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Paul and Midge

Thursday, 3 May 2012

South Cornwall Coastal Path

I was struggling to find routes to do this time. Most of the ones I really wanted to do were too long to get done in a week and most of the other attractive routes were much less than one week. As those of you who have read our other stories will know Midge and I like to get about 150 to 180 miles done in a week backpacking, anything shorter than this and we get a bit fractious.

I have walked much of the South west coastal path (SWCP) over the years but I have never done it as a single expedition. At over 650 miles the SWCP is a major undertaking and must rank as one of the best walks in Europe. I decided to do the section from Land’s End to Plymouth. I knew the area around Land’s End well having been there many times rock climbing and The Missus and I had holidayed in Cornwall and the Lizard many times. A little short of 160 miles with plenty of up and down this would suit for a week-long trip and I had never done any of the section between Helford and the Rame Peninsular. Doing a coastal path sounds like and easy option compared to a cross country mountain route but according to the best information I could get the ascent on this section is about 9200 metres, compare that with the Coast to Coast (180 miles) of just under 7000 metres and you can appreciate this is no easy journey.

It looked like it was going to be expensive to get there and back; the mysteries of train booking and fare structure make their regular appearance in this blog. I kept looking at the price of a ticket from Melton to Penzance, it remained stubbornly at £114 single. I had made my decision to go and The Missus told me to book it “irrespective of the price” (not a phrase heard from her very often). It looked like I was going to have to submit to the extortion of the railways. I logged on to the website £37.50!! How and why the price had dropped over night I do not know but I booked it before they changed their minds. The fare back from Plymouth had come down from £120 to £88 one way but by booking a ticket from Plymouth to Birmingham then Birmingham to Melton I got it for £27.50. There are no greater mysteries in the world than this, the form and structure of Dark Matter is as nothing compared to the UK train pricing system.

Saturday 14th April

Midge was happy to get on the train to Birmingham and he did not seem to mind New Street station quite as much as he usually does. In his older age he seems a little more relaxed about travelling. We had just got off the train when a lady approached us “Is it Paul and Midge?” she asked. I confirmed our identity. The lady was Lorraine a person who was part of the Wiccaweys family of border collie owners. Lorraine, her partner and Meg her collie were also heading to Land’s End only they were to travel in the opposite direction as they heroically set off on their Land’s End to John O’Groats. We went down to the platform and met Meg who told Midge in no uncertain terms that she would re-arrange his features and remove those stupid oversized ears from the top of his bouffant hair-do. We wished them good luck and went to the opposite end of the platform. (Unfortunately they were eventually battered into submission by the weather and suspended their journey until the conditions improved).

Interestingly Lorraine and co had embarked our train from Melton near Stansted and were en-route to the same destination of Penzance. However, my ticket required me to leave the Plymouth train at Exeter whereas Lorraine was to travel to Plymouth. I then had to catch the Penzance train which Lorraine would join later – strange.

The train to Exeter was crowded but we had booked a seat. I found it and was just settling Midge in when a grumpy old git said “That is my seat!” I smiled and told him I had a reservation. “Not that seat this seat”, he snapped as he pointed to the seat next to me “And your dog is in the way. Get it out of here!” I explained that he had every right to be on the train and if he only gave me a minute Midge would go under my seat and be out of his way. “Get your dog out of there, he can’t sit down with that dog there, it shouldn’t be on the train, put it in the guard’s van where it belongs!” a woman of a similar age I took to be his wife butted in. I repeated that Midge had every right to travel and Midge wriggled under the seat out of the way. “Dogs should be banned from trains!” said Mr Grumpy as he sat next to me “I would sooner they banned grumpy people” I retorted and we sat in silence. Midge did not stir for the rest of the journey.

For your information dear reader a railway ticket entitles you to take a dog, a cat and a basket of fowls with you. At moments like this I wish I had remembered the basket of fowls.

Part way through the journey Mr Grumpy fell asleep and lolled with his head on my shoulder. He woke up with a start and mumbled an apology. “It’s OK” I said in a syrupy voice “I thought you were straight”. This witticism seemed lost on him but he looked a bit worried for the rest of the journey. He left at Taunton and I noticed the old bag who had been so vocal was not with him, so was nothing to do with him, other than wanting to put her oar in. She changed seats as people left and immediately put her bag on the seat next to her to deter anyone else sitting there as the passengers crowded on. Hypocrite. A young guy sat next to me and saw Midge’s foot sticking out. “You got a dog?” I said I had “Cool!” he replied and he reached under the seat to make a fuss of Midge; how pleasing and how different.

