48. Helford to Coverack

September 2012

This was my last day of this trip to Cornwall and as such I was making a little earlier start than usual, as I had the long drive home at the end of the day. However I rather underestimated how long it would take me to get ready in the morning and pack everything up. In the end, I ended up rather pressed for time as I had a bus to catch and just shoved everything in the boot of the car –  I would sort it all out when I get home. I soon set off from the campsite and it was less than 10 minutes drive to Coverack. There was a choice of car parks in Coverack, opposite each other. One was a Council run car park and the other a community run one, with an honesty box. I chose the latter, as it was cheaper and the money I paid would likely do more benefit going to the local community than the council.

I got my bag and set off for the bus stop, but looking back to check my car I noticed the hurried packing means the parcel shelf is not lying flat, and it’s obvious the boot is full. I’m a bit nervous of leaving it like that, even though it seems a very safe area. I open it and things drop out on the ground. I try to put it back and shove it all down, but it doesn’t have much effect. I didn’t really have time to repack it all as I could see that if I did the bus would come whilst I was half way through.  In the end, I settle for turning the car round and reversing into a space at the back, so it’s not so obvious when people walk past. This done I head to the bus stop and wait for the bus (and it was fine when I got back).

I have a complicated journey to get to Helford, and I want to get it done in the morning, so I can then walk back to my car without a potentially long wait for connections. I need to take two buses and a ferry to get to Helford. The first of these takes me to Helston. It turns up on time, but as we continue to Helston I soon realise the downside of the early start on a weekday – this is the school bus and soon fills up with school children. I should heave realised given the bus timetable says it runs on school days only. Thankfully they are better behaved than the ones local to me, so it’s not too bad. I have a 6 minute connection to make in Helston, but we’ve arrived on time, so at least I should make it. My second bus also arrives on time too, which is a bonus. This one will take me to Helford Passage, across the Helford river from my start point, Helford, but they are connected by ferry. I’m pleasantly surprised these villages have any sort of bus service at all really, they are tiny and remote. The journey is scheduled to take nearly an hour, as we twists and turn down narrow roads. I don’t think at any point there are more than half a dozen passengers aboard, but there is a driver and another member of staff, possibly a driver under training. As we are around half way there, there is an ominous grinding sound from under the bus. The driver stops the bus with the comment “what was that?”. They get off to have a look under and around the bus, but can’t see anything wrong, so we carry on.  I’m not sure if it was something loose on the bus, or if it bottomed out on the road, although the bus was pretty old. Whatever, we make it to the Helford Passage turn. The bus doesn’t actually go down into Helford Passage itself, I suspect because turning round would be a challenge, and instead stop by Trebah Manor, at the junction for the dead-end road to Helford Passage.

I get off there, and walk down the fairly narrow road to the village. There is hardly any traffic, so it’s not a problem. Helford Passage is lovely, a pub and a few houses, and a lovely view over the Helford River.

The Helford river

The eastern part of the Lizard is a gentle coast, with a network of rivers, creeks and streams which ultimately form part of the larger Falmouth harbour. This means this part of the coast path features a lot of ferries, and I’m about to take one, across the Helford river. Without it, I would have to walk as far inland as Gweek, which would probably be a nice walk if there were any footpaths, but sadly most of the river bank is free from footpaths.

Helford Passage is the north bank of the river, whilst Helford is the south bank. The ferry services runs “on demand” between 1st April (or Good Friday) to the 31st October between 9:30am and 5:00pm, with an evening service often operating in the peak summer season (July and August). The ferry is not especially cheap, at £4.00 each way, but I’m very grateful for it, since it would be impossible to do this walk otherwise without resorting to an expensive taxi.

As I am wondering the road along the river at Helford Passage, I get talking to another couple, who are staying just half a mille away in one of the National Trust cottages at Durgan. They are also walking some of the coast path and are waiting for the ferry. On reaching the ferry terminal the ferrymen is there but tells us he is just sorting out a couple of people who want to hire some of the hireboats they also offer. That done, he soon comes and takes us over the river on the little ferry.

The Helford river

The coast path follows the track (a minor road), through Helford and soon to the village centre, where it becomes a public road. It’s a really pretty little village and wonderfully peaceful. I’m also impressed to see there is a pub (in a thatched cottage), the Shipwrights Arms, as this is a remote spot, but I suspect it’s also popular for boats so they probably get a good deal of custom from yachts etc. It’s not open yet, it’s too early, but there is a rather charming sign on the wall outside.

The Shipwrights Arms is under new and extremely inexperienced management. Please forgive us our many mistakes. This pub is not perfect but it is our pub and we love it. We hope you have a great time here”. How refreshingly honest and lovely. Most of the village consists of pretty white-washed cottages with a thatched roof.

