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Friday, 21 December 2018

South West Coast Path - Roseland Peninsular Circular Walk

Place ferry

A 9 mile circular walk around Cornwall's Roseland Peninsular taking in St Anthony's Head and Portscatho.

A simple and not too strenuous walk around the tip of the Roseland Peninsular. This encompasses the section of the South West Coast Path between Portscatho and the ferry point at Place that provides a service across to Falmouth. St Anthony's Head lighthouse with its adjacent Military Battery and the village of Portscatho are the highlights of this simple circular walk.

Trewince Circular Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Trewince View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Trewince View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
10 miles
Walk difficulty
Fairly easy walk, a few climbs but nothing too challenging

Maps:

The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Accommodation:

Trewince Farm Touring Site Camp site View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
Trewince Farm Touring Site

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2012-06-27
Walk Time
14:30 to 20:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Dense Fog throughout

Walk Notes

This was the fourth day of a two week walking expedition along the South Cornwall section of the South West Coast Path, undertaking each section with the assistance of public transport to link the ends. This specific walk requires no public transport as it is a circular route around the tip of the Roseland Peninsular.

Base Camp

This was the day that required a change of basecamp from Looe down to Trewince on the Roseland Peninsular. This necessity was caused by the lack of public transport around the peninsular that could be used to link walks from Mevagissey down to the southern end of the Peninsular. This would require two day walks although there was some apprehension over whether the section would be completed on account of the miserable weather that had set in for the week. So far our expeditions had been ravaged with with days of rain, days of fog and one day of a near hurricane force storm. A British Summer? Certainly the worse Summer's walking weather over such a continuous period of time that I had ever endured in all my years. Without a doubt! The car journey from Looe to the campsite at Trewince was through varying degrees of fog and the weather forecast from BBC Radio Cornwall held little promise for the foreseeable few days with the prospect of fog followed by high winds the next evening. One of the tent poles had already fractured from the storm that had hit us on the first night, so on seeing the campsite empty apart from a solitary tent in the far corner of the field, we requested a change from our allocated pitch on the booking to one closer to the field boundary that had substantial hedges which would offer a little more protection against the elements. It has to be said that I have never considered myself as a fair weather walker having endured many a soaking over the years, but this lingering sustained bad weather was certainly disheartening. Even so, there was a schedule that we would endeavour to keep to and in the best of British spirits we would carry on regardless, making the most of what we had.

The Walk

It was early afternoon by the time tent was pitched and boots were laced ready to walk although this was all in the timescale of the plan. The lane from the campsite led down to the end of Porth Creek where a footpath follows the creek around to the Fal estuary and onto the South West Coast Path at a place called Place where the South West Coast Path adjoins the ferry across to St Mawes and Falmouth to continue the Cornish coast. This was easy walking through woodland although there were numerous slippery and muddy sections to negotiate. The fog varied in its thickness from pea soup to a hazy mist allowing a few brief glimpses across the estuary to St Mawes. As with the previous days walking there was always the concern of safety in such weather conditions. The walk around the creek to Place was all low level and clearly defined so there was little hesitation about setting forth along this. At Place one then ventures onto the Coast Path to round the bottom of the peninsular and navigate up to Portscatho. This did provide some concern as it would now negotiate the cliff paths in far from good weather conditions. The Guide Book did not indicate anything too strenuous and therefore it was a case of making sure we kept strictly to the path. With such foggy conditions it would be far too easy to venture off piste and encounter a sheer drop without knowing about it until it was too late.

