Walking the Cornish coast A MEMORABLE PLACE Anne...

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

September 10, 2000

Walking the Cornish coast

A MEMORABLE PLACE

Anne Burley

Special to the Sun

This spring I fulfilled a dream I have had for many years: to walk along part of the Cornish Coast Path in the far southwest of England. In honor of my Cornish mother, I walked on the northern part of the coast, from Bude to Hayle, for 16 days. I was nervous at the start, for I would be on my own until Newquay, where I was meeting friends, and I wondered whether I would be able to do it by myself, especially in the uncertain Cornish weather.

I set off from Bude and walked to Widemouth Bay, a distance of only seven miles, but seeming much more when sharp showers came -- and the path was steep. When I arrived at my small hotel, I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and after a hot bath and a cup of tea, I sat by the bay window overlooking the sea and thought about my mother, sensing her presence there. (I'm Cornish myself, hence a little fey.)

I continued the next day and soon fell into the rhythm of it, pacing myself on the hard bits, pausing often to look around. There were tall cliffs and headlands with acres of golden gorse and flowers -- primrose bluebells, thrift -- and streams that culminated in dramatic waterfalls into the sea. It was beautiful in all its changing moods, in rain and mist, in gray skies and sunny. With my stout boots and walking stick, I felt more confident with every step.

Much of the path is far from anywhere and surprisingly desolate. I saw few hikers, but near the villages with their lovely Celtic names -- Polzeath, Tintagel, Pentire -- I often met people walking their dogs. It seems that every English person has at least one dog. The dogs would romp along the path, tongues hanging out, full of delight. Their owners were invariably pleasant and spoke in soft Cornish voices. When I reached a village, with its tiny harbor and whitewashed cottages, I bought hot Cornish pastry for my lunch and found a sunny spot to eat in.

I would send my luggage by taxi each day and often thought how Mother would tut-tut at such extravagance. But she would have laughed, too, at the sight of my suitcase sitting in solitary grandeur in the back seat and metaphorically bowing to the peasantry as the taxi trundled along.

After some 70 miles, I met my friends in Newquay, and we went on together to Hayle. It was very enjoyable, but I think Mother and I liked the earlier part even better.

Anne Burley lives in Pasadena.

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On a whim, I took a solo trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. This island sanctuary is beautiful with its dramatic landscape of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, placid lakes and deep woods. I chose an intermediate hiking trail, and it was quite a climb. When I finally reached the top, I was rewarded by a tremendous sense of satisfaction and a spectacular view.

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