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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Walk 164 Rock to Port Issac (Cornwall)

Walk 164 Rock to Port Issac (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 200
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km approx
Difficulty: Demanding with some very challenging sections towards the end – allow a full day of walking.
Terrain: coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: There is a frequent passenger ferry from Padstow to to Rock. Bus 584 runs to and from Port Issac it takes about half an hour but runs only 4 times a day. With more council cuts ever threatening its best to check with Traveline before going this way.

The walk starts at Rock where you can park at the bottom of the hill or walk down to get a good view across the River Camel to Padstow. The sand and rock dunes near here are sites of special scientific interest because of the geology (especially the slate) and the flora. Hundreds of years ago the village was known as Black Tor (now the name of the ferry to Padstow) and had become known as Black Rock in the 18th century. Before starting the walk, the riverside cafe, restaurant and pub are all worth a visit if you have time. These amenities help to give the place its nickname of 'Chelsea on Sea' as it apparently attracts affluent holidaymakers.

Rather than follow the coastal path around Brea Hill take a detour to St Enodoc Church. Careful to follow the markers that take you around the golf course not across it! The 12th century church is supposed to be the site of where the saint lived as a hermit. You can look inside the tiny church if it is open. It is not difficult to imagine that it was once engulfed by sand. To the right of the entrance path is the grave of John Betjeman, the famous poet who lived nearby. I was told that readings of his poems take place near here every year.

Follow the path northwards out of the golf course and back on to the coastal path. Daymer Bay has a sandy beach popular with wind and kite surfers. Continue alongside the Greenaway to Hayle Bay and Polzeath. This is yet another Cornish beach popular with surfers. Dolphins are often spotted in the bay and it is a good area for corn buntings and puffins. For those who were Enid Blyton fans in their childhood, The Famous Five fictitiously spent holidays at Polzeath.

The walk continues on to the rugged Pentire Point with the small island of Newland about a mile away. The war poet Laurence Binyon wrote the poem 'For the Fallen' while sitting on the cliffs near here. There are very good views eastwards from Rumpus Point. A separate path leads to the sight of some old lead mines and there is evidence of an iron age fort nearby.

About a mile away is a cove near Portreath (which means sandy cove). This area is known for tin streaming, which was a way of extracting tin from the rocks. A cholera outbreak in 1878 caused much of the mining activities here to diminish. The walk becomes very demanding with steep climbs. There are some stunning geological views to enjoy before reaching Port Quinn (see photos). Just before descending into Port Quinn you cannot miss Doyden Castle which was built by a local businessman as a retreat in 1830 – partying and gambling were said to be common events. The building has featured in the BBC series Poldark and in the ITV series Doc Martin as well.

Port Quinn is a quiet sheltered port with an attractive outlook. In medieval times boats often sailed here to trade with Wales in coal, manure and lead. In the nineteenth century the village was abandoned twice. Once when the pilchard fishing failed and on another when all of the men of the village drowned when out fishing. The women suffered great hardship and were forced to leave.

The walk continues into Port Issac. As you enter you can spot 'Doc Martin's house' to the right of the paved slope. More about the village in the next walk.

Photos show: John Betjeman's grave at St Enodoc; two of geological features near Portreath; Port Quinn.

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