With a skitter of stones, the earth gave way beneath my feet. Landing on my back, I began an inexorable slide downhill towards a tangle of brambles and nettles at the foot of the hill. I travelled several yards down the implausibly steep footpath before I was snagged on a tree root protruding from the slope. Bruised, and a little shaken, I scrambled sidelong to the trunk of the oak that had saved me and sat for a spell while I caught my breath. Far below me, the River Tamar flickered in the autumn sunlight.
It was my third day of walking on the Tamara Coast to Coast Way, a new waymarked route that launched this summer with the publication of a dedicated guidebook. It passes through a rural hinterland that most visitors bypass altogether as they journey west to Cornwall’s coastal towns and villages.
It was created by the Tamara Landscape Partnership Scheme who, with the aid of lottery funding, cobbled together an existing network of public footpaths to plot a route that follows the course of the Tamar from mouth to source, and then continues the short distance to the Atlantic coastline at Morwenstow.
My journey had begun at the trail’s official start point in Cremyll, a tiny settlement on a spit of land reaching out from the Cornish side of the Tamar Estuary towards the Plymouth docks. From there it twists and turns inland, wending its way for 90-odd miles up towards the north coast.
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It links up at both ends with the South West Coast Path, and for many dedicated walkers (myself included), this is foremost in its allure: an inland extension which affords the means to complete the Kylgh Kernow (a complete circumnavigation of Cornwall). A marginally shorter route sticks entirely to the Tamar’s western banks, but I’d opted to take the longer option, which criss-crosses the border between Devon and Cornwall.
The first two days were to encapsulate the rest of the way: long stretches of unsung beauty, interrupted by sections that were to be endured, rather than enjoyed. The first 10 miles or so, following the shoreline of the Rame Peninsula from Cremyll round to Torpoint, largely belonged to the former. The subsequent haul through Plymouth is less appealing, and frankly could be skipped entirely with no…