Sand and Water

To see the world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower – William Blake, ‘Auguries of Innocence

Today’s walk mostly featured sand and water. At Perranporth the tide was in, and our feet swished about in the sea as we tiptoed across a narrow cement breakwater that was about to be completely covered, to reach the dunes into which wandered our path.

After being so precious about avoiding walking on the sand near St Ives, it was simply impossible today not to walk up and down beaches, and up and down dunes. Seemingly every small cove was backed by ranks of them.

We walked for a time with Pete, a retired Geography teacher who was generous with his local knowledge for selecting the best of the dune paths, his explanations complete with sand diagrams, and also with a geology lecture which answered some of the questions we had about the rocks.

At Cligg’s head, the multicoloured cliff from yesterday, the red was ochre, the green was copper and yellow signals the presence of arsenic. The arsenic kills everything in the fields, which is why the Doctor Who landscape from yesterday was so bare. And it is so friable because intrusions of feldspar up through the granite are decaying into a form similar to china clay. The resulting shale rock is very unstable, and there have been several recent serious rockfalls and many diversions away from the edge of the cliffs.

Yesterday’s sand martin nests and today’s wonderful sandpipers taking flight in front of us (together with a flock of turnstones camouflaged perfectly against the parti-coloured sea pebbles) were a real treat, but eventually we had had enough of sand, and doing a passable impression of the Ministry of Silly Walks to avoid getting it in our boots, we took advantage of a shortcut which presented itself to us in the form of a golf course.

Taking our lives into our hands crossing the fairway, we revelled in the perfect close-mown turf, and likewise as the greens gave way to springy, rabbit-cropped heathland strewn with cowslips, and the air saturated with the ‘showering sprinkles’ of larks.

One of the best moments of the day came when we had to cross the tidal River Gannel. We were phenomenally lucky to time our arrival at the riverbank at the exact moment where the tide was far enough out for us to cross by the footbridge (which only happens four times a day). This not only gave us huge satisfaction, but saved us a 4 km detour. The wide mudflats led almost to the edge of the bridge, but we still had to remove boots and socks to wade the last section onto the gritted planks.

My view of Newquay will be forever be tarnished by a foot incident which occurred as we were coming through the outskirts of the town. I won’t go into details here, but it involved buying supplies at Boots the Chemist and a consultation with the pharmacist. I am still not sure what the foot situation will be tomorrow. We’ll see.

In Newquay we again benefitted from the low tide and managed to walk the full length of the beach, thus avoiding the worst of the resort, by leaping little rivers and pools around rocks black with mussels).

We shook the dust off our feet as we left the town and it was a relatively short 8 km to Mawganporth. They felt even quicker as we listened to an audiobook of the first volume of Peter May’s Lewis trilogy. It was a nice companionable thing to do. I have been surprised by how little we have been talking. Usually we use walks as opportunities to plan, discuss, put the world generally to rights; but as we fit ourselves to the path (did this phrase come from The Salt Path?) we find ourselves disconnecting from the world. We have barely looked at the news. Our minds are emptying. It feels good.

Some of the quietness is caused by an inability to think beyond what my feet are feeling. I got through some of the trudge out of Newquay, culture-shocked a little by the density of cement, asphalt, buildings, cars and people, and revolted by the unedifying spectacle of gulls tearing open bags of rubbish left next to beach paraphernalia, by focusing minutely on the grass verge between the road and the pavement. Identifying the flora became a kind of litany as I paced: knotgrass, hawkbit, mallow, dandelion, ribwort plantain, alpine geranium, sow thistle … I saved them up in my head to record here later as a way of not thinking about my feet.

It’s a shame about the feet. In all other respects, I find myself, most unexpectedly, in pretty good shape.

We managed to dodge the water today – and we certainly won’t be so lucky tomorrow. The forecast is abominable!

Stats for today

Distance: 24km

Elevation gained and lost: 1240m

Average moving speed: 4.45km/h

Time lost due to Feet: too much

Room upgrade to sea view and jacuzzi bath: 1

Fly-through with Photos and Elevation

Perranporth to Mawganporth

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