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Friday, 29 January 2016

Walk 161 - Newquay to Mawgan Porth (Cornwall)

Walk 161 Newquay to Mawgan Porth (Cornwall)

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 200
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km approx
Difficulty: Moderate – beach walking is pleasant but can be tiring
Terrain: coastal path and beach
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: 56 bus goes to and from Newquay every hour and a half.

Join the path at Fistral Beach and follow it to Towan Head. Look out for the prominent white building on the land side of the head. It is an old lime kiln probably used in the construction of Newquay Harbour. Next to it is an old fish cellar closed in 1832 and turned into a pumping station to help keep the beaches clean. There is another small white building on the top of Towan Head which is a Huers Hut. The Huer would call the fishermen when he spotted a shoal of pilchards.

Further round is Newquay Harbour which has been here since 1439 and expanded greatly in the 18th century. When sail gave way to steam it became uneconomical and it now supports small boats and pleasure craft. Tame Cornish grey seals can often be seen around the harbour.

A little further along, close to Towan Beach, is a most unusual site. A house on an island is joined to the mainland by a suspension type footbridge – the only one to be owned privately in the UK. The house was formerly the residence of the famous scientist Sir Oliver Lodge who invented the spark plug. He was a friend of the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was a regular visitor.

The town of Newquay, which is Cornwall's largest resort, did not seem that attractive to me but this is more than made up for by its coast and sands. All the beaches offer first class surfing and international competitions are held here. Tolcombe Beach on the east side of the town is described on a sign as 'the golden gateway to fun and relaxation'.

Porth Island and Porth Beach are a bit further along. This is a sheltered inlet that was a busy small port in the 18th and 19th centuries. Locally built ships left with mineral ores and returned with coal, lime and other goods.

The path passes alongside Trevelgue Head. This is the site of an Iron Age Castle and Bronze Age burial mounds and is protected as an ancient monument. Lots of finds have been made here including coins and bones.

Next is the lengthy Watergate Beach which was completely deserted when I went. The beach was the scene of a dispute in 1869 when the ship 'Suez' was driven ashore. Some of the rescuers insisted that only a rowing boat from Newquay be used, instead of a steam tug, giving them more chance to plunder the vessel. However, the steam tug was used and the ship pulled to safety.

After walking the length of Watergate Beach you arrive at Mawgan Porth yet another area popular with surfers. Excavations have revealed a settlement of late Saxon times.

Photos show: The island and bridge, Newquay; Trevelgue Head in the direction of Newquay.

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