Day 61, Marazion to Land's End, 26 miles. 'The Final Day'.
Yes that's right I know what you're all thinking, 'he's started the blog entry with a photo instead of the usual semi-hilarious wall of text', well that's because this was a rather special day, and I'm sure you can all guess why.
It's finished. Done. Complete. It has been accomplished. The walk has concluded, terminated and ceased to continue. The line has ended here, at the culmination of the denouement at the end of the coda. It short, I did it. It took 61 days of solid walking (with 9 rest days and 2 for travel - so 72 overall) but I finally made it to Land's End at around 4 pm on June 12th, 2019. But before we get all emotional, I do have a few things to say about the marathon that Annie and I walked today, so without further ado let's crack on (ado is a stupid word isn't it...).
The day began like all others, the Earth spun on its axis as it moved around the Sun and light gradually overtook the gloom of night and I awoke knowing that today would be the last day I would have to don my by-now rather shameful hiking socks, and put on my boots which I had to leave outside overnight due to their frightful odour. Annie and I walked the mile or so back down the road to Marazion itself, and set off in a westerly direction towards the famous town of Penzance. It had rained again overnight and the slick, grey concrete underfoot bore a striking resemblance to the ashen skies above us, so that wherever you looked the scenery had a washed out, monotone feel to it. Not that we minded - it wasn't actually raining, it was impossible to get lost and the paved path to Penzance was flat, so the first few miles slipped by very easily indeed. Aside from an odd looking yoga shack, there was little to see until the broad bay of Penzance came into view, slowly curving around the land like some giant had taken a huge ice cream scoop out of the earth.
Penzance was fine, but it was early and overcast so there wasn't really a great deal going on, Penzance seamlessly merged into Newlyn, where we enjoyed a delightful Cornish pasty (my first of the trip), and then Newlyn seamlessly merged into Mousehole which was a pretty, though oddly-named little fishing village.
Once we left Mousehole, the walk became far more interesting - concrete was exchanged for rugged clifftop paths that wound their way up and down the thick foliage that lined the bluffs. This was both a positive and a negative, the walk was far more interesting and the views were truly stunning, but compared to the easy miles we had just managed around the bays this was tough going. Furthermore, we were cursed with a large number of day walkers due to the proximity of this section of the trail to Penzance. Now I've nothing against day walkers per se, but after a 60 day hike all you really want to do is get to the end, so being caught behind Johnny Beergut and his 5 wheezing children became something of a nuisance. Fortunately these walkers soon thinned out (figuratively speaking) and we were back making good time.
At Lamorna Cove we stopped for an outrageously expensive drink and a short break before once again climbing to the cliffs, that's another issue with clifftop walking - every place worth stopping at is either at the very bottom or the very top of the cliffs, and the walking route will always take both in, so you have to climb and descend a great deal - not ideal on a 26 mile day, though truth be told I was thoroughly enjoying it - knowing today is your final day certainly puts a spring in your step. After Lamorna the scenery continued to improve as the plants gave way to a more rocky, rugged beauty and the weather, which had been threatening rain all day, began to brighten up.
We were well into the final section now, and golden beaches soon replaced the jagged stone bays like the one above. The final section had a surreal quality to it and, whilst the scenery was undeniably beautiful, I found myself thinking back on the journey as a whole. Many times over the previous 60 days, when the going had been particularly tough (I'm looking directly at you Pennine Way), I had thought about getting to the end and how it would all be worthwhile (aka: over) if I could just get through this troublesome patch - well now I was here, closing in with every step and it felt extremely unusual. It's like when you get to the end of a book that has captivated your attention for a long while - you can see the pages are running thin and feel both a reluctance to be finished as well as a desire to hurry through and see how it ended up, I had the same feeling now only not for a book, but for a section of my life I would likely never come close to experiencing again.
We continued on, coming right down to the sea itself to cross over Penberth Cove, then back up to the top of the cliffs to look out over Pedn Vounder beach, then back down to Porthcurno, then up again to the wondrous Minnack Theatre. The theatre is in the ancient Greek style and it carved directly into the cliffs itself, overlooking the Atlantic - well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the area, though sadly the pictures I took do not do the place justice. We strode on through the surprisingly busy theatre and then it was time for the last stop of the hike - Porthgwarra, where I enjoyed my second Cornish pasty of the trip (and day). As we were receiving a lift from our very generous host, we couldn't stay for too long at Porthgwarra, and so devoured our extraordinarily hot food with haste before taking to the clifftops for the final time.
The final few miles were achingly beautiful. As if on cue the sun came out in full force and a day that had been spent laboriously climbing up and down slick paths under ashen skies was transformed into a jaunty stroll in the warm afternoon sunshine. It felt like a fitting conclusion and the scenery reminded me strongly of the clifftops around John o'Groats, where I had been nearly 1,200 miles ago.
The famous white buildings of Land's End slowly crept into view as we began the final mile, but naturally there would be one final obstacle to overcome and, bizarrely on the clifftops at the edge of the world, it came in the form of cows. Yes that's right, my arch nemesis found me again, a mere mile from the end. The stood directly on the sandy paths chomping away at the thin grass - thankfully they were incredibly docile and we walking right by them without incident, but I thought it was typical that even here, right at the death, I was unable to escape my bovine foes.
The last mile really dragged, but that was all down to me as I deliberately slowed my pace and really took in my surroundings, it felt surreal to be here, finally, after all this time and all the miles, the carrot at the end of the stick, the light at the end of the tunnel, the chocolate at the end of the Cornetto. As we made our way to the finish line at Land's End to see the celebrated sign, a mirror of the one I had visited in the distant north, the feelings of reluctance and strangeness faded and were replaced by pure joy and satisfaction - this was why I had left my home nearly 3 months ago on a cold April morning, to make it all the way here, to this point.
I had my picture taken by the man who owned the sign (and got a free one in the process), sat with Annie and had a beer overlooking the sea and thought back on all the things I had seen across the length of the UK. Land's End was pretty, but it wasn't really about Land's End itself. As with most things in life it's rarely about the destination, it's about the journey there, and what a journey it had been.