UK Cornish Coast Path Hike 28 – 31 May 2005
Eight years ago, Colin Priddle, ex JHC and now living in Exeter, began the first leg of a hike to walk the whole Cornish coastal path from the northern Cornwall/Devonshire border to Cremyll, opposite Plymouth on the Tamar River. It has become an extremely popular event taking place on the long weekend at the end of May each year. This year, May 2005, was to be the final 43 mile (70 km) stretch from Charlestown, near St Austell, to Cremyll.
The hiking path is part of the National Trails South West Coast Path, which in total is 630 miles (1000 km) long from Minehead to Poole. It is a very well maintained unobtrusively marked path in the natural vegetation on the steep ground between the meadows and the shoreline. This time of the year it is very beautiful with the vegetation lush, abundant wild flowers and bird song everywhere.
For some time we have been keen to join this group of JHC expats, augmented with several British friends, and what an enthusiastic bunch they are. It takes a major catastrophe to prevent people attending. We were lucky enough to be able to join the group this year and so, on a lovely spring morning, we drove to Plymouth from Torquay, where we were staying, dropped off the rental car, then took a coach to St. Austell and finally a local bus to nearby Charlestown where the hike was to start. It is a pretty little Cornish town and was a major port in the 18th century for china clay (kaolin) from mines in the area. Sue Emmett (nee White) had organized a really beautiful B&B in Charles Rashleigh’s original house, after whom Charlestown was named. That night we had a welcome cocktail party with Sue and Dave, Gill (Jacqui Gush’s sister) and Marcus, Genevieve (Park) and Tom, Mary (Mynors) and ourselves, followed by dinner at the local pub for our first taste of Cornish pasties. Many were to be consumed along the way and Jacqui has now, after taste tests all around Cornwall, become quite an expert.
Next morning, after a monstrous “full English breakfast”, which was the norm every morning, we set off in a slight drizzle with the instructions “keep the sea on your right”! The weather quickly cleared and we had glorious sunshine for the following four days.
The rest of the party who had driven from various parts of England that morning - Jacqui, Hilda and Paul (Greenwood), Sue and Martin, Andrew, David (Lonsdale) and of course our old buddy, Gaynor (McTurk), without whom the group would have been incomplete – met up with us and the walk began. We stopped to buy more superb pasties which we ate for lunch in the little harbour town of Polkerris along the way (see picture). We reached Fowey for our night’s stop and the various B&Bs were spread out so we met for supper at two different pub venues.
Next morning the weather was perfect and, after a short ferry crossing of the Fowey River to the lovely little town of Polruan, we started our walk. This was to be our best day’s walking along cliffs in glorious weather. It was a wise choice to carry ones own lunch that day as what could be more beautiful than to picnic sitting on the cliffs enjoying the scenery. It was a long day, but still time to stop for Cornish ice creams and crab sandwiches in the picturesque little town of Polperro where we just happened to bump into Liz and Simon (5yrs old) Priddle. Colin had started the hike a day late so had to walk the first two days stint in one and overtook us later that afternoon as we neared our destination of Looe. He must still be one of the fittest around! That evening, just a hop skip and a jump from our lovely B&B, we had dinner in a delightful pub, this time with Colin, Liz and Simon the group was complete and spirits were high and the wine and beer flowed.
Next morning we set off for our third days walk along lovely cliff paths, reaching Portwrinkle, where some of us had rooms in the local pub, and which was also the venue for the farewell dinner. Jacqui made an excellent speech thanking Colin for his leadership over the years, recalling some of the amusing incidents along the way and presented him with a gift from all. The hike hadn’t even ended and thoughts turned to “where to next year?”. Everyone agreed this annual event shouldn’t end, even though Cornwall was now “finished”, and that perhaps the section from Minehead along the north Devon coast should be tackled.
Tuesday was the final day and our walk took us out to the medieval church ruins on Rame Head, then through the beautiful Mount Edgecombe estate with its many flowering rhododendrons and finally to the end at Cremyll, where we took the ferry over to Plymouth. The drivers had walked ahead as they had to return to Charlestown to pick up cars. There were rather hurried farewells on the famous Plymouth Hoe, where Sir Francis Drake finished his game of bowls before sailing off to defeat the Spanish armada, before we all departed for various parts of England.
The hike was extremely well organized for Colin by Sue Emmett and it made the logistics of a normal JHC hike seem like child’s play. What with arranging cars at each end, parking, booking bed and breakfasts at different establishments, venues for dinner, deposits etc etc. it was an exceptionally well run event. Many thanks indeed Sue!
We certainly had a wonderful time and it was great to be with old friends again. Lunches of Cornish pasties, crab sandwiches, clotted cream teas and Cornish ice cream, nights in comfortable beds, huge breakfasts, dinners in cosy pubs in quaint villages. What a way to hike!
So hopefully again next year! If any of JHC readers happen to be in England at the end of May you will be missing out if you don’t include this event in your itinerary.
Norma and Andy Johnston