Helford

The coast path continues on the road to round a little creek, the first of many. At the end of the creek there is a footbridge and a ford for cars to cross.

Helford

I stick to the footbridge, but I’m charmed by this place, it is so peaceful and beautiful. The bridge offers a nice view back down the creek, with the coast already out of view, even though it is only a short creek.

Helford

The path continues for a short distance on the road on the other side of the creek, but as this comes to the car park, it picks up a private track, which also carries a footpath. I soon get a good view back to Helford Passage.

The Helford River

This soon becomes the public road again, and descends down to the hamlet of Treath. Here the path ahead is signed as a permissive path (meaning the landowner allows it’s use, but there is no legal right to pass), so it’s good of them to open it up.

It’s a lovely path too, a mixture of woodland and low cliff paths. As I progress east, the river becomes even more filled up with yachts and assorted boats, making quite a floatilla.

The Helford RIver

The Helford RIver

Hardly any are moving, and it does make me wonder how often some of these move. After about a mile the path passes the rocky beach at Bosahan Cove. This is a quiet beach, backed by trees although I’m not sure if the water is muddy.

Bosahan Cove

This is quickly followed by a second beach, this one sandy.

Ponsence Cove

The path continues through the woodland, on a track, and comes to another little beach, Ponsence Cove.

The Helford River

These little beaches are a pleasant surprise, as I hadn’t really had this walk down as a good one for beaches, being largely along estuaries and creeks. The path now leaves the woodland and climbs up a little, to reach the mouth of the Helford River, and the headland of Dennis Head. Looking north, I can now see several other headlands, with the distance one probably being Pendennis Point in Falmouth.

The Helford River

The permissive path continues along the north side of Dennis Head. Here a warning notice tells me “Keep to top of headland, around head and return along centre of next field. There is no path along the south side of the head”. So I do as I’m told and follow the path to the end of the head, and then back, just a few metres further south through the field. There is a signed shortcut, but that would be cheating.

The headland gives me good views back over the river.

The Helford River

Zooming in, I can also see Falmouth quite clearly, too. Looking ahead, I have another creek, this one Gillan Creek.

Gillan Creek

The coast path guide book I am using tells me that you can cross the river when the tide is low by stepping stones, but when the tide is high, you have to walk around. From the view above ahead, it’s not looking hopeful for the stepping stones and to be honest, I’m not sure of the tide, whether it’s coming in or out.

The coast path soon drops down from the headland to the little village (hamlet, really) of St Anthony-in-Meneage, an unusal name. Despite it’s tiny size, it has a church and obviously was once more important than it is today, since the parish which includes several other villages, is named after this village.

St Anthony-in-Meneage

These days, the village mostly seems to be focussed around boats, with numerous yachts moored up behind the little beach.

St Anthony-in-Meneage

I suspect there is no way across the river on foot but head along the beach to see, and then along the road behind the beach. I soon come to the official coast path sign, which shows the two routes. I can cross on the stepping stones to reach Flushing, which is ¾ of a mile or take the alternative high tide route, of 2 ½ miles, by going around the creek.

I head down to the beach where the sign points, but the river is still too high, and I can’t even see the stepping stones below the water, let alone see them above the water. I take my shoes off and take a few tentative steps into the water, but it is too fast flowing to consider crossing, and also looks quite deep. Still, it gives a good view back to the village.

St Anthony-in-Meneage

I realise I will have to walk around. The coast path is almost entirely on the road around the creek, but it’s a minor road and there is hardly any traffic, so it’s not a huge problem, and the road is pleasantly tree lined, with the trees crossing the road in places, making it like a little tree tunnel. In one place, there is a little permissive path, which I can follow right next to the banks of the river, rather than on the road, which is useful. Nearing the top of the creek, after a little under a mile I can see the houses of the hamlet of Carne on the other bank.

Gillan Creek

I’ve also realised the tide is going out, since the water is no longer right up to the edge of the creek, but further out, revealing muddy banks. Soon I go over the bridge at the top of the creek, and can now head back to the coast.

The head of Gillan Creek

Sadly the path on the south side of the creek heads a bit further inland, rather than right along the banks of the creek, which is a shame. From Carne, it’s quite a steep climb but it does give me a nice view back over the mouth of the creek to the Helford River.

Gillan Creek

About ¾ of the way along the road, there is a path off to the left, which descends through fields to reach the village of Flushing. This is not the only place called Flushing in the vicinity, as there is another near Falmouth, just to confuse things.

On reaching the banks of the river I return to the shorter route of the coast path, where again a sign points along the river. But I’m frustrated to see a laminated sign stuck to the coast path sign “Coast Path ferry ahead. To call please open board” (referring to a wooden board you open to reavel a coloured disk). How frustrating, there is a ferry over the river after all (but not mentioned in the coast path book, so is perhaps new), but the operators apparently didn’t think to sign it from the other side, so I had no idea, and now I’m across I don’t need it anyway.

