Wednesday, June 29, 2011


A dramatic walk in the Mount Edgcumbe Country Park
and a house famous for its artistic treasures

I was intending to come to Kingsands and Cawsands for a holiday this March, but without my husband, it didn't seem right. However, Viv had been waxing lyrical about the two 17th century fishing villages, so I was looking forward to this walk, intrigued by the fact that Kingsands was once in Devon, with Cawsands in Cornwall. Ever one for useless detail, I also liked the idea that in days gone by, life for the smugglers of Kingsands and Cawsands was a constant battle with Customs: girls apparently took brandy into Plymouth under their petticoats.

Back to the present day, and minus petticoats, we took the A374 and followed signs to Millbrook, then headed into the picturesque village of Cawsands, where we parked in the car park in the middle of the village. From there, Mark, who ran the car park, gave us directions and a map, and we turned left up the street, past the village shop and turned right, past the Rising Sun Inn. Lost already, we got instructions from a friendly Welsh builder to go up the hill then turn right into Mount Edgcumbe Country Park.

Ahead lay Minadew Brakes, a wide grassy area with fabulous views stretching out over the huge expanse of Cawsand Bay, and Plymouth Sound further up. Fort Picklecombe could be seen ahead, and woods up on our left: this is a popular walk for walkers and dogs, who were both soon covered in the brick red mud typical of this area.

It was a raw grey winter's day, but beautiful nonetheless: a kestrel hovered overhead, and waves crashed angrily on the rocks to our right. But spring showed promise with daffodil buds shyly peeping out from walls of dried bracken and gorse flower the only colour on this scowling day. “Gorse in flower, kissing in season,” said Viv optimistically, though there was no one en route on which to try this out.

Heading for Maker church, we passed what might have been a quarry where huge trees hovered over us with bare roots like tortured arms, and branches like belly dancer's limbs; supple and bendy looking.

At the end of Minadew Brakes, we came to a kissing gate where we turned sharp right onto a lane which led in front of a large house and Hooe Lake on our right, then first left through an iron gate. Ahead of us were three paths – we should have taken the left hand path which leads straight to Maker Church, but we started off on the middle path – luckily two German walkers put us right and we found ourselves at the top of what looked like a grassy, incredibly steep canyon, which we had to cross.

Sliding down was one thing, but half way up the almost vertical bank opposite, I looked nervously back at Viv, who has a heart condition. She was puffing but was alive which was a bonus. Reaching the top, I looked back over Plymouth Sound and noted two Navy destroyers coming in. Rain clouds loomed on the horizon and above us, in the middle of miles of gracious parkland, a helicopter hovered: at any minute I expected machine guns to rain down on us, forcing us to flatten ourselves to the ground. But the helicopter moved on, and we continued our walk towards Maker Church that peeped out of the winter gloom like Rapunzel's tower.

Passing woods on our left, with dead branches waving ghostly grey fingers, we reached the top of the hill which must be one of the highest points of Cornwall – there is such a feeling of space here, looking out over Plymouth Sound, the River Tamar and Plymouth Docks, with Edgcumbe Park stretching magnificently in front of us. Behind us were fields and fields of emerald green with hardly a house in sight.

We decided to pay a quick visit to the church, the tower of which was used as a naval signal station, but it was locked so we turned our attention to Edgcumbe House and Park. Sir Richard Edgcumbe of Cotehele built the original house in his deer park in 1547-50. It was largely destroyed in the Plymouth blitz of 1941 but has now been restored and houses paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Gerard Edema and William van der Velde, 16th century tapestries, Irish bronze age horns and 18th century Chinese and Plymouth porcelain. In the 18th century the family created formal gardens, temples, follies and woodlands with Californian Redwood trees sheltering a herd of wild fallow deer.

Setting off through the park once again, we headed along a path towards Harbour View Seat. The path disappeared and we were concerned that we would end up in Cremyll when we'd only got 6 hours of car parking time. Unable to find Harbour View Seat, we headed right, past the impressive Grotton Plantation on our left, and a herd of delicate deer gazing at us in the distance. “Is it rutting season?” said Viv, stumbling over the rough path. “No, I replied stoutly, “that's April isn't it?” I had no idea, but walked faster just in case.

The paths on our map bore no resemblance to the parkland we walked through, but we headed back towards the sea where Viv was determined to find Fort Picklecombe, which was hard enough to say when sober. We found ourselves on the seaward side of the canyon we traversed earlier, and a very steep path roughened by sliding hoof marks led us back to the iron gate near the road and we retraced our steps past Hooe Lake, with Kingsands and Cawsands nestled in the cliffs ahead of us.

