Beginning at the End

I’d like to say that I started here but that would not be at all true.22.jpg

This is Land’s End.fullsizerender27

It is not a spot to lift the spirits. It is not a place to embark upon a Great Adventure.

So instead I began a few miles east at Porthgwarra, a small cove at the end of a narrow lane with just a walkers’ car park, a café,  and a few holiday cottages to its name. And if the fresh coffee and the wholesome looking sponge cake in the café  (with just the merest whiff of artisan about it) are not enough, a notice nearby claims it as the location of Ross Poldark’s naked swimming scene. And the pilchard landing. This means nothing to me.

I set off. It was a day just blowy enough to hint at how severe the weather can be around here. FullSizeRender2.jpg

Navigation beacons appeared on the headland and at Gwennap Head a volunteer was busy scanning the sea lanes through his binoculars.

The path was clear and the walking good with some spectacular natural arches along the way. This oneFullSizeRender6.jpg and this one, which put me in mind of a cathedral.IMG_8063.JPG

As Land’s End hoved into view, so the walkers began to change. The Hardcore Hikers – all earnest expressions, walking poles and techno trousers – were joined by the Sunday Strollers – men in those strange shorts which end somewhere between the knee and the ankle for no apparent reason, women in dotty macs and anxious looking dogs in high vis jackets. I’m always heartened by the sight of a Sunday Stroller because when I spot a handbag it means that I’m only 10 minutes from tea . Actually I’m always heartened to see anyone out there enjoying the fresh air as much as I am. That’s what I love about walking: it’s the democracy of the path – stride for 20 miles or amble for 20 minutes, all are equal.

Anyway, Land’s End. Not my kind of place to be sure, but it’s immaculately clean and tidy, there are loos in abundance and a friendly man selling ice cream. What more do you need? The souvenir shop, clothes shop, craft shop, petting farm, art gallery, hotel, restaurant, bar and Shaun the Sheep experience were surplus to my requirements, but the small End to End exhibition about those who have made the trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats (so not my plan) was mildly interesting for its insight into the depiction of woman of middle age, if nothing else.8.jpg

I’m 57. Don’t you be calling me Granny.

As a theme park, Land’s End is a bit of a mishmash and evidently works on the principle that the longer people can be kept in the place, the more they will spend. The car park charge is set high enough to encourage visitors to get their money’s worth by seeing everything. And then having a cup of tea. As a tourist attraction built basically out of fresh air it’s a rather impressive model. Good luck to them.

On then towards home. Land’s End soon retreated into the distance as I headed for Sennen Cove. 23.jpg

There to meet me was my husband, my Stalwart Supporter, who had been persuaded to turn taxi for the occasion. Here he is…25.jpg

Well, I could see him at the time.

So there we are – the Great Adventure has begun. Back to work next week so I won’t get down here again for a while. But I’ll be walking nearer to home instead and there’ll be smaller adventures to report until the spring.

Now I promised that there’d be no stats here but I cannot resist this first one because I’m quietly proud.

Distance covered so far from Land’s End?

1.2 miles.

Impressive, no?

Walking is the answer

‘So now that the children are off your hands, what parts of the world are you planning to explore?’

The question came from a family friend, a former diplomat well schooled in the conversational gambit. I burbled something about having liked what we had seen of Provence, how we had enjoyed Corsica and were in fact just off to the quieter end of Mallorca. We fell to discussing the Western Med. But as soon as he asked I knew instantly where I really want to get to know. It’s my own country – Great Britain, the United Kingdom, call it what you will. Overlooked and underappreciated. Time to explore my own back yard.

How? I could take the train or I could take the car but seeing the landscape through glass  is not going to do. I need to get out into it. I need to walk.

When I walk I can stop to look at sights that would flash by unnoticed at speed,

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I can see the detail of the changing seasons in the hedgerow14317503_613265748845561_4789261947951358106_n2

and I can pause to be diverted along the way.

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But where shall I walk? A long distance path has much to commend it – marked on the map, marked on the ground and well trodden to boot, with a bit of luck. Because for me it’s not about the process – no grid references here, no stats (how far/how high/how long) either – other people cover that so much better than me. It’s about the seeing and the hearing and the doing.

So on a fairly arbitrary basis I hit upon walking the coast from Land’s End to my home in Bristol. The South West Coast Path will take me as far as Minehead and that’s about 250 miles. I’m not in a hurry so I’ll do it in very small stages – long weekends and the odd week – with lots of other walks in between. It’ll take years so by the time I get to the end, they’ll surely have had time to extend the path all the way up.

Let’s make a start, shall we?