Hike #6: Newquay to Holywell
This walk is fraught with the unexpected. One involves checking tide times, something we non-coastal people don't think about at all in our daily lives, but that turns out to be pretty darn important when you have to cross a river that doesn't have a bridge close by. Another is making sure that the ferry that will carry you across said river is actually in operation, and didn't just close for the season a week earlier.
We start our walk cutting across the harbor. Way long ago, the Newquay harbor was the site of an Iron Age fort, which is so cool. Since then it’s been used for importing coal, exporting the tin and copper mined around Cornwall, and pilchard fishing and salting. Pilchard fishing was at one time the town’s lifeblood, although the tiny fish have long since disappeared.
On the other side of the harbor we climb these cool stone steps.
This little building was used as a Huer's Hut when pilchard fishing reigned supreme in Newquay. Think of the term "hue and cry" and you'll know exactly what a Huer is. From his perch at the top, he would watch for shoals of pilchards making their way across the water, then make a ruckus to alert the locals to get their boots and boats.
Supposedly, there are still tunnels that run under the town, left from the days when rail cars transported the catch from harbor to market.
Are next goal is that fascinating building way out at the edge of the cliff.
I took many photos of the inside of the Headline Hotel, but this staircase pic epitomizes the feel of the place. Read more about the Headland Hotel—and even make reservations— here.
There are some juicy news reports about construction of the Headland Hotel. The local fishermen fought the construction, saying that it was being built on common land that had been used for generations by fishermen to dry out their nets. Local workmen refused to work on the project, some knocking down walls, burning scaffolding, and tossing the foreman's hut off the cliff and into the sea. They were pretty pissed.
Work ground to a halt due to lack of workers—until the owners did what owners have always done when the locals strike: they brought in non-locals desperate for work. When the 200 unemployed miners arrived—eager to feed their families—the foremen set up traction engines armed with hoses, then proceeded to spray steam on the irate locals. They too were pissed.
This is the Gannel River, the one for which we never considered checking tide schedules, being the happy-go-lucky-we'll-find-a-way people we are. Plus, we know there's a ferry and we know where that ferry is: just down the steps behind a ittle cafe.
The steps pass the cafe, then lead all the way to the river.
But the cafe is closed and a forbidding sign says absolutely no access, steps closed, go away and walk the two miles around This Means You or something like that. I didn't take the time to take a picture because we quickly stepped over the sign and hightailed it down the steps.
Only to reach a locked bloody gate. Bob tries to pick it.
We can see the steps by leaning out over the fence. Maybe we can go around the gate. The steps are right there. So close. We debate climbing over when a neighbor appears.
The neighbor advises against going over the gate. Says it's treacherous. Says the ferry just closed last week. and that the Gannel is dangerous to cross on foot even at low tide because of sinkholes and...something else. I forget what. Then he says that if we promise not to sue him if we get hurt, he'll let us down his back path. He then points out the safest places to cross.
We head down.
And kindly close his gate.
Bob gets there first to check it out. Not that we have an iota of choice: if we don't cross here we'll have to walk miles to the closest bridge.
Lots of water. Hmmm.
It looks pretty harmless.
But every step, even where there is no water, sinks down, down, down. When the people on the other side stop to watch us, we feel a bit leery but go on, holding phones and boots and backpacks up out of danger. Once we make it across, one of the men says, "I was sure I'd have to come rescue you, I was."
The other side, where we climb to safety.
And dry our tootsies.
And find the Bowgie Inn, which the man told us about.
As we round the corner, this young man is proposing to this young woman so we offer to take their picture for posterity's sake. Young love. Sigh.
You just assume, when you see something like this up ahead, that you'll be able to scamper down this side, cross the beach, then clamor up the other side. But not here.
And not here for sure.
Instead we have to walk around. The path does that sometimes. No sense complaining, just get on with it.
This is the view from the other side. The reason we're stopping is that I have just slipped off the path into a rut and onto a bramble patch—which is pointy and sharp—and twisted my ankle. Bummer. Luckily this trip I had taken my sister's advice and worn high-top hiking boots, which act almost as well as a cast.
Maybe, possibly, could that be Holywell up ahead? Please let it be.
The South West Coast Path takes you through all kinds of terrain. This is our first time walking through sand dunes as part of the path.
It's like a rabbit warren, ant tunnel, prairie town.
With super cool plant life.
Finally, the path off the trail and into the village.
Where we down a couple whiskeys then catch a bus back to Newquay.
Back at the hotel, we down more drink: Me a Pimm's and Bob a stout or ale or lager—some kind of beer.
On the way back, we pick up ibuprofen for my ankle, and which I down--throwing all caution to the wind--with my alcohol.