Too many double arrows for comfort

With the warmest day of the year so far forecast, and with a moderate ESE wind, I decided a reasonable non-OGIL ride was in order, but not with too much west to minimise the amount of headwind riding in the latter part of the ride. I toyed with the idea of Poldhu, but judging by the OGIL WhatsApp group it was likely to be pretty crowded. Instead, I thought I would explore the top end of the Lizard, and visit two places I have never been to – Porthallow and Porthoutstock.

The first part of the ride was predictable and pretty, taking the oft-travelled route to Gweek, where I paused to remove my arm warmers and gilet. Up Gweek Drive, then after passing through Mawgan and past Gear Farm, I took a left to head towards Manaccan. Almost immediately I was confronted by the first of many leg-bending hills: still, never mind, I was still feeling fresh. Pushing on to Manaccan, I headed for my first planned stop at Carne Quay. Unfortunately, the bench on the lawn overlooking Gillan Creek has been taken away, so my sojourn was not as comfortable as it might have been. I was wondering whether it had been wise to remove layers earlier, as the sea fog was rolling in up the creek, but I persevered.

On I pressed to Porthallow, where the fog was even denser. The place was deserted apart from the man painting the Five Pilchards Inn, and a couple of blokes clearing vegetation from the river. Not the most photogenic Cornish fishing village. I paused briefly for a drink and a Naked bar, and to put my arm warmers back on, then set off for Porthoustock. Again, pretty thick fog wafting in from the sea, but at least there were a handful of cars in the car park. After the briefest of pauses I pressed on. Almost immediately I hit the next leg-bender. Then, near the top, instead of carrying straight on for St Keverne, I took a left to have a look at the Giant’s Quoits. I immediately regretted making the detour, as the hill steepened to such an extent that I admit I struggled even in my 36×34 gear! The stones were a bit of an anti-climax as well. With the old heart rate going off the scale and the legs turning to jelly, I coasted to St Keverne and then straight back to Mawgan via Newtown and St Martin. At Mawgan I stopped to bask in the sun for a bit and remove the arm warmers again, then down to Helston and back the normal way via muddy (now dusty and gritty) lane.

Once home, I thought I ought to re-examine the route I had planned the evening before to see whether the hills were as steep as they felt. I had the novel idea of consulting the Ordnance Survey Explorer map of The Lizard. Some of you may remember Ordnance Survey maps – before Google Maps was invented, maps were quaintly printed on paper and folded in such a way that the part you wanted was always obscured by a fold, and whenever you attempted to unfold the map to see where you were going, the wind would catch it and turn it into a giant kite. Anyway, the OS map marks serious gradients on roads with arrows pointing downhill – one arrow for 14% to 20%, and two arrows for more than 20%. So, were there any arrows on my route? There certainly were – here’s the tally (only counting uphills, of course):

  • Just past the turn after Gear Farm: >>

  • Landrivik (top of Frenchman’s Pill): >

  • Carne: >

  • Out of Porthoustock: >>

  • Left turn to Giant’s Quoits: >>

Incidentally, Strava shows the left turn to Giant’s Quoits at over 27%, but I think that should be taken with a pinch of salt! All of these climbs were in a distance of about 12km. To put this into context, Truro Hill (out of Penryn) doesn’t even get a single arrow on the OS map, and that is usually a bit of a huff and puff (at least for me).

[Stop press: the hill out of Poldhu gets a single arrow – go Poldhu freaks!]

So there you have it. Perhaps I ought to look at the OS map more when planning a route so that I can be sure my legs will still work when I get back from a ride. My ride is on Strava if Kath is looking for another ride to do with Clive.

Total distance 78km, vertical ascent 1,413m.

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