We left the train in Exeter in the company of an elderly Somerset company who were also off to Cornwall for their holiday. They fussed Midge as we prepared to disembark. As is often our experience on these trips they cuddled Midge as they told us of their recently departed Labrador, the lady dabbing her eyes and apologising for being so soft. They sat on a bench on the platform while the lady continued to cuddle Midge. As soon as the lady had herself settled she reached into her large handbag and brought out a plastic bottle of pre-mixed whisky and lemonade and poured it into a glass specially brought along for the occasion. “I like to have drink with my lunch” she said and brought out a large pack of sandwiches to go with her aperitif. She was of a size which suggested she had probably enjoyed a substantial breakfast and after this significant lunch would be enjoying an even larger dinner later.

On leaving Plymouth the weather showed the shape of things to come. Hail rattled the windows intermittently between the torrential downpours. The steep fields of Cornwall were running with water and the soaked ground was unable to absorb the onslaught. Streams ran a dirty reddish colour, choked with soil washed from the fields. “This is not a good start” I said to Midge.

There would be a bit of a delay between the train’s arrival in Penzance and the bus to Land’s End. Meg had already made her opinion of Midge known so I thought it would be best to avoid sharing the bus. I therefore phoned a cab and we were met at the station for our transfer to Land’s End. Tony the taxi driver was a garrulous individual and kept up a constant stream of conversation. After 20 minutes he dropped us off at the dreadful Land’s End Experience. The heavy clouds were gathering, the wind was increasing and the temperature was dropping. Midge was bursting for a pee poor lad after such a long journey.

We headed to the famous signpost, a group of bikers were lining up for an official photo before they headed north. They commandeered Midge as a mascot for their photo and he enjoyed all the attention as they fussed him. I told him to sit and he had his photo taken with them. I took his sitting proudly between powerful motor bikes and leather-clad lads and lasses.

It is an easy journey from Land’s End to Treen where we were to camp; there was little sense in going any further tonight. It would mean a long day tomorrow but if the forecast was to be believed we were going to have some sun.

The keen wind increased as were progressed to Porthgwarra until it started the first of the batterings that were to be a feature of this trip. The sky darkened and a ferocious hailstorm covered the ground with pea sized ice to the depth of over half an inch in minutes. I pulled my hat and hood down and made sure all exposed skin was covered from the stinging hail. Midge unfortunately could not cover his tender black button nose from the pain of the hail and he cuddled close to me to shelter this most tender of his parts.

The paths were dreadfully muddy and Midge was filthy in minutes. We nipped down to Nanzijal Bay once the hail retreated to leave vigorous wind driven drizzle in its place. It was here that Midge’s problems were made manifest for the first time. Midge is becoming blind. This is rather distressing for both of us. Midge still wants to perform his sheepdog training tricks and loves to run and leap over objects but he can no longer do it. At home you would scarcely notice, he is so familiar with our regular walks that he knows every stile, ditch and fence but here in Cornwall he was struggling with rocks and steps to the beach and his lack of sight was made clear. The problems started years ago. We were invited to stay with friends and Midge was included in the invitation. The friends had cats but we were reassured that they were fine with dogs and there would be no problem. This was not at all the case. The tom cat of the house objected to Midge’s presence immediately and attacked Midge in a flurry of claws. Midge retaliated but I told Midge “No!” so the poor boy just stood there and took it all – totally obedient to his Dad. The first attack did no real damage and we managed to keep the two of them apart. The next day I went upstairs and Midge wondered where I had gone. He put his head around the door and the cat attacked and scraped its claws straight across his right eyeball. This instigated a reaction in his eye resulting in a cataract making him gradually blind in that eye. He now was developing a cataract in the left eye further restricting his vision.

I was to realise on this trip just how little Midge could actually see. I reckoned that he had only about one third of his field of vision left. I had bought him a bright fluorescent yellow ball so he could see it better and I would have to make sure he kept pretty close to me on the cliff-edges.

The torrential rain had reduced to a fast drizzle and Midge was filthy. We arrived at the excellent Treen campsite. Should I put the tent up now (5pm) or go to the pub and hope it would dry up a little? I booked in with the very friendly young lad and the drizzle abated a little so I positioned my tent out of the wind and went into the shop for a welcome cup of tea. I was not sure of the price of the campsite but when I said I was backpacking on the SWCP the price was a fiver – excellent value!

I had been looking forward to go to the Logan’s Rock Inn, I used to frequent this place when down here climbing and remembered it as an excellent place to eat and drink. We went down the dreadfully muddy lane to the pub and Midge added a little more filth to his fur. The pub was empty except for a three people at one table. All the other tables in the bar had reserved signs on them. I asked if I could sit at one as the table was not booked until 8.30 – it was just after 6. I was told I could not just in case the people came early! I asked if there was anywhere to sit to have a meal. There was room in the upper bar but you would have to be out by 8.30 but your dog can’t go in there. This seemed strange. Eventually I was directed to the cheerless and cold family room.

