Wadebridge Rotary’s last charity walk, at the end of August, raised £745 – split £425 for Cornwall Mind and £320 for our own charitable purposes. In October, we were at it again. The challenge this time is to walk 20 miles to celebrate 20 years of ShelterBox, the international disaster relief charity formed and based in Cornwall. And raise some money for them at the same time, of course.
There is some flexibility about how to do the 20 miles. It doesn’t have to be in a single day, nor even in a single walk. So Clive and Stuart picked out a first stage, from Respryn car park on the southeast corner of Lanhydrock all the way to Respryn car park on the southeast corner of Lanhydrock. That doesn’t sound very far, you say? Ah, we took the scenic route via Restormel Castle and Duchy Garden Centre. This latter was very important as it has a café where one can purchase coffees and cream teas – or so I’m told.
The main difference from the last walk is that Cornwall is now in Tier 1 for Covid-19, so groups of more than six people are not allowed. Accordingly, the walkers were split into three groups. The 9 am ‘Early Birds’ comprised Ceri, Wayne, Stuart, Paul and Sue, plus two dogs. (However much people regard dogs as part of the family, they don’t count for Covid.) Stuart was only intending to do a part of the walk, having to return home in time to take a daughter to football, or something. The 10 am group had Keith, Gina, Diana and Kevin (your humble scribe). The 12 o’clock ‘High Noon’ party consisted of Clive, Yvonne, Roy, Sally, Nigel and Liz.
What was similar to last time was the weather. Not as hot, but bright and sunny with no hint of rain. Ideal!
The route, planned out on iWalk Cornwall, took us over Respryn Bridge, a narrow medieval granite construction, now protected at each end by formidable stone pillars that narrow the road and prevent too-heavy vehicles from trying to cross. A previous attempt to do this had used plastic bollards and the common sense of drivers – the crushed and flattened plastic stump still visible by the roadside a testament to its failure.
Immediately after the bridge we turned on to a walk through woodland by the River Fowey, eventually passing through a couple of red-painted National Trust gates and into a field of indeterminate green leafy plants, with the path marked by bracken ‘hedges’. The next field, from a distance, looked to your scribe like a crop of maize, but was actually bamboo, presumably to feed the famous Lanhydrock panda herds. This led onto a track to the Restormel Water Treatment Works (which supplies 67% of the population of Cornwall with drinking water, apparently) where the track turned to tarmac and became a narrow road. They’d need vehicular access to the water works, one presumes.
It was hereabouts that a squirrel played havoc with the Early Birds. It ran along the other side of the fence, taunting the dogs which immediately took off after it. Then it doubled back, followed by the dogs. Sue brought her dog under control, but Stuart’s carried on, Stuart chasing after it back towards Lanhydrock. He wasn’t seen again. Some say that he was lost forever, pursuing a phantom squirrel through the mystic Great Wood with his faithful (but disobedient) hound. Others; that he decided that was that for the day and he might as well make his planned early return. Will we ever know…?
The route continued along the road, passing estate offices of the Duchy of Cornwall, and then turned into the drive to Restormel Manor. Signs for the Duchy Garden Centre were becoming more prevalent. Restormel Castle was up a hill to the right, but none of us in the 10 am group had pre-booked a visit to it, so we didn’t make the detour. By now the Early Birds had reached the café, as shown by a photo on WhatsApp.
We left tarmac, going on to a path across fields, crossed two bridges, over the Fowey and the railway line, and entered more woodland. The path became quite steep, and antagonised Diana’s knee, but we eventually emerged onto the road opposite the garden centre. Our hopes of a quick coffee were dashed by the queue of people at the café door being told there was a 25 minute wait for a table. We decided it wasn’t worth it. Diana and I had snacks with us and Keith bought some Duchy biscuits from the shop, so we sat on the bench in the car park to eat them, having made use of the toilets.
We had seen nothing of the Early Birds and deduced that they had deviated from the plan to return the same way we had come, and taken the knee-saving road route instead, risking the traffic. (Ceri reported later that there was no problem with traffic and it had taken them only 45 minutes to return to the car park.)
The High Noon party had meanwhile set off from Respryn.
We finished our snacks and returned the way we had come. The group split at this point, since Diana was now moving more slowly, and Keith and Gina sprinted ahead. Not long into the return, Restormel Castle came into view across the valley. It had been there on our outward journey, it hadn’t just popped into sight from nowhere, but we’d had our backs to it and missed it. We continued on and at the entrance to Restormel Manor ran into the High Nooners. We naturally kept a proper distance and exchanged friendly words before proceeding.
As we returned into the woods by the Fowey, we found a bench to sit on by the river. We had both saved our KitKats, and this was a pleasant place to eat them. At the same time (the WhatsApp posts were pretty much simultaneous); the High Nooners were sitting down to £6 cream teas at the garden centre café, the midday rush having departed. Timing is everything, they say. It certainly seems to be for getting a table at the Duchy Garden Centre. (I’m not bitter.)
We completed the walk to the car park and came home.
Representatives of all three groups confessed to aching knees and stiff legs the day after, and no desire to set up another walk for the immediate future. But we (by which I mean Ceri) have raised £50 so far, and we will complete the 20 miles for ShelterBox.
Addenda and Errata (From Kevin)
1. Some people have said that the ‘bamboo' reported above is in fact elephant grass. I bow to superior botanical knowledge, but don’t blame me if the pandas go hungry.
2. The President reported that his fitness app recorded he made 16,000 steps on the walk, whilst Clive’s gave him 8,000. So either Nigel takes tiny little steps, or Clive got a lift back to the car park. (You can’t trust fitness apps, do you say? Surely not…)
3. At the High Nooners' cream tea, Roy spread the cream first. I’ll just leave that there.
Report by Kevin Smith. Photos by various walkers.
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