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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Walk 139 Seaton to Polperro (Cornwall)

Walk 139 Seaton to Polperro (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 201
Distance: 12 miles or 18 km approx
Difficulty: moderate
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Direct buses go from Plymouth to Polperro every hour on weekdays and every other hour to Seaton. It is possible to get from Seaton to Polperro by bus but it is time consuming and involves a change.

Start the walk on the coastal path at Seaton. During the first mile you pass nearby a monkey sanctuary which cares for monkeys rescued from lives of neglect etc. Well worth a visit especially if you have interested children.

About a mile further on is Millendreath Beach, the crystal clear water here is typical of beaches along this coast. Continue walking to Looe.

The East and West Looe rivers join before entering Looe. This is an attractive place with its narrow streets and houses peering over the steep valley. However, the writer Daphne Du Maurier found the town claustrophobic because she felt the buildings were too close together. Archaeological evidence shows that Looe has been inhabited since at least 1000 BC. Further back in the town the bridge and boats provide an attractive vista. The bridge was built in 1853 but there has been one here since 1411. Looe was once a major port in Cornwall exporting tin, arsenic and granite. It was also a ship building town and fishing is still active with catches sold on the quayside. Looe is also a centre for shark fishing. Its development as a seaside resort started in Victorian times. It is considered one of the top UK places to celebrate the New Year with participants wearing all sorts of fancy dress.

Walk over the bridge and seawards on the west bank. Look out for the sculpture of Nelson a distinctive one-eyed grey seal who was a familiar site in the waters of south Cornwall for 25 years. He made the harbour his dining room and was popular with townspeople and visitors. A good reminder to cherish the marine life of the area.

Follow the road out of Looe on to Hannafore Point. This provides a good view across Portnadler Bay to Looe or St Georges Island. There is a legend that Joseph of Aaramathea landed there with the child Christ. It had a Benedictine chapel in 1139 and was later inhabited by the notorious smugglers Black Joan and her brother Fyn – they were said to have lived off rabbits and nuts. (Contraband can't have been much good then!) During World War 2 it was bombed by Germans who mistook it for a warship. In the 1960s it was bought by two ladies, ex teachers, who I had the pleasure of meeting before they died. They were self-sufficient until old age and made an income from visitors paying an embarkation fee to walk around the island and by selling refreshments in their café. One of them also wrote a book 'We bought an island' which was on sale. An interesting read if you manage to get a copy. The island was left in the care of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and can still be visited.
Continue walking around to Talland Bay and look out for the memorial cross providing a poignant silhouette against the sea.

The walk finishes at Polperro, another very attractive place. During the 17th and 18th centuries it was renowned for smuggling. John Wesley remarked when visiting the town in 1762: ' well nigh one and all bought or sold unaccustomed goods'. The whitewashed cottages scattered around the village were the original haunts of smugglers and fishermen. Cars are generally not allowed in the town but a 'tram' runs from the car park at Crumplehorn if you don't fancy the walk.   

Photos show: the beach at East Looe; boats near Looe Bridge; Polperro harbour.  

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