2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). This is Week 2.
(8th Jan 2021)
Woke up to snow in Oxford! In Probus, I woke up virtually. It’s a small village but has the highest church tower in Cornwall. A morning walk around a sleety park in Oxford was quite lovely and really awakening. I’m back on an A-road hurtling towards St Austell. I pass through Tregonce/Grampound crossing the River Fal. It’s a busy village that once saw tannery as key to it’s trade. Tremethwick Brewery resides here and is one of the newest in the county.
As I reach St Austell I find Sophie Adey, a Relax Kids Coach from Bude is in the area (imagination please, people). We decide to meet up so I can find out what life is like down here. See my video. St Austell is where I stop for tonight. My evening walk saw me with my brother again and the talk turned to politics. It doesn’t usually but interestingly we turned to American politics and the rioting of Capitol Hill that occurred yesterday. Often sharing your thoughts on current affairs can help to release any worries or stresses you have about the current climate. I’m going to bed feeling quite contented, looking forward to waking up in St Austell. I wonder if there’ll be sun?
(9th Jan 2021)
My first admission this morning is I got my measurements wrong and actually only made it Hewas Water by last night. My second admission is that I woke up feeling fine but that very quickly changed and I’ve spent most of the day a bit out of sorts. I’m not sure why. I do think my mind’s having a bit of a laugh trying make me worry about things but what those things are I’m not sure. That’s what I find with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. It doesn’t like being pinned down to a response so wanders aimlessly through the brain never quite settling on a reasonable answer.
Nevertheless, I have ploughed on, sometimes at a slow and slightly zoned out pace, at others like my old self. I managed to walk to town today as I needed some shopping and virtually this has made me reach St Austell which is great. It’s home to a brewery, and is one of the largest towns in Cornwall. At the turn of the millennium, it appears to have undergone a rejuvenation and today boasts many amenities. I’m again a little sad not to be on a road overlooking the quay, but it would add extra to the route, and the centre of town isn’t all that bad.
The next bit of the route looks slightly strange. It’s quite a detour, however, I soon realise why. We get to visit the Eden Project which Sophie mentions in her interview.
(10th Jan 2021)
Thankfully, having spoken to a friend before bedtime who helped calm the anxiety, and having a relatively good night through the sheets, I woke feeling not bad. Not 100% but better than yesterday.
This morning I’m in decorating mode so can go at a slow and steady pace and this affords a few steps back and forth and up and down ladders. By the time I have finished this and then walked to the shop later, I have managed to walk past the Eden Project and thus gain another virtual postcard.
The Eden Project is closed at the moment due to lockdown, but has grown since its inception in 2001, 20 years ago. Residing in an old clay pit once used for filming, it is one of Cornwall’s top visitor attractions, and you can even gain a degree there. If that’s not your thing, then when it is open you can marvel at the building’s structure, forming two biomes for the plants, with a focus on showing how important our ecosystems are and how we can make them more sustainable.
Once more on the country roads and I’m heading south again, which is odd when I should be heading up the country, but perhaps this is a path less trod. St Blazey Gate comes into view. It’s a small settlement said to have links with the Saxons. Some houses here have what I call flagstone corners. I don’t know if that’s the official term for them but they remind me of a child’s building kit. You build the corners then slot the sides in. In reality these pieces are probably put on afterwards purely for decoration. I’m heading generally downhill again which considering our proximity to the sea suggests we may see some water again. Hooray.
I’m amazed back in Oxford that despite the middle of a pandemic, people aren’t wearing masks, and even if they are, they feel they can take up a whole pavement. If I’m walking alongside my brother, I will drop back and walk single file. Most others don’t so it was pleasing today on a small lane to be met with people coming towards us who actively stopped, put their masks on, then walked single file until they were past us. This is how it should be done. Well done.
I’m on Harbour Road. This is a good sign. I cross the railway line and head into the village and fishing port of Par. There’s a lot of history here notably around the canal and a tramway used to bring copper ore to the area. As I head uphill once more, a stunning view of the hills in the distance, presumably at Polkerris comes into view. It looks like I might be walking up that!