I had a pint – for the princely sum of £3.70 and ordered the house special fish pie with “locally sourced fish” at £10.75. The thing arrived nuclear hot from the microwave – I knew this because the contents were super-heated and the bowl was just warm. Now I don’t know how long Salmon has been a Cornish fish but I figured locally source could have meant from the local Aldi. If there was 4 ounces of fish I would have been surprised. This was in white glue and covered with more mush in the shape of semi liquid mashed potato. After I had eaten the waitress came to remove the plate and gave a vacuous “Everything alright for you?” I told her that it was fortunate that I had made myself a very hearty packed lunch so the portion size was sufficient for someone who was not starving thank you. “No problem” was her deaf-eared reply.

I sat in this miserable place watching the rain fall until I thought it time to leave as the rain showed no sign of stopping. The evening was improved a little by chatting to a lovely couple from Ireland now resident in north Wales. They were rock-climbers so we had a great chat about climbing and they asked me about the nature of the local routes and sought recommendations – if the rain stopped.

I corralled Midge onto his mat in the tent; the poor lad was wet and filthy. I told him he had to stop there all night and no moving off it. Unfortunately he did so he got told off in the early hours which upset him for the next few hours; he hates his Dad telling him off and is inconsolable.

The wind blew and the hail rattled the tent. Tonight was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and I knew a short distance from me at the open-air Miniack theatre a sell out crowd were sitting in the teeth of the storm to watch Titanic the Musical which was to start at 10.30pm and at 11.40, the exact time of the collision with the iceberg, the audience would be experiencing the conditions all those years ago on that bleak night first hand. According to Tony the taxi driver the producer was intending to flood the front few rows of seats to get a bit of audience participation. He need not have bothered, I reckoned they would be flooded already.

 Sunday 15th April
The morning was cold and a thin northerly wind cut through us. The tent was damp but the forecast was for a dry and sunny day. Sunny maybe, but not warm. I fed Midge and decided not to have anything myself but to eat in either Mousehole or Penzance. We had a nice long day ahead of us. I was heading for Praa Sands on the opposite side of the Bay. We returned to the path and what a different view from the previous day! Blue seas and blue skies, it deserved a photo. I stopped to take a picture and could not find my camera. I turned out my rucksack and looked in every pocket. Nothing! I retraced my steps all the way to the campsite but could find nothing. I was very annoyed with myself but there was nothing I could do about it. I would have to buy a disposable camera in Penzance.

My gloomy mood was made more so by Midge’s stumbling, tripping and walking into objects because of his poor sight. I had to shake this feeling off. I was on the coast path in the sun with my lovely lad; what else would I rather be doing? On the easier sections Midge trotted on ahead but if he lagged behind I stopped to make sure he was OK and knew where I had gone. His nose and ears are very acute and he never took a wrong turn but all the same, where the path was near to edge, such as coming into Lamorna Cove, I made sure he was right by me.

We were in Penzance in no time and even though it was Sunday most of the shops were open so I was able to get a couple of disposable cameras. I also had my breakfast – a pasty. This was to be the defy Chancellor George Osbourne trip – eat as many pasties as I could manage. The Cornish were very upset about the VAT to be added to this most traditional of their snacks.

Midge was walking on my right side as we walked down the high street to the front and regular boings! bore witness to his poor vision as he walked into metal lampposts and set them ringing with his head.

We were just crossing the road by the railway station when I heard my name called and there was Tony the taxi driver at the rank. “You’re going the wrong way!” he called. I went over to chat to him and he directed me to the “right” way. This proved to be along the breakwater eventually leading to a locked gate. A scramble over rocks and a jump down a wall eventually got me onto the footpath I had been told to leave. Lesson – never take footpath directions from a bloke who sits in a car all day.

The path was very easy and flat for the next 6 or more miles. Most of the beaches we had passed that day said clearly NO DOGS so it was great to find a beach that did allow Midge to stretch his legs and race around. We had a good long time throwing his ball as we went along the beach around to Marazion, Midge raced around wildly doing his sheepdog tricks and chasing his ball. Nearing Marazion the restrictions returned so we went up onto the prom. Midge was by my side on the left off the lead but then he gradually got ahead of me as he often does. He was walking along and I was not watching him closely when he disappeared off the prom and fell about 8 feet onto the beach. He had not seen the edge! Fortunately he landed softly and he was unharmed except for having a mouth full of sand. The poor lad looked bewildered. Where did the floor go?

St Michael's Mount - I finally take a picture!

It was easy walking all the way to Perranuthoe and it had only taken a little under 4 hours to get this far and Praa Sands was an easy hour or so further on so we stopped at a teashop for a cuppa. Even so we still arrived in Praa Sands by 2.30.

