Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 18 August 2012

South West Coast Path - Par to Mevagissey

Charlestown

A 10 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Par and Mevagissey.

With the highlights of Charlestown and Mevagissey this walk holds a lot of expectation. This particular walk details an alternative route to the official Coast Path due to poor weather conditions. Always put safety first. Unless one knows the path well caution should be taken during times of dense fog and or heavy rain especially on some of the more challenging parts of the Coast Path.

Par Station to Mevagissey Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Par StationView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
MevagisseyView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
10 miles
Walk difficulty
The official coast path is challenging but this route is easy

Accommodation:

Bay View Caravan and Camping SiteView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
Bay View Camping and Caravan site, located 2 miles east of Looe

Transport:

First Great Western - Train Service
Service Number
93 - First Great Western trains, Looe to St Austell changing at Liskeard
Timetable
Western Greyhound - Bus Service
Service Number
526 - Western Greyhound Mevagissey to St Truro
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2012-06-26
Walk Time
09:00 to 14:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Dense Fog throughout

Walk Notes

This was the third day of a two week walking holiday along South Cornwall section of the South West Coast Path based at the Bay view Campsite near Looe

Fog, fog and more fog

The day started with fog. Thick dense fog that drifted in the air current but didn't seem to wet the surroundings. We took the car down to Looe Station from the campsite, headlights glaring through the fog. The scenery on the train journey from Looe down to Par was marred with fog, visibility varying from the track-side trees to being able to glimpse outlines of the hills. The walk from Par Station down to Par beach was through thick fog. One doesn't really expect such fog in June. Fog is an autumn weather, not summer. However, we had experienced fog the previous year walking the south coast of Devon and it generally cleared as the day wore on, so there was a little expectation of the fog lifting.

The official path follows the A3082 towards St Austell, navigating around the front of a china clay works, then heads to the cliffs along Carlyon Bay. There was definitely a cliff edge and beyond was the sound of the sea though despite these cliffs only being 20-30 metres in height the fog masked any view of the briney below. At least this part of the walk was easy to navigate on fairly level ground with a broad expanse of grassy path that continued onto a golf course. Ghostly silhouettes of a group of hardy golfers idled along, dragging caddies behind them, determined to outdo the weather. My mind boggled on how they managed to locate their balls in such weather and for a few brief minutes we watched the apparitions pass by in the opposite direction. They plodded on. No sign of playing a shot. Maybe they were spending their morning in the not-so-popular sport of ball-location rather than golf.

The path came to a field of overgrown grass with an hotel on its right hand boundary. There was no clear indication of where the Coast Path headed though the OS map depicted it exiting the field on the far left corner which was completed masked by the fog. There was no obvious track, no bared mud that evidenced a likely route, no trampled grass that pointed the way other walkers may have trod. The only indication of any wear was along the fence alongside the hotel and this lead to an entrance from the road. It was the easy option to take the road from where we could find the official route further up, nothing of significance would be missed in such dense fog.

Indeed, the official path waymarker was found where the road turned inland. A well trod path at the end of the houses led across a couple of fields and down to Charlestown along the cliff-top. The village could not be seen until the path turned into the cove to reveal the amazing sight of two ghostly tall sailing ships. These huge and impressive craft were docked in the quay and the footpath led round three sides giving a mighty fine sight of these historic luggers. At the far side of the dock was the Wreckers Restaurant and Cafe which was a good enticement to take a break, a cup of coffee and the chance to escape the fog, which by now, also had rain drizzling within it. I didn't think it could rain in fog but this proved me wrong. We needed to weigh up some options. The guide book detailed the route leading out of Charlestown by road then back down to the coast at Porthpean in order to navigate around eroded cliffs. I had read that negotiations were ongoing to reroute this along the coast but there was no obvious waymarkers. Then again, there could have been waymarkers but they were hidden in the fog.

