50. Place to Portloe

September 2012

My last walk ended at Falmouth. Falmouth, as the name suggest, is at the mouth of the River Fal, which is fed by a whole network of rivers and estuaries, to form a large and deep harbour. In fact, the 3rd deepest natural harbour in the world. Many of the creeks and rivers don’t have a footpath around, the South West Coast path crosses the harbour by ferry or, more accurately, two ferries. The first, from Falmouth to the small town of St Mawes on the other side, then a second ferry over to a tiny hamlet called Place, which is where I’m starting this walk.

Transport for this walk is something of a challenge (and has changed since I did this walk – see the end). Rather than start from Falmouth and take the ferry over the river, I decide to start from St Mawes. I prefer to drive to the end of the walk, park there and then take a bus back to the start, so I can walk free of time pressures. That is not really practical today, because I can’t make the transport work in such a way that doesn’t involve an hour long wait. I realise that the nearest place I can change buses is the village of Tregony, just off the Falmouth to St Mawes road (the A3078). I therefore decide to drive here, take the bus from there to St Mawes in the morning, then the ferry over to Place to start the walk. Then at the end of the walk, I will take the bus from Portloe back to Tregony, but it means making sure I arrive in enough time. Sadly, although the transport was difficult to organise for this walk, it is now even harder, as since I did the walk the bus service to Portloe has been rather drastically cut back.

I got to Tregony without any problem. There didn’t seem to be a car park in the village, so I parked on the main street, which had a small shop and a pub. I bought a sandwich and waited for the bus – I ended up with nearly 20 minutes to wait, as I allowed too much time to get to Tregony. The bus arrives on time, and should take me to St Mawes. The journey is going well until just as we are turning the corner shortly before the bus terminus at St Mawes, a Mazda car comes around the corner at speed and on the wrong side of the road. The bus driver swerves right to avoid it, whilst the car swerves up onto the pavement. Both the bus and car stop, and we narrowly avoided a collision. The women driving the car seems shocked, as does the bus driver and there are many calls of “what was she doing?” from the passengers on the bus. I never did find out, but can only wonder if she was not from the UK and briefly forgot we drive on the left! The bus carries on and we arrive unscathed at the harbour at St Mawes.

This is not the end of my journey though, as I now need to cross to the tiny hamlet of Place. Surpisingly there is a ferry, probably only because of the number of people walking the South West Coast Path and the bus arrives just a couple of minutes before the first ferry. I’m walking down to the harbour, when I see what I think is the ferry just leaving. I run and the boatmen sees me and comes back, which was nice (although he had left early). When I get on he is very friendly and explains he’d left a bit early, as a large group has phoned wanting to use the next ferry. He explains that the boat does not have capacity for them all in one go (and then says that actually it does, but he is not licensed for that many passengers, because it costs too much), so he wants to make two crossings, presumably without throwing out the timetable too much.

Departing St Mawes

As we approach Place, there is a rather ornate and grand house ahead.

Place House

I believe at Place there are two places the ferry drops you, a high tide and a low tide one. We are dropped at the high tide one, which is a rather temporary looking pontoon, floating on the river, known as Toddy Steps.

Place

Place itself is a secluded little bay, with views to St Mawes in the distance.

Place

The path goes behind the rather grand Place House and passes a pretty little church, which I have a look inside. Presumably this was used by both the residents of the main house and their staff – perhaps it is also the main church for the nearby villages and hamlets.

Church at Place

The path soon climbs away from the church along the low cliffs through woodland, with glimpses of the river below through the trees. Soon I descend down to the small beach of Cellars Beach, to the north of Place.

Cellars Beach, Place

The path cuts off the headland of Amsterdam Point (odd name), and as there is no path out to it, so do I. Heading west there are views back to St Mawes and soon, over the main Fal estuary, with Falmouth looking surprisingly distant, but giving a good demonstration of how wide the estuary is. St Mawes castle is also visible on the near headland.

Falmouth harbour

Looking a bit further to the right, St Mawes, on the other hand, is rather closer.

St Mawes from Place

It is a short walk to Carricknath Point, where the coast turns left, so I’m briefly heading south. I can make out Pendennis Castle on top of Pendennis point, on the other side of the estuary.

The coast here is gentle, with little in the way of hills. Rounding the corner pine trees line the coast leading to St Anthony Head. The weather is good and the coast looks lovely in the late summer sunshine.

Near St Anthony Head

I soon come to the sandy beach at Great Molunan, deserted this morning although it being nearly high tide, it is quite a small beach.

Great Molunan

Great Molunan

Ahead is St Anthony Head, and the parh soon climbs out onto this headland. I follow the path (not part of the coast path) out to the Lighthouse, right at the end of the cliffs.

St Anthony Head

The path then climbs away from the Lighthouse, and I take a path to the right, hoping this is the coast path. It climbs, to a bird hide but then turns out to be a dead-end. So I have to return and make my way up to the car park, where I find the correct route.