Only ones camping at Praa Sands

The only campsite open was the one at the top of the hill. We slogged up there and found no sign of anyone so we pitched in the most sheltered spot we could find; the strong chilling wind was still going strong.  I had a shower and still there was no one. We played ball. Midge riffled out his ball as I was sitting in the shelter of the tent reading. Despite his poor eyesight he is pretty accurate when it comes to throwing the ball through the tent flap to bounce off my head. I threw the ball, he chased it then threw it back into the tent. On our way to look for an evening meal for me we finally found someone to pay. I said my usual “one man, one dog, one small backpacking tent” I was asked if I was walking the SWCP and after the affirmative it was a fiver again – even though the price list said £9 for a small tent with up to 2 people.

Play with me Dad!

We went to the Sandbar pub, not really a pub more a bar which would feel well at home on the beach in California or Australia. The food and beer in this place were excellent. The views are superb and the staff were great. I could not fault this place.

A middle aged couple came in with a border collie pup. People who had previously fussed Midge oohed and aahed over this bundle of fluff. “She is a pedigree, we got her from a very good dealer with an excellent reputation” the woman said loudly, repeatedly and unbidden by all those who petted the pup. I wondered if she was only saying that because Midge was at the next table. The pup was running them through its’ paws. It demanded and it got. Eventually it leapt on the table to grab food and instead of being put in its place it was picked up and cuddled and fed chips from its owners’ plates. If ever there is a wrong thing to do with a border collie these idiots were demonstrating it. It looked depressingly like it was on its way to the rescue home in 3 months.

It was a very cold night, the northerly wind kept up all night but we were dry and cosy in our tent.


A big day today not only in distance but also in the amount of ascent and descent. The feature of this path is the up and down. Most inland paths follow a logical route making the best use of the land to not only get from A to B but also in a way to reduce the effort required. Over the years footpaths developed in a logical way. Not so the coast path, it follows the coast so what the coast does, it does. The path goes up, not to get anywhere, it does so only so that it may come down again to repeat the process. This constant rollercoaster gets very wearing towards the end of the day. The maps do not really make it very clear where the gradients are and there is little point in looking ahead along the bay as hidden rises and falls are tucked away. What looks like a relatively gentle rolling stroll may well disguise precipitous drops to the beach and back up the headland.  This section did all this and it also packed in a tiring walk on Porthleven sands.

The morning was still – no wind. Which unfortunately meant the tent was wet with condensation so I opened it up to dry. I always try and pack up my tent dry and if I cannot I try and dry it as soon as I can. There is little more dispiriting than putting up a wet tent and getting in it wet, in the rain.

After Midge had eaten we broke camp and once again a drink of water was breakfast enough for me. I would eat in Porthleven. We were in Porthleven in no time and I bought a pasty and a drink and sat by the harbour eating it. The pasty was very good. We met very few people on the route today so were alone for much of it – something I really enjoy.

Early morning play on the beach

By the time we reached Mullion by feet were feeling a bit tired. I had broken in a different pair of boots for this trip but on the first wet day they leaked like a sieve. This was only a few days before the trip so I had to buy a pair of Merrills and pretty much wear them straight out of the box. Fortunately they were great but my feet were still to get used to them. In my tiredness I completely forgot to take a photograph as we rounded The Lizard – where we were in the crowds. My feet were really aching by the time we entered the picture perfect village of Cadgwith. It was still only lunchtime so I stopped for a single pint (honest). The pub was excellent and I wondered about eating here this evening, my campsite was under 2 miles on the road from here.

Familiar Cornish Scene

We continued to Kennack Sands with a bit more energy and again flogged up the road to the campsite. Campsites are always up hill in Cornwall I was learning.

We booked in with a slightly camp young lad who once again charged us only a fiver on learning we were backpacking. I don’t know if this is official policy in Cornwall but I was starting to like it. It was over cast and very, very cold. The promise of a westerly wind had not materialised and the north wind continued. We tried to get out of the wind as best we could.

I left Midge guarding the tent (Welcome all thieves, take what you want as long as you give me a fuss) and went for a shower. The PA system in the building kept up a constant stream of 80s music mainly Pet Shop Boys, George Michael, Michael Jackson, Communards, Sylvester (OK 70s) – I started to worry about bending for the soap. This was a feature of the place all day and evening.

Midge guards the tent while I check out the gay disco scene

Midge was ready for another walk and I wanted to look out the options for eating. We had a play on the beach; yes, despite around 25+ miles and umpteen thousand feet of ascent Midge was ready to run around.

The only option for food was the Potter’s Bar and what a strange place it was. I find it hard to describe but if you could imagine a teenager who wanted a pub for his mates to come around in the 1980s and it sort of continued into 2012 that was the Potter’s Bar. If the Royles (As in Royle family TV show) ran a pub this is what it would be like. Various old bits of furniture, massive flat screen TV, pool table, karaoke machine. Fortunately it did food and half decent cider (no good beer only lager) and had a cosy stove by the bar. I called in to gauge the place and chatted to the landlord and his wife who were nice people if rather chaotic.

