49. Falmouth to Helford

September 2012

After the awkward travel arrangements on the last walk, this one was nice and simple, since there was a direct bus between Helford Passage and Falmouth, so need for multiple buses or ferries this time. Even more surprising considering it was Sunday, that there is a service to Helford Passage at all. I was staying on the Lizard and so decided drive to Helford Passage as it’s closer than Falmouth. I headed along the B3293 and then took the signed road to Gweek and on via Polwherval and Porth Navas. All the way the roads were narrow, barely wide enough for a single vehicle, let alone two and with many steep hills. I made it unscathed, but it was not a journey I would want to make very often!

I parked in the car park at the top of the village in Helford Passage and as I had a few minutes before I needed to head up the hill to the bus stop, I had a little wander around the village, which was quiet at this time of day. The bus arrives on time and does not take long to get to Falmouth. I’ve been to Falmouth twice before, but the last time was nearly 15 years ago and I don’t remember a lot about. I usually remember places quite well, so it made me wonder if the fact I couldn’t remember much was becuase it was not that nice.

I’m glad to say I was wrong. It is a larger town than I expected, but quite a pleasant one.

Falmouth

The main street is a semi-pedestrianised one, that runs for a surprising distance, with the shops running it’s length. From the bus stop it’s only a short walk along this street to reach the quay, From here there are all sorts of trips and ferries. There is even a “Park and Float” in Falmouth, so called because it uses a boat rather than bus to travel between the car park and town centre. There is a whole network of buses, ferries and trains around the wide Fal estuary, all integrated together and with a guide published and a smart travel card, known as a Mussel card. It is an impressive network.

Falmouth is situated on a network of rivers and creeks which all form a large harbour, Falmouth Harbour. Although not especially well known, it is in fact the deepest harbour in Western Europe and the third deepest harbour in the world. Despite this, it is not used by large ferries but has been used as a storage area for larger boats over the years.

It is a pleasant view over the river today, with the river being very calm and the sun shining.

The Fal Estuary, Falmouth

The Fal Estuary, Falmouth

I continue down the main street, cobbled in places, which is now filling up now that the shops have opened. The only downside is the street offers few opportunities to see the estuary, being hidden behind the shops. Further down a car park provides another opportunity.

The Fal Estuary, Falmouth

I soon come to another quay, where there is a little enclosed harbour, which is not especially busy. As I continue along the street, the shops start to thin out and the road becomes wider, a sure sign I am leaving the centre of the town. A little further down the road I come to a large car park and beyond it the National Maritime Museum, obviously a recent build and I can’t say I find the building too attractive, but the coloured beach huts outside are a nice touch.

The National Maritime Museum, Falmouth

The road carries on and soon brings me to the railway line. I make a mistake and carry on, reaching Falmouth Docks station and assuming this is the coast path. Instead I find myself surrounded by student accommodation on a dead-end. Heading back, I turn left on the road and left again along Pendennis Rise, now back on the coast path and above the station and student accommodation.

The road thankfully has a pavement and rounding the corner I have a grandstand view over the docks below. I had no idea Falmouth had a ship building industry, but it’s good to see that it does, and I could see a new military ship for the Navy under construction, although it was all quiet in the yard today, being the weekend.

Ship under construction at Falmouth

Just before the entrance to a Leisure centre on the right, the coast path leaves the road on a parallel path below and to the left. This heads through a small area of woodland and emerges at the end of the industry on the left, at a little beach at Middle Point. It is a beach of coarse sand.

Beach at Pendennis Point, Falmouth

Inland is the large and impressive Pendennis Castle. This is now owned by English Heritage and open to the public, and is one of many forts commissioned by Henry VIII to be found along the south coast. It was constructed to defend the entrance to Falmouth Harbour, along with St Mawes castle on the other bank of the river. I visited it once before when in Falmouth, but it was a long time ago.

The path now returns to the woodland for a while to reach Pendennis Point at the end of the headland. Here there is another old fort, this one obviously a more recent addition, being made of concrete and presumably from World War II. There is a large car park here, so it’s a popular viewpoint.

I can see the mouth of the harbour, where I will be walking later in the week, on the other banks.

Mouth of the Fal estuary

Mouth of the Fal estuary

Rounding the corner, I pass a tiny little beach, mostly rocky, pass through the car park and then have to return to the road, although it’s not especially busy. For parts of the way there is a large green and grass verge beside the road, which I walk on instead.

Falmouth is on a little peninsula at the mouth of the Fal (hence the name) and so I’m now returning to the town, this time on the south side of the peninsula. The north was mostly commercial, oriented around the harbour, the south is more of a resort, with a beach and the road soon being backed by hotels. This is Gyllngvase Beach, which is good enough to boast a blue flag, unusual for a port town. It’s quite a nice beach and the location near the estuary makes it sheltered and good for bathing.

Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth

The walk continues on the promenade (pavement) beside the road and above the beach, but at the end of the beach the coast path begins. It is a good path along the low cliffs, with the houses of Falmouth close to the right. After less than half a mile I reach another, quieter beach. This one is Swanpool Beach, which has a large pool behind it, called (can you guess?) – Swan Pool. This also marks the last of Falmouth, as I can see undeveloped coast ahead.

Swanpool Beach, Falmouth

The coast path initially follows the road around the south edge of the bay, but soon I’m signed off the road along a very wide, straight, private drive. This heads to a place called Pennance Point Cottage, and the coast path leaves the drive just before the house to run through a thin strip of woodland to Pennance Point.

This gives views ahead along the fairly gentle looking coast.

Pennance Point

Pennance Point

The path has climbed to Pennance Point and now begins to descend as I turn away from Falmouth and head west. I pass Sunny Cove, a rocky and sandy beach below and a golf course inland and soon glimpse the next beach ahead, Maenporth.

Meanporth Beach

This is a large sandy beach which as I approach I can see is beautifully unspoilt, with just a car park behind and little else. The map shows Meanporth Estate inland, which I suspect is a holiday park, but it’s not visible from the beach. The beach is fairly quiet and I sit at the back of the beach to have lunch.

Meanporth Beach

The path heads up from the beach at it’s south end and heads over a pleasant open grassy area giving good views of the coast I have been walking and ahead.

The path now heads along the bottom of gardens of the houses, I presume of the village of Meanporth. I soon come to a tiny beach with a path down to it, it is a mixture of shingle and rocks.

Parsons Beach

The coast path climbs away from this one and is soon at a second little beach, this one with an old jetty, called Bream Cove.

The path now climbs up again and passes through a couple of fields as I am nearing Rosemullion Head.

The path briefly goes through trees around Gatamala Cove and reaches Rosemullion Cove. I am pleased to see the coast path goes right around the edge of the headland, rather than cutting it off, as in so many places.

Rounding the headland I have a low rocky beach just below the coast path, Prisk Cove.

Rounding the corner I have another rocky bay ahead and the houses of Mawnan to my right. A view over the headland gives me a view of the Helford River ahead.

The Helford River

The Helford River

The path climbs to the headland at Toll Point, where presumably a toll was once charged, perhaps only for river traffic? It then descends to the little beach of Porthallack, which is a pebble beach.

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The coast path heads up into the field behind the beach and soon descends down to a second beach, this one Porth Saxon. This one is a mixture of shingle and sand and although lots of footprints in the soft sand, I have the place to myself.

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From here the coast path climbs onto a low path around the edge of the field and then into a small area of woodland, with the beach of Grebe beach below.

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The height gained on the cliffs above the beach give a good views over Helford river, a wide river lined with boats. The path soon descends down to the hamlet of Durgan, where the couple I was talking to this morning where staying. There is another sand and shingle beach here.

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There is a climb out of the village along the edge of another grassy field. There is a lower path, but I went up the field a bit to get a better view over the lovely river. It looks particularly good now that the sun is coming out again.

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The path then heads down steps and I am back at Helford Passage. The beach has filled up since the morning, but it is really beautiful here now.

Helford Passage

The Helford river at Helford Passage

I’ve made good time, so I spend a bit of time exploring the river and walk on to the next beach up the estuary, which is similarly beautiful.

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The Helford river at Helford Passage

At the end of the far beach is an isolated little thatched cottage which must be a lovely place to live. A couple are just heading out in canoes up the river. It must be a fun way to explore the river, although knowing me I’d soon fall in and get freezing cold.

This is a walk of two halves, the first being a largely urban walk around the town of Falmouth, but I enjoyed this bit more than I expected. The second one explores the creeks and rivers that feed into Falmouth harbour, and is a peaceful, beautiful and secluded cove. All in all, another enjoyable walk.

Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

First service 35 : Falmouth – Budock Water – Mawnan Smith – Helford Passage. Some bus continue to Helson. This bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday, but there is no service on Sunday any longer. It stops at the turn for Helford Passage, about 10 minutes walk from the village itself (because there is no room to turn the bus round further down, and it is a dead-end).

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

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2 Responses to 49. Falmouth to Helford

  1. Another great write-up of an enjoyable walk. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Had to like this one because it’s my home stretch! Although I have to say I don’t often manage to do the whole thing as often as I ever intend to it’s great to be able to just nip out for an hour or two and go round Pendennis Point or down to Maenporth and back. The Nansidwell-Rosemullion stretch is a particularly good blackberry spot.

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