Flushing has a rock and sandy beach, looking over the mouth of the river Helford.

The beach at Flushing

The coast path now climbs around the low headland to reach the neighbouring village of Gillan. Here there is a rocky beach, which appears to be unamed. The coast path follows the road (track) east through the village to a second larger beach with a rocky little headland at the end.

On reaching this, I get my last look at the Gillan Creek.

View back to Gillan Creek

As I head further east back out to sea I can now clearly make out Pendennis Castle on Pendenneis Point, at the mouth of Falmouth Harbour. This was one of Henry VIII forts, with another at the opposite side of the harbour at St Mawes.

I descend from the low cliffs to a small sandy beach at Parbean Cove and on to Nare Point, where there is a coast watch station.

Nare Point

The path goes right around the tip of the point and then heads south to Nare Head. This gives a view back to Nare Point and the isolated Coast watch point, but you can see why it’s here, since there is so much of the coast visible from there.

The view ahead is equally impressive, as for the first time I am on the coast proper, rather than a river, with cliffs and bays ahead of me.

View south from Nare Head

Porthallow, the next village, is also visible at the most inland part of the bay. The coast path is now living up to it’s name, running right along the cliffs passing Nare Cove, where the path cuts off a little corner. I continue along the tops of the low cliffs towards Porthallow. This is a great stretch of path, with good views all along it.

The coast path south of Nare Head

Soon I am looking down on the beach at Porthallow, which has a shingle beach lined with boats.

Porthallow

I head down onto the beach and stop here to have lunch. Whilst I’m having lunch something rather odd happens. A few young men who look like students, head down into the waters of the beach holding these poles with round disks on the top. I have no idea what they are doing, but it all looks a little sinister. I assume they are measuring something, but I hope it’s not radiation levels!

Porthallow

I should have asked them really, but I didn’t like to. After lunch I continued my walk but sadly the coast path ahead is not very coastal, it heads inland from Porthallow along the road to Porthoustock. But there is another place on the coast that it doesn’t visit, Porthkerris and missing out would be cheating, so I decide to take a diversion off the coast path to visit Porthkerris Cove. I can see a track marked on the map south along the coast there and I’m hoping I can follow it to Porthoustock.

According to my coast path book the powers that be are trying to negotiate a better coastal path here, but it looks like progress is slow.

There is a footpath marked on the map, but if fizzles out as a dead end before it gets to the beach, so I follow the road, which is also the official route of the path for around half a mile, until I reach the turning for Porthallow, which I take.

It does give me a nice view back down to Porthallow, too

Porthallow

The road begins to descend down to the beach at Porthkerris, when I pass this sign.

Porthkerris

Porthkerris

Well it doesn’t exactly scream “UK’s permier” to me! As I get further down and get a view of the beach I’m glad I came though.

Porthkerris

It’s a rock and pebble beach too, but a secluded and pretty one, backed by rocky cliffs. The beach stiles itself as a dive resort and the building here, which also houses toilets and a shop, is full of wet suites and various other diving bits of equipment. It was getting hot now, so I stopped on the beach for a drink and then planned my route onwards. There was a track marked up the back of the beach and I hoped I could follow this. There were some caravans parked here, some of which looked fairly permanent and I assumed this is what the signs advertising camping were about.

Porthkerris

I followed the path through the caravans, which became increasingly narrow and then came to a gate marked private. Damn. I briefly considered climbing the gate but decided I should stick to the legal route and therefore had to head back down to the beach and retrace my steps along the road, back to the official route of the coast path. As I reached the public road, looking left I could see the gate I was just the other side of, it wasn’t far away, which made it all the more frustrating.

Back on the road, I head down to Trenance and take a brief short-cut away from the road, with the coast path, to rejoin the road in Porthoustock. I’m a little ddisappointed with what I see, as there is a large concrete wall with a crane on it at the side of the beach.

Porthoustock

It is not the best first impression. The path takes me down to the road and a row of attractive cottages, where a very friendly black cat sitting on a wall comes over for a stroke. I pass the cottages and follow the road down to the beach.

Porthoustock

The reason for the concrete wall is that to the right of the beach is a large quarry and this was a harbour where the rocks where shipped out. There is another concrete wall at the other side of the beach now with rust all down it and obviously disused. This is marked as Batty’s Point and I can see there is another quarry, St Keverne, which is now disused so presume this was also a jetty used for ships when the quarry was operating.

The village itself is quite nice though, with the old lifeboat station behind the beach now a private house and several thatched cottages close by.

I then come across a sign.

An oxymoron?

Well it’s not really a coast path if the only option is “Inland Route” is it? I think this again indicates the fact the current route of the coast path is not the desired one and that a better route is planned (sometime in the future).