I returned later and had fish and chips with mushy peas which was good. The barman was losing money rapidly on his mobile phone through spot betting on the Arsenal match and spent most of the night looking at the big screen, cursing and trying to recoup his losses with another bet only to lose more. I cannot understand betting, if I lose money betting I feel a proper prat and that is reason enough for me not to get hooked.

I had promised Midge another walk but it was brief owing to the cold and freezing wind. And so to bed.

Tuesday 17th

It rained in the night with high winds but by morning it had stopped and the wind had dropped, which meant the tent stayed wet. I decided to open the tent to dry and went to wash and brush up in the gay disco (toilet block) while the tent dried off. I was only in there with the Bee Gees for a few minutes and when I came out everything was soaking wet. A short sharp deluge had wet everything. I waited a little longer as it seemed to be drying again and the same thing happened so I gave up and packed it up wet.

Midge and I played on the beach again on the way out. I had noticed my knee had swollen the night before and it felt stiff this morning. This was not helped by the amount of up and down we were to do today. Nevertheless we made excellent time to Chynhallis Point but then the path deteriorated, wet muddy rock, very slippery. I slipped and twisted my knee a couple of times and wished I had brought walking poles. This was without doubt the worst section of the whole route and I was happy when it was over. We arrived in Coverack at 9.30 having taken less than an hour to get there and nothing was open so no breakfast pasty for me. I had only had a drink of water so supplemented this with some trail mix.

The morning always starts with playing on the beach

I caught up with a couple of people nearing Dean Point. The first I tried to engage in conversation but the poor chap had such a dreadful stammer he almost fell over in the effort to speak so I wished him luck and trotted past him. The second was an older chap who asked up where we were going to and from and thought we must be superhuman (hardly!).

We went through the ugly quarry and Dean point and it is here that the route goes inland to avoid more quarries. Indeed with the exception of a brief visit to Porthoustock you keep off the coast until Porthallow. We arrived in Porthallow well before 11, too early for the pub and nowhere else was open so we pressed on. It was now that it started raining heavily.

The walking from Porthallow to Gillan harbour is easy and we raced along in the rain and gales. The tide was out so we were able to cross the estuary easily, although Midge insisted in making a return trip swimming across, finally completing the crossing over the stepping stones for good measure. I was wondering whether to take off my waterproof because the sun had come out when, despite the bright sunshine, it started hammering it down. We headed for Dennis Head and the heavens really opened and the wind almost knocked us off our feet. We scurried behind a wall and found an old couple hiding there too so we chatted while the storm abated.
The crossing point at Gillan

The woodland walk to Helford was like the Somme, we slipped and skidded our way through what I am sure is a wonderful walk in spring with the wild flowers, but today it was a job keeping on your feet. We were covered in thick black mud in no time. We were black and dripping when we arrived in Treath where an old Chapel has been converted into a tea shop. It said Dogs Welcome. I said to Midge there is a welcome for dogs but there might not be a welcome for wet-through black muddy dogs so I went inside to enquire. The two young women running the place could not have been more welcoming and insisted Midge came in and he was given biscuits and water. I had a sensational Crab sandwich and a pot of tea and I highly recommend this place.

When we left the rain had stopped and we continued to the ferry and turned the marker to let the ferryman on the opposite bank know we wanted to cross. I threw a stick in the water for Midge and he dutifully went in after it a couple of times and therefore I managed to get him reasonably clean. We were to stay in a B+B tonight as a treat and meet an old friend of mine for a meal in Mawnan Smith.
Getting Midge clean at the Helford river crossing

The ferryman arrived and Midge hopped in. This was his first trip on a small boat and I wondered how he would react. He sat there calmly sniffing the air while I chatted to the ferryman. Then something caught his attention (nose) – playthings!! His keen scent had picked up the plastic bollards/fenders and the sides of the boat. Midge loves finding these on the beach and so these must be playthings – he leaned right out of the boat pawing them and trying to lift them into the boat to play with as I battled to stop him falling overboard.

For £4 we got to the other side before Midge did any damage. He was still nice and clean so I walked up the road to our B+B rather than go on the footpaths. The B+B was in a lovely old country house set in 15 acres of garden and was really reasonably priced. We had a huge room with a lovely big bathroom which I desecrated with my wet tent. After lots of tea and a long walk around the gardens accompanied by the owners two dogs, Midge finding tennis balls as though they were breeding in the undergrowth, we went to meet my friend Louis in the local pub. The Red lion does good food and beer and I spent a lovely convivial evening with Louis and his wife.

Midge in our country house room

Wednesday 18th
It had rained very hard all evening and through the night. We both slept very well in our lovely room. I had to get to Falmouth to get the ferry over to St Mawes and then take another ferry to Place to continue the route. The wind had picked up in the night and was now thrashing the trees. Midge had demanded to go out at 6 and we just got back in before a monsoon struck again.

