First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
God, what a miserable summer! Rain, rain and … yes, more rain, drenching the Cornish beaches, making rivers of the Cornish lanes. Today, for a miracle, it wasn’t forecast to rain till, ooh, ten a.m. at least. So I was up with the lark (there were no larks to be heard; they were probably cowering in the nest), quit the underfloor heating and woodburning stove of the Cow Barn holiday cottage with a sigh, and was down on Polkerris beach by six o’clock.
‘Mackerel sky, mackerel sky, neither wet, neither dry,’ we said as kids, and here was a sky as blue and silver as a mackerel’s belly, together with a soft mist rolling in with the south-west wind. I climbed the old cliff road to Tregaminion Farm with ferns and wet grasses pearling my rain trousers. Three calves stood in the farmyard with their muzzles in a manger; none looked up as I went by. All else was still and silent at Tregaminion, and at Trenant and Lankelly beyond. Never a dog barked as I crossed the fat neck of the Gribbin Head peninsula, a ghost slipping through a rain-soaked landscape now glinting brilliantly in early sunshine.
In the hamlet of Lankelly the herringbone walls were smothered in foxgloves and wall pennywort. I found the flowery, high-banked hollow of Love Lane, and followed it down through Covington Woods to the shattered old stub of St Catherine’s Castle high on a cliff knoll on the south flank of Fowey. The little town slumbered opposite its counterpart village of Polruan, the sister settlements held apart by the jaws of the River Fowey through which a yacht was sneaking out towards the open sea.
It was a beautiful hike back along the cliffs, across the lake outfall at impossibly picturesque Polridmouth, up on the nape of Gribbin Head under the soaring, candy-striped lookout tower. As always in such places, I longed for a six-year-old companion to play at Rapunzel. Rain began to freckle in from the sea as I skirted the sea buckthorn thickets beyond Gribbin Tower, but I beat the serious stuff into Polkerris by a short head. Now for a bacon sandwich and a good solid cup of bo’sun’s tea. Proper job, that’d be.
Start & finish: Polkerris car park, PL23 1ET (OS ref SX 094523)
Getting there: Polkerris is signposted off A3082, 1½ miles west of Fowey
Walk (6 miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer 107): From Polkerris car park (pay), walk down lane, past Rashleigh Inn, down ramp to beach. Left up ramp past Polkadot Café/Polkerris Beach Watersport shop. At ‘Toilets’ sign, right up path (‘South West Coast Path/CP’). In 20 yards, CP goes right up steps, but you keep ahead up sunken lane to road (096522). Right for 250 yards; left (‘Saints Way/SW’). Skirt right round Tregaminion Farm (yellow arrows/y.a.), and on along field paths for 1/3 of a mile to Trenant Cottage. Cross driveway; on along hedged path, then through fields, across stream valley, up to Lankelly Farm. Right along Coombe Lane; in 300 yards, left (SW); in another 300 yards, right (115515; SW) along Love Lane, descending towards sea for 1/3 of a mile. Just before houses, leave SW (117511) and follow CP past NT Covington woods sign (acorn waymark, y.a.). Follow CP for 3¾ miles, via Coombe Haven, Polridmouth and Gribbin Tower, back to Polkerris.
NB – Online map, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk
Accommodation: The Mill or The Cow Barn near Lostwithiel (http://www.cottages4you.co.uk/) – very stylish conversion; lots more available locally