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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Walk 142 St Austell, Mevagissey, Gorran Haven (Cornwall)

Walk 142 St Austell, Mevagissey, Gorran Haven (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 204
Distance: 12 miles or 20 km approx
Difficulty: demanding
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends – park in Charlestown to the south of St Austell.
Public transport: Buses every half hour (no 24) from St Austell to Gorran Haven but latest back from Gorran Haven just before 17:00. If using the bus you may want to go the other way round i.e. start at Gorran Haven. Check with Traveline for bus times. As before, there are buses back from Charlestown into St Austell and the station.

The coastal path from Charlestown takes a rather tedious route along the roads through Duporth before dropping down to Porthpean, a pleasant, small cove. There appears to be a shorter route via sections of a path along the cliff tops but having experienced some overgrown and sometimes dangerous paths in the past I stuck to the SW Coastal Path (there must be a good reason that the inland route has been chosen).

It is quite hard going to Mevagissey but there are some good views. At Black Head look out for the memorial dedicated to A L Rowse (1903-1997) a well known British historian and Cornish poet. He published over 100 books and had the reputation of being irascible, for example he hated modern life and said: “The filthy twentieth century I hate its guts”.

Continuing around there is a garden with some strange sculptures of human and angel like figures. The next major landmark is the attractive beach, ex harbour and settlement of Pentewan. The harbour and jetty built here in 1744 were soon silted up by the constant stream of waste washed down from clay-pits and other works such as tin mining upstream. Reservoirs specially built to resolve the problem had little effect and ships were even trapped in the harbour by fast forming sandbanks.

The coastal path follows the main road out of the village. I was held up here for some time by some disobedient cows on their way to milking.

Mevagissey, with its attractive harbour, is a popular place for tourists. The fishing village with its narrow streets got very congested in the days when pilchard fishing was at its height. Some loads had to be carried on poles resting on the shoulders of two men walking behind each other. In the 19th century the streets were said to reek of fish. The Royal Navy was a major market for the pilchards and they were known by the sailors as Mevagissey duck. Overfishing meant that the number of pilchards caught by the 1950s was much lower, although there are still pilchard boats operating today. A small park in the town is known as Hitler's Wall – it got its name in the 1930s from a council official who had a rather officious way of checking the boats in the harbour. The well known West country group The Wurzels wrote a song called Mevagissey.

About half a mile south of Mevagissey is Portmellon which has a long history of boat building. The beach gets completely covered at low tide.

The walk continues to Chapel Point which provides a high up view of the remote Colona Beach. Near to hear is Turbot Point and Bordugan's Leap. Sir Richard Edcumbe supported Henry V11 at the Battle of Bosworth and as a reward was offered the Brodugan estate. He was supposed to have chased Sir Henry Trenowth, a member of the Brodugan family and a supporter of the doomed Richard 111, off the edge of the cliff. Legend has it that he clambered aboard a boat and escaped to France.

The walk ends at Gorran Haven an old fishing settlement with a pleasant beach.

Photos show: Mevagissey Harbour; Pentewan; Porthpean.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Walk 141 Fowey to St Austell (Cornwall)

Walk 141 Fowey St Austell (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 204
Distance: 11 miles or 17 km approx
Difficulty: moderate, demanding in parts
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular buses between the two towns and good rail links at St Austell.

On the quayside in Fowey is The King of Prussia Inn which was built in 1570 and was the home of John Rashleigh who sailed with Raleigh and Drake in his own ship. Follow the walk alongside the river estuary out of Fowey. Look out for the plaque marking the fact that the US naval advanced amphibious force was based here during 1943 and 1944. The area has a historic reputation for pirates and privateers (privately owned ships commissioned by the government) who indulged in smuggling on the side. In more recent times the area has been popular with such showbiz people as Dawn French, Lenny Henry, Gloria Hunniford, Richard Madeley and Julie Finnegan.

Just outside of Fowey is Readymoney Cove. I have not been able to find out why it has this unusual name . The remains of the 16th century St Catherine's Castle built by Henry V111 and cared for by English Heritage is here. The author Daphne Du Maurier lived in a coach house above the beach for a few years.

A mile further on is Polridmouth, an attractive cove. The stone cottage with its lawn and artificial lake is said to be the inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca – 'Last night I went to Manderley again.....'.

Continue around to Gribbin Head. The 25 metre red and white beacon 'Dayark' was built in 1832 to aid ships entering Fowey and was built by Trinity House. From the walk northwards from here, there are panoramic views of the undulating coastline.

The next point to stop is Polkerris Beach – the Cornish version of the name means 'fortified pool'. There are cannons on the beach wall dating form Napoleonic times. Fishing thrived here in the 17th century but collapsed in the late 19th century due to overfishing. If you fancy refreshment there is a cafe in the old lifeboat station (which closed in 1922) and The Rashleigh Arms for something stronger - a setting for the 1972 film Doomwatch.

The path crosses Par sands and then continues along the road. There was once a thriving clay china industry here. On the walk near Carolyn Bay there are views to St Austell with the pyramid structures of the Eden Project visible in the distance.

The last coastal stop before the walk into St Austell is Charlestown, a picturesque place used as a filming location for the TV series, The Onedin line. The port was built in 1791 – boats loaded clay on one side of the harbour whilst on the other they unloaded coal. It was said that you could tell which side of the port men worked by the colour of their faces! John Smeaton designed the harbour which was carved from solid rock.

Continue the walk into St Austell – or catch a bus from near Charlestown.

Photos show: view from walk between Fowey and Gribbin Head; Polkerris Beach; Charlestown. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Walk 140 Polperro to Fowey (Cornwall)

Walk 140 Polperro to Fowey (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 201 and 204
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx
Difficulty: moderate, demanding in parts
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: It is possible to get buses between the two towns but it involves changing and it is time consuming. Suggest Traveline website to fit in with where you are staying.

Take the path out of Polperro to the coastal path some parts of which are demanding. I found lots of dog walkers to start with. If they are under control fine and if on a lead where any other animals are likely to be around also fine. However, I had an altercation with the owner of a yappy dog who decided I was a miserable old b.....d for not letting his loose dog jump up and attack my lunch. His wife restrained him.

The walk continues with great views of Lantivet Bay and Pencarrow Head. Sharp craggy rocks, sandy coves and crystal blue sea dominate.

The first major settlement is Polruan. The National Coastwatch Institution on the outskirts is supported by voluntary contributions. Also look out for St Saviour's Chapel ruins – it was built in the 9th century and is preserved by English Heritage. The harbour at Polruan is a haven for small boats – it has a history of being a small fishing village and is situated on the edge of the River Fowey estuary. (NB to save embarrassment with the locals Fowey is pronounced 'Foy'.) Blockhouse forts were built across the river in the 14th century and a chain was strung across to prevent enemy ships from entering and was lowered for friendly ones. More recently the author Daphne Du Maurier was a resident of Polruan and a Daphne Du Maurier festival is held every year in nearby Fowey.

Follow the narrow hilly streets down to catch the ferry that regularly goes across to Fowey.

Fowey was once a staging post on the Saint's Way, the pilgrim route through Cornwall linking Ireland with Compostela in Spain. Yet another 'suspect' legend (see Looe Island) says that Jospeh of Aramathea visited here with the child Jesus. Apparently Joseph was a tin merchant with interests in the town. Fowey is one of Cornwall's oldest and most important ports. It was strongly associated with the china clay trade but today it is more recognised as a yachting centre.

Top photo: A view across Polruan to Fowey. Lower: St Saviour's Chapel