Striding out

The cold spell in January was welcome and provided a good opportunity for walking, so off we went to Cremyll on the opposite side of the Tamar to Plymouth. It was below freezing all the way there and the path alongside the river was frozen hard, which made for good conditions underfoot after having to walk through mud for most of the winter. Eddie was delighted to be somewhere fresh and set about leaving messages for any dogs that might come by later in the day. Due to the steepness of the hillside from Cremyll to Maker Heights the path was in shade all the way along to Millbrook, and even walking at a good pace I was frozen and could feel my face and gloved hands getting colder and stiffer. The water was like glass with the only ripples being created by the ducks and gulls as they swam by. It was a really high tide that morning and had only just started to recede but at its highest had flooded the road in places and was freezing, which made things quite slippery. Once I got to Millbrook the sun was visible again, thawing the ice and raising the air temperature considerably, which was greatly appreciated. I hadn’t seen a single person until I reached Millbrook and saw people walking dogs, getting their daily papers and bits of shopping, and I got the impression that it is a busy little community.

Leaving the village, the road went up a steep hill where at the top the views across the river to Plymouth were stunning and the sound of gunfire from H.M.S Raleigh was the only thing to disturb the tranquil scene. I had heard the gunfire when I set out from Cremyll and it continued for most of the day and I suppose the only ones to take much notice were visitors for the day. The next little village I came to was St John, a place I had never heard of but what a pretty place it is, though it is more ‘expensive residential’ than affordable rural. It has a tiny church situated at the bottom of yet another steep hill, with the smallest tower I have ever seen, almost stubby and unlike anything else in Cornwall.

Climbing steeply again up a deep-sided lane, a footpath marker took me into a wood with a sharp drop down to the water and mud, and a well-situated bench where I had my sandwich and Oxo while Eddie had Gravy Bones and then sat staring, trying to make me feel guilty about his short rations. On the exposed mud were countless birds feeding, including oystercatchers, curlew, herons and egrets, while in the trees a group of busy little long-tailed tits were about their business too. I have a feeling that in my dotage I will probably take up birdwatching as I find them all fascinating though any attempt to feed them usually results in rats turning up so I have given up buying bird food.

A footpath sign took me away to the right across last year’s maize fields where plenty of different birds were feeding in the stubble before Eddie spooked them. The path hugs the double chain-link fences round the perimeter of H.M.S Raleigh, the Royal Navy training facility where recruits are put through their paces and trained for naval careers. It is a big establishment covering a large area and as I passed along the road the armed sentry was on guard at the main entrance and the gunfire sounded even closer.

Leaving the main road the route goes through housing estates and a small industrial area before coming out to the waterfront again and continuing right along to the Torpoint ferry landing. There were a number of vehicles queued up ready to drive onto the ferry when it arrived and I made my way to the slipway. Foot passengers and dogs travel free and we went to the seated area with a most welcome toilet – phew, at last! The heating was just too hot to stay there, so we went upstairs to take in the fantastic views up and down the river. It was great to see so much activity and industry taking place though years ago the industry would have been on a massive scale in comparison to today.

We caught the bus just outside the terminal and went to the Royal William Yard. Eddie loves riding on the bus with so many people in close proximity and him being so nosey about everything in general. The Cremyll ferry departs from a jetty close to the Royal William Yard and as we got on the boat the sun was getting low in the sky and the temperature was falling rapidly so it was time to go home again and reflect on another great day out.


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