So far we had attempted to stick to the official South West Coast Path route through both Dorset and Devon. However, one has to weigh up the conditions and safety concerns about continuing on this section. It had been easy going from Par but beyond Charlestown the OS map depicted a more strenuous route and the official guide states that it is a challenging walk. Having endured the slippy and overgrown conditions along the Coast Path between Looe and Par, one has to be a little safety conscious on the way ahead. On the whole the coast path is very well marked out but there are instances where paths lead away from the main track, some of which head to cliff edges. There were occasions where we had taken the incorrect path before as it is easily done. Given the foggy conditions, a false route or a missed footing could end up with unthinkable consequences. The path will always be around. There will always be other chances to re-walk the route. Studying the map, it was found that taking the diverted route out of Charlestown would lead onto a country lane that winded its way through to Pentewan from where we could assess the situation for the final couple of miles into Mevagissey. It would be unfortunate to miss out on some good walking and coastal views, but judging by the conditions so far the walking would be slippy and potentially overgrown and the views would be non-existent in the dense fog. We could not put off this walk as we had a schedule to keep, having already pre-booked the next campsite on the Roseland peninsular. It was disappointing to have to sacrifice this section, but one day we hope to return.

The choice to walk the lanes was probably the best decision we could have made. This was somewhat higher and not as foggy, the fog appearing to roll in from the sea and up the hills. Traffic was minimal and the going easy. At Pentewan the fog seemed to briefly lift a little and views across the Pentewan Beach could be seen. From here the coast path follows the busy main road then leads across the rolling hills back to the cliff edge. Having already trudged the road we decided to continue on into Mevagissey.

I have often been told that when foggy and wet conditions affect the south coast of Devon and Cornwall, one can hop across to the north coast and be bathed in sunshine. This was certainly disputed when we got to The Ship Inn in Mevagissey. A group of customers who came in after us, and who were obviously locals, spoke with the barman, relating how their trip across to Newquay resulted in worse weather than Mevagissey. 'Heavy rain as well as fog' they distinctly described. So it is not always the case of the north coast is better! We did spend a little more time in Mevagissey, which was crowded with tourists due to it being feast week, an annual event that has been celebrated for hundreds of years. It was originally held in December each year but was moved to June in 1752 when Mevagissey adopted St Peter as its patron saint, whose traditional feast day to mark the saints martyrdom is 29th June.

Return to Looe

All in all it had been a disappointing day. We caught the bus to St Austell and then got the train back to Looe by which time the fog was clearing and there was even a few signs of blue sky. Before returning to camp, and with it being the last night at Looe, we decided to celebrate with a pint of beer. Looe has a few pubs of which we had visited four during our short stay. Sauntering through town we soon came to an establishment that we had yet to visit, Ye Olde Fisherman's Arms on Higher Market Street is reputed to be the oldest pub in Looe dating from the early 17th century. From the outside it certainly looked the part and this was enough enticement to provoke us into stepping inside. We were greeted with a timbered ceiling and undressed stone floors with music playing to the bar devoid of custom. An unkempt barman slothfully leaned up against a cluttered bar-top opposite the main entrance, head down, chewing on gum and reading a newspaper. Undeterred, we ventured across the dark and dingy surroundings. There was one ale on. Sharps Doom Bar. I politely requested two pints. The barman looked up and eyed me like a man disturbed. He muttered, hobbled up the bar, leaned down to retrieve two musty glasses and set about the laborious and painful task of pulling the pump. We watched hesitantly. Nerves were on tenterhooks as the beer slowly drooled into the glass with each pull of the pump. We watched, hoping, praying, silently pleading that the barman's slobbering gum-chewing mouth did not exude spittle into our beer. It was not a pretty sight but with two pairs of hawk-eyes intently staring at the scene we were confident that our final pints were gob free. We paid up and made our way to the window seat from where we scanned over the surroundings. Clearly the place had not been cleaned for days, weeks, maybe months. The place smelt strongly of dog, and that is saying something for a person who has little sense of smell. The offending mangy mutt lay on the opposite side of the room in front of a large stone fireplace. The pint of beer was pleasant enough. Not outstanding but as good as any other run-of-the-mill pint of Doom Bar I have tasted. However, the thought of spittle, the essence of dog and the musty atmosphere was not conducive to savouring the ale and discussing its merits. It took a matter of minutes to sup up and get out of the place.

