Cornwall is known around the globe for its beautiful coastlines, which draw in millions of tourists every year. In the summer, the beaches and roads of Cornwall are completely jammed, and you can barely move for holiday makers. Our dear friend Nick has hiked in Cornwall many times now, along with a variety of locations all over the world. We previously wrote about his journey through the Appalachian Trail here. However, Nick has enjoyed the spoils of summer hiking, and was looking for a new challenge. The coastal path around the southern tip of Cornwall has drawn him in for many years, but never in the winter. Nick decided to take a week off work, and hike from Padstow to Penzance in just four days, covering a distance of 109 miles. It was going to be tight for time, with no room for error or injury, but he was determined.
Arriving in Padstow on the morning of the 21st of November, Nick was greeted with a cold and crisp winter's day, the sun shining optimistically for him. After a final treat of a Cornish pasty, Nick was off, Gearing trekking poles in hand and tent on his back. Anyone who has been to Padstow knows that as soon as you are out of the town, you are welcomed into some of the most beautiful scenery around the UK. It made for a beautiful first days hike, filled with the classic rolling hills of Cornwall. As the sun was beginning to set, Nick was overwhelmed with the beauty of the beach and coastline - the water a dazzling light blue contrasted with the whitest sand he had ever seen in England.
After a long days hiking, Nick settled himself down on the beach cliffs for a camping dinner of ramen, missing his Cornish pasty already. A precautionary check of the map told him that he had slightly miscalculated his daily distances to reach his 4pm train from Penzance, and he needed to walk an extra 3 miles a day to reach his target. As the sun was dipping below the horizon, Nick took off again, down a very narrow and unstable cliff, and luckily made it down in the darkness. At the end of the three miles, he set up camp for the night. A small light in the near distance caught his eye, and Nick was hoping for one thing - a pub. After a further walk, he found himself inside a cosy beachside pub, whiskey in hand and chatting away to the locals.
Nick was accosted and awoken by a disgruntled, elderly farmer the next morning, who thought that Nick was trespassing. After clearing up that he was most definitely on public land, Nick had breakfast, packed up and began his hike again. It was a completely cloudless day with a raging November sun (a sentence rarely spoken in the UK), and Nick was able to walk 3 miles of this along Perron Sands and Perron Porth beaches, resulting in an almost festive sunburn given the time of year. Talk about Brits abroad - we only need to go as far as Cornwall for some winter sun! A day of strong sun and not enough food and water really sapped the life out of him, and not only did Nick need his trekking poles the entire afternoon, but he was glad to have his tripod to get a stable shot of the sunset that evening! A keen photographer, Nick brought his Leica Camera with him, ensuring he had the highest quality of camera and support with him for his images. He stopped just before St Ives for the night, in which he found another charming pub for an evening tipple. The temperature remained fairly mild for November, and his one man tent kept him warm throughout the nights.
Nick woke up on the third day to a major task - hiking from St Ives to Lands End along the coastal path. This day brought the most dramatic scenery and crashing waves onto the beaches and rocks below. Tiredness was hitting hard on this day, and the Gearing trekking poles were used from the moment he stepped out of his tent until he set it up again at the end of the day. The meals were becoming mundane, with a constant rotation of homemade trail mix, cereal bars, peanut butter and ramen. However, Nick had a roast dinner awaiting him in Exeter, and the thought of it kept him going. Arriving at Lands End as the sun was beginning to set was a truly magnificent sight, and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to appreciate it without the usual gaggle of tourists. Another night on the side of the beach was doing wonders for Nick's sleep - the lapping of the waves (as well as exhaustion) sent him into a deep slumber.
Unfortunately, Nick was rather disturbed at 3am, when his tent collapsed on the arrival of Storm Arwen to the UK. Arriving at the thought that he was unlikely to get back to sleep, he decided to begin his final day's hike in the dark, his path lit by his head torch. Today's hike would take him from Lands End up to Penzance, where a 4pm train was awaiting him. The weather had turned, but it was even more comfortable for hiking - a light drizzle misted him all day. The rocks were slippery, but trekking poles provided unwavering him with support. Today was Nick’s favourite day of hiking, where he walked along the beautiful Porthgwarra Beach, and found some wild horses along his way.
Arriving into Penzance brought a huge mix of feelings. It was certainly a relief that the hike was over, but it had delivered a real sense of achievement that Nick was able to undertake a task as big as this in just four days, along with pride and overwhelming exhaustion. Nick hopped on the train, and slept from the moment he sat down until the train pulled into Exeter three hours later.
After our chat, Nick left me with one piece of advice. Don't ever underestimate your trekking poles - they will keep you going when you are running on empty.