St Anthony Head

St Anthony Head

Now back on the correct path, it heads east and after a couple of hundred metres, reaches another headland, Zone Point. This marks the southernmost point of the Roseland Peninsula, as the land east of the Fal is known. The view ahead is rather spectacular.

View from Zone Point

The coast path now becomes a bit more rugged, as it rises to the higher cliff tops, and it’s a spectacular path running right along the cliff tops to reach the first main beach, Porthbeor Beach. As you can see it’s both a rather lovely beach, and given the remote location, there is no one on it. This is one of the reasons I love coast walking so much, discovering this beautiful and unspoilt beaches.

Porthbeor Beach

Here I’m less than a quarter of a mile from where I started, the peninsula being very thin. I’m pleased to see there is a path down to the beach (and now a dog walker on it), so I head down too, I’m always keen to visit the beaches.

Porthbeor Beach

It is just as nice as it looked and I stopped for a quick paddle. At the eastern end of the beach, there are rocks and some interesting geology. Sadly I haven’t got too much time to dawdle on this walk, so I head back up and take a look back over the beach.

Porthbeor Beach

Refreshed after paddling in the sea, I head back to the coast path. The coast path continues to hug the cliffs around Elwinick Cove, a rocky little cove, to reach Porthmellin Head, a low rocky headland, rather indistinguishable from it’s neighbour, Killigerran Head.

Around the bay I come to another beach, Towan Beach. Towan in the Cornish Language means sand dunes, although there aren’t really dunes here now, but presumably there used to be.

Towan Beach

The coast path from here is straight forward, a low path right along the cliff edge. This helps me to make fairly good time. Soon the path reaches Greeb Point and gives views ahead to Nare Head, far round the bay and the houses of the next village, Portscatho. The next mile or so is easy walking, with nice views around the coast to bring me to the next village, Portscatho.

Portscatho

Rounding the headland there is an interesting little church. I’m about to head into it, when a horrible yappy dog comes out and starts barking around my feet, so I quickly change my mind. Heading down to the beach, I stopped at the back of the beach to have lunch, amusing myself watching some people trying (and failing) to launch a yacht.

There is a small sandy harbour at the south of the beach and further up the houses are built right into the cliffs at the back of the beach.

Portscatho

I briefly take a look in the village centre, heading up the road to a pub called The Harbour Club, but there doesn’t look to be much of interest, so I return to the coast path. The coast path briefly follows the road out the town, as the houses back right onto the cliffs to the right. Soon the houses end, and I’m back on a path, with a fine view ahead to the next beach, Porthcurnick Beach.

Porthcurnick Beach

As usual, I head down onto the lovely beach which has only a few people on it, so there is lots of space. Once back on the coast path the other side, it is clear how close the beach is to Portscatho.

Porthcurnick Beach

There is a short climb up from the beach to Pednvaden and ahead I soon come to another beach, Portbean Beach. This time I have no choice but to go onto it, since it is the route of the coast path. The beach has soft sand at the back though, so would be passable even at high tide. There are dunes at the back of the beach and sand, but it is rocky at the shoreline, so not ideal for paddling.

Porthbean Beach

Heading up from the beach through gorse, the path soon returns to the low cliffs. There is another part of the beach ahead, and more distant views to Pendower. Once more, it is a good path right along the cliffs to Creek Stephen Point. Here the road has fallen off the cliff and is now closed, but the coast path is intact. This brings me to the wide sweep of Pendower Beach, which stretches for around 1 mile.

Initially there isn’t access down, so the coast path keeps to the top of the cliffs to reach the wooded valley of Melinsey. The path passes a rather odd building, what looks like a derelict hotel (it is boarded up), but it appears part of it still operates as a cafe, The Basking Shark.

Just beyond this the coast path heads down onto the beach but soon heads up onto the low cliffs. I decide to ignore this part and continue on the beach, as I can see there is access off the beach further up and I fancy the variety of a beach walk.

Pendower Beach

I think I made the right choice! I walk with my feet in the water, which is wonderfully refreshing. There is another larger hotel (The Nare) at the back of the beach. I soon re-join the coast path and climb back to the cliffs, for one last look at the beach.

Pendower Beach

This has certainly been a good walk for beaches! Ahead I find I’m not the only one enjoying the coast path.

IMG_2000

I manage to make my way through the crowd of bovines unscathed. I can see things get rather more rugged ahead, as I near Nare Head, which has some quite spectacular geology.

Nare Head

The path climbs gradually, but descends back more or less to sea level at Tregagle’s Hole. The path then climbs up to the tip of Nare Head. The walk is not so gentle now, as this is a high headland.

It’s worth it for the views back, though.

IMG_2005

Looking east, there is a rocky little island, Gull Rock (I think I can guess how that got it’s name). Thankfully once up on the cliff top, the path is fairly level, and it’s glorious walking along Rosen cliff, soon with another beach ahead, but this one is rocky. It’s called Kilberick Cove, but there doesn’t seem to be any access from the coast path to the beach.

