Bessy's Cove, Cornwall, Cudden Point, Hilary Tunstall-Behrens, International Musicians Seminar, John Amis, Kenneggy Sands, Natalie Wheen, Perranuthnoe, Porth-en-Alls, Prussia Cove, red admiral, Sandor Vegh, St Michael's Mount
This was my choice for Monday morning, 9th September, the third day of my holiday in the far tip of Cornwall. I thought the walk would probably stretch me, but I had a reason for choosing it, from my other ‘walks’ book, by the Ordnance Survey.
It started at Perranuthnoe, the sun having cleared the heavy sea mist which prevailed just 20 minutes earlier as I had set off eastwards from Penzance.
For about half of its distance the walk would be through fields and lanes.
After half an hour I realised that I had failed to take my walking pole from my boot. Too far in now, I would have to manage without, something I was not looking forward to for the second part of the walk, along the South-west Coastal Path, up and down, up and down, cliff and cove, where my pole would, I thought, make all the difference to the ‘down’ bits.
I was most surprised to see this beehive to my right at one point, though further from me than this photo makes it appear.
Just metres further on I saw this shack, clearly party of a homestead. For the next couple of hundred metres, well spaced out, there were more dwellings, rather less ‘shacky’.
The last section of the inland part of the walk went north-south, along a path with, to me, a vertiginous descent, and very slippery because of little pebbles and soil. How I missed my walking pole to steady me, balance not being my strongest point. I grew increasingly fearful of the coastal path to come. At points down this steep path I used the method toddlers use when going down stairs…
As I neared the end of this descent, I could see Porth-en-Alls House, which took me back to 1973, though I had not seen it from this angle before. But I did recall seeing from the House the waves crashing onto the rocks of the promontory.
Where inland met coast was my reason for wanting to do this walk. When I was in this tip of Cornwall for the only previous time, in 1973, I had stayed for three weeks at Prussia Cove, near Marazion. This was, and still is, an estate of holiday cottages on the coast, and mine was one of the Coastguard Cottages, which I had all to myself. I was there, on unpaid leave from H M Treasury, as secretary to the International Musicians Seminar, founded just the year earlier by the celebrated Hungarian violinist, Sandor Vegh, and by Hilary Tunstall-Behrens. It still runs, and still takes place at Prussia Cove, based on Porth-en-Alls House. (I had no knowledge of H T-B’s exploits when I was introduced to him on taking the job!)
Two longer term consequences of my involvement in this event arose for me personally. The broadcaster and music critic John Amis, and radio presenter Natalie Wheen, visited for a couple days on behalf of the BBC. I found myself singing 4-part music with them once or twice. We remained in touch and had few further sessions, this time with five singers, back in London, once in my flat in Kentish Town.
The other consequence arose because it was my task, on the eve of Sandor Vegh’s arrival, to visit the cottage where he was to stay to check on, (or was it to light?), a fire to warm the place. (I think this was April.) The ‘cottages’ on the estate are well spread out, and a black and white cat was hanging around one of them. I can never resist talking to a cat, and I was a little embarrassed that she followed me all the way back to my own cottage. Free to leave if she wanted, she adopted me, and my reward was to find a dead mouse by my slippers nearly every morning when I woke up. I was informed, by the estate owners I think, that they thought she had been left behind by some previous holiday makers. Missy, as she became, virtually jumped in my car as I left Prussia Cove to return to London, my lovely companion for the next 12 years.
After 15 minutes or so, I arrived at Porth-en-Alls House. From that angle it did not seem at all familiar to me. But I was delighted to hear string chamber music emerging from this building, stopping and starting as if learning/rehearsing was going on – for these concerts perhaps?
I snuck this photo, in which a violinist can just been seen. One of these presumably.
I failed to see the Coastguard Cottages, and I had neither the energy nor the time to go searching for them. It was very hot, not a cloud in the sky all day.
My dread of the Coastal Path was unnecessary. That descent to the coastal path had been much worse than anything I encountered from then on. That said, this climb was steep!
Reached the top, I sat down on the narrow path, rested and took this photo. Fortunately no-one wanted to get by in either direction while I was there.
I arrived at Cudden Point.
This was the view as I passed over it, with Perranuthnoe in the far distance.
Brief exchanges with people coming in the other direction, or just resting, added to the pleasure of the walk. Footsore and very weary, I could see Perranurthnoe was getting nearer,
and then as I rounded every headland, it came nearer and nearer (as it were).
Three hours and 15 minutes after setting off, I arrived at the Beach Cabin Café, where a cheese sandwich and some apple juice refreshed. And I hadn’t even had to queue, despite the staff shortages in hospitality venues announced everywhere.
My ‘sandwich’ half eaten (it was a doorstep with copious filling, salad and crisps, much more than I wanted) I walked the few paces down to the beach to see what was attracting those going by, before climbing wearily back to my car.
It was only 2 pm, so the day’s entertainment could not end there.