After an incredibly relaxing two day pit stop in the an awesome hostel in St. Ives today I was back on the path. Ever since Hartland, 120 miles ago, or 9 years and 3 months ago, people I’ve met along the path have warned me of the difficulty and struggle that awaited me on the path between St Ives and Pendeen. Even my guidebook classes this stretch as “Severe”, an extreme it hasn’t used since the valleys of Morwenstow. However as I had been told so many times along the path, “it’s not so much ups and downs but more scrambling over boulders”, “You will struggle carrying that guitar and bag”. It’s safe to say that this section of path has been much anticipated in my mind. I have effectively been mentally preparing myself for it for the past 2 weeks. When my alarm clock went off this morning my eyes opened with the realisation that today was the big day. After faffing about in the hostel for almost 3 hours ( I had enjoyed my time there so much that I genuinely didn’t want to leave), I was on the path by 11am ready to face the challenge. There is no doubt that the next 7 miles to Zennor were tough. Lots of climbing on all fours, jumping from rock to rock and throwing my guitar into bushes up ahead; but my god was it fun. Not only was it the most fun I’ve had walking, it was also quite possibly the most stunning stretch of coastline I have so far encountered. The views across the bay and out to see were stunning. The weather was so clear that I could see very faintly back to Trevose head – I was there 12 days ago!!! It’s a phenomenal feeling to be able to see where you have walked. And to be able to merge a distant view of a place with the fresh memories you have of it.
Surprisingly I think I had more long conversations with people today than any other day so far. I think it’s because of the remoteness of this section of the path. You see people so rarely that if you do you kind of feel obliged to stop for a chat as your meeting is so unique. I first met a couple just outside St. Ives who had a daughter who although interested in performance “had made the sensible choice and chosen to study journalism”, I revelled in the look of embarrassment in her and her husband’s eyes when they both realised that she had effectively belittled my career choice; although don’t get me wrong, they were a lovely couple and were very interested in my project. I next met two elderly sisters from Somerset although originally from Guernsey. We spoke for several minutes about the wonders of growing up near the sea and the difficulty one then has in moving away from it. For me it’s something about just knowing it’s there, although one of the sisters commented that for her it was the sound; she loved to be able to always hear it roaring away. I met two more couples at different points both enjoying the walk on holidays and both extremely interested in my project. Its really rewarding for me when people are genuinely interested (I can always tell very quickly if they are or not). I really played with telling people my age today (11 years and so many months), people responded to it really well, not only did they find it funny, but I also think it really helps them to understand where I am coming from and what I mean when I vaguely say “walking my lifeline”.
I arrived at Zennor to find as expected, there is very little here. The conveniently placed backpackers hostel is very inconveniently temporarily closed until tomorrow. So I headed to the lovely little pub where I was greeted by huge walking party of about 15 who too were extremely interested in my project. They had just completed a circular walk halfway to Pendeen and back. One of their members was 86 and has walked right the way around the Cornish coast 3 times! He agreed that this was one of the most challenging and awe inspiring sections of the path. After meeting two more interested couples, I wondered back out to the cliffs and have found an amazing spot to pitch my tent. I am basically on the coast path, and camping literally on the edge of a cliff, with some shelter from a few bushes. It is amazing. So I have to say, although I am only halfway to Pendeen, so far the hellishly anticipated section of path has been really fun and to be honest quite manageable; but maybe I have spoken too soon, all will become clear tomorrow.