(11th Jan 2021)
Today has not been a good day. This morning I received a message to say that someone I have been in contact with has tested positive for Covid. I now have to isolate for ten days. It has come as a blow in the walking stakes as I have to have a rethink but it’s also not helped me mentally and I have spent much of the day in a sort of haze. I have had to lean heavily on those around me to see me through as I confine myself pretty much to my bedroom. I will get out in the garden and I have managed to clock up a couple of miles up and down the stairs but as I went to bed last night I was still about a day’s miles behind. That, along with work and all the jobs I needed to get done is a lot of added pressure so I’m not quite sure how things will progress.
Virtually, in all honesty, I’ve not got a lot further.
I’ve come on the next day to update this because although it was a bad day yesterday mentally (and subsequently physically), I hadn’t realised how much I had forced myself to get out of the chair and walk. I managed to put in a few more miles. I scooted around Polkerris, which is known to have one of the best beaches in Cornwall. Tourism, as with most places in Cornwall, is key here to their survival and it does seem to have had various developments over the years to help with this. Making my way up Polmear Hill, the sandy cove of the beach falls away and I spend a while walking the leafy roads through the rolling hills again.
In Fowey, I found a lovely little ferry crossing which takes me across the harbour to Bodinnick. It transports cars too. Fowey is one of the places I was hoping to visit about a year ago but clearly with the restrictions it was not to be. One day I’ll make it. It’s a small cargo port. As I was told in my video tomorrow, you must ensure you get the pronunciation correct. It’s Foy, not Fow-ey. Apparently Jesus visited Fowey. I’m in safe hands then. Tourism is vitally important here too. The view once off the Ferry and looking back towards Fowey is stunning. It’s what you imagine a picturesque harbour town to be like. Through the narrow, winding roads, I ended up bedding down in a field, in my tent, in the middle of nowhere.
(12th Jan 2021)
In the real world I’ve woken and I’m not too bad. Still some nerves about the news I received yesterday but having re-watched today’s video before posting, I’m reminded of some very important advice, so do take a look. I’ve managed a mile and a half already today, so that’s good. That means I will make Looe today although I should have been closer to Plymouth. A few steps at a time, eh? If I’d have been on the route it would be raining now, and that can dampen your spirits when walking. It soaks into everything unless you are well-prepared. I suppose in some ways the same can be said about external factors impacting our mental health. If we aren’t well prepared with our protective layer, those external forces will seep into our skin. Wow. I’ve never thought of it like that before.
The route continues through fields and down single track roads with high hedges on either side meaning there’s not much of a view and you cannot see cars coming either. At one point the bank is so high, it’s taller than I am. Then there are hedges on top. In the middle of nowhere there’s a letter box!
I follow a brook for a while as the road slowly inclines and pulls away from it. The only sign of life along these roads are the few houses and farm buildings, otherwise there is nothing for miles. It feels very much as though I am walking down a farm track and will never reach my next destination. Again, due to isolation, my steps are being taken around the house and garden, so the view doesn’t change a lot there either. It’s quite scary how some of the roads are so narrow you wonder how they can even be classed as a road.
A sign tells me to test my brakes, which don’t exist because I’m walking but this does give warning that my feet are about to get wet as I cross a ford. I wouldn’t normally risk it but it’s the route and actually, it’s quite shallow. I can imagine it would get deep though. Finally I reach a main road again. The road that will finally take me to Looe. A few more miles before bedtime will get me there, but for now, I’m quite pleased to have managed about four miles walking around the house. I’m still about 14 miles behind the pacer, which is about a day and a half’s miles. I’ll find time to catch it up but it’s taking a bit more effort now I’m locked at home and the anxiety creeps in. Had a bit of patch creep in about 7pm. It does that with a lot of people. Later in the evening and bedtime, so if you ever get anxious at bedtime, please don’t feel alone. It’s quite common. How you react and deal with it is what’s important.
