Thursday, 2 May 2013

South West Coast Path Section 17 Porthcothan to Newquay

Porthcothan Beach
Looking at the long range forecast and I can see that this week is going to be very testing and casting around for anywhere in Devon or Cornwall that had some sunshine was quite difficult today. As luck would have it one of the few bright points was in Newquay and this was pleasing as it provided an opportunity to close a gap that I had created at Porthcothan just a few days before. I cannot claim the weather would be anything like as good today as it was back then but it did at least look as though it would be dry for most of the day & have a few sunny intervals, unlike anywhere else I could find.
Trescore Islands

I managed to find an on-street parking space at the eastern end of Newquay, a commodity that I suspect is very rare on good weather days. I walked over to the bus stop and had only a few minutes to wait when a double decker bus pulled up. I didn't think much of this at the time, but as we progressed through the ride to Porthcothan, I soon realised that this was an absolute monster to be taking along some of the lanes that the route took. I was certainly glad I wasn't driving!
Park Head View
I got off at the point where I had finished my walk three days earlier and was pleasantly surprised at how much warmer it was compared to the last few days. I walked alongside the extensive beach at Porthcothan and was pleased to see a few hardy souls had also ventured out for some air on this Monday morning.
Arch at Park Head
The going was pretty easy to begin with, climbing slowly on low cliffs. I soon became aware that the cliffs were not all they seemed as there was a gap of sea between myself and the rocks and I soon realised that I was looking at some rocky islands. Apparently bottlenose dolphins occasionally come inshore near here but I wasn't lucky enough to see them.
Bedruthan Steps
I was soon down at sea level again, crossing a small valley and cove known as Porth Mear. It did seem a lot rockier than many I had encountered but I was thankful that it hadn't been a major descent and ascent. On the far side the path climbed steadily once again until I reached the viewpoint of Park Head. I didn't head out to the end of the Head as the path by-passes it. The view ahead was starting to open up anyway as I had reached the top of the slope.
Relaxing Tussock
Ahead was an astonishing landscape. This is the famed beach of Bedruthan Steps, although I was seeing it from a rather different angle than is usual. My onward route took me along a relatively level clifftop above the famous beach for about a mile or so. Almost every step of the way the view changed as the clouds shifted around with hints of sunshine every so often.
Mawgan Porth
At the far end near the visitor centre I was joined by a lot more tourists who had come here by car and were content with getting the famous picture and heading off to the next place. The steps down to the beach were open (they close during the winter months) and a few hardier visitors were wandering about on the beach.

End of a Hard Day
I continued on my way after briefly admiring the view and soon lost the tourists. My path was relatively straightforward along the side of the cliff until eventually I dropped down onto the beach at Mawgan Porth. As I did so I looked out for the small linear depression in the landscape that my Guide Book suggested I would cross. Sadly I never saw it but it was apparently a hairbrained scheme to build a canal from this point across the countryside to Newquay, carrying with it sand and agricultural goods. Because of the terrain around here it was to operate as a tub boat canal system, with inclined planes replacing conventional locks. Unsurprisingly the venture, although started was never completed and so we'll never know for sure whether it would have been completed. An interesting history can be found at

Beacon Cove

At Mawgan Porth I took the opportunity to pop into the shop that I had seen on the bus over here. It was slightly odd, resembling a petrol station and yet I suspect that it had not functioned like that for many years. The shop itself was pretty well stocked and I was grateful for that.

Tregurrian Beach
After buying provisions I made my way along the other side of the beach and found myself a nice place to sit on the cliff edge where I could consume my lunch and watch the activities going on down on the beach. There were a few surfers and a couple of dog walkers but the beach, along with most I have seen so far have been largely deserted. Feeling fortified after a few minutes I pushed on. The next part of my cliff top walk was less easy. the path wound its way around a couple of large coves and took a couple of ascents and descents as it did so, leaving me a bit breathless.
Landing at Newquay Airport
I was pleased to see the sun finally burst through at this point and many of the clouds drifted away to reveal some blue sky at last. I felt truly vindicated! I was especially pleased when the path settled down once again to a more level course. As I approached Trevarrian I was startled when a passenger plane roared up behind me on its final approach to Newquay Airport. This is becoming a busy little airport now, with three departures to London Gatwick every day and to many other destinations too.
Trevarrian Development
I dropped down off the cliff briefly At Trevarrian, where I passed a very large looking new development. This part of the Cornwall Coast does seem very popular, I imagine these new places to stay would be for the surfing crowd? I passed by the busy car park on the other side and continued along the cliffs on the other side. This proved to be an agreeable section, although if I'm honest all the interest was down on the beach rather than on the top of the cliffs. Newquay seemed to get very close all of a sudden,probably as a result of me constantly looking down at the beach!

Porth Island Bridge
Eventually I reached the wonderfuly named Whipsiderry, where the path was supposed to head out towards Trevelgue Head. Sadly this part of the path was closed for yet more landslips and I had to continue along the road instead. I crossed the river and passed by a pub that had the biggest anchor I have ever seen adorning the outside. Luckily I had my wits about me a little further on because the coast path ducked down and underneath the road I was walking on. I headed alongside Porth Beach and realised that when I looked across at the headland that I hadn't managed to walk around due to the path being closed was in fact part island, joined only by a small footbridge.

Lusty Glaze
I continued the last part of my walk into the centre of Newquay for completeness sake and then double backed to retrieve my car. On the whole this was a satisfactory section with the undoubted highlight being the Bedruthan Steps. The rest of it was pleasant enough but could hardly be described as a top drawer section.

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