From: St Agnes Head to Newquay
Distance: 14m / 22.4km
Cumulated distance: 63.2 / 101
Percentage completed: 6.1

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Today turned out to be quite a saintly day. I woke up in the village of Saint Agnes, overlooking the church.

View from my attic window at St Agnes Hotel ..

When I was studying Art History in Manchester back in the day, the Early Medieval art option required that you got familiar with the lives of saints. It was crucial to be able to distinguish your Huberts from your Hedwigs, so that you could read the iconography in a stained glass window. The most interesting saints by far were the martyrs, because of the unbelievably inventive and very often gory deaths they were meted out. Take St Agnes for example .. she was apparently a real beauty who attracted many suitors. But as she had given her heart to God, she turned them all away. Piqued by all the refusals she was reported as a Christian and sent to the stake to be burnt alive. But the flames miraculously parted and refused to burn her until eventually, they were forced to behead her instead. After her death, she became the protector of virgins and gardeners, since virginity is symbolised as a closed garden. Indeed, the word Agnes means ‘pure and chaste’. 

The hospitable St Agnes Hotel


The beach at St Agnes

When I was little, the highlight of the year was the two week holiday we took down in Cornwall. We’d drive down from Liverpool, together with half of the country, for our time in the sun. And truly, it always was sunny in those days during the summer. Ask anyone of my age. We used to stay on farms close to Newquay and the build up to the fortnight was thrilling. My sister and I would make holiday ‘advent’ calendars .. like the Christmas version, except that instead of snowmen and baubles behind the windows, there would be drawings of buckets and spades and icecreams. The days were very simply filled with time on the beach and then tea back at the farm at the end of the day. We never sun-bathed. The hours were taken up investigating rock pools, playing french cricket and building the biggest sandcastles.  It was idyllic to us, even if there was always sand in the sandwiches, the farm wreaked of pig pooh and the Atlantic turned your skin blue within minutes of paddling .. we rarely swam.

Nostalgic shops

Following the holy theme I was delighted to discover that today was St Perin Day and by total coincidence this morning I was walking the length of Perran Beach, which gets its name from the saint. It’s just north of Perranporth and is a fabulous 3 miles long, Even though the rain was pelting down, it was still really beautiful. I had the whole beach virtually to myself, bar the odd runner and several stalwart dog walkers.

Dogs with their runners


Time to play ..

The cliffs along the beach would be a geologist’s dream, I imagine .. with deep caves and magnificent colours. It’s certainly a note I’ve made to myself to find out more when I next speak to Mr Google. The shells and rock pools were just as I remember from my childhood.

Geologist’s playground


Pretty, pretty colours

Not a walk for anyone with vertigo!

The rain continued to fall all morning and I took refuge in Willow Café, for a latté and a slice of delicious coffee cake I got talking to Jeanine, the owner, who had walked parts of the Wall of China. She kindly gave a donation to Walking The Black Dog, which will get paid into the SANE account tomorrow on my first rest day. I’ve been bowled over by the number of people who on hearing the story of the walk, have given donations. Sydney-sider friends know that we raised a fabulous $55600 for the Australian mental health charity, The Black Dog Institute, ahead of the walk. And now in the UK the sum being raised for the UK’s SANE is rising every day .. take a look at the sites. And if you feel saintly, like the day, please donate!

Sheep with full compliment of legs


Lost something?


View looking back to Perrenporth

And then the sun came out as I walked up and over the cliffs, past beautiful inlets and crashing waves. Looking back over the miles I’d covered I truly felt for the first time that I really could do this whole walk. It was an exhilarating feeling.

Looking back to where I’d come from

At the end of the day there was time for one more bit of saintliness .. I was met by my lovely friend Liz, in her very welcome Volvo. The wonderful Heis family is giving me a home for the next week, ferrying me from the end of a day’s walk to be revived, washed and fed in the evening at their home in and returning me to the exact same spot the following morning to continue the walk.

Tomorrow is a day of rest, so no blog .. but please join me the day after for more musings!

Black Dog Tails
1st Officer William Murdoch had the mighty Newfoundland Rigel at his side when he rescued people stranded after the Titanic disaster.