“If we'd turned left, do you think we'd get to Fort Picklecombe?” said Viv hopefully. Seeing my frozen face, she added, “I don't want to do it today. Perhaps another time?”

From here we reached a sign saying Kingsand 1 mile and retraced our steps along the Minadew where we sat on a bench and ate the last of our sandwiches. This walk is full of beauty - the sheer size and scope of the parkland, the water and the woods – but wrap up warmly, for it is exposed on all sides.

We'll definitely come back to this forgotten area of Cornwall: we want to explore the villages, which boast several pubs and art galleries, as well as the many and varied walks. “Though we'd better get in training,” said Viv, sharing a biscuit with the dogs. “With the SAS.”

OS Map 201 Plymouth and Launceston
Length: Approx 3.5 miles
Time: 2 hours
Grade: - some very steep hills, can be extremely muddy.
Refreshments: Rising Sun Inn and Cross Keys -
and plenty of other pubs
Mount Edgcumbe House and Garden – 01752 822236
A passenger ferry operates between Cawsands and Kingsands and the Barbican in Plymouth.
Whitsand Bay, the longest sandy beach in England, is nearby.
Parking in Cawsands: £1 for 6 hours at time of walking.
Public Toilets next to car park in Cawsands.
Galleries -

CT July 2011

Magnificent Seven

Best for Campers

This is an ideal walk for campers, with several campsites within easy walking distance of both beaches. Polly Joke is a remote jewel nestling round the corner from Newquay’s brasher beaches, and this summer walk provides incredible views through the tamarisk trees on Pentire Head which is carpeted with red poppies in summer. From Crantock Beach, head up through the sand dunes past fields onto West Pentire Point, where skylarks soar overhead and rock pigeons swoop over the rocks. Drink in the stunning views before arriving at Polly Joke, where the soft sands beckon to families, surfers and dog walkers alike. The path winds inland over Cubert Common, while buzzards linger overhead, back to Treago Farm and along the road back to the Bowgie. Sit outside and watch the spray crashing off Goose Island, long waves rolling up the Gannel Estuary, and the misty outline of Trevose Head in the distance.

Best for small children
This beach is a children’s paradise, with fine golden sands perfect for building sandcastles and swimming. The walk is also suitable for small feet if you can bear to leave the tempting rock pools. From Daymer Bay, head out towards the Norman church of St Enodoc Church which was buried in the sand for many years and is the final resting place of John Betjeman. Keep an eye out for golfers as you cross the golf course and head towards Rock where you can stop for a drink in one of the many pubs, or catch the ferry over to Padstow. Wander slowly back through the sand dunes and look out over the Camel Estuary and the famous Doom Bar, which has wrecked over 600 ships since records began 200 years ago. Arrive back at Daymer Bay in time for a paddle and an ice cream – and back to those wonderful rock pools.

Best for exclusive hotels
St Mawes can be reached via the King Harry car ferry from Feock or by passenger ferry from Falmouth, both providing the feeling of coming abroad to this seaside town popular with those wanting a special holiday in one of the exclusive hotels. An easy walk rambles along Cliff Drive, past apricot coloured roses and walls of tumbling rosemary to St Mawes castle, where the sea sparkles and shimmers in the summer sunshine. Meander along Newton Cliff and pause at the top to look out over Falmouth harbour and the docks. On a Saturday afternoon watch dinghies, yachts and all manner of seagoing vessels race on the river Fal, or go for a sail yourself. Return in time for a cream tea or a cocktail. In these stunning surroundings, any of the exclusive hotels in St Mawes will ensure that your stay is unforgettable.

Best for painters
When the painter Lamorna Birch came to stay here, he decided to take the name Lamorna, so stricken was he by the quality of the light and the stunning seascapes. He was closely followed by other painters who made up the Newlyn School of Painting, and this walk, starting in Mousehole, shows the wonderful views that inspired them. Take in Lamorna Pottery, and their fabulous coffee and cake, before walking down to Lamorna harbour where Carn du headland lies to the left. On a clear day look out over to Tater Du lighthouse and you may see the satellite dishes of Goonhilly in the distance. The path passes through Kemyel Crease, up and down incredibly steep steps before arriving back in Mousehole. Enjoy the magical views out over Mounts Bay and St Michael’s Mount, then take time to enjoy the many galleries and craft shops here and in Penzance. You will return as excited as those famous painters of the early 20th century.

Best for seafood
Cadgwith hit the big screen with the 2004 film, Ladies in Lavender, starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith as two spinsters who rescue a handsome young man who is shipwrecked and washed up in Cadgwith. Visitors are constantly drawn to this tiny fishing village where crab, lobster and local fish are still caught. The village used to be famous as being one of the most important pilchard fisheries in Cornwall: the old pilchard cellar still stands on the quay beside the pub. Take time to wander round the village and enjoy succulent seafood for lunch. The walk takes in Grade Church, the second most southerly church in England, and continues past the unforgettable Devil’s Frying Pan, a collapsed sea cave where the sea funnels through a narrow arch at high tide – a spectacular sight in a storm.