As we headed up to St Anthony's Head the fog really closed in and the only visible thing was the light of the lighthouse which intermittently flashed across the scene accompanied by the low pitched fog horn. The last stretch up to the building itself was an asphalt path on which a host of people had congregated gazing out to a lifeless sea which could be heard but there was little view of it below. These crazy folk stood there for reasons unknown. Some with binoculars espying on the fog ahead. Some paying a little nonchalant attention to the white lighthouse building half expecting it to do something other than flash its light. It flashed its light again and they looked away, disappointed. Some were casually glancing down to the faded image of a tall sailing ship that sat anchored close to the cliff, sails down and no signs of life. It floated, swaying like a Marie Celeste, appearing and disappearing in the fog. Muttered conversation could be heard. Whispered words that seemed to diffuse into the fog such that the words became incomprehensible syllables. What were all these people doing down here? What were they looking at? What were they spending precious time doing? In the fog. What possessed them? Why possessed them to walk to a lighthouse and stop some yards before it and gaze into fog? A small fishing boat could be heard, its motor humming and then its hull coming into focus from the fog. The engine noise reduced and it drifted, bobbing up and down on the swell close to the base of the cliff. One could just make out the deckhands pulling up some lobster pots. Binoculars were directed down to it. What were they doing down there? The muttered conversation announced its presence. What were they doing down there? Then the motor started up again and off it scuttled into the nothingness of fog. The brief piece of entertainment was over. The hoards returned to their fog gazing activities. Strange people.

The path zig zagged up the cliff from the lighthouse to a car park and the St Anthony Tearooms, a pleasant cafe in the former St Anthony Battery cottages, which served teas and snacks in a typical English country garden. Despite the dismal day, the garden held a little bit of summer with plenty of colourful flowers and greenery and even the air had warmth to it despite the fog. The large pot of tea gave us four cups of tea, a welcome rest and comfort on such a dull day.

From the tearooms, the path leads around St Anthony's Head, past the old gun battery and onto the rolling hills. More folk passed us. More binoculars. More gazing into the vast empty beyond. Maybe they were fog enthusiasts and this was a particularly rare type of fog, and we, being uneducated in the matter of fog distinction, were oblivious to the fact that here, on this very day, we were walking through a very rare strain of fog, the likes of which can only be experienced once in a blue moon if one was lucky. Maybe even rarer than that. And we were oblivious. The uncultured souls that we were. Rare Fog and we knew absolutely nothing about it, it just looked like plain common or garden fog to our unaccustomed eyes.

As we rounded the corner of Zone Point and started our way to Porthmellin Head we met a middle-aged lady ambling along in the opposite direction. She offered a comment on the weather as a precursor to conversation. We all halted. Never known a summer like it, was the phrase that broke the fog, and she asked if we were there to see the racing. Racing? What Racing? Didn't we know this was the much awaited racing of the J-Class Yachts around the coast and up the Falmouth estuary. I glanced around. Fog! It was a little better yesterday but I don't think I will see anything today, she related. I looked out into the fog again. Squinted. No sign of yachts, just fog. They ARE racing today, she emphasized. J Class Yachts. Large vintage sailing vessels built between 1930 and 1937 and originally sailed by the wealthy elite to compete in the America's Cup. A unique and mighty fine sight to behold. If the fog allowed. The realisation dawned. These hoards of people were not fog enthusiasts but had come to watch the yacht racing. The sailing vessel we had seen by the lighthouse must have been one of those yachts. There was still another two days of racing to go. Hopefully, the lady optimistically spoke, the weather will lift. I only hoped the weather would lift to be able to see a little more scenery. We left her, still longingly looking out to sea, hoping to catch a glimpse. Somewhere out there was a yacht race in progress.

Despite the fog, the walk through to Portscatho was a very pleasant and easy stroll along the cliff-tops with some limited views of Towan Beach, where there was even a few people paddling despite the gloom. The route entered Portscatho through a gate that led from a grassed field onto a paved path. A family looked onwards from the gate in the direction we had walked from, dubious as to whether to continue. The man asked us how far we had walked and on relating our days progress, they stepped back with even more apprehension as to whether to continue. We left them debating whether to proceed. I wished we could have encouraged them to step forward to the challenge. It was a good easy walk despite the gloom.

Portscatho was quiet. Very quiet. A car drove past as we meandered around the quay. The tide was out. A seaweed covered slipway led to the vacant beach. Slipway was an apt description with the oily seaweed making it virtually impossible to stand upon. And it smelt. It must have been a right stench as my ineffective nostrils even caught a whiff. An old man walked by as we wandered around to River Street where there was easier access to the beach. The mist lurked. Kat paced across the firm damp rippled sand to dip her feet into the tranquil waters and clean her muddy feet.