During that evening we did have a look at the footpath leading through to Seaton which we had diverted from on the first day due to torrential rain. It was slippy, wet and muddy. Not impassable for the determined but enough to convince us that the days road diversions in the fog would have seen similar conditions over more challenging paths. A camper had discreetly pitched in the scrubland by the path. We had heard he had walked away from Bay View campsite when quoted the price of a pitch. It was the same price whether one was a hiker or had a huge tent and a motor. Ok for us treating it as a base-camp but a short overnight stay did seem a little steep at £17 for the night. He sat poking out of his backpack tent, brewing something up on a little stove. He did not acknowledge us, nor did we him.

A rare scenic view on this foggy section, looking across to Black Head from the road out of Pentewan
A rare scenic view on this foggy section, looking across to Black Head from the road out of Pentewan

Directions

Follow the well marked South West Coast Path trail which is marked with the usual National Trail Acorn waymarkers.

Alternative Route from Charlestown to Mevagissey

At Charlestown the official route is diverted out of the village along the road. At the junction turn left. The official route then takes the next left back down into Porthpean. When weather conditions are unsuitable an alternative route can be taken by continuing along the road rather than going back down to Porthpean. This road goes through to Pentewan and does pass the field containing Castle Gotha, a small Iron Age oval shaped settlement, originally with a bank and ditch around it.

The alternative route meets back with the official Coast Path route at Pentewan and follows this out of the village along the main B3273 Mevagissey road. Continue along this road to the top of the hill from where a quiet lane leads down into Mevagissey.

Pentewan, very much a holiday village these days
Pentewan, very much a holiday village these days

Pubs

The Ship, Mevagissey View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Ship, Mevagissey
Website

The Ship Inn was built during the 17th Century and is one of two surviving pubs from that period when the town was said to have 10 pubs. It was re-built in the 18th century which has survived to the present day. The inn has five letting rooms, serves a range of St Austell ales and offers locally sourced home cooked food including fresh fish.

Review

Busy pub in the heart of the town. Dartmoor ale was on offer but the barman struggled to get a full pint stating that it was 'air in the line'. The ale was not its best, it wasn't off but it was lifeless and lacklustre. It was interesting to note that when the next customer asked for a pint of Dartmoor the barman turned the clip and stated that it was off. I would have preferred that he was up front with me. Surely a barman knows when a barrel is at its end. There shouldn't be air in a line anyway. Maybe in future I should ask for it to be changed.

A very foggy start to the walk at Par
A very foggy start to the walk at Par

Features

CharlestownView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Charlestown was originally a small fishing village called West Polmear until the late 18th century when it was developed as a new town to be named after a local landowner named Charles Rashleigh. The main function for the development was to to enable the exports of china clay from local quarries. By the time of Charles Rashleighs death in 1823 the family estate was in so much debt that all the leasehold property of Charlestown was used as settlement for the arrears.

Today Charlestown harbour is owned by Square Sail, a company that owns and sails a small fleet of tall ships, including Kaskelot, whose name is Danish for Sperm Whale, which was built in Svendborg, Denmark in 1948 and is the flagship of the Square Sail Fleet. Other ships include Pheonix and the Earl of Pembroke.

Charlestown harbour has been used as a filming location including the films The Eagle Has Landed and Alice in Wonderland, 1970s dramas Poldark and The Onedin Line and an episode of Dr Who called The Curse of the Black Spot.

MevagisseyView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The first recorded mention of Mevagissey dates from 1313 when it was known as Porthhilly, although there is evidence of settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. Towards the end of the 17th century, Porthhilly merged with the hamlet of Lamoreck to make the new village. It was named after two Irish saints, St Meva and St Issey (the "g" comes from hag, the Cornish word for "and"). At this time the main sources of income for the village were pilchard fishing and smuggling and the village had at least ten inns, of which the Fountain and the Ship still remain. The current harbour is built on the site of a medieval quay. There are currently 63 registered fishing vessels in the harbour worked by 69 fishermen.[citation needed] The harbour also offers tourist fishing trips and there is a regular summer passenger ferry to Fowey.

Mevagissey HarbourA rather interesting Mevagissey doorway
On the left Mevagissey Harbour; On the right A rather interesting Mevagissey doorway

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-16

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