Last month the record for the South West Coast Path was obliterated – someone managed the whole 630-mile stretch between Minehead and Poole (covering all of Devon and Cornwall, plus parts of Dorset and Somerset) in 14 days, 8 hours and 2 minutes. I may not be in danger of troubling the Guinness Book of Records just yet, but my time for walking the five miles from Trevone to Padstow recently was pretty impressive.
The South West Coast Path is one of the world’s great walking trails. I stress the word walking, as the recent record-breaker was crazy enough to run it – in fact he ran the equivalent of two marathons every day for two weeks with no rest day. Not only would his legs have hurted like hell, he’d have missed out on enjoying the best coastal views in the UK.
I made the most of these views at my leisure on a recent walk between Trevone and Padstow in North Cornwall. Fans of the BBC TV series Poldark will have seen its hero Ross galloping along the Cornish coast on his trusty steed making his way to see his wife, Demelza. I was horse-less, but still made good progress as I had a lunch-date with my wife to look forward to in Padstow.
Starting at a deserted Trevone beach, the path rises steeply past an old blowhole and with views of the rocky formation in the top photo. I shared the path with fellow walkers and the occasional sheep – dog-walkers are asked to keep their dogs on leads so as not to scare the sheep into falling off the cliffs. What a way to go.
Although it was a fairly overcast day, I could feel my face burning up and knew I’d be needing the aftersun later. Soon I could see what looked like a chimney in the distance, although once I got there I could see that it wasn’t a remnant of Cornwall’s mining days but a daymark tower, used like a lighthouse to warn passing ships that they were close to land. This daymark was on a headland known as Stepper Point.
Sidestepping the sheep, I peeped inside the daymark, which is essentially a lighthouse without a light. It was built in the early 19th century, and looking through the ‘window’ I could imagine spotting smugglers bringing contraband to shore.
Once past Stepper Point, I was on the home straight to Padstow. Here the Camel Estuary is at its widest before the River Camel meets the sea, and you can walk along the estuary’s dune-backed beaches until you hit the town itself. Padstow’s RNLI lifeboat launch station once stood here, but moved to its gorgeous home near Trevose Head in 1967 so boats could launch whatever the tide. Be sure to look out for the dreaded Doom Bar – a sand bank across the estuary which has caused many ship-wrecks and has given its name to the famous beer, made by local brewers Sharp’s.
Sharp’s is based in Rock, directly across the estuary from Padstow and although now owned by Molson Coors, the Sharp’s Brewery shop is worth a visit if you want to stock up on beer or t-shirts. The Black Tor Ferry takes you to Rock and back for £4, and leaves either from the harbour steps or the town’s beach depending on the tide.
After my exertions, there was only one place I was heading – I had a lunch date with the wife at Cherry Trees, probably the best cake shop I’ve encountered on my travels. Having wolfed down a delicious triple-decker slice of home-made Victoria sponge cake (washed down with a chocolate milkshake), I just about had enough energy to walk back to the car park and was grateful for a lift home.