Rosen Cliff

The path descends a little to go around the back of the beach, but still keeps at a fairly high level. As I round the back of the beach I can see there is a bit of sand near the middle of the beach. It is beautiful, peaceful and unspoilt. The coast path goes round Blouth Point at the north of the beach and just around this is another beach, although this one is entirely rocky.

Kiberick Cove

The beach is called Parc Caragloose Cove and the path descends down to sea level to cross a little stream on a footbridge. There is now a steep climb back up the other side to the high cliffs at Manare Point. The view back though makes the effort worthwhile.

Parc Caragloose Cove

Nare Point and Gull Rock can be seen. At the top of the cliff I can now see my destination, Portloe, ahead. It’s smaller than I expected but looks like a nice village. I’ve now done the last climb for this walk, as the path begins to descend, revealing more of the village.

Portloe

It is a mixture of stone buildings and white painted buildings. I thought I had made good time, but as I’m descending I see the unmistakable sight of a bright green Western Greyhound bus making it’s way out of the village. A brieft moment of panic when I think I’ve just missed the last but, but a quick check reveals it’s the previous journey heading to Veryan, where it will then come back (I hope). It was a gentle walk down to the village, and the small harbour and beach. It’s a very pretty village, like so many in the South West, located in a deep valley.

Portloe

Portloe

Reaching the bottom of the village, at the small beach and harbour I stop for a few minutes to enjoy the village, before I have to head to the bus stop. The bus stop is just above the harbour, so I sit on the wall and wait. Thankfully the bus arrives on time (it is the last one of the day) and it’s a short journey back to Tregony, where I left my car earlier. So despite the complicated transport arrangements, it all worked smoothly in the end.

I really enjoyed this walk. It was a lovely sunny late summer day, the coast was gentle and easy to walk, for the most part, mixed in with some lovely sandy beaches. Not as spectacular as some walks, granted, but still very enjoyable and a good introduction to the Roseland Peninsula.

Here are details of the transport for this walk, which is not easy. First the relevant services:-

The Falmouth to St Mawes Ferry : This generally runs twice an hour in the summer and hourly in the winter from around 9am to 5pm.

The St Mawes to Place Ferry : This runs form mid March to the end of October, generally every 30 minutes or so, from 10am.

Western Greyhound service 550 : Royal Cornwall Hospital – Truro Railway Station – Truro centre – Tresillian – Probus – Tregony – Ruan High Lanes – Trewithian – Gerrans – Portscatho – St Just in Roseland – St Mawes. This runs 6 times a day Monday – Saturday and 4 times a day on Sundays.

Western Greyhound service 551 : Royal Cornwall Hospital – Truro Railway Station – Truro centre – Tresillian – Porbus – Tregony – Bessiebeneath – Veryan. This runs 5 times a day Monday – Saturday only.

Travel Cornwall route 450 : Veryan – Portloe – Treviskey – Besseybeaneath – Tregony – Probus. This runs twice per day on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays and three times per day on Tuesdays and Fridays. There is no service on Saturday or Sunday. Sadly this is the only service now to Portloe.

First service 27 : Bodmin – Roche – St Austell – Probus – Truro. Hourly Monday – Saturday, no service on Sundays.

Now the bad news. Western Greyhound used to be excellent, but is not the company it was, and stopped running the 551 to Portloe. Cornwall County Council funded a replacement service, the 450 which runs to Portloe and to the nearby villages of Probus and Veryan to connect with buses on to Truro. However the service is very limited, with an early morning and evening bus and one extra service for shoppers on Tuesday and Friday.

If you are driving, my suggestion, which is only possible on a weekday, is to drive to St Mawes and park at the car park there. Then take the first ferry (probably 10am) from St Mawes to Place. to start the walk. At the end of the walk in Portloe, you must arrive by 17:34. At 17:34 take the Travel Cornwall 450 service to Veryan, arriving at 17:40. Then the bus departs on from Veryan at 17:40 and you need to get off at a remote place called Besseybeaneath, which is only marked on the 1:25000 Ordnance Survey maps, but is at the point where the bus reaches the A3078. The bus is due to arrive here at 17:46. Then take Western Greyhound service 550 at 17:56 (from the other side of the road) which will get you to St Mawes at 18:27. This is the last bus on both routes, so it would be a good idea to take the number of a local taxi company if you get stuck.

If you are relying on public transport for the whole walk, I suggest start from Falmouth take the ferry to St Mawes or from Truro and take the bus to St Mawes. Then the ferry to Place. To get back, take the 450 bus from Portloe at 17:34 and get off at Probus at 17:55. From Probus, take First service 27 to Truro, which leaves Probus at 18:10 and arrives Truro at 18:26. All of these buses are the last services, so again take the number for a taxi company in case of problems. From Truro there are trains and buses onto other towns in Cornwall.

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

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