Day 22 Helford Passage to Coverack
I was very grateful for my big sis joining me on this section. Ken and Percy had a beach day instead (sadly Percy is getting too ill for walks which is why we couldn’t all hike together).
Despite it being grey weather wise, it was still beautiful. Made all the more so by Melanie Smith‘s keen eye taking stock of interesting plants, trees and scenes. She might cringe at me for saying this but it felt a privilege to see her artist perspective in action! It was fun taking turns sharing ideas of views that could be drawn or painted. It was really special savoring all the beauty around us. Be it a classically picturesque field of bluebells or a macabre scene of trees drowning in the river Helford… we could appreciate the beauty in the moment. Its a gift I’ve come to appreciate in Mel… Her ability to spark interest in things that might seem obscure or otherwise be over looked, and her self-confidence to embrace her style as an artist (I’m calling her an artist even if she might not). Mel got me to reflect on the challenge of learning drawing/painting techniques yet also protecting what is uniquely our style Mel offered encouragement in the value of persevering with our art and the need to practice, in that way to both construct and allow our inherent style to emerge… so much wisdom in such a short Smiff!
One of my favorite moments of today, was watching Mel gift a bee laying in the path some banana and water (sugar) to try and revive him back to life. Mel can be a tough, serious laywer and yet also a big softie I’ve learnt from Mel the importance of life in balance
It took 22 days of hiking the SWCP to get lost and we managed it twice today…. which we are putting down to the lack of signs around this section of the coast path. Its not as easy as you might think to keep the path on your side when going inland. I won’t admit all the extra steps today
After accidently walking around a dead-end field we decided to nip into Fat Apples Cafe for directions, and inevitably tea and cake
We had been warned by another hiker that this was their least favorite section of the path given the quarry is not very pretty. Its perhaps an understandable opinion. I found it a desolate place and felt sad to learn the area has been excavated since 1890s. Perhaps it’s not surprising fewer tourists visit here… its certainly less attractive than other sections in Cornwall and the area has a sad history with several ship wrecks off the coastline. Regardless, I’d definitely recommend walking this section. It has its own charm! Every day of the SWCP the scenery has been very different and it’s such a pleasure to see the varied beauty through Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, and learn about the history in each area.
After our planned 13 miles (plus those extra steps), we met Ken and Percy for a mooch around Coverack before a steak dinner back at the YHA
Day 23 Coverack to Mullion (almost)
Today started with goodbyes to Melanie Smith , Ken and Percy who were heading back home.
Walking from the hostel down to meet the path, I felt teary thinking that was potentially my last kiss and cuddle with Mr P given his deteriorating health from cancer. Watching him refuse to walk or his legs buckle despite a desire to move was gut wrenchingly sad, having known him to be unexhaustable in his prime.
Our family has been repeatedly touched by grief over the last years from the loss of Ken’s dad, my mum, my Bibi and dear Ann (Mel’s mum). It doesn’t feel fair to go through more bereavement but such is the privilege to love and be loved.
Thinking about the joy Percy brings, I realise he reflects how grateful I am to have such a big beautiful extended family.
I have been lucky to have my mum, mummy Moon and a stepmother in my life. I have siblings, half-siblings, bonus siblings (“in law”), stepsiblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, first cousins once removed …. many of whom have kindly been messaging with support through the hike, donating and sharing the fundraiser for the charity We don’t often get a change to spend time together but its so special to feel that connection regardless
Mum’s death brought an unexpected gift of connection with Penina (my first cousin once removed on mum’s side of the family) who I had not met previously, her wonderful husband and children, as well as their network of family and friends … some of whom came to mum’s funeral with a shared connection of being from the Tanzania diaspora At a time of such loss, when I was worrying my family was shrinking and I was losing my African connection, Penina gifted abounding love…. like so many of the generous people in my life
Penina generously flew with Will and I to Tanzania to support us to pay our respects to our Grandmother who only spoke Luo (a tribal dialect that is not easy to learn). We got to meet Penina’s father, our grand uncle as well as her wider family who warmly embraced us in Tanzania
Speaking of generosity… today was yet again full of it! Mel and Ken had kindly offered to drop my bag at the Lizard, saving me from carrying it for 8 out of my 18 miles today.