Breakfast was good although the fry-up was rather modest by usual B+B standards. The lady of the manor regaled me with hard luck stories and tales of difficulties with the National Trust which owned the gardens and were being a difficult landlord. This type of conversation does not fit easily with trying to eat breakfast and get out in a short time and took the enjoyment of the proceedings. However, we were out by 8.40.

I need not have worried, we were in Falmouth in around 40 minutes from Mawnan Smith. I stopped to get some money out of the cash machine and heard “It’s Midge, Hello Midge!” it was the couple whom we had sheltered with the afternoon before in the storm.

I arrived at the ferry terminal way too early and spent the time chatting to people who kept stopping to fuss Midge including one couple who had seen us at Lamorna Cove a couple of days earlier who were impressed with our progress.

Eventually the ticket office opened and we got the 10.15 sailing to St Mawes. It takes about 30minutes to cross and the sea, even in the relative confines of the Fal estuary, was choppy and the boat rolled in the swell. We disembarked in St Mawes into the drizzle and looked for the Ferry to Place just over the estuary. It had been cancelled due to the weather and it would not run at all today. There was our destination just a few hundred yards away and we could not get there.

Fortunately the ferry man told me there was a bus to Porthscatho but not until 11.40 so we had to kick our heels here for an hour. I went to a little bakery on the quay and had a coffee, then to the tourist info place, then walked the streets in the rain until giving up and sheltered under an awning.

The bus arrived and the driver, an Italian, took our fares. At the appointed time for the bus to leave the driver got off and had a cigarette. This was obviously planned so he could set of 5 minutes late and then try and make it up by doing a pretty good impression of training for the circuit at Monza as he sped around the narrow lanes in a bus which had rudimentary suspension to say the least. We actually arrived in Porthscatho early. It was unfortunate that I had missed the section from Place but it could not be helped and I was not about to turn around and do it so I pressed forwards. This was a late start for the main walk; we hit the main path at almost midday.
Finally back on the path at Porthscatho

There was an awful lot of up and down on this section, almost all of it hidden from view and difficult to discern on the map. I just had to get my head down and get it done. I almost stopped at the pub in the pretty village of Porthloe but I decided trail mix and water were good enough.

The wind was dreadful and more than once I feared we might get blown off the cliff-tops, at times it was hard to make progress. Once we reached Dodman Point it was so strong that I wondered about the sense in trying to camp this high up, but there was no alternative nearby that was open. We arrived at Treveague farm campsite to find no one around as usual. I put my tent up in a sheltered corner between a hedge and a caravan. I soon had a neighbour, an old grey bearded and incredibly vague fellow with his jack Russell arrived. Apparently this chap lives in the caravan all summer and winters in Weston-Super-mare. After initial grumblings Midge and the JRT got on really well. Once again, once I found the owners I got the backpacker’s rate of £5. Once again we had piped disco music in the excellent, warm toilet block.

I was going to go into Gorran Haven to look for dinner but my elderly neighbour said in his almost undecipherable Somerset accent that no pub allowed dogs in and I would be better going to Gorran which did not look much on my map and there was no pub marked “Barley Sheath is what youm want, yes it is, Barley Sheath, do you well will they.” so I went looking for it. It turned out to be an excellent pub with great food and a good choice of well kept beers – a real find. The people loved dogs and there was a variety of well behaved dogs in there. It was an excellent evening.

The wind was still as strong when we walked home. Midge found himself an old football so we ran along the lanes playing football on our way to the site.

Thursday 19th
The wind dropped in the night and a mist developed and the tent was wet through with condensation. As soon as I let Midge out the wind got up and the rain started. I looked across the farm to a hill no more than 400m away, it was sunshining! I hoped the clouds would break and we might get some sun to dry the tent but no luck; all around us there was sun but we were in the middle of intermittent heavy showers. I dropped the tent and took it to the toilet block and hung it up in the wind under shelter to try and dry it out. After an hour I decided it was as dry as I would get it and we packed up and headed off about 9.
Goran Haven
My ankle was giving me some gyp today and the tendons at the front had swollen. This did not delay us much and we were in Mevagissey soon where I found a bakery and bought a very good pasty and a large cup of tea and sat by the harbour out of the wind – and now in the sun- to enjoy it.

There seemed to be a lot of up and down before Charlestown where I stopped and bought some orange juice. I had figured that I was not drinking enough so I resolved to try and up my intake. I sat on a seat  with the drink and noticed the plaque dedicated the seat to Fred and Rose West - inviting me to sit and relax - surely not THE Fred and Rose West!!

We went around the edge of a Golf Course and Midge, not to be outdone, found himself a very nice stick with an angle at the end which looked for all the world like a small golf club which he carried all the way along the course.

There is a bit of an unpleasant section around the industrial area by the St Austell docks but we were soon on to Par Sands where I let Midge have a run around and chase his ball for being so good. After Polkeris the route around  Gribbin Head is quite easy until you drop to the beach but the fact that Fowey is just around the corner keeps you motivated.