Chapel Porth
Best for mesmirising views
Climb up from Chapel Porth beach and pause at the top of the cliffs to enjoy the views over the beaches of Portreath and Porthtowan. Further on, come to Wheal Coates, one of the most photographed mine engine houses in Cornwall, and one that adorned the cover of Daphne du Maurier’s Vanishing Cornwall. Further on, come to St Agnes Beacon, where bonfires are lit on Midsummer Eve and other special occasions and on a clear day you can see 30 church spires or towers. From the highest point look westwards to St Ives, and up to Trevose Head near Padstow in the north. Surfers and swimmers alike enjoy the excellent café at Chapel Porth, so return along the cliff path as the sun goes down. Sit outside the café with steaming mugs of tea and cake while nature paints a fantastic backdrop of yellow, red, pale blue and rose pink.

Best for hikers
This is one of the loveliest summer walks, which takes about 3 hours and shows the many facets of the Helford river at their best, with a good variety of walking through woods, fields and creeks. The passenger ferry from Helford Passage (check return times) will take you to the whitewashed cottages of Helford Village, then through Bosahan Woods where the sunlight sparkles white on ivy leaves. Round Antony Head, walk through fields of summer grass and look out at the many boats on the Helford river, then round to Gillan Creek, where beautifully restored gypsy caravans perch on the side of the river bank. Every Good Friday local families gather at the cockle beds around here to collect cockles and other shellfish. This tradition, dating from pre-Christian times, is known as trigging. Continue along the creek to Manaccan where a fig tree grows out of the church wall.

Best for cyclists, horse riders - and historians
This walk is perfect for a summer’s day ramble exploring the mines of this area, and parts of it are also suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. At 3 miles long, the Great Flat Lode was the longest and richest vein, or lode, of tin in Cornwall and part of the group of Basset Mines. World Heritage status for this area was granted in 2006 and has helped provide funding to interlink all the mineral tramway projects in this area. There are many interconnecting walks here, with beautifully preserved mine workings which are safe to explore and information boards provided. Visit Wheal Basset Stamps to find out how the tin ore was crushed, and further on visit South Wheal Frances and associated buildings, some as elegant and regal as cathedrals. These walks provide a fascinating mix of quiet grassy lanes, high open moorland and a sense of Cornish mining history that is all around.

Porth Joke campsite, Treago Mill, Crantock, Newquay, TR8 5QS. Tel: 01637 830213
Treworgans Holiday Park – Cubert, Wesley Road, Cubert, Newquay TR8 5HH. Tel 01637 830200.
Polly Joke is dog friendly all year round.
Daymer Bay - The Camel Estuary is a haven for birds and wildlife.
The Camel Trail winds from Padstow to Bodmin, covering 17 miles: bicycles can be hired.
St Mawes Sailing Club -
King Harry Ferries -
St Mawes Castle -
Lamorran Gardens open Mon, Wed and Fri, April – September 10-5.
Victory Inn – 01326 270324
Cadgwith Cove Inn – Cadgwith, Helston 01326 290513
Helford Passage ferry -
Ferryboat Inn, Helford Passage - 01326 250625.
Shipwrights Inn, Helford Village – 01326 231235
The beach at Helford Passage is not dog friendly in summer.
The Cornish Mining World Heritage Trails are free and easy to use.
Go to
There are several free car parks in the area but beware of open mine shafts with children and dogs.

CT July 2011


A very picturesque part of Cornish history

MollieDog and I went to meet Viv and Titch one sunny Sunday morning but our journey was delayed by a very special birthday – Viv’s neighbour, Alice, was 100, so we had to call in and sing Happy Birthday. Alice was more alert and sparky than the four of us put together, and on that sobering thought we set forth with our sandwiches for Lostwithiel.

On the A390, we headed east from St Austell and approaching Lostwithiel, continued past the traffic lights and turn right at the signed car park, just after the Royal Talbot pub. We went downhill past the fire station and parked round the back near to the park.

From here, we headed uphill out of the car park to cross the main road and took the first right (Duke Street) past the Royal Talbot, boasting a plume of wisteria outside. Duke Street was long, narrow and very steep – at the first junction we continued right past a house called Mount Pleasant on the right. We struggled on past bluebells, primroses, campion, and a plethora of dandelions – or dandelion clocks - which seem to be exceptionally prolific this year. Lords and Ladies (“I thought that was an Arum,” said Viv) nestled in between celandines, overhead birds sang undisturbed by traffic, and all was right with the world – except for the hill that continued up and up.

