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Day One: Woodford to Carbis Bay

This proved to be one of the week’s more challenging days as the Cornish Five (Bill Boe, Isabel Bala, John Roberts, Sue Coulbeck and Sue’s friend Lizzie) attempted the hazardous journey in the aftermath of the floods in Somerset and the demise of the railway tracks at Dawlish. Many trains and replacement coaches were involved, plus the local number 14 bus from Truro, before we eventually arrived at the splendid Treloyhan Manor Hotel only 4 hours late and were revived by a lovely hot dinner and rooms with big baths and heated towel rails.  We met up with Clive and members of the Redbridge Ramblers who had perhaps more wisely travelled by National Express coach, although they too had had to contend with a broken windscreen wiper and a damaged wing mirror, not to mention a faulty computer system on their replacement vehicle.  We also met the hotel’s host for the week, Arnold Steed, a Christian Guild volunteer who walked with us on two or three occasions and who arranged some entertaining evening activities- quizzes, barn dancing and the puzzlingly-named Channel Islands cricket

Day Two: In and around St Ives

Sunday was a fine bright day and included a morning walk led by Arnold up to the John Knill monument, built in 1782 by a customs collector and Mayor of St Ives with some delusions of grandeur, and an afternoon stroll down to St Ives where there was time to visit the Barbara Hepworth Gallery and Garden and enjoy the local crafts and tea shops.  In between, it was warm enough to have lunch in the hotel garden and to appreciate its fine location and magnificent views; the hotel was built in the late 19th century by the shipping magnate Sir Edward Hain and we found many references to him in and around St Ives.

Day Three: St Ives to Zennor Head

This was probably the hardest day of the week as the conditions were horrendous: very strong winds and driving rain coupled with tough climbs and descents on very uneven terrain and narrow tracks.  The path was non-existent in places, making it necessary to negotiate large rocks and wade through bogs and mud, but the coastal views were magnificent and well worth the challenge.  According to legend mermaids used to entice unwary sailors on to the rocks with their singing (hence Mermaid Cove) and the bodies of many of these victims are allegedly buried in the church graveyard at Zennor

Day Four: Zennor to Pendeen Cliff

After a wet start the sun shone for the rest of the day but walking was still very demanding; there were a number of steep inclines and some difficult streams to cross.  In the afternoon we came to a raging torrent and were only able to reach the other side thanks to Clive’s skill in devising a chain of chaps who handed the rest of the group over to the far bank one at a time.  Nobody returned with dry feet that day but the hotel was blessed with a very effective boot room – a somewhat upmarket version of the one at Hassness. As on the previous day Arnold enlivened the trek with local tales and snippets of history.

Walking the South-West Coastal Path: Clive Robinson’s Cornwall holiday, February 15th-22nd 2014

Day Five: Pendeen to St Just

More wind and rain greeted the morning but the sun appeared later and we had a reasonable day. During the morning we walked through the alien landscape of the disused Geevor tin mine. The terrain was still very slippery because of all the water pouring down the cliffs and the inclines and descents continued to be tricky.  As before, however, we were rewarded with dramatic and breath-taking scenery- in fact the 17 mile stretch from St Ives to St Just is arguably the most beautiful and remote section of the entire coastal path. It is certainly one of the most strenuous and there were precious few opportunities for refreshment; the many steep ascents and descents meant that it took longer than we’d expected to cover the distances each day.

Day Six: St Just to Land’s End

After we’d walked the first two miles in brilliant sunshine the weather deteriorated and we had to contend with high winds, rain and even hailstones which lashed our delicate cheeks and slowed us down somewhat.  Happily conditions improved again before we reached our destination and we even had time to sit in a sunny cafe window with pots of tea and fabulous views – sheer bliss.

Day Seven: Land’s End to the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

The original intention was for us to walk over 11 miles to Lamorna Cove but our scheduled bus broke down and we missed the connection at Penzance. The route was shortened but the enforced wait in Penzance enabled four of the Cornish five to eat crumpets and honey at the lovely Lost and Found Cafe in Chapel Street to pass the time (rather greedy after our large cooked breakfast so just as well we had a vigorous day’s walking ahead).  We were lucky to have bright sunshine once again but we were buffeted by strong winds so it was another quite challenging day.  The theatre is a remarkable construction designed and built by an equally remarkable woman, Rowena Cade, who became involved with a local theatre group’s planned open-air staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1929.  Thanks to her sheer determination and hard work the theatre was constructed in this remote  location clinging perilously close to the cliffs.  It afforded a suitable dramatic conclusion to our exhilarating week’s walking.

Clive led the walks with great skill, cheerfulness and patience, and his knowledge of the local buses, on which we were dependent each day, was masterly.  Several of our treks were enlivened by the company of his lovely 10 year-old granddaughter Kaya who made light of the difficult terrain and helped to keep our spirits up.  Between 11 and 18 people walked on the various days and the Cornish five completed the whole walk. Despite some earlier misgivings about the wisdom of tackling such a challenge in the middle of February the week turned out to be an exciting and very enjoyable experience and we are all very grateful to Clive for making it possible.

Bill Boe and Sue Coulbeck