Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Coast around St. Aggie

The Coast Around St. Aggie

Sunday 20th September 2015.

Today we decided to cycle the Coast to Coast - the mini Cornish one!  The trail runs for 11 miles from the coastal village of Portreath on the north coast, to Devoran on the South Coast, and is almost entirely on off road tracks.  Additionally, it's mostly flat or with only a very gradual incline, because in times gone by, it was used by ponies pulling wagons containing copper ore or tin, and they didn’t like hills!

However, we had to cycle approximately 6 miles to the beginning of the trail, and guess what we found along the way - more big hills - first down to Porthtowan and then on to Portreath.

Do you remember this  kids - our holiday in a wooden shed! spiders under the beds, outside plumbing and very snug for 5 of us - however I also remember it as a fantastic holiday with lots of time spent on the beach and in the sea.

As we continued on our way we soon came across the stone markers that show the way for the ‘coast to coast’.  

The trail is along an old disused railway track, and like many such trails, in places it was a bit closed in and unimpressive, but having said that, if you dig a bit deeper you can nearly always find things of interest.

The area around the trail  - The Poldice and Carnon valley - was peppered with old mine shafts and ramshackle buildings from a bygone era, and there were numerous sign boards providing information about their history.  
They inform you that although Poldice begun as a tin mining area, it gradually switched to copper production as copper became more valuable.  The mining and ore processing has also had a huge influence on the landscape of Poldice, and in many places, it looked quite ‘lunar’, with humps that rise out of the heath-land where now nothing grows because the land has been poisoned by mining activities.  Maybe this was due in part, to the production of Arsenic from these mines.  Arsenic became a valuable by product of tin and copper mining in Cornwall and was widely used in a variety of industries including farming where it was used as a pesticide!

Part of the old Arsenic Works

We were also interested to read about Bats.  Apparently the old mine shafts provide an ideal place for bats to roost and now lots of colonies have made their home in them.  Maybe Scotland should take note, because the board informed us that even the smallest bats can eat up to 3,500 midges in one night.  If they had a few more bats up north maybe they could eventually be midge free!!

A bit further on the new and the old Carnon Viaduct.



and we also found lots of these signs 

We eventually came to Devoran where we sat on the estuary and had our picnic before returning back along the same path.  
Devoran with the tide out
On our return  we stopped off at Portreath for more refreshments, and it was a good job we had fortified ourselves there because we then had to face the 13% hill up out of Portreath - but we both made it without having to resort to pushing, and we were very pleased with our achievement. However, we hadn't gone much further before we were on another slope, and this one was 14%!. Luckily, this one was fairly short and once we were up John cheerfully told me ‘that’s it, no more hills’ - he lied, there was still another one, but not quite so bad as what had gone before, so I forgave him!

Altogether we cycled about 32 miles so when we came across a little road side cubby selling all manner of cakes, sweets, jams, and eggs we couldn't resist and had to stop.  We purchased coffee and walnut cake, fudge and brownies 

- we now have supplies for the next few days so no excuse for not continuing our strenuous explorations of this lovely area.

Monday 21st September 2015

We had an earlier start than usual due to a  problem with our fridge!  At 7am it suddenly, and for no apparent reason, started to alarm.  It wasn't really getting up time but with the alarm going every 2 mins, and no way to stop it, further sleep was out of the question.  I made the tea and John got the instruction manual out, but it wasn't really any help, - then  after about an hour it suddenly stopped - bliss.  In the end we decided that maybe the door was not switching off the internal light properly and this was causing the problem, therefore if we shut the door more firmly it seemed ok - fingers crossed.

The  morning weather was also a bit dismal with blustery squally rain, but the sky soon begun to show signs of improvement, however by then we had decided we wouldn't go out until after lunch, when the weatherman said it would get better - he was nearly right!

