Day 57, Michaelstow to St Dennis, 23 miles. 'The Camel Trail'.
It's an odd feeling, getting towards the end of this very, very long walk - it only feels like yesterday that I was way up in the highlands worrying about my achilles by the banks of Loch Ness or complaining bitterly about every aspect of the Pennine Way on some desolate Yorkshire moor, but now that I'm rapidly approaching the finish line I'm not really sure how I feel about it. But these should not have been my thoughts this morning, as today I would be seeking out the mysterious Camel Trail, a riverside footpath that follows the tracks of Cornwall's oldest railway (now destroyed) through the forest and into the heart of Britain's southernmost county, and I couldn't wait.
Today started in typical Cornish hiking fashion - about four miles of uneventful road walking to get to the trail itself. However once I found the Camel Trail it was an utter delight - the path went right through the woods and so offered protection from the sun and the wind and the trees were happy to provide an atmospheric soundtrack as I ambled through. There were very few people around and it felt as though I had the woods all to myself - the River Camel bubbled along in a satisfied manner, never far from the path itself.
Truth be told I had been looking forward to the Camel for an absolute age - as I planned out much of the Cornish walking well over a year ago the Camel Trail (along with the disappointing Two Castles Trail) had established itself as an early highlight - and it did not let me down at all, I could have wandered the sun-dappled glades by that river for weeks on end. However, all good things must come to pass, but luckily for me the end of my time on the Camel Trail coincided beautifully with a well-placed carvery and I cheerfully took myself inside for a couple of pints of Tribute and unlimited hot food.
The carvery was delicious and I hopped back onto the Camel Trail at an old, abandoned train station, now with a bit of a stitch and conscious that I only had around one mile left on the trail before I would be swept away once more by the country lanes to me destination for the evening, St Dennis. The final leg of the trail took me to the tiny village of Ruthernbridge where I sadly, but fondly, bade the river farewell.
Sadly, after this point it was back to that classic rural monotony - sticking to your side of the tarmac and avoiding speeding cars at blind corners (not as easy as you would think). In all fairness the lanes here were actually a lot prettier and far less used that the ones I had been soaked on outside Launceston so I shouldn't complain too much. The land around St Dennis bore a rugged and scarred texture, no doubt the result of many hundreds of years of tin mining in this part of the world.
Regrettably, St Dennis was not as pretty as the surrounding lanes. It's odd - I'd been to Cornwall before as a child and we had stayed on the coast as some charming little town and I had presumed ever since then that the whole county must be like that. In reality the towns in the middle of the county, the ones that do not have the allure of the seaside to get the tourists in, are actually surprisingly poor. This makes sense given Cornwall's industrial past but it was not something I had ever really considered, and so St Dennis was a bit of a let down really - mainly due to my own inflated expectations (I mean, Launceston had been lovely.
On the plus side my Airbnb hostess was lovely and my bed made of memory foam so I slept like a log, dreamt fond dreams of the Camel Trail, and hoped tomorrow would be just as pleasant.