Behind the quay, on the road up to Gerrans, was The Plume of Feathers, a pub with a few wooden benches set on the pavement. Inside, it was comfortably busy, surprising with it only being 5.30 on such a deserted and dull Wednesday afternoon. There was a single vacant table with two chairs at the far end of the lounge, its presence beckoned us to take the weight from our legs. Adjacent to this table, next to a doorway with steps down into another room, a young couple lounged on the seats against the wall. Talking. Happily exchanging their plans for the evening. Relaxed and no air of formality. The soiled walking boots, the loose trousers and the well used old canvas rucksack gave away the fact that they were most likely walkers of some description. Definitely not fashion walkers who gear up in these modern scientific bright coloured fabrics. These looked like true country ramblers. Their conversation jostled with ours and we were soon mingling our talk between each other. I could not help but notice the distinctiveness of the dude. He was a dude. Tied back hair and what can only be described as a very funky long thin curling moustache on such a young face. A real dude of the first degree. I hate to be stereotypical but any dude with such an exquisite characteristic as a funky thin long curling moustache on a young face had to have a camper van. They did have a VW camper van. It was parked up at St Anthony's Head and they had to get back there along the coast path which they were sure was going to be a pleasant evenings stroll. However, they were holding on for food to be served which did not begin until seven o'clock. That meant idling the time with a beer or three. They got more beer in. He was on the ale and she was drinking small glasses of coke. They loved walking. They loved the outdoors and the freedom it provided. They loved Cornwall. A few years ago, during his university years, he had spent a summer walking the entire length of the South West Coast Path in one long arduous hike with just a bivouac for shelter and eating cheaply from cafes and corner shops. The complete 630 miles. All the way from Minehead to Poole. That was a talking point. I had to admire anyone who walks 630 miles in one go. It was a wish of my own, an ambition to fulfil, but time and economics always put a block on such an expedition. Maybe one day.

I cant remember a single thing about the Roseland Peninsular from that walk, he admitted. Even this visit had not jogged memories and it was like a brand new experience for him. The downside of walking the whole length of a National Trail in one go is that it soon becomes a challenge to reach the end and little else. One cove soon blends into the next and then all the coves look pretty much the same as all the other coves, just another descent and ascent back to the cliff-top. One small fishing village becomes much the same as all the other small fishing villages that is passed through without investigation or exploration. A headland becomes an additional couple of miles to get around before continuing in the ultimate direction of the destination. The walk just becomes a walk, a challenge, a means to get to the end. You don't get to know the places one passes through. I had to agree with such a statement. One can never know a path properly until one explores it. That is why they had returned. To discover this fantastic path a little more. To experience another aspect of it and to discover a little more of its secrets. To know a path properly one has to walk it many times. Forwards, backwards, in Spring, in Summer, in Autumn and in Winter. In rain, in sun, in fog, in snow. And even then, even after you have walked a path so many times, a hundred times, a thousand times even, when you think you know every inch of it intimately, it will surprise you with another hidden gem, another sight that you had not seen before. That is the nature of paths. One can never tire of a good footpath.

The food started being served and our conversation stopped. We heartily ate our fill before departing with just a simple goodbye to the awesome VW campers. The walk continued up to St Gerrans and after a quick pint at The Royal Standard we headed along the lanes back to the campsite. It was a good day despite the fog. One lighthouse. No yachts. Lots of fog. One dude with an awesome long curling moustache. That is what this is all about!

A medieval coffin, not a very common sight on the South West Coast Path
A medieval coffin, not a very common sight on the South West Coast Path

Directions

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

Walk around Porth Creek

The lane from Gerrans down to St Anthony leads past the Trewince Touring Site. this descends down to the end of the Porth Creek and a footpath sign on the right leads into the wooded area. Keep to the footpath along the edge of the creek ignoring other paths away from the edge. This eventually joins the South West Coast Path at Place Ferry.