It was glorious sunshine overhead today. Being back alone, having enjoyed company over the past days felt strange but the familiarity of the well trodden steps of the path felt comforting. This entirely new section felt exciting to explore!
After reading all the wildlife information at Black Head viewing point, I was feeling hopeful to spot dolphins… but not such luck. Although laiden with the treat of peanut butter sandwiches, I decided to enjoy lunch at The Regent Cafe. Partly to show my gratitude for keeping my bag safe!
Feeling bizarrely happy reunited with the pack I enjoyed reaching the most southernmost point in England and later in the afternoon the Instagram famous Kyance cove.
On the steep steps leading away from Kyance on to Mullion, I met a young boy running down. Somewhat out of breath and precariously balanced on a small passing place, I asked if anyone else was coming down with him to avoid a collision (walking backwards with this pack is not a talent I wanted to attempt). He said the way was clear and wished me a good walk. I couldn’t help but smile… such a polite young boy! I shouted back (without turning round) enjoy your swim … he had been dressed in a wetsuit.
A few hours later (later than expected as I managed to lose the path for the second day running… this time accidently almost walking into an MoD firing range)… I found myself relieved to have made it to my campsite. On arrival, that same kid welcomed me with an offer to help set up my tent Through the evening I met his mum and dad.
Dinner was a hodge podge of huel pasta, fruit and a donut I’d saved from the Lizard. Not fancy grub but there is something wonderously satisfying about all this adventure
Day 24 Mullion to Porthleven
I started the morning doing laundry after excitedly learning my campsite had a clothes dryer. There is nothing more satisfying than clean clothes after a hot shower as a through hiker!
I was a bit perplexed at how easy it was to rejoin the path given the unexpected detour I had yesterday but tried not to think about it. Walking alone, one train of thought can get stuck with you for ages
Mullion was a cute little coastal village and then Polrruain. Walking today I was lucky to enjoy long grass cliff stretches full of spring flowers and several sweet little coves but I didn’t linger anywhere too long… I was motivated to get to Porthleven for a late lunch knowing today they had a food festival!
Looking down to the town I felt overwhelmed by the crowd of people having been solitary for the last two days. As luck had it, a lady struck up a conversation about my pack as we walked in. We chatted away and I learned she had just done several miles herself to mark out the running route for her group of Hash Harriers. I explained how mum had enjoyed being a part of the Harriers. Mum started running when we were little, in part to get some time for herself. This woman said she had started for the same reason She was so kind, offering I could camp for the night in her garden to save me walking further
I decided to treat myself to two late lunchs (duck wrap and crab salad) and took away dinner for a feast at the campsite. After enjoying people watching for a bit, I dragged myself away from the food tents, up the hill and out of town, trying not to jostle people with my pack… I was relieved to get back out into open space of the path.
Dropped Anchor was my destination for tonight. I was feeling annoyed with myself for picking somewhere so far off the path (all the extra unnecessary steps) but that melted away on arrival to find such a cute campsite and receive such a warm welcome from the owner, Debbie, who’s been building this place over theast few years. We chatted for a bit about my trip and she generously donated my fee for the pitch to the charity
Debbie then introduced me to another camper – another solo female hiker! It was so special chatting away over tea on a wooden bench….socks off to air out our feet as I’ve only seen two others on my trip so far. It feels really special to see women walking/camping independently because there can be a lot of anxiety about personal safety as a woman. It’s so valuable to learn of others doing what we dream of for ourselves because it becomes possible in our mind and normalized. I took a lot from Rebecca’s courage and determination I felt so lucky to have met so many wonderful women today
When daylight disappeared, we said our goodbyes and each returned to our little tent homes for the night.
Day 25 Mullion to Penzance
Today marks the penultimate day of the hike. Unfortunately I woke after Rebecca left so we didn’t get to meet again but it was nice to think of her starting her journey as mine comes to an end. Such is the circle of life!
