What a lovely day's walk this should have been, and once I've managed to filter out all the pain from the memories, I'll look back on it with fondness. From Tregolls Farm I weaved a short distance along the lanes before joining the Camel Trail at Boscarne, which took me to within a mile or so of my destination, St Breward. 11.5 miles is just the right length for an easy day's walk, but not with the blisters I got from yesterday's idiocy. I should have been delighted to set off on the easy walk to St Breward; unfortunately I wasn't.
Even the hiker's high didn't help this time, as the blisters were too sore. Perhaps I should have taken a rest day, but Tregolls is a farm and nothing else, where at least St Breward has a pub. So throwing caution to the wind I winced my way down the lanes and onto the Camel Trail.
The Camel Trail is a great track. Stretching from Padstow in the east, the route goes through Wadebridge and Bodmin to end up in the middle of nowhere at a place called Poley's Bridge, and for the entire length of the walk there's hardly a slope in sight. This is because the trail follows the route of an old railway line, and now that the rails have been pulled up it provides a wonderful cycle and walking trail through the heart of north Cornwall.
It must have been a great train ride. The section I walked along was one of the first railways in the world, opening way back in 1834; parts of it were still in use until 1984, after a whopping 150 years of service. It connected Padstow to the national rail network back in the days when rail travel was a metaphor for everything that was great about being British (rather than the other way round), and the section I walked ran through woodland, hugging the River Camel through some utterly unspoilt scenery; most railway lines pass through the unpleasant guts of cities, but not this one.
All that remains of the steam train era are a few sections of track welded into the roads that cross the trail every now and then. Sometimes the tracks have been removed and only the tarmac scars are visible, but every now and then you can see a piece of the old railway going over the road at what would once have been a level crossing, and this sense of history makes a pleasant change from following lanes, coastline or field boundaries. It's also impossible to get lost, as it's blindingly obvious where the train used to go; it's along that great big flat bit that doesn't have any sharp corners, steep inclines or barking farm dogs.
It would have been bliss if I hadn't spent most of the day obsessing over the state of my feet. Luckily I've managed to find a typical Cornish village in which to grab a rest day so I can let my blisters heal before putting them through hell again. St Breward, perched on a ridge on the edge of Bodmin Moor, proudly boasts having the highest inn in Cornwall, the Old Inn, which manages to combine a cosy country pub atmosphere with a fancy restaurant, various pub food awards, and the sort of location next to the village church that makes you want to up sticks and move to the country.
St Breward itself is as enticing as its pub, and according to the leaflet in my B&B, it's one of a handful of places that can boast a village trail designed by the Heritage Coast and Countryside Service (other such lucky places include Launceston, Padstow, Boscastle, Bude, Bodmin and Port Isaac). Combining some pretty little spots with attractions like the village's Victorian post box, an old AA road sign and a granite stile, it's not a bad little trail, though I've only explored the section that gets me to the pub and back. The trail leaflet says it all, really:
Too often the gentle evolution of our special villages and their lifestyles, the very heart of the British countryside, have turned into a current of modern mediocrity bringing with it a flash flood of incongruous change and expansion. The true unique nature of these settlements must be really appreciated if they are to survive, not as living, bucolic museums but as dynamic entities, able to grow at a pace which enhances and does not dilute or hide their real character.
It might sound like the ruminations of a retired marketing executive, but under the flowery prose there's a valid point. St Breward really is a gorgeous place; I'm going to enjoy taking a rest day here.