Welcome to LEJoG Day 4

Day 4 pre-amble

Quick music test: did this title immediately bring to mind Katrina and the Waves?

If so, how about trying this instead? A magnificent disco cover of an original by Eddy Grant.

It’s better. It’s not a cliché. Your life will be better for knowing it. Well, perhaps not, but at least your summers will be.

Yes, today the sun came out and stayed out. A beautiful summer’s day, and an open invitation to use that title.

LEJoG Day 4 (Saturday 17 June 2017)

Portreath to Perranporth (12½ miles)

Cumulative: 53½ miles

Facts: Time on the walk (always excluding breaks): 3 hours 50 minutes. Average speed: 3.26 mph. Weather: Very warm, cloudless, occasional light breeze.

Practicalities: I was staying in Newquay for the weekend. The train was somehow twice as expensive to go to Newquay as it was to Penzance in April, so I decided to drive. I finish work at lunchtime on Fridays, and was on the road by 1:30. Obviously there was a lot of holiday traffic, and Bristol was especially hellish. I was still trying to get past it at 7:30pm. No that isn’t a typo. The guest house I’d booked had a last check-in time of 9pm, so once I reached Exeter services I phoned them and made arrangements to pick up the key using a coded safety box. Didn’t arrive in Newquay until 10:15pm. There was one space left in the shared car park down the road, and it involved an extremely tight squeeze for both driver and passenger doors.

The following morning I drove to Perranporth and parked in what seemed to be a summer overspill on a field about half a mile from the beach. Walked to the bus stop on Beach Road, from where I caught a bus to Portreath, which stopped right outside the Portreath Arms. At the end of the walk I drove back to Newquay. The drives were about 25 minutes and the bus ride 40 minutes.

Accommodation: Three nights (Fri, Sat, Sun) at the St. Bernards Guest House, Newquay. Excellent breakfast, lovely hosts, great location, parking available, virtually perfect. Only sorry I couldn’t get there again for Days 6 and 7 in September.

The walk

Start: Portreath Arms, Portreath, 11:30am. End: Bus stop on Beach Road, Perranporth, 3:50pm.

The first thing I did after getting off the bus was put sun cream on. This was not a weekend to have left your sunglasses at home – more of that tomorrow. After that, a sharp little climb out of the village, and half a mile of road walking on Lighthouse Hill before returning to a cliff top path. RAF Portreath is very close by, so this section of the path includes a number of MoD warning signs on the right hand side fence. Within the first half hour there’s one of those nasty little descent/ascents to negotiate. It’s not a major one, but it sticks in my memory as unwelcome because of the heat and time of day.

After an hour of otherwise uninterrupted cliff top walking, you approach Porthtowan, a small resort which has an ample and busy beach. I stopped here to buy extra water. I wanted to have lunch as well but it was more crowded than I’d expected – especially for ice cream. Steeled myself for the climb out and eventually stopped for a 20-minute lunch near some mine spoils. Them’s the breaks I guess.

Another descent, this time to Chapel Porth, follows. Smaller than Porthtowan but no less popular, square foot for square foot. On the way back to the cliff tops stands Wheal Coates, a National Trust site with UNESCO World Heritage status.

Wheal Coates, a UNESCO World Heritage site near Chapel Porth, Cornwall

Wheal Coates

Another 20 minutes walking and you reach St. Agnes Head. Given more time you could explore as the National Trust suggests, or perhaps contemplate the poetry of Keats. I just admired the views on this brilliantly clear day.

The view SW from St Agnes Head, Cornwall (LEJoG Day 4)

Looking SW from St. Agnes Head

(Godrevy Point lighthouse is visible if zooming in, proving that the most distant headland is the far side of St. Ives Bay)

The view NE from St Agnes Head, Cornwall (LEJoG Day 4)

Looking NE from St. Agnes Head

(Initially I thought Trevose Head was visible, but I’m 90% sure the distant headland is actually Holywell and West Pentire)

The next major descent, around half an hour later, is to Trevaunance Cove, the smallest beach encountered so far today. Then it’s back to the cliff tops pretty much all the way to Perranporth. The SWCP day by day walking guide recommends the geology at Cligga Head, about 2 miles before Perranporth. Certainly most of this section feels very remote from the bustling beaches, and it’s almost a shock to round that last headland and see the glories of Perran Beach suddenly laid out for you. A very pleasant one, of course.

Having made my way to the bus stop before stopping my clock for the day, I thought I’d do some sunbathing on Perran Beach. It was a silly idea: it was rammed, I was hot and a bit sweaty and had no beachwear under my walking gear. Also, my lack of sunglasses was just beginning to affect my eyes, and I needed shade. Settled for fish and chips at the Watering Hole. (I have to say their website has caused me some eyebrow strain – not to question Perranporth’s considerable merits, but is that really the UK’s only “bar on a beach”….?)

A hugely satisfying and enjoyable day: not too long or too difficult, and about as close to an English summer holiday as you can get when walking 12½ miles.

The evening, Newquay

Again, more of this tomorrow, but Newquay was a significant part of my childhood, the holiday resort our family visited more often than any other. But I’d been only once in 25 years before this weekend. Having arrived far too late to explore last night, I had to have a wander this evening. It was surprisingly chilly out, and so I ended up just having one drink and going back to St. Bernards. Ever faithful to the local brews where possible, I had a pint of St. Austell Proper Job at the Dolphin Bar (since closed, it seems).

I was wearing a Purple Rain T-shirt and the young barman commented on it, saying he’d just acquired the album on vinyl. I know I said I was a musical semi-obsessive. Well, vinyl is part of the hemisphere I don’t care about. I respect the preference of those who know better than me but I regard the iPod as the greatest single invention of my lifetime. I’m quite prepared to compromise on sound quality for that kind of convenience and portability.

Also, when seeing the prices of vinyl albums in the 2010s, compared to what they cost when I had Now 7, True Blue and Like A Virgin for my 14th birthday I just laugh. Put it this way, those prices make it very easy to dismiss the entire vinyl revival as an ostentatious hipster thing. I’ve never owned Purple Rain on any format other than CD or MP3, and I don’t feel deprived.

I dare say the same applies to Walking On Sunshine, whichever version you prefer.

Picture (17 June 2017) overlooking Perranporth’s splendid, long, golden beach near the conclusion of Day 4.

Next: Day 5 (18 June 2017)… in which pollen is more powerful than Proust.

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