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Porth to Perranporth

Thursday 18th June 2009

14 miles of walking, all on South West Coast Path (with ferry across The Gannel)

Today's weather was ideal for walking (dry but not particularly sunny) and we had an excellent day, for all sorts of reasons. However it didn't start too well - I'd slept badly and it was a distinctly ordinary breakfast.
We met Angela's husband and another walker (who, we discovered when we were chatting to him later in the day, had also booked through Contours, but is walking all the way from Minehead to Land's End in a couple of weeks so was going rather further than us today). We sat at the window table and you certainly can't argue with the Alex Guest House's view of Porth Beach. However the crane in the foreground is building apartments, so they will lose part of the view when the apartments are finished. The whole of the Newquay area is something of a building site, with former hotels demolished and some of their replacements abandonned in a half-built state when the recession struck - it's a mess.
We left the Alex Guest House shortly before 9am, crossed the beach at Porth and then rounded a headland (past some quite nice bungalows on a road that was blocked to traffic halfway along its length, so it was essentially two cul-de-sacs). We had got as far as the car park at Lusty Glaze when we got a text from our daughter Helen to say that she'd got a 2:1, so buying a congratulations card for her became a priority.
However, for all that we walked through the centre of Newquay and went into several card shops, of suitable cards there were none! Newquay town centre is pretty horrible (though it was useful to be able to visit a bank) but the various beaches and the harbour area were surprisingly attractive. We took a path from the north of the harbour, past the whitewashed 'Huer's Hut' (the huer's job was to spot a shoal of pilchards) and some sort of training for the coastal rescue services. This path took us to the National Surfing Centre at the north end of Fistral Beach. There were plenty of surfers on the beach, but the footpath behind the beach had better views of the golf course - and there were plenty of golfers too, with one lady searching for a lost golf ball! We reached the south end of Fistral Beach and turned right onto Esplanade which soon became a track.
We contined on Riverside Crescent and were just approaching the Fern Pit ferry crossing when another text from Helen informed us that her 2:1 was actually the top 2:1 of all Cambridge maths students.
This excellent news necessitated a phone call to Helen and a celebratory cup of coffee at the Fern Pit Cafe, admiring the view of The Gannel where the tide was coming in, rapidly covering the tidal bridge that is the low tide alternative to the ferry. There is a steep descent from the cafe to the ferry, which is run by one man (and his dog!) and costs the grand total of £1 per person. The guide books list a confusing range of options for crossing the Gannel - the Fern Pit ferry crossing comes highly recommended by us.
We walked up to the Rushey Green car park and had some difficulty deciding on the route of the path from this point, not helped by the fact that a lens fell out of Richard's glasses which meant that he had some difficulty in reading the map. The path leaves from close to the entrance of the car park i.e. you need to go slightly inland at this point; not obvious! Rushey Green itself is a mass of footpaths but, more by good luck than good judgement I suspect, we found the single onward footpath without any difficulty and stopped for lunch (eating the provisions we bought yesterday) at a picnic bench high above Pentire Point West.
We descended to Porth Joke and then followed the relatively easy and attractive path around Kelsey Head. However as we reached the dunes on the approach to Holywell we lost the path. We descended to the beach and followed that round instead. We went into Holywell (for its toilets) then out again, skirting military land.
There were slightly curious aerial type things (lots of hoops) and we passed the nissan huts etc. of Penhale Camp, but the walking around the cliffs past Penhale Point was extremely attractive with some seams of different coloured rock. We rounded Ligger Point and the path, marked by red and while MoD posts, took us high above a disused quarrry. Then we descended to Perran Beach, somewhat surprised (and pleased) that the official route of the path seems to go this way; we thought it went throught the dunes, but the MoD definitely don't seem to want you there. 
We walked along the beach for a couple of miles. The tide was just going out and we considered ourselves that we were able to stay on the beach rather than having to have to climb up into the dunes at Cotty's Point - this looks distinctly like a cliff (complete with caves) despite the fact that it is marked as dunes on the map and therefore no contours are shown. We watched a man preparing to kite-surf.
We crossed the busier section of beach and came into Perranporth. We turned right up Cliff Road and found Chy an Kerensa easily, A young man let us in; Wendy Woodstock had had to go out but she'd left the key to our room and a note.
We had a lovely big room, with a bath and a superb sea view. Chy an Kerensa is slightly down at heal, but it is a vast improvement on last night's B&B despite the fact both are classified as 3 diamonds, We had a pleasant meal at Del Mar Italian Restaurant then went for a walk around Perranporth ; the icing on the cake of an excellent day was finding an (open) shop selling spectacle repair kits, so we were able to mend Richard's glasses. We ended the day by sitting in our room watching kite surfers on the beach.