Sunday, January 21, 2007

Day 2 : Penzance to Tregathenan (nr Helston)

Tuesday 16th January 2007
Distance Walked: 22.4 miles
Start Time: 9:30
End Time: 17:06
Elapsed Time: 8:06
Weather: Cold and sunny early on; overcast and drizzly later
Distance walked so far: 41.2 miles

Penzance looks tired. An attempt has clearly been made to smarten the edges, but at heart it’s a fishing village that entices summer visitors with its relatively large selection of shops and restaurants. In winter it’s largely dormant. I walk along the seafront and follow the curved shore of Mount’s Bay eastward. As the morning sun emerges it becomes impossible to look away from the growing silhouette of the island castle across the bay. It seems impossibly perfect from this distance. A fairytale castle on a fantasy island, reached by a magic causeway. Or a ferry. Of course, at this time of the year, it’s closed. Taking the opportunity, with the elderly dog walkers, to walk along the beach, I symbolically dip my boots in the sea. Soon the end to end route will head north and won’t encounter the coast again until northern Scotland, if I make it that far.

The Coast Path emerges again and dips in and out of coves and bays. The scenery is unquestionably fantastic, and I realise that the first two days of this walk are almost certainly spoiling me. Here there’s always something to look at. It won’t always be the case. At regular points the walker is confronted with a choice of routes; up and over the cliffs or along the shore. After a couple of misjudged choices along the lower route which resulted in scrambling over rocks I realised that I had enough of a challenge ahead of me without having to put myself through such an obstacle course.

On the cliff tops the senses are assaulted by field after field of rotting cabbage stalks, and the accompanying stink. Fishing isn’t the only industry in this part of the world. With the wind at my back I speed on and finally reach Porthleven, and my first pub of the walk, The Harbour Inn, which disappointingly is a modern, tacky and sanitised affair. Still, I reckon I’ve made good time and have plenty of opportunity to reach my B&B for the night in Helston before the light fades, so I enjoy a leisurely pint whilst the TV jukebox spews Sam & Mark’s classic cover of “With a little help from my friends” into my eyes.

It’s only when I’m back on the road that I realise that the B&B isn’t actually in Helston. It’s further than that. Over a couple of really steep hills. I consider walking to Helston anyway, but decide against it. I’m not confident enough yet to just turn up somewhere in the hope that I’ll be able to find accommodation, even though my destination, Tregathenan, is in the middle of nowhere and would almost certainly mean no dinner for me tonight.

I plough on as the dusk falls. Pounding up mud strewn lanes, I walk past herd after herd of miserable looking European youths coming the other way. Bus loads of them. Stopping to chat with one of the drivers, it turns out that they’re the workforce who pick the daffodils that are emerging at this time of year.

When I finally reach the B&B in darkness, it became clear that I had nothing to worry about. Ian and Liz were delightful, allowed me to get cleaned up, ran me back to the good pub in Porthleven, The Ship Inn, and then took me to their regular Tuesday night quiz at The Crown Inn. Whilst I’m dubious that we weren't cheated out of a victory, so pleased were they with our second place that the packed lunch in the morning is wrapped with a tenderness that I will do well not to expect from all my future hosts.

Song of the day:

Bill Fay
“Omega Day”

Inside a bar of a sleeping town /
there lay a sleeping man /
he wore a frown
A stranger woke him /
he looked around /
then he spoke /
I wrote it down

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