…St. Ives on Day 2, I met no polygamous felinophiles. Or at least they did not announce themselves.
I carried two “sacks” – a backpack and a shoulder bag – each of which contained a “kit”, being my clothes and food/water respectively. Ah… actually the shoulder bag also contained a first aid kit.
Regardless of whether you count that separately, my riddle is a damn sight easier to solve than the real one.
LEJoG Day 2 (Sunday 30 April 2017)
Zennor to St. Ives (6 miles)
Cumulative: 23 miles
Facts: Time on walk (excluding breaks): 3 hours 20 minutes. Average speed: 1.80 mph, which at the time of writing 39 days in remains by far my slowest day and the only one with an average below 2 mph. Weather: Wet morning, with the rain subsiding by the time I set off. Cloudy, wet underfoot, brightening up later.
Practicalities: Checked out of the Longboat Inn and took a direct bus from Penzance to St. Ives leaving at 11:05. Carrying my full three-day rucksack now, not just the day bag from Saturday. In St. Ives by 11:40am. After a quick wander around the rail station area it was clear my only option to Zennor on a Sunday morning was a taxi. The driver had walked this section of the path before and advised me to take it easy. Arrived in the village at 12:20 and started the walk proper at 12:30.
My accommodation in St. Ives was the Western Hotel, on Gabriel Street.
The route: From the Trailblazer South West Coast Path guidebook or SWCP website.
Start: Edge of Zennor village, near coast path sign, 12:30pm. End: Street-an-Pol, St. Ives, 4:10pm.
You know I said on Day 1 that I’d left a “short hop” between Zennor and St. Ives for Day 2? Well, on paper, it is. It’s only 6 miles after all. But even before the taxi driver had issued his warning, my Trailblazer guide had told me this was one of the toughest sections of the entire South West Coast Path. A view backed up by the official SWCP website, which talks of:
a strenuous journey of roller coaster climbs as the Coast Path plunges down towering cliffs into beautiful coves and back up again. This is a particularly difficult section and there is a real feeling of remoteness here, unlike any other part of the Coast Path.
It’s talking about walking the other way, but I’m afraid that’s an irrelevant quibble. This is a six-mile walk not to be underestimated. Presumably I no longer need to explain why each mile took me more than half an hour. If you want to learn about the walk in detail, please refer to the SWCP web link above. This includes a very helpful map which allows you to zoom in and use satellite view, and click on notable viewpoints and landmarks.
The first stage, from Zennor Head, is a gradual descent. This should have been one of the easier sections. However the last quarter mile before the coast was extremely muddy underfoot and required some careful walking in order to avoid slips. The path is not especially clear at sea level. It needed some scrambling to find the obvious way up to Tregerthen Cliff. This is a longer and more testing climb than anything on Day 1. Felt as though I’d earned the five-minute break at the top even though I’d been walking for less than an hour.
Shortly after my re-start, a German walker heading for Zennor stopped to ask me how far it was. I gave him the honest answer, that I’d been walking for 55 minutes excluding my little stop. Let’s be honest here: he sounded amused and sceptical, even after I tried to excuse myself by mentioning the terrible mud. I remain above lazily invoking national stereotypes of Teutonic efficiency, but I bet he reached Zennor in less than 55 minutes. Simply because he was fitter than me, and not carrying two sacks. Writing two years later and back under 13 stone, it’s hard to recall that I was probably closer to 15 stone in April 2017. But yes, this was probably a more important factor than the mud.
My next stop was lunch, just below Mussel Point, to look at the Carracks (small offshore rocks) and try to spot seals in the water. Nothing visible in this photo: all saving themselves for Day 3.
The ‘Big Dipper’ cliff work is almost relentless for the next hour, and isn’t really over until Clodgy Point. This is where the path turns SE and heads directly for St. Ives. It is a reasonably kind last half hour, notable only for the descent to Beach Road and the circumnavigation of the headland. The Western Hotel is a further quarter mile south, so I stopped my clock on Street-an-Pol, the last road on the path before Gabriel Street.
After the walk
If I’m not explicit about it in future, my actions at the hotel or B&B in the hour or so after checking in are: shower, change, put today’s walking clothes in a wash-bag, have a cup of tea and hopefully free biscuits, and consult the guidebook or internet about possible food options.
Having done all that, I wandered around St. Ives and stopped for a beer at the ancient Sloop Inn (outside, sadly). Then I enjoyed a seafood meal at the Loft Restaurant. Highly recommended. The evening had turned cold by then, so I returned to the hotel.
Picture (30 April 2017) shows the approach to St. Ives. St. Nicholas Church is located on the headland in the centre of the picture, and the SWCP requires that you walk all the way around said church and headland.
Next: Day 3 (1 May 2017)… in which Ben sees sea, seals but leaves the seashore.