Thursday, 31 May 2018

A Roller Coaster walk

The Lands End Trail

Many years ago, while holidaying in St.Ives, Cornwall, I purchased a small walking guidebook written by the owners of a seafront shop making and selling ornamental glass items. As I chatted with the shop owner, she recommended one of the walks in the book which was an eight mile section of the South West Coast Path from Zennor to St.Ives. 'It will take you 4 hours', she said, and as we left the shop I inwardly scoffed that such a short distance would take us that long.

On the day of the walk, we alighted from the bus at Zennor and locating the coastal path, headed off  into some stunning scenery that we had mostly to ourselves. Inland, the brooding moors were dotted with the occasional forlorn ruins of old tin mines and as the path rose and fell, we stood gazing in awe at the stunningly beautiful deserted coves, fringed with empty white-sand beaches. As we walked, we looked expectantly as we rounded each headland but St.Ives never appeared. Instead, a seemingly endless procession of headlands replaced the one we had been walking toward for what seemed an age. The path was clear and obvious but rose and fell like a white-knuckle ride in a theme park, no sooner had we descended almost to sea level to cross a small creek, than the path would ascend again in a thigh-burning climb only for the process to be repeated over and over again.
Mention the South West Coast Path to most walkers and it immediately conjours up a pleasant clifftop stroll alongside aquamarine seas with perhaps an occasional cream tea or ploughman's lunch thrown in during a relaxing break in a village pub. A little research shows however that this gem of a path, which until recently was the longest National Trail in the country, actually has more overall ascent per mile than the Pennine Way.

The start of my walk

It is for this reason that I am including only a short section of the trail on my LEJOG walk. Many people do either the northern or southern half of the walk at the start of their long hike but I have decided to do just the first twenty miles or so, to St. Ives, before heading inland to follow a route called the Lands End Trail. I decided that the walk is a big enough undertaking without making it anymore difficult and I feel that I will be able to make faster progress on an inland route.
The Lands End Trail heads up the centre of Cornwall and Devon, crossing Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor in the process. I will leave it around Glastonbury before heading off across the Severn to pick up the Offa's Dyke path on the Wales/England border.
Beautiful though the SWCP is, I well remember the feeling of relief as we finally rounded that last headland and St. Ives appeared ahead shimmering in the afternoon heat. We staggered into the harbour after exactly 4 hours of roller-coaster walking, just as we had been advised, and never had a cold beer been more welcome. I will be re-acquainting myself with this stretch during my twenty odd mile walk along the coast before saying goodbye and heading inland for a hopefully more forgiving trail.   

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