We'd planned a circular walk from the campsite to St Agnes’s Head and then back up through the village and home.  We quickly trekked to the coastal path, and again, the views were breathtaking, and additionally, the old mines were very much in evidence.  

Once again the hills were steep, but the scenery distracted us, and when we reached St Agnes we decided to carry on a bit further.  We went on to Trevaunance Cove but as we were walking we could see the rain coming in across the sea, and if you look carefully on the picture below you can just make out a rainbow.

We thought maybe the rain would pass us by - but it didn’t and we got quite a soaking.  Luckily it was short lived and we soon dried out in the breeze and sunshine that followed.

From Trevaunance Cove we decided to head back to the Tardis, but we did this via St Agnes village where we thought we might be able to buy 'crabs’ for tea - but alas they were sold out so we had to have tinned mackerel instead - oh well you can’t win every time.  
St Agnes

Tuesday 22nd September 2015

Well that was another wild night, the wind howled the rain pounded on our tin roof, but we were snug and warm inside, and for saying how rough it was we both had a reasonably good sleep - and even the fridge behaved!!

Today we decided it was going to be another coastal walk, but this time in the opposite direction. We set off about 11ish and headed first to Porthtowan and then onto Portreath, and it really was quite a hard walk.  This was partly because the wind was still blowing a gale and for much of the time we seemed to be walking straight into it, and partly because, again there were lots of very steep clefts with big ups and downs.  
One of the big downs (sorry, shame about my finger)
The scenery along the way continued to be very dramatic, but maybe not quite so spectacular as yesterday.  Having said that, because it was so windy the waves were huge and we were treated to an almost continuous display of them either crashing into the cliff face or racing up the beaches developing large amounts of foam as they came.  Indeed, as we walked down the path into Porthtowan we had to negotiate a foam shower where the foam had been whipped up from the beach and was being scattered far and wide.

The walk was also quite awe inspiring because for much of the way the path literally clung to the cliff side with very little between you and a very big drop, and in several places the path had been redirected because sections of it had actually fallen away!  On our other side, for much of the way, the land belonged to the MOD and there were very impolite signs like the one below!! 

But as we continued on our way we were quite surprised to see that it appeared that the MOD were growing Cabbages, field after field of them!

Lots of cabbages on MOD land
Anyway, as we walked over narrow paths that were edged with swathes of yellow gorse and lilac heather we eventually (after about 5.5 miles) achieved our goal and arrived in Portreath.  Today Portreath is a typical Cornish seaside town but it’s history is heavily connected to the 18th century when it was an important port for the shipping of copper ore from the many mines of the Camborne and Redruth area.  In it’s heyday over 100,000 tons of ore passed through the town bound for destinations around the world, and for many years the ore was loaded onto ships from the beach. However, eventually a new quay/harbour was built  by Francis Basset thus allowing the ships to be loaded in a much safer way.

As usual we'd brought our trusty picnic and flask of coffee, but as we settled down to eat we spied a shop selling chips, so of course we felt we had to support local businesses. Therefore, we brought a large portion to add to our feast and justified this by saying we'd need the additional energy for our walk back!

Again, this walk was a 'there and back' rather than a loop, because doing a loop would have meant going away from the coast and missing the beautiful views, and usually on the way back we see things that we've missed the first time, and we did.  Almost as soon as we set off we spied the old lighthouse just above Portreath - I'm sure it saved many a ship from grief!

Unfortunately, viewing the lighthouse caused us to take the wrong path - the section we were on had been closed due to erosion, so we had to retrace our steps and follow the road for a short distance, but it wasn’t long before we were back on the coastal path and enjoying the views again - I don’t think we’ll ever get fed up of it.  

Having said that, by the time we got back we were both quite tired, and agreed that this was probably the hardest walk we'd done so far, not so much because of the distance, but more because of the rugged trail and the numerous hills.

Altogether we were out for about six and a half hours - so we should sleep very well tonight, and tomorrow we'll move on down the coast a little further.

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