Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote… – Geoffrey Chaucer, the ‘General Prologue’ to The Canterbury Tales
In order to fit the End-to-End Trail into 70 days, we needed to collapse some of the standard recommended south coast path days into each other. This is why some of our days have been so long recently. Day 6, Port Isaac to Boscastle, is a standard day of about 22 km, and we made it shorter by about 4 km, or an hour’s walking. This would practically equate to a rest day, were it not for the 1500m of up and down which left my knees feeling swollen and sore.
Naismith’s Rule states that a hiker walks 4 km/h, and you should calculate that each 100m of climb will add 10 minutes to your overall time. We seemed to have reversed this rule, because it is the downhill which slows us up most. Some of the paths shuddering down the zawns are rocky, and in wet conditions the rocks are very slippery and we have found that we need to take enormous care. But it is also the case that slamming feet down for the 500 paces it took to descend Jacket’s Point can take its toll on knees, and our descents (2.8-3.2km/h) are very much slower than our ascents (3.8-4.4km/h).
We enjoyed a convivial and quality breakfast courtesy of Steve at the Terrace Tea Rooms, chewing over the economics of running a B&B and the fact that tourists and tv crews are something of a mixed blessing since the economic and social reality is that they bring traffic jams but not much spending. This is certainly the case with second homes, where little economic ‘trickle down’ effect is apparent from the wealthy incomers who descend occasionally on their second homes.
The stretch of coast between Port Isaac and Trebarwith Sands is the most remote and therefore the least peopled stretch of the route so far. Apart from the fact that we met almost nobody walking the other way, we also saw no litter and did not need to take care that we weren’t about to step into anything unpleasant. We could tell when we were nearing settlements, because sweet wrappers started to appear, and dog mess. It is sad to see ancient plastic buried in the banks at the sides of sloping paths.
The weather was classic April showers all day. When the sun was out it was T-shirt and shorts weather, and when the squalls blew in it was time to pull on the full-body waterproofs and batten down the hatches. The showers were very heavy, but the wind was so brisk that in between them we dried out almost completely. It did make it rather difficult, though, to be addressed correctly. I was pretty much wearing the wrong thing most of the time today.
Thus for example, looking west:
But turning round to face east, this is on the way:
This stretch of the coast was once again up and down zawn after zawn. We made it to Trebarwith Sands, where the Chloe, Matt and Jazzy at the Strand café gave us a warm welcome and the most beautiful, as well as reviving, cup of tea.
After this welcome lunchbreak, the map showed that we were in for a treat: the steepest zawn of all, so steep that its squill-studded banks provided a textbook example of soil creep, where gravity takes soil gradually downhill, sometimes leading to a wrinkled effect.
All of the clifftop walking was absolutely lovely. Stiff wind, grass underfoot, and fast progress made. Kissing gates were much in evidence. This finished as we cut short the coastal path for a farmland route again, a dismaying succession of implausibly high stiles further tested our knees. Some of them were considerably lower on the far side, like those fiendish showjumps. I don’t think I would have won any medals in Horse of the Year show as I clambered over unstylishly. Stephen had a nasty fall on one of the stiles with a particularly slippery slate step on the way down, cracking both elbows a nasty blow and jarring his shoulder. And I have no idea why one would employ a belt-and-braces policy tacking a wooden stile onto a pre-existing and surely completely effective slab barrier. It’s like one of those double jumps.
Spring is perceptibly marching on. The blackthorn is nearly finished with flowering and is starting to come into leaf. Daffodils are all but gone and Jack-by-the-hedge and honesty are coming up. The ubiquitous bluebells will eventually disappear under the nettles and bracken that are growing almost as you watch.
Today’s Cornish hedges featured ivy-leaved toadflax and maidenhair spleenwort.
We came across a dead slowworm – to add to the small collection of dead animals we have encountered, road carnage for shrews, a rat, a fledgling jackdaw. Out on the clifftop heath it’s more likely to be parts of rabbits, and on the paths themselves it is snails frequently crushed underfoot by boots.
The fly-through video shows that we cut a corner in order to miss out the Tintagel Arthurian extravaganza. Tintagel itself is full of Arthurian tat and must have one of the highest density of replica suits of anachronistic armour outside the set of ‘Bedknob and Broomsticks’.
Once again our walking day ended with a long and steep road descent. This time into beautiful Boscastle, lovingly restored after the appalling floods in 2004 in which an estimated 440 million gallons of water from three flooding rivers washed away the bridge and did terrible damage. The Bridge House is a super friendly tea room and café with a wonderful B&B attached. By strange coincidence Steve from the Terrace Tea Room is an old school friend of Richard who runs the Bridge House together with his wife Louise. And this evening we had sandwiches in our room rather than stagger uphill and totter back down it again.