I’ll be staying with friends, Louise and Dale, for my last night who kindly offered me a bed at theirs this evening I packed away my tent slowly, feeling immense gratitude for the shelter its given me through this trip… a little unsure whether I would miss it or not
I’ve not camped a lot through my life, mainly over the last 3 years. I’ve come to love the freedom it brings to enjoy beautiful, often remote nature; the simplicity of carrying only what is needed; the pride in being inventive when I haven’t had what I needed or patience to accept things not being as I desire; the joy in learning how little I need to actually feel content, and to learn more about myself in what brings me comfort… like a pillow and warm socks! I’ve learnt to appreciate camping in rain and snow, trusting my kit to protect me from the elements, and that support is all around if I’m willing to seek help. In return, I’ve developed hardiness. I’ve come to appreciate changing hiking conditions through willingness to adjust and adapt… not being fixed in my ideas or expectations but embracing things in whatever way I encounter them. Feeling cold air now feels more refreshing than uncomfortable; something I’ve come to value having spent so much of the pandemic indoors. Through hiking and camping, I’ve learnt to be more vulnerable… to be out of my comfort zone and value the potential for learning and growth
I love this section of the path, knowing it well from living in Penzance recently. Trewevas and Tin Prosper mine are beautiful remnants of the mining industry that once flourished, now its just gorse that flourishes here.
I stopped at Rinsey cliffs to enjoy a beautiful view for my porridge breakfast and the wonderous feeling of self sufficiency to make a brew. I was not keen to eat my porridge as the having the same breakfast daily has become rather monotonous. I comforted myself in the knowledge I would be treating myself to lunch and dinner tonight!
I hadn’t thought how busy this section of the path can be and I felt curious to notice how few people were making eye contact as they passed me sitting on a rock. I realized it was as Raynor Winn write in the Salt Path about people assuming through hikers are homeless (I will add i was wearing fresh clothes and had washed my hair this morning so I was more presentable than usual!). It was such a curious experience, that I was tremendously grateful to have read her book to somewhat prepare me for this. Funnily enough I got chatting with a passing couple about this as they enquired about whether I was wild camping after I’d packed away my food. Such a lovely couple who enquired about the charity and kindly assured me of nice lunch spots ahead of me at Praa Sands to motivate me to keep going
I loved walking the beaches at Perranuthnoe and Praa, and Prussia cove as well as finally reaching Marazion… where I was joined by Emma Louise Clunie and Louise Batty Vigus After a cheeky pitstop to refuel, we enjoyed the familiar stroll between Marazion and Pz
Louise kindly carried my pack and it was so lovely to catch up. Louise and I met here in Penzance through Emma as a mutual friend Connecting over the similarities in our childhoods of growing up as women of colour in the South West (including moving between countries) has been so special, as well as learning about Tuvalu For anyone interested, especially in the impact of climate change on this beautiful pacific nation, please take a look! E.g. https://savingtuvalu.org
In Penzance, it was fab to enjoy a dinner of scampy and chips together with Lousie, Emma and Esther, and sleeping in a bed (mattress, frame and all!!) Thanks to Louise and Dale
I was so happy catching up with these wonderful friends, thoughts of the trip ending left me, leaving me just with appreciation for these wonderful people and this wonderful place that which was until recently home
Day 26 Penzance to Land’s End
*** apology for the delayed post – I needed to process how I felt before writing***
Despite knowing I should set off early because this final leg would be a tough one with all the hills and just emotionally, I found myself struggling to get out of bed. It wasn’t tiredness but a hesitation to start ending this adventure.
The routine of walking and camping, walking and camping, has brought an interesting simplicity to my life and the slow pace of being has gifted a peacefulness that I had not anticipated. Though constantly eating food like porridge and dehydrated pasta was somewhat monotonous, it was freeing not to have to make so many daily decisions, giving my mind space to enjoy the world around me and freedom to be creative in things like writing, photography and sketching. Carrying all that I needed, I’ve felt self-sufficient and know I’ve built strength – physically and mentally.
Over the last few days, a fear of losing all I have gained crept in. I needed to hold faith that this is was just a thought, not fact; to trust in myself… so I set off from Penzance to start this final day.
