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.