Day 1 – Cornish way / West Country Way

So this is a little late, but I thought I’d finally get round to writing up my July trip from Penzance back to Taunton.  So on a lovely overcast and showery Saturday (the 12th) I set off from home and did the short 1 mile ride to the train station to get down to Penzance. One of the benefits of living in Taunton is that the station is on the mainline, and gets all the Intercities on it. The one I caught was a Virgin train with proper cycling storage in the guards carriage, so a small amount of faffing about later tying the bike up so it couldn’t fall over and I was ensconced in the quiet carriage for the 4 ish hour train journey. Apart from it getting darker and more and more ominous clouds appearing, the journey went without a hitch.

Here’s my bike at Penzance station at 11:30am ready to head off.

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From Penzance station the Cornwall way follows the coastal path out of the carpark around the back all the way up to Marazion. This looks like on the map, and from the car park at the start, a really nice path. It’s not. It starts of a lovely tarmac path, wide, quick, and bypasses the nasty looking A road from the station. All good. Then about half way along the tarmac disappears and you are riding on a mix of sand, stones, and shells. On thinnish tyres this was not fun. I had to unclip so I could put my foot down sharpish a few times, and changes of direction were more of a suggestion than an order. Either way the view is really rather nice though, and as you get closer to Marazion you get a great view of St. Michaels Mount.

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From Marazion the route strikes out through the country, in what has to be one of the shortest coast to coast rides I’ve ever done, to Hayle.  So approximately 5 miles later, through some nice, if a bit forgettable country roads, I turned up for lunch. As it was Cornwall I though it would be rude not to stop for a pasty, so dropped into the Philip’s pasties bakery and shop. The queue to get it was a little longer than I would have liked, and it had started to drizzle, but the shear size of the large steak pasty I had more than made up for it (the fact that it was hot, juicy, and bloody lovely really helped as well). Rather than eat at the shop though I tucked my pasty into my bar bag and made a short trip across the bay along the signed route to a park bench, and holed up there to eat it.

For some unknown reason to Sustrans the route goes across the river, along an admittedly very nice road, back across the river, then up a really really short and steep hill, where it then drops down to the slightly busier main road you crossed at the bottom of the hill. I was not impressed. Word of advice if you are going to do this route, just follow the road round to Guildford Road and ignore the signed route!

From there the route strikes out along back roads and lanes to Camborne. Apart from the hill just before Gwinear this was a great little ride, though I couldn’t decide whether I was better off with my waterproof on or off. Its a heavy commuter type coat and wearing it too long gets you just as wet from sweat as you would be without it on. Anyway, I ignored the signed route at Barripper, as for some reason it takes you all round the back of Camborne, and just rode through picking the Cornish Way in the centre outside the train station.

Apart from getting a little lost in a cul de sac, Camborne was fine and I was soon out of it and cycling along the Great Flat Lode Way. This gives some amazing views of the surrounding countryside, including Carn Brea Castle, and it being Cornwall, lots and lots of these:

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From there you drop into Redruth and the first really nasty climb of the day. I went from the bottom of the valley to the highest point of my ride in one continuous climb, with some really rather steep town streets with parked cars thrown in for good measure. The plus side of this is that once you’re over the top is a 5 mile downhill stretch to the Bissoe bike hire shop and cafe. Before that though you cycle through the Great Consolidated mine. A surreal, almost moon like landscape of old copper mines and slag heaps. I almost came a cropper because of it. I was looking around so much I’d failed to notice the great bit rock that had land slipped onto the path at some point in the past, and only managed to not cave in my front wheel through some rather energetic maneuvering. From then on I paid a bit more attention to the path, which was good, as I had to bunny hop a granite railway sleeper than was somehow completely hidden from view but also going almost completely over the path. All in all, whilst lovely, I rather enjoyed getting to the cafe and stopping for a coffee and a large cherry bakewell.

From Bissoe the Cornish way splits, I decided to take the top route that goes directly into Truro. As this is Cornwall this meant another climb, then a fun fast decent through the streets of Truro into the centre. I was going to stop at Warrens bakery outside the cathedral, but decided to push on, sustained by the humongous bakewell tart I’d just had. I’d recently looked around the cathedral so didn’t stop to do that either, but if you do have the time it’s well worth a look.

Another climb out of Truro and the route takes you some amazing Cornish countryside. It was here that I did my second detour from the posted Cornish Way. The way zig zigs around Zelah so you don’t have to do 100m on a busy A road. This adds about a mile. I decided to go up through St Allen, and just cycle the short bit on the A30. It was busy and not fun, but over very quickly.

After following the route up through St. Newlyn East I took my final detour from the route and just struck out for St. Columb Major through the back lanes. The Cornish way goes all the way into Newquay, which I really didn’t fancy doing on a Saturday afternoon. This did mean I went past Lappa Valley with its little trains.

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It was now that it decided to rain properly. It had been spitting on and off throughout the day, but now it really was time to wear my waterproof jacket. I was only a short distance from my destinate for the night so I pushed on through it safe in the knowledge I had prebooked a B&B  where I had checked my bike could be stored in the dry and I would have access to a nice warm shower.

So I got to St. Columb Major pretty quickly, when to the front door of my B&B and knocked. The proprietor answered, “Can I help?”

“Err.. I have a room booked”

“Oh yes, sorry I’d completely forgot!”

I had visions of her having double booked, and having to sleep in a bus stop. Luckily she still had a room, my bike got stashed in the hall and I went and had a really nice shower and a well deserved cup of tea followed by a basically crap burger and chips from the pub next door. It was big, hot, and easy to get to so it was fine for the end of the day though!

Total distance done 49 miles. I was happy with that as I lost the morning to the train journey down.

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