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From the bite to the kick

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's very annoying when you're on a holiday where you'd planned to do a lot of walking and you go and sprain an ankle.

Best thing to do? Pretend you didn't sprain it. Works for me.

So this morning, quarter to ten, I set off along the coastal path I took yesterday. St Ives looks more or less the same as it did yesterday, but a bit greyer, so I won't post the pic . . . ok, ok only joking.

Walk a mile or so and take the footpath inland that is marked Knill monument. You can read about Mr Knill here:

It's not true that the English are all eccentric, it's just that those of us who are, manage to make a particularly thorough job of it.

I walk up the path which is steep and come out on the main road above St Ives, dig out map (which I will end up carrying in my hand, I have to get it out so often), find the right road and keep climbing steadily. This path is actually part of St Michael's path, as was most of the walk I did yesterday and you can see the whole route here.

So today I am walking the bit that is south from Carbis Bay.

Cross a stile and suddenly I'm on open moorland. It's easy enough to find the monument, as it's huge.

I hadn't realised it is three-sided. Walk round taking photos of it and the view towards the Hayle estuary where I was yesterday and the lighthouse beyond it.

It's a bit misty but you can still see for miles. After some thought pick what looks to be the best path south. There is no marker for St Michael's Way so I just use CC-radar. End up walking along a wall completely covered in vegetation, but am not too bothered as I can get a bearing from the sea and the sun and know I'm going in the right direction. The going is a bit rough: they have cleared a lot of saplings here and left about six inches of each trunk amusingly protruding along the edges of the path, so that you may not see the stumps until you trip over them. Oh what a jolly jape!

Find myself on a better path, going downhill path a plantation. It comes to a junction of tracks with this warning sign:

This warning refers to the bit I've just walked across. The mineshafts are from disused tin or copper mines, usually tin. In Cornwall a mine is called a 'wheal'.

There's also an official St Michael's Way signpost.

You couldn't make it up, could you?

Since they are saying, more or less 'take your pick' I choose the one headed due south, nice clear farm track, keep walking, come out on road, work out where I think I am, turn left along the road, walk for a bit, come to a nice signpost telling me I am near Trencom Hill.

Yippee. This is where I wanted to be. Trencom HIll is about halfway between the north and south coasts.

So, nearly there. First I have to endure Ordeal by Horse.

Now, I like horses. I used to ride a bit in my teens. You groom from the bite to the kick. I walk up this fenced track (across what is normally a holiday caravan park, but not in winter)
through this wooded bit.

And I get to a field. With three horses in. It's not entirely clear where the path is, but the map tells me to go diagonally across the field. By the time I've worked this out, two of the horses have decided they want a closer look at me. I say 'No. Go away you beastly beasts,' and one of them does.

The other one, smaller, is persistent. It's after blood, or failing that, whatever I might have to appease it with.

Fortunately, I haven't got so much as a polo mint (horses love these). It sniffs me all over, suddenly shies away from the map, making me gibber a bit, and comes back for another look.

I'm feeling very very very nervous. The problem with horses in fields on public footpaths is that people feed them things to keep the horse happy while they get past. The stroppier the horse, the more it gets fed. Horses aren't stupid. They very quickly learn that if you seriously pester humans they'll respond but feeding you sugar/apples/their dog so you have a vicious circle.

Just when I'm seriously thinking I am going to have to find a way around this entire field. the horse loses interest. It wanders off, then turns back briefly but by now I am walking fast across the field. I look back and it is following me, at a distance. It can move faster than I can but on the other hand I have a head start on it now. It realises this and gives up.

I arrive at the other side of the field and there's a path marker, thank goodness. Nip over the stile, out on to a road, cross the road, pick up the footpath along a muddy field, find myself on a little hedged bit. In a moment of pure Disney, the hedge whips my woolly 'at from my head.

Go along by a W marked on my map which turns out to be a well and is in fact a huge stone trough thing covered in pondweed.

Cross a very noisy and fastflowing stream. , miss the standing stone that I was going to look out for but find another one.

Looks like a standing stone to me, ok? I have to explain, Cornwall is full of stuff like this, covered in it. None of it's quite on the scale of Stonehenge, but there are circles and stones etc all over the place.

Clamber over a stile and head up along the side of a field. It's muddy and there have clearly been both horses and cattle in here at some point.

Two-thirds of the way up, I realise that there are still horses in here. Two of them.

Oh, glory be.

The icing on the cake (to use a very very loose metaphor) is that the next stile I need (and I've really had enough of these stiles, this is about the tenth and you never know WHAT'S on the other side till you tread in it) is in the corner by the gate.

It's a midden.

No other word will describe it. Impossible to avoid the horsebuns and cowclaps and just tread in good old mud. It's all mixed up together in some sort of primordial soup. You could call it fecund, seething with life forms. I could tell you what I called it, out loud, in the middle of a field, with two horses listening, but the post would get pulled.

The nearest horse has decided to make my day and come over to have a butcher's.

I stagger across 10 metres of assorted reeking liquids and near-liquids and over the stile. There is no photo of the assorted reeking etc cos I was too busy not slipping in it which would have ruined my day if I had.

Worth it though. Ahead of me is Trencrom HIll. I'm on moorland: dead heather, bracken, short sheep-mowed turf, behind me a stupendous view of the Hayle Estuary, above me rocks.

It's heavenly. I ignore the fact that the map tells me to go round the hill rather than climbing to the top of it, it's not possible to have such a hill in front of you and not climb it. Trencrom HIll was first a stone age and then an iron age fort. Here's the detail.

Standing on top of it, I can see the sea on the south Cornwall coast in one direction and the sea on the north Cornwall coast and St Michael's Mount in the other direction. This makes me very happy.

St Michael's Mount is straight out of an Arthurian legend, all pinnacles and ists. I sit down for five minutes to drink it in, then choose a path to make my descent on the north side.

Some path this turns out to be. It's the sort of path I wouldn't climb up, because I wouldn't be able to get down it again. However as I climbed up the other side of the hill, I didn't know this. I descend very very slowly at times sitting on one rock and swinging my feet down to the one below. At the bottom I heave a sigh of relief. I've now been walking nearly four hours, have had nothing to drink and nothing to eat and there is nowhere to get them. The total length of St Michael's way is 17 miles. I'm not up to that yet, but I've come half way. So I turn along the road and stomp a couple of miles till I get to the bus stop to catch a bus back to St Ives.

Tomorrow, I've got an absolute treat for us.
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