I wanted to reach Looe by the end of the day but didn’t quite manage it, although I did manage to lay my head for the night at Tencreek Holiday Park. I’ve got my tent but you know what, I deserve a proper bed so manage to blag a very nice caravan overlooking the sea and in the middle distance, St George Island. Various theories around the island abound, but today it is a carefully managed conservation area. What a pleasant way to end the day.
(13th Jan 2021)
Good morning world. Slept well but there’s this thing that as soon as I wake, the mind takes over. It’s very good at that. I do say thank you each morning that my eyes open and I realise I’m still alive. It’s something I used to do when I was going through rough patches with my mental health. Even when life is making you feel low and your time has come, if you manage to open your eyes in the morning, it’s almost like the world is saying to you ‘come on, I’ve given you another chance. Take it.’
I finally pull myself out of bed. I may be stuck at home but I’m determined to keep getting these steps in, so I do half an hour of HIIT before the day gets going properly. I’m not really a HIIT person so it’s my version of it. At the least it raises the blood pressure, and a body that’s pumping blood is one that’s still living. It’s amazing how a bit of exercise can just boost your morale and give you a bit of a kick to do things.
And so it is, I’m back out walking. The weather is pretty miserable in Oxford today. Drizzle, although I’ve spotted some thrushes darting in and out of a hedge at the bottom of the garden so that’s kept me busy every few minutes watching them. In Looe, it’s cloudy and not too cold, which is good, because that’s where I’m heading. In fact, the steps I managed to do this morning during my exercise are enough to get me to Looe. It’s very pretty.
Another fishing port, it’s separated down the middle by the River Looe (Looe meaning cove). Looe has a fascinating history dating back at least to the Bronze age, and is steeped with tales of pirates too. What I love as I head down into the harbour is that lots of roads suddenly lead off of this main one, some up the hill, and some down, all the while, the view slowly opens up to the harbour. The bridge over the river is a large stone one with tall buildings climbing the hillside opposite. We’re in a valley here, and not quite on the seafront.
Much as I love those country walks, it is lovely to see other humans and civilisation, and Google earth doesn’t disappoint. It’s lovely to see the seaside town in the sunshine and all the shops that would have been open, and hopefully one day will return. It looks quite a busy place, and again, tourism is key to it still surviving. Let’s hope the pandemic hasn’t hurt it too much. Passing a bakery, I’m yearning for a sausage roll now. Resist!
The Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol serves as a reminder a time from yesteryear. I’m taking a back street though and it’s a steep climb. The views at the top back down into Looe are stunning though and is the sort of place that I would stand and watch for ages. I’ve reached what is known as the South West Coast Path, one of the best long distance walks you can do in the UK, and one which is often set as a challenge for people to try. I have thought about it, and perhaps when life gets back on track, Cornwall will be one of my first destinations. I know where I’d love to visit.
For the next part of my journey, I can’t rely on streetview, because the car doesn’t go down the path, so I can only imagine the wonders that my eyes would behold. The sights, sounds, and smells. Sometimes we need to dip into our imagination to find happier places and times, and this is one of them. I can see from an aerial shot that it’s quite leafy with a view across the English Channel. I’ve made it to Plaidy in time for lunch. The pacer says I should reach past Plymouth tonight. I won’t. That would require about 19 more miles and I can’t physically manage that today but that’s fine. I’m going to aim for a place called Portwrinkle, because I like the name.
From Plaidy Beach I continue on the South West coast path and arrive in a little hamlet called Millendreath, which plays home to a beach resort and is another cosy cove. Rising steeply again I look back to enjoy the view and it really is stunning. The path then pulls back slightly from the edge and through the trees. There’s a place halfway up called Wild Futures. It’s a monkey sanctuary who have been protecting our furry friends for 50 years! Yet another single track road greets me now and through the small gaps in the hedges I can still see the sea.
There’s a steady decline and I’m hazarding a guess we’re heading towards the sea once more. Oh, I must say here that as you know all of my walking is around the house now, so I ventured to the shed when it was really overcast and there was a gorgeous robin singing high above me. It made me stop, and when I returned to the computer I could still here him so I penned a poem. Nature can have that effect if we stop and observe it.
