Welcome to LEJoG Day 7

Day 7 pre-amble

As I write, it’s only three months since Seaborne Freight was all over the British news. But just in case anyone reads this years later, here’s a brief primer.

Shortly after Christmas and New Year 2018/19, as the country dragged itself back to work, it was revealed that the British government had contracted a company called Seaborne Freight to provide cross-channel ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Then, as the January blues kicked in across Britain, they were temporarily banished by the hilarious news that Seaborne Freight had literally no ferries. The script-writers pushed their luck a bit with the subsequent plot twist that, not only had the company won an important government contract it could demonstrably not fulfil, but it had also taken its terms and conditions from a pizza delivery company. But, no matter how far-fetched, that sort of script is commonplace truth in the Britain of 2019.

And what on earth does this have to do with Day 7 of LEJoG? Well, the official South West Coast Path between Padstow and Port Isaac incorporates the ferry from Padstow to Rock, across the Camel estuary. For me, it’s foot only all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats, so this would constitute cheating. And so, when spanning these two places, I had to “make like Seaborne Freight” and apply a strict no ferries rule.

[I hope that’s the last time I’ll touch on the B-word as well]

LEJoG Day 7 (Sunday 24 September 2017)

Padstow to Port Isaac (12 miles)

Cumulative: 95½ miles

Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours 10 minutes (including 20 minutes for stop and retreat). Average speed: 2.88 mph. Weather: Grey after overnight rain; wet underfoot especially in Amble valley.

Practicalities: Drove from Newquay to Port Isaac (40 minutes) after checking out at 8:45am, and left the car in the St. Endellion car park on New Road. This car park is less than 5 minutes walk from the bus stop, which is near the junction with Back Hill. Took 9:47 bus to Rock (30 minutes) and walked to the ferry dock. Caught the 10:50 ferry to Padstow. Obviously all of this was necessary only because I stayed in Newquay on Saturday night.

The walk

Start: Bus terminus, Padstow, 11:15am. End: St Endellion car park, Port Isaac, 3:45pm.

As with the latter part of Day 6, this inland route diverging from the SWCP is taken from Andy Robinson’s End To End book (pages 74 to 76). The photographs below show the route and instructions from Wadebridge. The preceding section from Padstow is superfluous as all you have to do is follow the Camel Trail for 5 miles.

Wadebridge to Chapel Amble shortcut, LEJoG Day 7, (c) Andy Robinson

Chapel Amble to Port Isaac, LEJoG Day 7, (c) Andy Robinson

Those first 5 miles by the Camel estuary and river are not particularly exciting, but they are quick. The ground is flat and there’s no need to stop and check your maps. The Camel Trail is well signposted and heavily used by both walkers and cyclists. Shortly after the A39 flyover outside Wadebridge, the Trail joins a public road leading to the town centre. It’s not a hugely photogenic start to the day, and the light wasn’t enticing in any case. This is the only photo I took on today’s walk, looking back at Padstow from the bridge over Little Petherick Creek:

Bridge over River Camel, looking back at Padstow

After Wadebridge (where I stopped for lunch) came the first real navigation test in 7 days. There are various fields, footpaths, footbridges and roads to find. Yesterday’s inland routes were much more straightforward. The first section, from the edge of town to Bodieve via the A39 underpass, is easy enough. However, a serious word of warning now: the B3314 is unpaved, has no verges and is very busy. Robinson says as much in the instructions above; I’m repeating it for emphasis. It’s rare that I will retreat on an unpaved road. Usually I have the patience to wait for traffic and the nous to know where I’m safe to cross or stand still. But this road is, frankly, dangerous. The slightest bend is not worth the risk.

I lost 10 minutes waiting for traffic to subside, aiming for the gate and footpath sign recommended by Robinson. In the end I gave up and found an unofficial footpath a couple of hundred yards short on the same side of the road. Pushed myself through some trees and over a wall so as to rejoin Robinson’s route. I’d be tempted to find a different route altogether. But if you must use the B3314, spend as little time as possible there and be extremely careful and vigilant.

Between here and the village of Chapel Amble, you enter a valley, which on this Sunday was basically marshland. The village (especially its pub) looked pleasant enough. However, by this time my morale had been sapped by the boggy ground. Furthermore, time was of the essence as I had to drive home from Port Isaac. Ploughing on then, it should be borne in mind that the footpath out of Chapel Amble in Robinson’s note 6 skirts the garden of a (friendly and helpful) resident.

The path next to the stream between here and Trevathan was very muddy. Today’s walk may stop being fun round about now if the weather has turned on you. This is what I meant by missing the ups and downs of the coast path. Just as I write that, I’m reminded that the field track from the stream to Trevathan is a bit of a climb, without sea views as a respite. I used the minor road rather than Robinson’s field path from Trevathan to St Endellion, mainly because I was fed up of trudging through mud.

There’s a really obvious and well-kept path from St Endellion to Trelights, and Port Isaac feels close by now. Unfortunately, this is where I had to beat another retreat and lost a further 10 minutes. Here, in the field behind the bungalow ‘Kosylund’, I had my first close encounter of the bovine kind on this walk. Cows are, to be perfectly blunt, a pain in the butt for the walker. Those who don’t take their walking seriously may not appreciate either the annoyance of having to backtrack, or the fear of something worse if you don’t. I take no chances, personally. I give it a go and if they’re obviously curious and start heading towards me as a single-minded ten-ton dairy co-operative, I’m out of there. And that’s what happened today.

A bit of quiet road walking, another field and stile, and then I was on the road into Port Isaac. Church Hill joins back up with the SWCP at the bottom of quite a steep descent. Rather than sticking to the path all the way round the harbour, I cut up Back Hill to end my stage at the St Endellion car park.

I’m conscious – as they all say in management these days – that I haven’t really sold Day 7. It is, by a long distance, the least interesting of the 14 days between Land’s End and Barnstaple. There’s not a lot more I can say I’m afraid. If you’re going to do LEJoG, you have to be prepared for those days where you just get your head down, grit your teeth, dial any other cliché you like and get through it. If you’re avoiding ferries as part of your route, this is probably the best alternative, the B3314 notwithstanding. Also, I didn’t spend any time in Port Isaac afterwards, so if you want a really entertaining blog about an hour or two in the life of this fishing village with its one ubiquitous claim to fame, I recommend Dave’s.

Sunday afternoon and evening practicalities

Changed out of my muddy trousers in the convenience next to the car park, and drove home.

Postscript: My listening pleasure (Stage 3: Days 6 and 7)

Same as stage 2, but the iPod conked out on Saturday (somewhere near Trevone) and I didn’t have the charger with me. So Sunday’s walk probably dragged even more due to the lack of music or podcasts.

I promise there’s a lot more variation in listening during Stage 4 (days 8 to 14).

Picture of the Padstow to Rock ferry taken from Trip Advisor.

Next: Six months off for winter. Then: Day 8 (1 April 2018) in which Ben develops earworms involving tigers and hippos.

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