We arrived in Fowey at 2.30 and I bought food for Midge, We having run out of his dried dog food so I treated him to tuna and bread for tonight and the morning. Fowey is a lovely place and I wish I had more time to look around its narrow streets. We caught the ferry to Polruan, Midge had to pay this time, 40p. The route up to the campsite is steep but it was the final pull of the day. It was windy and dry so I dried off the tent where I pitched it in a sheltered spot. I had a short snooze as I waited for the camp office to open and give me the codes to access the washrooms.

Once scrubbed up Midge and I went for a walk, the cold wind cut it short as I wanted my dinner so we headed back down the hill and chose to eat in the Lugger Inn on the Harbour. The beer was good and I had Crab cakes (OK) and steak pie (pretty good) until I felt I could hardly move. This made the trip up the hill difficult.

Friday 20th
It rained in the night but by morning it had stopped and the day was still and the tent soaked again. Everywhere was wet and there seemed little prospect of drying the tent off even though I draped it over some swings in an effort to do so.  I drank plenty of water but did not feel like eating so skipped the trail mix. Showers were gathering and coming towards us so I decided to head off  and we hit the coast path at 8.45. After less than an hour walking we got into a sheltered cove with a nice breeze which had the sun so I unpacked the tent and dried it off on a bench. Feeling satisfied with this house keeping I thought I should eat something but simply could not. I don’t mean did not, I just could not seem to swallow – my stomach seemed reluctant to accept water and trail mix – strange. 
Morning on the path beyond Polruan

Drying the tent

We saw no one until we reached Polperro where I bought a bottle of drink and tried to get it down me. At 11 the rain and hail started and we were thrashed for most of the rest of the way to Looe. I still had not had anything to eat so in Looe I bought a drink and a pasty which I tried. The pasty tasted awful, I am sure in retrospect it was not, I just could not eat it; I felt sick. I gave it to Midge who accepted it gratefully and wolfed it down. I had a feeling of indigestion and my pace really slowed up.
Midge finds a friend

As we approached Seaton we met an elderly couple on their way to Portwrinkle, they were doing the SWCP in sections and had come from Helford a few days earlier. They would be back later in the year to continue to Plymouth and beyond.

Midge and I played on the beach at Seaton in the rain and wind. The campsite was up the steepest hill so far and I felt dreadful. I had to stop repeatedly due to nausea and fatigue. “I’m not a well lad” I said to Midge, he looked concerned.
We arrived at the campsite of Trerieve farm, its website had looked good when I was researching this trip and it was the only campsite between Polruan and the Rame peninsula. It proved to be very, very basic with one toilet, one shower and one tap. It was hammering down as I approached and the lady of the house invited me in out of the rain. I was thankful to sit down.  The son made me a cup of tea in the kitchen.

The house from the outside looked ordinary enough, an 18th century farmhouse, inside it was a shell. It looked as though the house had been abandoned for 40 years and they had just moved in. A bran new Raeburn contrasted with the bare crumbling plaster walls and ancient decrepit units. The doors were battered and one was no longer on both its hinges. There were no signs of building or restoration going on, I assumed this is how they lived. A huge farmhouse table perhaps 9 feet long dominated the kitchen and was covered with bills, receipts and forms which the farmer and his wife bickered over. It was a scene which would have looked well in a Dickens novel.

I asked to settle up, £8 was the quick reply, no backpacker price here – or perhaps the tea was £3? Not good value compared to the rest. The field was grass about 8inches long which meant we could not keep dry even if it were to stop raining. I pitched my thankfully dry tent in the lea of the hedge to try and get out of the battering winds. I got out of my waterproofs and into the tent and flopped. Within minutes Midge’s ball flew through the tent opening and landed wetly on my sleeping bag. He wanted to play.  It having stopped raining we played for a while but soon the hail and torrential rain started again and even Midge wanted to come in. I let him cower under the flysheet at the tent entrance; he could not come in properly until we went to bed.
Playing will make you feel better Dad!
I lay on the bed shivering, my body wracked with convulsions. I put on layers of clothes and got into my sleeping bag to stop the shivering, it did not work. Around 6 I figured I would have to eat something I had not eaten and had drunk little all day and had covered not much short of 20 miles, I was running on empty. The rain stopped so we headed for the Inn on the Beach and nice modern pub. I still did not feel like eating but I thought I might manage a bowl of soup and a pasta starter to follow.

