Leaving Perranporth is the best way of visiting as you do not have to look at the surfer-dude and concrete block ‘architecture’ for too long. Several of the towns on this north coast seem to have a generous layer of sand throughout their streets which helps to remind one what they are really here for.
Passing some early-season surf lifesavers practising in the surf and many dogs being walked, we found the path rose up onto the top of the dunes. It was not for long, however, as it soon dropped down onto the beach of Perran or Penhale beach sands and we had a straight walk on the firm sand. This is a lovely stretch provided you can find firm sand to make the going easier.
Being down on the beach, one does not realise how large the dunes are behind the cliffs: about a mile inland of rough grass and sand. It was on this beach that St Piran surfed in on his millstone, climbed the cliffs and established his oratory and chapel. We were too focused on the walk to take a detour and left that visit for another time.
Approaching Ligger Point there were signs warning us of a military danger area. A decayed camp appeared on the cliff top, cheek-by-jowl with some lovely ‘smuggler’ caves in Hoblyn’s Cove. A mysterious bunkhouse, said to be part of GCHQ, was accompanied by an almost artistic aerial on Penhale Point.
Holywell Bay continued the sandy theme. It is more compact than Perranporth but a lovely sandy bay with some very dull modern holiday homes in the village. One day there will be a (Cornish) law that such buildings cannot be left in concrete grey but must be white or some other traditional colour. Dull architecture is all very well but why compound the problem by getting the colour wrong?
This is the point at which one really, really has to love sand for the climb out of Holywell Bay was worthy of an Arabian dune. Eventually, we reached firmer footing on the open cliff top where the thrift was flowering in profusion with a small scabious-like blue flower we could not immediately identify (later suggestion: sea squill or scilla verna).
These accompanied us all the way to Crantock Beach where the path once more crossed some grassy dunes and the way was decided by luck more than signage.
Emerging on the banks of the Gannel, it was clear that we were approaching civilisation for the opposite – Pentire – bank was filled with smart houses whose estates tumbled down the steep cliff. Different solutions were adopted by the owners: meandering paths through vegetation, smart lined lawns to rigid modernity. We pondered on how often they carried food to the ‘sitting areas’ at the bottom of the hill, only to find that they had forgotten the salt, or wanted another drink.
Our path, devoid of modern buildings, led us through a whole field of cowslips where we lunched.
It was a short walk to Penpol creek and a low-tide crossing place . As the tide was out we were able to cross some strangely fluid sand and then cross and re-cross the small footbridge which is under water at high tide. We thus demonstrated that we had reached Newquay which will be a later starting point.