here on, and less than 5 miles. I made 3 miles an hour routinely in my practice hikes — but never got that here on the trail, particularly at the end of the day.
5:30 was the last ferry from Padstow wasn’t it? Surely it would go back after that; Padstow was the larger town. And it was light till nearly 9 here…
I did have to stop to change socks and dress my blisters (a passing hiker: “Does that hurt?” Seriously? “No, it’s actually just movie make up I put on to make people feel sorry for me.”). No lunch break, but some pistachios and an energy bar carried all the way from Texas. I pushed hard, but it was going to be close.
“It’s not a race,” Barbara had said.
Urban walking along the seafront of New Polezeath, Polzeath, and Trebetherick. Then behind another beach –
And a damned dune walk, along a golf course. My least favorite type of hiking on this trail, and I think the 4th stretch like that so far. Poor footing, boring scenery, and just enough terrain to bother my blistered feet and slow me down.
I really hoped the last ferry wasn’t at 5:30; it didn’t look good.
Finally in sight of the estuary again. That little flat boat? Was that the ferry? Oh my God… It was headed towards Rock, and it was going to make it to the dock before I did.
I rushed as fast as I could, got to the dock just at 5:30, just as passengers were getting off. No vehicles, just bench seats along the sides (gunwales?), and another double row of benches down the middle, barely room for the purser to walk between our knees and take our money.
I’d made it. If I’d been 2 minutes later, I might not have.
A pleasant ride across the estuary. I did not realize this was the Camel estuary until much later, writing this up. That’s the Camel River, as in Camelford, Camelot…
Tired, sore, and stressed out, I made my way (not far) to the Trealaw B&B, above a Victorian Tea Room (closed, unfortunately; it was after 6 on a Sunday). Beautiful room with antiques and prints of writers and artists. I took pictures of my room, the Tea Room / breakfast area, and my hostess with her elderly Maltese, Kissey. My wife Kat would love this place.
Then down to the harbor for a seafood dinner at the Old Ship, breem with a white sauce and samphire, which I’d never heard of. A spindly green vegetable, naturally salty, looks kind of like juniper branchlets but with the consistency of crisp asparagus. Checked my email on my phone and answered a few questions from my project team.
And finally back to the Trealaw and to bed.
Explicit liber primus, Minehead to Padstow. I had Volume 2 with me, Padstow to Falmouth, for my next 3 days of hiking. It will take me through at least one more trip, who knows when…
Via quondam, viasque futuri.