From the Ferry follow the National Trail acorn waymarkers along the coast up to Portscatho.

Place house
Place house

Pubs

The Plume of Feathers, Portscatho View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Plume of Feathers, Portscatho
Website

A delightful 18th Century pub offering a warm welcome throughout the year. A varied menu using locally sourced produce where possible seven days a week. A St Austells house, there are the usual St Austell ales on offer.

Review

St Austells Tribute and Dartmoor Ale were both on offer and both very nice beer indeed. Tribute appears to be available across the UK so the Dartmoor is a little more special and is a wonderful hoppy session beer. The pub soon filled up after 6pm with people arriving for dining. Luckily we got our orders in early and the food was excellent, a special of locally caught mackerel with boiled potatoes and vegetables, which was well worth the wait.

The Royal Standard, Gerrans View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Royal Standard, Gerrans
Website

The Royal Standard was built in 1793 by local blacksmith William Pearce on a piece of waste ground owned by the Enys Estate. The large first floor room has been used as a School Room, a Picnic Room and for village meetings. In times gone by beer was brewed on the premises and there was stabling for horses and also a skittle alley. The pub became a freehouse in April 2012 and offers a Sharps ales Cornish Orchard Cider which is a local brew. Occasionally offers locally brewed Wooden Hand ales, Pirates Gold and Cornish Gribben ale.

Review

Despite it being early evening hour the pub was packed with diners. There was a lot of banter going on between a group in one of the alcoved bars and the barstaff giving a very friendly and congenial atmosphere. Even at early evening hours there was no space to sit such is the popularity of the place. The only ale being served on this occasion was Sharps Doom Bar, this fruity little number being very quaffable.

A foggy Portscatho
A foggy Portscatho

Features

PlaceView in OS Map | View in Google Map

At the southerly tip of the Roseland Peninsular is the village of Place where the ferry departs for St Mawes and Falmouth. The most prominent part of the village when walking up from the ferry is Place House, a French style Chateau built on the site of the former priory in 1861 by the Sir Thomas Spry. In front of the house is large pond which used to be the millpond to a tide mill that was built in 1540 and was used by the priory to mill grain. It was eventually demolished and the land filled in to provide gardens for the house.

Behind the house is the church of St Anthony, now maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust and dating from the 12th century. In the churchyard are a holy well and a medieval coffin, which was discovered when the chancel was rebuilt.

St Anthony's BatteryView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The battery which is on the northern side of where the lighthouse sits, was first constructed in 1897 and consisted of two sea facing gun emplacements that were in sight of other batteries at Pendennis and St Mawes to allow semaphore communication. A military road was constructed to access the battery. In 1904 the guns were replaced and it served as a Port War Signal Station and served throughout the first world war, eventually being withdrawn in 1924.

In 1939 the battery was rearmed and overhead covers fitted together with a hutted camp built to the north of the battery. The guns remained at the site until 1952. In 1959 the site was acquired by the National Trust and is now accessible to the public. The hutted camp has been demolished and the Officers quarters and armament workshop have been converted into holiday cottages.

St Anthony's LighthouseView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The lighthouse was built in 1835 prior to which the site had some rudimentary navigational aid such as flags. The original light came from eight Argand oil lamps, later being changed to pressure vapour and finally connected to the electricity supply in 1954. Today the light is automated, with a 15 second frequency and a red sector for The Manacles rocks and a range of 22 miles.

The lighthouse originally had a fog bell which hung from the gallery at the front of the tower was dismantled in 1954 and donated to a local church but, after many years of sitting on the church front lawn, was taken away to be melted down. This was replaced with a fog horn in 1954 which still sounds every 30 seconds when conditions are poor.

The lighthouse was featured in the UK version of Fraggle Rock, as "Fraggle Rock Lighthouse". Nearby St. Mawes also featured in some scenes from the programme.

St Anthony's Head LighthouseJ-Class yacht lurking in the fog
On the left St Anthony's Head Lighthouse; On the right J-Class yacht lurking in the fog

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2018-12-21

2012-09-05 : Initial publication
2018-12-21 : General website updates

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