SOUTH WEST COAST PATH NATIONAL TRAIL
Stage 42: Constantine Bay to Padstow
Thursday, June 11, 2015
The sunny weather gradually disappeared during the long and circuitous bus ride over from Newquay to Constantine Bay, and by the time I had alighted opposite the village stores and walked the 800 metres down to the beach, the sky was looking quite overcast.
Rejoining the Coast Path, I descended a ramp onto the soft sand and strolled along the curving beach (picture 1). At the far end of the beach, a rocky outcrop and a low point (picture 2) separate Constantine Bay from the smaller Booby's Bay. The Coast Path climbs wooden steps up onto the point, where an obvious path passes a green of the Trevose Golf Club, a lifeguard hut and a few isolated houses on the way around the rocky bay (picture 3) and onto the shoulder of Trevose Head (picture 4).
On the way up to the north-west corner of the roughly square headland, the path passes just to the seaward side of a large round hole and the remains of an old quarry before climbing a flight of about 30 steps to reach the access road of the Trevose Head Lighthouse. Rather than following the road down to the lighthouse, the Coast Path climbs a stony path over the hill behind it.
As the path levels out, there is a good view of the tower and its pair of keeper's cottages (picture 5), built in 1847. The lighthouse was automated in 1995, but unlike many others it has retained its fog signal due to the area's susceptibility to thick fog.
A rutted path heads along the north side of Trevose Head, eventually turning right to follow a Cornish hedge that cuts across the north-east corner of the headland, crossing a couple of minor lanes before returning to the low clifftops above Long Cove. From here one can look back to the RNLI's Padstow Lifeboat House, sheltering from the wild Atlantic behind a line of large rocks (picture 6).
The path now follows the cliffs around the sandy Mother Ivey's Bay (picture 7) with a brief detour on an enclosed path behind farm buildings before a grassy clifftop path leads past a large holiday park and on amongst wildflowers to the tip of Cataclews Point above a broad ledge created by an abandoned quarry. Around the point the path passes above the tiny Big Guns Cove and the moderately larger Onjohn Cove, which is overlooked by a lone house (picture 8).
Beyond Onjohn Cove, the path follows a clifftop path above the much larger beach of Harlyn Bay (picture 9). About halfway around the bay, just before reaching the edge of Harlyn village, the path goes down onto the beach and crosses the sand for about 300 metres to a road bridge over a small stream that empties onto the beach. Immediately after the bridge, the path leaves the road and crosses another hundred metres of sand to find a path up onto the next low cliff beside a large carpark.
A broad gravel path curves around the grassy top of the ragged St Cadoc's Point to reach little Newtrain Bay (picture 10) and then alongside wheat fields to the village of Trevone and it's sandy little beach (picture 11). The path skirts around the back of the beach, crossing a carpark and briefly following a road before climbing up onto Roundhole Point, which gives the best view of the village (picture 12).
Roundhole Point is named for a large round hole in the middle of the sloping meadow, best viewed as the path climbs after turning sharp right around the tip of the point (picture 13). The hole was formed by the collapse of a cave.
The path ascends to the crest of the ridge at Porthmissen Bridge (picture 14), passing an interesting old quarry building in the end of a stone field wall (picture 15). A fairly level path across another large meadow leads to another stone wall beyond which the route crosses two dry valleys in quick succession and then climbs steeply up to Gunver Head.
As I stopped on top of the headland to regain my breath and admire the view back across Longcarrow Cove (picture 16), I watched a lone mountain biker drag his bike up the steep slope before riding off along the path ahead of me. I wondered how much of the path he had spent carrying his bike instead of it carrying him and soon concluded that I was glad to be tackling the Coast Path on two feet rather than two wheels.
The view ahead from Gunver Point (picture 17) is dominated by Stepper Point, about two kilometres away, with its twelve metre high stone tower, erected in 1832 as a daymark to assist seafarers to recognise the mouth of the River Camel on the other side of the point.
The weather was now deteriorating and I could see that it was raining beyond Stepper Point. By the time I made my way along the relatively level clifftop path to the small cove of Butter Hole and then climbed up to Stepper Point, it was also raining inland along the River Camel (picture 18).
The rain reached Stepper Point as I approached the daymark tower (picture 19) and I considered taking a break to shelter inside until I discovered that it has no roof. It did at least provide a place out of the wind to pull on my waterproofs before continuing along the path in the light rain, which continued to fall for the rest of the walk.
From the daymark, the Coast Path follows a low stone wall downhill for almost 200 metres, overlooking the mouth of the Camel (picture 20), before turning through a gap in the wall to climb across the sloping hillside, starting to follow the river inland towards the town of Padstow.
The entrance to the Camel is one of the most dangerous in Cornwall. A large sandbar, aptly named the Doom Bar, lays just under the surface and has caused the demise of hundreds of vessels, including three RNLI lifeboats. One of my favourite beers is named after the Doom Bar, brewed just across the river at the Sharp's Brewery in the village of Rock.
Over the next ridge, the Coast Path descends gently beside fields in an area known as The Narrows, eventually reaching the tiny settlement of Hawker's Cove. The route joins a lane, following it past cottages and around the back of the small sandy inlet until a signpost points left along an enclosed path that passes the old Padstow Lifeboat House. The building is now a private cottage, having been replaced by the new lifeboat station I passed earlier in the day's walk after the safe channel of the River Camel shifted to the other side of the estuary.
The path now runs along the river bank beside fields to the end of the long sandy expanse of Harbour Cove (picture 21). The Coast Path doesn't visit the inviting beach however, instead turning inland through a patch of trees to find a footbridge across a small stream, then meandering along field edges well back from the beach, eventually rejoining the riverbank at the far end of the cove at Gun Point.
After a brief detour around the small and sheltered St George's Cove, a broad gravel path climbs up to St Saviour's Point, where a tall war memorial cross overlooks the fishing town of Padstow (picture 22). A tarmac path then descends across pleasant parkland to the edge of the town (picture 23), joining North Quay Parade behind the harbour (picture 24). From here the Coast Path continues across the River Camel by ferry, but in the worsening weather I decided to leave that for another day, leaving the Coast Path here with another 17.4 kilometres added to my tally.
Padstow was originally named Petrocstowe, after St Petroc, a 6th-century Welsh missionary who started a monastery hereabouts. St Petroc must have had a significnat influence on the people of south-west England -- so far on my travels around Devon and Cornwall, I have passed several churches dedicated to St Petroc, and the flag of Devon is also dedicated to him.
According to the tourist guidebooks, modern Padstow is well-known for its association with celebrity chef Rick Stein, who runs a number of fancy restaurants in the town along with a fish and chip shop at the south end of the harbour. As this was close to the bus stop for my ride back to Newquay, I decided to see what the fuss was about and called in for a somewhat classier meal than I usually find at the end of a walk. This also proved to be a handy place to wait for the bus, as the rain started bucketing down and as I ate my rather late lunch I was thankful that I had made it to Padstow before the worst of the weather.