Day 59, Truro to Helston, 21 miles. 'The Countdown'.
Just three days to go. Three more days of walking and then I can finally return to society and do normal people things like not say hello to every passer-by, or actually have a shave. Today was an odd one, nothing really happened and yet it was a significant day for two main reasons. Firstly, this was the last day of lane walking, the last two days were to be spent walking on the clifftops of the South West coastal path and I could not wait to put the lanes behind me. Secondly, I would be reaching the sea today, sure I've almost walked the entire country at this point but I haven't actually seen the sea since distant Inverness, and to make it from the North Sea to the Atlantic would be a true accomplishment as well as a significant mental victory.
But before I could celebrate in Helston I had a gruelling 21 miles to make - I tried my best all day to find greener options and often took short and long cuts through footpaths wherever possible, but sadly today was spent mostly on the lanes and roads of southern Cornwall which makes for a quick and efficient day's walk, but offers little to linger in the memory.
Aside from the occasional brief detour like the photo above, today's morning was truly and completely forgettable. As I was consistently trying to find a more rural route, I went through no towns, saw no people, and looking back on this morning, can remember little of any significance occurring.
On the plus side, the rain had largely held off and I was making excellent time - my route was devoid of any distractions or obstacles so I made it into the village of Stithians well ahead of time and decided to take an hour in the local pub, The Seven Stars, for a barely deserved lunch. The pub was blissfully empty and so I had the place to myself for my fish finger sandwich and pair of pints. For once it actually rained heavily whilst I was inside the pub as opposed to when I was just about to leave and I had the luxury of waiting for the rain to cease before I picked up my poles and was on my way again.
If anything the afternoon was even more forgettable than the morning had been. After Stithians I skirted the edge of a large reservoir for what felt like forty miles, cut through the lovely little village of Porkellis (where the very highly rated 'Star Inn' was sadly closed as it was a Monday), went right past Poldark Mine (a subterranean 18th century tin mine, now open as a visitor's attraction), and eventually found myself at Wedron, a hamlet consisting of two houses and an unnecessarily large church just in time for a well deserved rest. I headed into the church, the only church in the world dedicated to St Wedrona (of whom I could find out nothing about either online or in the church itself), and found it to be a delightful and surprisingly ancient building. I signed the visitor's book and saw that the first entry was from 1988, a full two years before I had even been born, how strange.
From here down to Helston the roads became more frequently used, and the scenery bore the telltale scars of an industrial past, abandoned tin mines littered the roadside, with ivy and moss creeping over their dishevelled ruins.
Before I knew it I had reached Helston and could smell, vaguely, the salty tang of the sea. Though I had made a slight error - I thought Helston was on the sea itself, whereas it turns out it's about two miles inland and its sister town, Porthleven, is the port - I suppose the sea could wait until tomorrow.
Helston was a gorgeous town. I had heard of the place before, due to the famous 'Furry Dance' that has taken place through the streets here for untold centuries - it is one of the oldest British customs still in existence and whilst the long years have undoubtedly morphed and twisted the dance into something broadly unrecognisable to its creators, the spirit of the thing lives on. Due to my research, I also knew that Helston was the birthplace of Spingo ale, a locally brewed and famously potent beverage. Upon arriving at my Airbnb, my hostess (who very kindly found me wandering in the street looking for her house) warned me of both the strength and the deliciousness of the local brew.
The Blue Anchor (where Spingo Ale is both brewed and served) was utterly charming. A proper, no-nonsense boozer - they only served the ale they brewed, which is just as well because I had come to try them all. Going purely on the alcoholic content, the beers were fairly normal, one at 4%, one at 5% and the special at 6.5%. However, I'm certain they put something else in the beer here. Now I've been drinking a fair bit on this walk (after all, what's the point of hiking the whole UK without turning it into a glorified pub crawl?), so I can handle my beer, but after just a couple of pints of the Spingo my head was spinning. The special in particular was one of those truly deadly ales, it slipped down like water after school sport's day and you didn't even realise you had finished your pint until you were staring at an empty glass - I briefly entertained the idea of a third pint, but thought better of it and headed to bed (via stocking up at Aldi of course).
Today had been a bit of a filler day, but every long distance hike needs those and now, with all my lane walking out of the way, I just had two days to go and tomorrow, I would be by the sea once more, the end is now firmly in sight.