Suddenly, as if by magic, the trees end and I can see the blue of the waves come into view once more. I’m going to miss Cornwall, and I’ve only a few miles left in the county, but I have got a way to go on the south coast still.
I arrive in Seaton around dinnertime. Seaton is another typical seaside town and fishing harbour and as the road swings to the left, I take a right back towards the seafront. Behind me is Seaton Valley Countryside Park, a 53 hectare site at the bottom of a steep valley – presumably that accounts for where I’ve just walked from. The beach at Seaton is a pebbly one which isn’t altogether disappointing, although I would much rather a sandy one. Having said that, there is something wonderful about hearing the rattling drag of an undercurrent shifting them around when the tide is in.
I sadly didn’t have the energy in the evening to get much further so pitched the tent in a field overlooking the sea. I mean I can think of worse places to end the day.
(14th Jan 2021)
Isolation isn’t going to beat me. I managed to get up and go again today. More of a positive mindset. I think I’m getting it back and it’s amazing how it can change your attitude for the day. I completed about 20 minutes of exercise which was OK and that, as well as a few steps around the house clocked up a couple of miles. It’s overcast and drizzly again but in Downderry, I can put my damp tent away whilst enjoying the sun trying to pick through the grey clouds, plus I have that great sea view to start the day.
I head off in an easterly direction once more and have realised that the sea in the distance sort of appears on both sides of me. A bit further on, and the view expands and over the top of the hedges, the full vastness of the sea greets my eyes again. It’s stunning to see so soon after breakfast.
It’s an undulating road but this means with each step there’s a new and exciting view of the sea. I follow this road with the sea across the field all the way. On Google earth I stumble on one of those pins where you can view a place that isn’t quite on your route. It’s a sandy cove and as I spin round, there’s no conceivable way of accessing it, other than by boat. I think I’ll stick to my path. I do manage to reach Portwrinkle though. It’s another small traditional coastal village, but this one has nothing in it really. If you want a shop, you’d best walk on. You could stop and enjoy Donkey Lane, or even better, Finnygook Lane. I love this place. Cornwall’s names are something out of a fantasy novel, and that’s not a bad thing. What this place does have though is Eglarooze Cliff, a site of special scientific interest; it has endangered plants on it.
Finny is apparently the name of a ghost spirit (Silas Finn) that floats around the cliffs. Interestingly, searching for what gook means, it turns up a result of an offensive term for a foreigner. I wonder if this suggests that Finny wasn’t a popular pirate? He did land smuggled goods on the sandy beach quite often, so perhaps so. Anyway, off to Crafthole.
Along the road there’s various markers to the field and the cliff edge on the right. I wonder what’s there. Up a couple of concrete steps and I find Tregantle Fort, an historic monument keeping watch over Tregantle beach. The fort was erected to defend the south coast against attacks from the French, notably Plymouth and similar naval bases. Able to house 2,000 men and with a startlingly large amount of artillery in its day, it later became a training centre, and is now used for naval training.
It’s here though that I head in-land and towards Antony. As I walk down the hill, on my left, through the trees is the River Lynher 21 miles long, starting somewhere on Bodmin Moor, famous for beasts and beasts of the murderous kind. Like the cliffs mentioned earlier, the river estuary is also a site of special scientific interest, with a vast array of birds. The Antony war memorial honours the fallen in both world wars and stands proudly on junction out of the village. Further along this road is the Torpoint cemetery which houses the bodies of 74 war personnel killed in conflict. It’s a stark reminder that this part of the country was part of the front line of our defence.
The River Lynher becomes the River Tamar before it heads into the sea and I find myself stood outside HMS Raleigh. This is a training centre for the Royal Navy, which opened at the start of the second world war. The last leg of my journey for tonight sees me finish at the Torpoint Ferry. I’m going to stop here for now and cross over the River tomorrow.
A high point of today was receiving a phone call from Restore. We’ve a few ideas for people who might like to share their stories on this page.
I’m a tad sad because crossing the river signals the end of my time in Cornwall. I am about to cross not only the river, but the county border too.