So as indicated by the coast path sign, I have to return to the road, as the large quarry south of Porthoutstock blocks access to the coast. The quarry is also now disused so perhaps at some point a proper path will be established in front of it. For now though, it’s back up the road. The coast path cuts a little corner off over fields and returns to the road to descend into the little village of Rosenithlon, which for some reason I didn’t take any pictures of, and then follows a track down to the beach, Godrevy Cove (not to be confused with the same named place near Hayle).

This has an isolated shingle beach, with grasses now colonising the pebbles at the back of the beach.

Godrevy Cove

It is very quiet and the coast path onwards from here lives up to it’s name following the coast once more. At the end of the beach the path becomes a wide track and goes right past another large quarry, again disused, this one being Dean Quarries. It is good that a coastal path could be established through this old quarry, so it’s a shame similar couldn’t have been done further north. Although the quarry itself is signed as disused I am not sure that it has been for long, since there are what looks like freshly quarried rocks piled up to the right of the path.

Dean Quarries

The tracks through the quarry also look to have been used recently.

Dean Quarries

Is it really disused or used only occassionally? Beyond Dean Point I’m surprised to come to a good sandy beach. This is Polcries, with another concrete jetty at it’s northern end.

Polcries

This concrete jetty has corregated iron along it, which is rusting away and numerous old ruins of concrete buildings behind – it’s a real blot on the landscape. Thankfully, Polcries marks the last of the quarries, and the path ahead becomes gentler, following the low cliffs. I can’t see any major hills on the route ahead to Coverack so I’m expecting to make fairly swift progress.

IMG_2131

As I leave the quarry area I see a sign warning blasting can take place any time between 10am and 6:30pm and warning will be given via a red flag flying and the sound of “A continuous hooter blowing”. So I’m still not clear if this quarry is really disused.

I can look back north over the old quarry.

Near Polcries

The low coast path goes around the aptly named Lowland Point where I am then heading west to Coverack, my destination for the day.

I was expecting this part of the path to be fairly easy as it’s not high and there are no major hills, but it proved anything but. The path seemed to be something of a boulder field, constantly having to climb over rocks on the path and between all the rocks was wet boggy mud.

Approaching Coverack

All in all, it made for a slightly frustrating end to the walk, as it took some time to negotiate the mud and boulders and arrive back at Coverack.

Coverack

Coverack is a nice village though, with a good beach and makes a good end point for the walk.

This was an interesting and varied walk, and largely one of two halves the first part around the creeks and rivers near Falmouth and the second a more traditional walk right along the coast albeit slightly marred by the road walking inland and the decaying quarries that rather scar this part of the coast.

Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk.

First service 35 : Falmouth – Budock Water – Mawnan Smith – Helford Passage – Mawnan Smith – Lamanva Cross – Treverva – Constantine – Gweek – RNAS Culdrose – Helston. This bus runs Monday – Saturday, but most buses to Helford Passage only run between Falmouth and Helford Passage, with just a couple a day on to Helston. The service between Falmouth and Helford Passage is hourly.

First service 36 : Truro – Porkellis – Helston – RNAS Culdrose – Mawgan Cross – Goonhilly – Coverack – St Keverne. This bus runs once every 2 hours, Monday – Saturday and 3 times a day on Sunday. If there are no connections possible to the Helford Passage bus, you could also take bus 2 between Helston and Falmouth and then the number 35 bus.

First service 2 : Falmouth – Penryn – Helston – Porthleven – Praa Sands – Marazion – Long Rock – Penzance. This bus runs roughly once every two hours between Helston and Falmouth, Monday – Saturday only. The bus does run on Sundays, but only between Penzance and Helston.

Helford River Boats ferry : The ferry operates daily between 1st April to 31st October between 9:30am and 5:00pm to demand. There are sometimes evening services in July and August too.

Here are the photos from this walk : Main Link | Details | Slideshow

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2 Responses to 48. Helford to Coverack

  1. Another great write up. I did the same walk, but took two days! It was raining hard and continuously between Helford and Porthallow, so I got soaking wet. It was low tide at Gillan Creek, and I tried to use the stepping stones but chickened out half way across. Later I leart the locals don’t use the stones – too slippery – they just wade across.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks for your kind comments. Rain is the one type of weather I don’t like. Wind, snow, hot, cold I don’t mind, but rain does get to me after a while, especially when it gets misty too. I did wonder about wading the river, but I don’t really like to when I can’t see what I’m standing on. I note from the official SWCP site that the low tide route is currently closed http://www.southwestcoastpath.com/diversiondb/67/ so I assume the stepping stones have washed away altogether now. It was quite a nice walk around the creek anyway, so quite a pleasant diversion.

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