Enjoying a familiar stroll along Penzance promenade to Newlyn, I was rewarded (and slightly caught off guard with a mouth full of pastry) by a chance encounter with a friend, Magdalena Maria. Magda is a beautiful human and one of the wonderful women behind Mor Swimmy – do look out for their amazing eco-friendly hand-designed swim suits and grab a coffee if in the area!!
At Mousehole I noticed only my second barometer on the SWCP – on the wall of the Ship Inn which I have passed many times before (see Day 18 post about the innovation of Admiral Fitzroy!). Mooching round the quaint roads of this little fishing port, I kept hitting dead ends. Luckily I wasn’t the only one – I bumped into two woman hiking this section who were also struggling to find the path. We laughed on realising a van was simply blocking the sign directing walkers out of the village. We chatted much of the way to Lamorna and ended up at the same café admiring the views across the cove. It was nice talking about the book, the Salt Path by Raynor Winn. I admitted I hadn’t read the sequel (Wild Silence) out of a fear of Moth’s health. It was great to be assured they both are alive and well!
Reflecting on my resistance to face a potentially sad ending in Raynor and Moss’ story, I considered how that has applied to me not wanting to end this hike. I could very much enjoy exploring the unknown north section and to try to take on the whole SWCP* for the charity. However, I know I need to return to work and there are other things I need to do. (*the whole route takes 56 days according to the SWCP association guidelines).
I’ve come to realise that leaving the path here and ending this adventure, parallels me ending a current life chapter. ‘Turning the page’ brings sadness and anxiety yet also an exciting opportunity. There is a comfort in walking a well-trodden path, it brings an allure of certainty, but I’m realising I wish to embrace a desire to step away from familiarity and create a new path for myself… adventuring more wildly. In much the same way Claire Bedwell and I have had to consider how we take the charity forward – realising we cannot run it as mum did because we are not her; while honouring her ideas, we have to chart our own path to deliver the charity aims. Embracing this perspective, the charity work has become a pleasure rather than a responsibility that perhaps it felt like in the beginning. Working in the charity has brought such richness in connection to other charity members, the community in Buturi and UK friends of Buturi. I’m so tremendously grateful for all the support everyone has given me to take on this hike and also the charity with Claire.
Walking this section as my last day was really powerful for lots of reasons including that despite living nearby, I have never visited the infamous Porthcorno beach. During my time living in Penzance, there have been several incidents of racial hate in West Cornwall; for example in January 2021, there were racial hate posters around Penzance and in August 2021, the cliffs at Pedn Vounder beach were spray painted with racist hate graffiti. At times its left me feeling uncomfortable, even unsafe, to explore the coastline so wondering here alone was an internal challenge for me but one I knew I was ready to face. Realising the beauty of the area was absolutely magical. I was so lucky to have a day of breath-taking blue sky overhead and turquoise waters around the cliffs. Enjoying walking at a leisurely pace I slowly shed feelings of discomfort, allowing contentment and pride to fill me instead. Initiatives like Black Girls Hike by Rhiane, and Women Adventures of Colour by my friend, Sabinah ( Bean KJ), have been so empowering.
Anyone who knows me, knows I cried at points today – I am my mother’s daughter I cry when I’m happy and sad; I wear my heart on my sleeve as I’m sure you have come to learn through my blog of this trip. Something I was embarrassed about myself when younger but have come to embrace as a quality to cherish as it has enabled such beautiful interactions with people through my life. I enjoyed a good cry when I finally reached Nanjizal beach knowing the end of this adventure really was coming, letting go of all I had held on to brace to get through the challenge. From this, I felt lighter and finally ready for the end.
Most of today I spent alone with my thoughts, invigorated with a soothing sea breeze and smells of spring blossoms all around me. But I also had two special encounters – I met another SWCP hiker I’ve been following – Supertramp GB, his son and Dave the cat. Also, a kind lady just after Nanjizal
20 minutes out from my destination, I was so pleased that my dad ( Tony Smith ) and his wife, Marita Phonbamrung , joined me as companions to Land’s End and in celebrating the end of this wonderful journey. It was truly special.
Thank you everyone for all the generous sponsorship and support through these past 26 days of hiking, it’s been filled with love and I am so so very grateful!