For the first time since we started out on this adventure the weather was changeable, although still dry. This was hardly surprising, given that we are now well in to Autumn. So we found ‘Car Park 4’ at Hell’s Mouth and the path from it that leads back to the Coast Path, very easily, and started off again.
One of the first things we saw was this dreadful white claggy substance in the water which had been a problem on some beaches earlier in the summer. Thought to be some palm oil residue washing up and dangerous to dogs.
Then almost immediately we sighted the famous Godrevy Lighthouse and that remained in view for much of the rest of our walk that day.
It was at this point that I realised I had not charged my camera, but thankfully Hilary’s was OK and she was able to keep our visual record for the day. I still had my trusty voice recorder.
We were starting to look out for seals early in our walk as this area is known to be home to a family, and very soon we were not disappointed.
We were quite high up and really only happened to notice some people looking down on to the beach. What at first appeared to be a rocky beach exposed by the tide going out, as our eyes adjusted, we realised that the beach was gradually coming alive with upwards of 40 seals of varying ages all basking on the rocks.
Having set out early to allow ourselves time to find and observe them, we settled down to watch in awe and wonder.
Now and again one or two would waddle on down the beach or across the rocks towards the water’s edge. There always seemed to be at least one in the water on ‘lookout’ like a meercat! A few were frolicking in a largish rock pool having a high old time.
We could have stayed all day as it was so awe-inspiring. But we allowed ourselves about 20 minutes just watching and then decided to move on.
As we rounded the top of Godrevy point we got a fabulous view of the Lighthouse which is a popular subject with local artists.
And a little further on we came to this extraordinary stone stile. The weathering on the stone gave the appearance of a tree trunk riddled with worm! But the indentations were smooth and uneven, and some were quite large.
Then we embarked on the trek across the beautiful sandy beach from Gwithian down to Hayle. We dropped down on to the beach as soon as we could, and initially we were intrigued to see a swimmer with a dog in tow, trying to attract a couple of seals that were keeping their distance from the water’s edge and the girl. The seals were bobbing about, but never braved a close encounter.
The first part of the walk along the beach was relatively easy as the sand was nice and firm, but as we neared the far end it got softer and therefore harder to negotiate, although it presented some interesting natural landscapes, almost like a low level mountain-range.
We estimated the beach to be about 2.5 miles long and so we hoped beyond hope that we would be able to avoid the long route through Hayle to continue on our way, by somehow wading across the Hayle estuary. But it was not to be. As we got closer to the water’s edge of the estuary, even with the tide out, we could see that there was a deep channel which would catch us out if we had attempted it. At this point the sand was really hard-going, soft and wet, so we had probably added to our efforts and distance. Ho-hum!
As we wound our way through Hayle, it proved to be more interesting than we might have expected. It must be a hive of activity when the fishing boats return, judging by the lobster pots stacked up by the quayside.
There seems to have been a substantial amount of regeneration work to the harbour area and the result it quite attractive, although there’s clearly much more to do. Using some of the dockside space was this massive trailer, with RNLI branding, which looked like it was in readiness for ferrying a Lifeboat, although there were none in sight.
Finding our way through Hayle we passed some interesting historical landmarks, the first being this swingle bridge which is the oldest with its machinery, left in Britain, and is very wide having been built for the Great Western Railway’s broad guage.
We were amazed to see a sign that it costs £15 to launch your boat off the slipway here. Although this charge includes parking, we thought this was a bit steep! It was also a surprise to us to find that Hayle considers itself to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
It certainly puts up a convincing argument!
On most of our trek through Hayle the viaduct was visible.
In the middle of Hayle we were amused to see a huge queue of people at an outlet for Philps pasties, on a Sunday lunchtime in Cornwall. They pride themselves on being ‘Famous pasties from Cornwall’ although we had never heard of them!
The downside of Hayle for us was the approx. 4 miles of road-walking, much of it along the B3301 which was not particularly pleasant and quite hard going despite being a more even surface. We also saw this obviously man-made area which seems to be some kind of flood plain. But so far we have not been able to discover its true purpose – so if you know…..
As well, we had to cross the busy road at a tricky point, which is not ideal. However eventually we were on the outward leg and passed some bird-watchers looking towards the flats revealed by the low tide. This area is well-known for our feathered friends is and owned and managed by the RSPB. Over 270 species of bird have been recorded in the intertidal flats of the Hayle Estuary. One of the bird-watchers was kind enough to explain some of the winged wildlife we could see : teal, herring gulls, pin tales. Hilary identified a curlew and our bird-watcher commented ‘you never know what you’re gonna see!’.
Down the western side of the estuary we started to follow the line of the local railway. Hilary identified loads of Old Man’s Beard which apparently is not so evident elsewhere in Cornwall, but which she remembers from her childhood.
We also saw this beautiful lilly apparently growing wild by the roadside.
It was in full bloom and there were others nearby enjoying their habitat, looking equally at home in the wild.
We passed the small local, unmanned stations on route as well as being passed by the two-carriage train which seemed to run a very regular service even on a Sunday.
We passed Lelant Bay and then Carbis Bay.
Carbis Bay Hotel seems to have built a special coastal path diversion which takes visitors through the grounds of the hotel, but keeps them away from the guest areas. We felt the diversion had been built especially for us as it was very new and a treat to be allowed to pass so close the their plush facilities.
We also passed this plaque referencing the residence of these artists who had lived in the area. They are both very well-known to the locals and beyond, and it was exciting to get a glimpse of their home at that time.
We eventually arrived at Porthminster beach on the outskirts of St Ives.
St Ives was a bustle of activity with plenty of visitors and tourists. The weather had been cool and overcast for most of the day but this had not deterred anyone and by the end of the day it was starting to clear and everyone seemed to be enjoying the fine autumn weather.
Our destination was the NCI lookout on ‘the Island ‘ on the far side of St Ives. The lookout was unfortunately closed to visitors that day, so we had to make do with an external only shot.
While we waited for our trusty support driver Mike to find us, I used the last of my camera battery to catch a quick selfie to round off the day.
After giving the dogs a runaround, we tried to hurry on back to Hilary’s car in time to be able to catch a quick cup of coffee at the lovely Hell’s Mouth café, but we were just too late. Never mind.
We had asked for sponsorship for our walk, to support Countryfile Ramble for BBC Children in Need who were doing various walks that day. Thanks to many of our loyal supporters we have raised around £100 for this fantastic cause. It is still not too late to donate to BBC Children in Need if you would like to.
So we completed 13.5 miles today and felt privileged to have seen the seals, which was a real highlight. We felt this walk was tiring but not tough. The next leg, on the other hand is going to be both tiring and tough!!
However we have managed over 120 miles so far and it has been such fun. Now that the nights are drawing in, I suspect that we will find it to be quite a different experience, not least being able to get through the miles in daylight!
Watch this space!