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Coastlining 22: Portreath – Perranporth

Date: Monday 9th June 2014     Distance walked: 12 miles      Total distance: 208 miles

Portreath Beach

Portreath Beach and Gull Rock

I’m running out of words to describe the blue of the sea. Azure. Sapphire. Lapis. Not sure. Check the Pantone chart and it’ll insist it’s Mediterranean Blue. Clearly they’ve never been to Cornwall in fine weather. Arriving at Portreath this morning I could have been at a completely different place – country, even – from where Annie and I left the coast in spotting rain late yesterday afternoon. Except the proprietors of the local shop remembered me. Back again? How far this time, all the way to Porthtowan? It’s a tough walk… Continue reading



Lost Mine Found

entrance to Tate St Ives [c] J Hughes 2008

Standing inside the amphitheatrical atrium of Tate St Ives feels like being inside the heart of a giant seashell. The entrance path whorls up concentrically from the waterfront.  Look up – here’s a siphon hole to the sky.  Framed by the clean Art Deco lines is the expanse of Porthmeor Beach, devoid of tourists, a smattering of surfers catching the last warmth of the autumnal Atlantic waves.  Listen – here’s the sea sound reverberated, amplified, almost abstracted to the resonant shush of a conch held to the ear.  Today I am a hermit crab, scuttling around in this shell that’s far too big for me, scavenging on the dead meat of art and place. Continue reading

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Coastlining 18: Sennen Cove – Pendeen Watch

Date: Wednesday 4th June 2014     Distance walked: 9 miles     Total distance: 164.5 miles

2014.06.04 (3) Whitesand Bay

Whitesand Bay, Sennen Cove

It was difficult to get out of bed this morning after the exertion of the past few days, but I knew I’d feel better once I’d got started – especially after a cooked breakfast. I managed to find a more direct path down through the dunes to Whitesand Bay than the one I’d come up by last night. It was bright and blustery out, a refreshing change after the deteriorating conditions of yesterday, although I kept my coat zipped up with the hood up for the best part of the day, for a very different reason altogether. The sea was the white-flecked deep Prussian blue, the horizon a sharp line. Continue reading


Coastlining 14.2: Mullion – Perranuthnoe

Date: 29th May 2014     Distance walked: 15 miles (131 miles total)    Height climbed: 2548 ft

Part 2: Porthleven to Perranuthnoe – 8.5 miles


Previously on Coastlining: 14.1 Mullion to Perranuthnoe (Mullion to Porthleven)

Leaving Porthleven I appear to cross an invisible threshold. I perceive a change in the landscape. It is rougher, higher, more ‘remote’. Slate faced hedges cushioned with thrift. Grasses and plantains in flower. Kidney vetch, birdsfoot trefoil. Domes of wild carrot blooms like those brooch bouquets carried by brides who think that gems and paste can outdo real flowers. Foxglove spires spiking up from a cover of bracken below the path. Untouchable beaches below at Parc Trammel Cove and Porth Sulinces. The bulk of Trewavas Head in the distance, with its ruined engine houses perched on the edge. A seagull on the wing suddenly appears from below the cliff edge.

This is what it’s all about: with  the sea to my left and a skylark up in the subconscious space above my right shoulder. Continue reading

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Coastlining 11: Helford – Coverack

Date: 10th May 2014        Distance walked: 13 miles         Total distance: 100 miles

2014.05.10  (2) Helford 2014.05.10  (4) Treath 

Returning to Helford Passage on the first bus of the day I still arrive later than I had the previous day on foot from Falmouth. The wind’s gusting hellish downriver. I zip my coat right up as the boatman begins to ferry me over the short but choppy crossing to Helford village.
“At least it’s not an east wind.” My hair is already escaping and whipping all round my face.
“We wouldn’t be running if it was… few weeks back we were putting the engines in reverse and running right up onto the  beach in those high winds.” I think of the waves spraying over the outer harbour when I was at Mevagissey.
“Going to rain later.” Trust a boatman to give you the shipping forecast. He has the same waterproof trousers as me, not that I’m wearing mine.
“Tha’s alright tho’. Don’t mind a bit of water…” I’d be in trouble in this part of the world if I did. Right on cue a wave splashes up over the bows and catches us both with its salty spray.
“Well, doubt that’ll be the last time that happens today so might as well start early.” Continue reading

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The Values of Desolation

 desolateadj. giving an impression of bleak and dismal emptiness from Latin ‘desolare’ meaning abandon and ‘solus’ alone >> v. to desolate ; n. desolation

A wide expanse of sandflats riddled with tidal streams, deserted in the early morning. A wedge-shaped tidal island at the end of a concrete road: blown dunes empty of human life, the air above the sifting marram sliced about by swallows and martins and pierced by the lonesome shrill of a curlew.

A moorland scene drained of colour under an overcast sky. so cold in summer I wore two coats, a scarf and a pair of gloves to brave the path. A large landscape focusing in the eye on the tapestry of life below knee-level. A loud dam at the head of a reservoir hiding a spectacular waterfall descending through towering crags to the unpopulated landscape below.

Wild winds and the remains of a Roman stone carving depicting three or four sentinels at the Milecastle, hooded and cloaked with only their miserable faces exposed. No wonder the Romans didn’t want to go any further north than this forsaken place. Continue reading


Happy St Piran’s Day

I know that no person will ever get into my blood as a place can, as Cornwall does. People and things pass away but not places.

– Daphne du Maurier

It was a dull old day about fifteen years ago when I first crossed over from the Other Side of the Tamar and began to discover the strange and compelling south-westerly tip of the British archipelago that I have since come to know as home. The A30 isn’t a forgiving route, and it was less so then, having since been dual-carriage-d for vast stretches to ease the tailbacks during the peak season. Entering the count(r)y on this road, rather than over the Tamar bridge at Plymouth is much less dramatic and for several miles much like the Devon you’re exiting. Then you reach the bleak stretch across Bodmin Moor, where the Queues Likely signs usually seem unnecessary from your near-stationary vehicle, and the weather is almost always either piss poor or Proper Cornish depending on where your alliegance lies. Continue reading