I am sure both were very good but I simply could not swallow. I managed half of the soup, none of the roll and a few pieces of pasta with a J2O. I sat reading my book hoping Midge might dry off a little. After a couple of hours I thought I had better get to my bed. I was just settling up the bill when I realised I was about to throw up. I hurriedly got my change and ran for the toilet just getting there before I heaved.
The walk back up the hill was purgatory for me. I struggled out of my waterproofs and got into bed in all my clothes and settled Midge down beside me. I sorted out a plastic bag just in case of a repeat performance of the throwing up.
I woke up around 11, it was chucking it down again. I was aware of what had woken me up, a sure feeling that I was about to throw up. I opened the tent to where I had put the plastic bag and had just got my head into it when I chucked up with terrific force. Once it was over I carefully lay back down.

I had a dreadful night, I could not sleep and waves of nausea flooded over me. Around 1 o-clock I was fully awake again listening to the incessant rain hammering down. It was the turn of the nether extremities to empty itself. I had to move carefully, one false move would mean getting my pants full. I struggled over Midge who repeatedly tried to get out of the tent. I did not want to deal with a soaking dog as well so I yelled at him to stay put. This he did, right in the doorway making it even more difficult for me to get out. I tried to move him but he just rolled on his back supplicating “I don’t know what you mean Dad!” and he effectively blocked the doorway.  Carefully but with as much speed as I could muster I got upright trying not to increase my intra-abdominal pressure any more than that necessary. With both legs and buttocks so tightly nipped together I must have looked as though I had inadvertently got both legs down one trouser leg I minced to the toilet in the pitch black. I had no torch, why would I need a torch in April, I won’t be going out in the dark!

I made it across the field and farmyard to the thankfully, new and pleasant toilet. I adjusted my attire and sat. For a moment I thought someone had played a trick on me and flushed the toilet such was the noise, it took a while for me to realise that the noise was me! This was confirmed when it happened a second time. There was nothing solid only all that water and J20 I had drunk. I stumbled back to the campsite and got back into bed. Mercifully I slept for 3 hours until I had to repeat the performance again in the pouring rain.

Saturday 21st
At 5.30 I started to think about my options. I had about 17 miles to go and having had no food or drink for about 20 hours I assessed my chances of completing as slim. I would pack up and try to get on the best I could; start early and go slow. We had packed up by 6.15 and I made an agonised walk down the hill. I drank water regularly to try to rehydrate. As I walked down the hill I could map the journey the water was taking through my intestine. By the time I reached the foot of the hill and the village it was travelling along the ascending colon, as I got into the centre it was in the transverse colon and I rushed to the toilets as it entered the descending colon and sat down just in time for the 500mls of water I had drunk to make a hurried exit.

I walked along the road to the start of the path proper and followed it. At the first hill I struggled, there was no energy in my legs I walked only a few metres before I had to stop. There was no way I was going to make 17miles. I wandered back into the village to assess my options again.
Early morning waiting for the bus which never came

As I came back into the village I noticed a bus stop I had not seen the previous evening. Now in rural areas a bus stop does not always mean a bus so imagine my surprise when I saw there was indeed a bus at 8; it was now 7 so I went to the beach so Midge could be off the lead and have a run. After another visit to the toilets I went to the bus stop. Five minutes after the stated time I was still there. A chap passed me and I asked him if there was a bus, apparently only on a School day the next bus was three hours time.
As I was talking to this chap the post office opened and I went in to see what they might have to help me. Nothing was the real answer but they did have Lucozade. If I could absorb the glucose in this I might get enough energy to get going again. I bought a bottle and took a drink.

I went back to the point I had previously turned around, this time I was determined not to stop. Despite the agony in my legs I passed my previous point and carried on. After about 30 minutes I seemed to hit my stride I just shut my mind and got on with the job. I was in Portwrinkle in not much more than an hour still sipping the Lucozade. The route became much easier from here and I chose to take the route at the side of the road over the military firing ranges. Easy road walking following the route took me to Tregonhawke. I doubted I had the resources to go around the Rame Peninsula. I had planned to do so and spend the evening in Kingsand and explore this area but at the moment all I could think of was getting home to my bed.
I headed inland to Millbrook and bought more Lucozade in the shop near the harbour. I was moving well now and the guts seemed to have calmed down. We left the road at the end of Millbrook Lake and followed the coast to Empacombe and then to the ferry at Cremyll. As soon as we reached the terminal I dived into the toilets and left behind about 700ml of Lucozade. God only knows what I had been running on for the last 12 miles but I certainly had not absorbed any food or water for more than 24 hours.  We actually reached the Ferry by 11.00 only 3hours after setting off from Downderry. Perhaps we could have completed the whole Peninsula? I was just happy to be going home.
Made it! Waiting at Cremyll for the ferry to Plymouth

Midge was filthy so we played in the water until he was clean and then hopped on the ferry to Plymouth. We had to pay the full price train fare home but in the state I was in I thought this was worth it. The Missus met us at the railway station in Melton.  I had not had a pee since Friday morning and did not manage another one until Sunday morning such was my state of dehydration.
This was an excellent route and although I missed off much of the Rame Peninsula I figured we did a pretty fair job considering.