Saturday, 17 November 2012

Trail report: Porthtowan to Trevaunance Cove

Today we ran one of my favourite bits of the coast path, from Porthtowan to Trevaunance Cove (and back).  All together 9 miles of varied trail along a historic rugged landscape shaped by the mining exploits of the past.

Starting out at Porthtowan car  park (free in the off season) you have a couple of options: head towards the beach and take a steep path past the the famous Blue Bar to the top of the cliff or, from the back of the car park take a longer but (slightly) less steep path to the same point.  Either way its a rude wake up call and an indication of things to come.

Crossing a rolling hillside the path enters a lunar landscape of of human creation; spoil piles topping decaying, scree topped cliffs and cairns marking the way which in foggy conditions might just save you from running off the edge and paying an unscheduled visit to the beach below.

As the path descends to Chapel Porth the trail becomes moderately technical with rocky steps and loose, fist sized stones demanding your concentration all the way to the base of the valley. Switch back along the stream, cross the car park passing the cafe on your way and gain the cliff path heading up the other side.

The cliffs climb steeply and you will be glad that the path turns through several hairpins which keep the angle of ascent relatively moderate.  A choice awaits: continue all the way up in one go or delay the final climb by turning left at the first opportunity.  The latter is preferable as it takes you past the most photographed engine house in Cornwall at Wheal Coates.

Immediately after passing Wheal Coates the path climbs again before levelling out at the Western end of St Agnes Head.  Before long you will see the Coastguard lookout to your right. From here the path is level and easy for a mile or so before the final descent to Trevaunance Cove.  This includes a laid stone path which, in wet conditions, can present the most treacherous part of the route.  Its also hard not to think of how this might feel in a few minutes time as you climb back up.

Our route ends with a trot though the houses, down the slip and onto the sand.  Turning back the climb out of Trevaunance is every bit as punishing as you knew it would be.  On the whole though the return trip is easier, the one final grunt up from Chapel Porth being shorter than the slog up past Wheal Coates on the way out.

This is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful areas of the North Cornwall coast.  Today we ran with the sun on our backs, though its not unusual for strong winds and poor visibility to transform this into a very different adventure.

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