Tuesday, 18th August, Philleigh to Black Rock, 24.25 miles
What if Tommy doesn’t want to get on the ferry? The question, it’s a good one, is asked by Carol, one of Jim’s livery ladies who has followed us down to the ferry. It’s not an option, I reply. And anyway, he will just follow me on, I say with more conviction than I actually feel.
The ferry in question is the famous King Harry that crosses the River Fal saving a round trip via Truro of some 20 miles or so. There are crossings every 20 minutes and having said we would be there by 10, the ferry crew are expecting us. We’ve been given the all clear by the management who have kindly taken our mission to heart and are supporting our efforts.
The crew wave us to come forward onto the empty deck. Tommy follows me down to the ramps easily enough then stops and plants his feet firmly on the ground, head in the air with suspicion, pulling back on the lead rope.
Turning around to encourage him forwards, once I step onto the metal ramp and he can see I don’t dissolve or get eaten by a river monster, he needs little more persuasion to step onto the ramp himself, hurrying up it behind me because of the unfamiliar sound and feel of it under his feet. The deck looks very much like an ordinary road and it’s our fortune that because it’s still quite early in the day, we have the run of half the ferry. I’m pleased I remembered to ask the crew to bring a shovel, as inevitable Tommy performs to cue, leaving his nervous calling card splattered on the deck, much to the amusement of the other ferry passengers.
Carol has been invited to take the crossing with us, (kindly taking these pictures of this historic event) and when I ask the crew what is the fare for a pilgrim and her horse, they say that this event is unprecedented, livestock usually need to be boxed to get across. Priceless then. Legend has it that livestock were made to swim across this traditional crossing place.
Pleased that it has gone so well (thanks again KHF), we head off up the road, passing Trelissick Manor and Gardens on our left as well as the lane leading to the cottage I rented when I first came to Cornwall in 2000 to undertake my MA degree at Falmouth College of Arts. This is familiar territory.
Pause to take stock and readjust our bags at the delightful Quaker Meeting House, Come To Good, before heading over the A 39 and into Connor Downs and Frogpool, dropping down to cross Stithians Reservoir where we stop for refreshments at the Golden Lion pub.
Pushing on, and leaving the reservoir behind us, I decide to venture across country on a bridle path which has a bit of a sticky patch in the middle navigating past some bull fields but otherwise not too bad before meeting a couple of busy B roads to cross below Four Lanes. After 7 hours on the road by now, it’s getting close to rush hour. A tractor comes up behind us and before I know it, I’m dumped in a bed of stinging nettles. When I pick myself up and turn around to see why Tommy has suddenly spun around into the hedge sending me off balance, I see the huge round bales of hay on the trailer that were the culprit monsters. The amount of traffic occupies my mind so I can’t dwell on the large stinging sensation that has suddenly taken a grip of my legs and hands.
Taking a right turning off the B 3280, we come across our first sign post for Penzance. This is a very exciting moment. It says home is just 15 miles away. Then as we brow the hill at High Downs, I can’t believe what I am seeing. There, in the distance, is the whole of Mounts Bay laid out before me with the Lizard peninsula stretching off to the left and I’m convinced I can just see the tip of St Michael’s Mount. And the sea just discernible from the sky on the horizon, the first time I have seen the sea since leaving Lindisfarne, three and a half months ago.
This was a sight I was not expecting and I am shocked by it, suddenly consumed by uncontrollable tears of joy and relief. It is said that before you die, your life flashes before you. In that moment, all the trials and tribulations of our journey played through my mind like the film of a dream as the memories came flooding back. It was an extraordinary experience. When people ask me what was the best moment of your journey, this has to be at the top of the list. The satisfaction in knowing we were only hours away from finally reaching our destination. Tommy however, seems unmoved by this new revelation and soldiers on in his usual manner.
I float on a wave of euphoria the last couple of miles to Black Rock, arriving at Sue and Tony’s down a narrow, bumpy bridle track. Sue offers Tommy the cow grass field for an hour of grazing before we put him in a stable for the night. It’s been a long day and the forecast is not good for our final day tomorrow. Fitting somehow, to finish our journey as we began, in the pouring rain.