DAY 1;- RAIN STORMS, RESTLESS CATTLE AND SOME AWKWARD FENCES
A few years ago I bought a walking guide entitled ‘The Copper Trail’. A sixty five mile walk around Bodmin Moor with an emphasis on visiting sites of industrial archaeology. The route is not marked on the ground with symbols but the trail is described with pencil map sketches which can make it a bit of a challenge to say the least. As I was to find out, inland paths in Cornwall are not all that well walked, if at all. I set to work on seeing if it was feasible to walk it by using local buses as I wasn’t keen on backpacking. As you can imagine, buses in rural Cornwall aren’t that thick on the ground. First of all I needed a base with easy access to buses and in the end opted for Wadebridge and used the Travelodge on the edge of the town where there was a bus stop nearby.
Now for planning the walk. I would be walking the route in August so I was expecting a fair bit of good weather, and days where it was light into the evening, but good weather was not on the agenda on this holiday, and I so timed it with the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha which gave Britain a spell of very unseasonable weather. To do this walk in four days would mean trekking some fairly big daily distances but with buses thin on the ground it seemed the only way to undertake such a walk.
My first leg of the walk was to catch the bus from Wadebridge to the start of the walk at Bodmin where it would be almost a twenty mile walk to Camelford. Here I could catch an afternoon bus back to Wadebridge and hence this would be a car free day.
The day started with all the hallmarks of an autumnal day including a cold wind and showers driving in off the Atlantic.
I was keen to get an early start but even before the bus arrived, a shower complete with rainbow was steaming in towards me across the Cornish coast. With the rain just starting to pour down and no shelter I was glad to see my bus arriving. I alighted at Bodmin and set off in earnest on the first leg of the Copper Trail to Camelford. I needed to be in Camelford by late afternoon as buses were few and far between.
Leaving Bodmin it was an ascent along a road of little interest and what traffic there was, sped past me at high speed. I was glad to leave this road at Racecourse Farm and head west on a farm drive then track. At Holton I had to take shelter during the first of several downpours, and backed with a strong wind, the rain lasted only a few minutes. On I went on a little used path and the wet vegetation now met in the middle so it wasn’t long before my legs were getting wet. I had brought along secateurs for the first time and it wasn’t long before I put them to use cutting back long brambles which periodically crossed the path. For now I was walking in bright sunshine but showers were around. Nearing Clerkenwater House I walked past a field of solar power panels with high security and a man stationed in a van. It was a shame to see that vandals had smashed some of the panels with rocks even in this very rural location. A descent now led me down through East Woods to the densely wooded valley of the River Camel and here a right turn took me onto the Camel Trail where a cycle route runs along an old disused railway line. At this time of the day there was no one about. I made good progress along the wooded valley but there was little of interest and virtually no views.
Nearing Hellandbridge I started seeing several cyclists most of which sped by without speaking and beyond this spot I found a seat for my morning break. The sunshine was still out but it wasn’t to last. Reaching Tresarrett I left the Camel Trail and doubled back on a lane before veering south east. I was aiming for Blisland Church for lunch but now the rain was starting. Eager to get out of another downpour I scaled a gate and sought shelter in a field and was really lucky to find a new wooden horse stable minus its horse and on the plus side it had the bonus of a view across the rainy countryside. It was a perfect dry shelter for an early lunch. With the weather clearing I now set off for Blisland Church and village.
A delightful path led across a valley with views to the historic house of Lavethan, which was a house used in an early ‘Poldark’ film series. Blisland Church was a disappointment and was locked. I had read that the inside was worth a visit but it wasn’t to be. Blisland itself is a pleasant village, set around a large green. Following a lane, I headed north to the next hamlet of Pendrift. Beyond, I had Pendrift Down to cross, an area of open access with bracken and scrubby trees and a crossing of the De Lank River which unsurprisingly was running high and thankfully there was a footbridge. I had been keeping an eye on stormy weather to the northwest and was keen to get through this area with tall vegetation before the heavens opened. I didn’t quite make it and now there wasn’t a lot of good shelter. In the end I took shelter under a small oak tree whilst the heavens opened. Setting off towards St Breward I wasn’t sure of the route. The paths existed but were very overgrown and without looking at the guide instructions I opted for the easiest route and headed to Penvorder Cottages. A short lane walk then path walk took me to St Breward, a large straggling village and thankfully by now the rain had eased somewhat. I stopped frequently to read the map before taking a path between walls towards Churchtown and in the process had to take shelter again due to a brief deluge. The church at Churchtown was also locked and so I planned out the next section of the walk before putting the map away and remembering the route due to the frequent rain showers. Several fields were crossed to reach Treswallock Farm but now shelter was becoming a rarity. I didn’t quite reach the farm before the next downpour and this time I sought shelter under a solitary ash tree. The ground seemed to be coming so wet and boggy and by Trewallock Farm, I planned out the next section of the walk under an archway to a cottage. Entering the next overgrown field I somehow lost the path and ended up scaling walls topped by fencing with drops into squelchy ditches. On one such crossing the fence snapped which sent me into a ditch much quicker than expected but luckily landing on my feet. Crossing a lane I headed for Corgelly Farm but here a path diversion sent me a stray. The problem was exacerbated by a herd of restless cows and one rather large bull. Back tracking I decided to do a wider sweep to get to Newton but failed to get across a boggy overgrown valley and had to almost return to the point where I started my detour and thankfully by now the cattle had gone. Beyond Newton, I took stock of my dishevelled self. It was clear now that I had missed the first bus at 16.30pm. The next was at 17.27pm which I had to get as the following one was mid evening. I calculated how long it would take to finish the walk and now I could do it comfortably by 16.45pm. Luckily, the walking was easy as I headed across the open Harpur’s Down followed by a good path with way-markers to join the lane to Watergate. On the way, I even made a short detour to visit a trig point.
At Watergate I returned to field walking but now the problem was the lack of shelter and another shower was bearing down. I had removed waterproofs a while back and now I donned them in preparation for the next downpour. As I hurried across the open hilltop I encountered more restless cattle so it was time to cut corners and headed generally across pasture fields. The downside was the walls and barbwire fences I had to cross, and finally a drop into a sunken lane which I slide into from a high grassy bank clad in waterproofs and holding an umbrella to boot. One thing in my favour was that the showers were getting lighter and I now marched down the lane to the hamlet of Pencarrow and along a path beside the infant River Camel into the small town of Camelford. I had a good fifty minutes before the next bus and so it was time for an ice cream and a wander around the place before heading to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare. The bus driver who had few passengers for the journey back to Wadebridge drove at break neck speed and I was glad to be on terra firma at the end of the ride. Well that was an adventurous day one, now what would day two throw at me? Day two would be even more ambitious so watch this space!