Eventually, about 100 yards up from the school, opposite Knights Court was a Public Bridleway on the left which we turned into with some relief and passed through a metal gate leading to a narrow, leafy lane. Through another wooden gate we continued along the path where a slight breeze ruffled the baby ferns, shyly unfolding their new leaves to a warm spring morning.

Viv picked a small flower that she thought was a Scarlet Pimpernel but as it was purple, decided it probably wasn’t. It survived the journey home but has so far defied categorisation. The path continued steeply downhill towards a road where we turned right and looked out for a turning ahead. The turning was a long time coming – “You can tell the person who wrote this walk hasn’t done it,” growled Viv, muttering expletives as the road continued up and up, steeper and steeper. The banks were full of the sweet lemony scent of primroses, and in an orchard nearby were a cluster of Gunnera-like nightmare rhubarb.

Eventually we found the turning on our right past a signpost to Lostwithiel, and shortly after a Public Footpath sign on the left through a wooden gate. This led to a path with the most fabulous views over the fields and woodlands, with Restormel Castle peeping out from a cluster of trees.

We vowed to learn more about birdsong, as the birds were so loud they drowned out our chatter. We continued over a ladder stile into a field with a ridged section at the top, with views over Lostwithiel golf course to the right, and Restormel Castle growing nearer. The air here is pure and clear and there is a tremendous, almost giddy-making sense of breadth and depth, of space and height. It’s a place to bring visitors from cities, turf them into the field and say, “Breathe!”

At the end of this field was a notice indicating the footpath through a gate and we turned left into another field then another ladder stile at the end that led into another field. This path, on the right hand side of a field, led through a wooden kissing gate and another very steep ladder stile into a field of sheep (put dogs on leads) - and finally below us was Restormel Castle and car park.

The wealth of Lostwithiel, once the administrative centre of Cornwall, relied on the Cornish tin trade but it was this that caused the decline of the town when the River Fowey silted up with tin waste: as the port of Lostwithiel declined, so did the importance of Restormel Castle. The 13th century circular shell-keep of the castle stands on an earlier Norman mound surrounded by a dry ditch, on top of a high spur beside the River Fowey. It was once a luxurious residence to the Earl of Cornwall and built in the largest deer park in Cornwall.

During the Civil War in 1644, on 21st August, Sir Richard Grenville took the castle from the Roundheads. After this it became ruined and is now in the care of English Heritage – the principal rooms are still in amazingly good condition.

Many thanks to Lorna Trevallion-Law who allowed us in so we could take pictures of the castle and enjoy the wonderful views over the surrounding countryside from well placed benches while we had our picnic. As usual I’d eaten mine so Viv gave me a spare hot cross bun which I felt duty bound to share with Mollie – we have an agreement. We called in to see Lorna on the way out and Mollie and Titch had a good nose round the well stocked shop where poor Lorna was recovering from a bad bout of bronchitis. We nearly succumbed to an ice cream but as we were without cash this proved a good deterrent and the dogs made do with a welcome drink at the dog bowl provided.

Having made more friends, we left the castle, walked into the car park and down a steep narrow road. By this time we had discarded jumpers as the sun was quite strong and we felt smug as we passed various walkers puffing their way up this road – we’d done our fair share of hills for the day.

At the bottom of this road was Restormel Farm and we turned right, hoping to find a footpath to take us back to Lostwithiel. We ended up having to return on the road but we had plenty to look at along the way – the wind rippled through ridges of pine trees towering in the woods up on our right, sounding like a fast running river, while water meadows full of placid sheep lay on our left. At a hole in the wall we noticed two cock pheasants, vying each other for some food. We’d hoped there might be a bit of action but they merely lunged at each other before waddling and squawking off in a huff.

This road was apparently the Royalist route from the castle back to Lostwithiel, but today the road passed Lostwithiel Bowling Club, where the first bowlers of the season enjoyed the peace of the emerald green lawns with Lostwithiel golf course as a backdrop. Soon we reached the outskirts of Lostwithiel and the road led us back to the main road near the Royal Talbot pub. We crossed the road and walked as far as the bridge over the River Fowey, where we found a path on our right which led back along the river bank. The dogs could scamper here off the lead and we basked in the afternoon sunshine, watching for any tales of the riverbank, while a train rumbled by in the distance. A perfect end to a beautiful spring walk.

OS Explorer Map 107 St Austell & Liskeard
Length: 3.5 miles
Duration: 2.5 hours to include visit to Restormel Castle
Grade: several very steep hills. - check website for opening times. Dogs and children are welcome.

Cornwall Today May 2011