53. Par to Fowey

March 2012

Unusually, I was doing this walk in early Spring, as I had some days leave from work that I needed to use before the 1st of April, so headed down for Cornwall for a few days, of which this was my last day. I was staying in the not very glamorous location of the Saltash Travelodge. Whilst the location, at a run-down service area was not great, it was cheap, clean, warm and comfortable, so served it’s purpose fine, and it’s a bit too cold and dark for camping at this time of year.

This being my last day, I checked out of the hotel and drove down to Par. Although a longer drive than some, this was a shorter walk and hence I expected to take less time than some – useful as I had the long drive home at the end of the day. I headed down the A38, passing Liskeard, and then forked left onto the A390 to St Blazey, then turned left onto the A3082 towards Fowey, which took me through Park. I was aiming for the beach car park at Par, but without an A-Z or a sat nav I was just following the road and looking out for signs to it. As I was doing this, I spotted a South West Coast path sign, as the road I was driving on was actually part of the path. I decided therefore the simplest thing to do was to just park here and begin the walk from here, which is what I did. This also had the bonus that for the last walk I had come down by train, so re-joined the coast path at the same point I had last time, making sure I don’t leave any gaps!

This time on reaching the road I continued straight on a footpath heading south to a private road in the china clay works. Crossing this I continued and then managed to take a wrong turn, ending up in a caravan park. Realising my mistake I returned and this time managed to find the correct turn down to another track, through pine woodland, where I turned left and then right to reach the beach at Par.

Par turned out to be a pleasant surprise. With all the heavy industry nearby, I hadn’t expected much. What I actually got, was a good sandy beach which, if you looked to the left at least, was also very scenic. Sadly, looking right, you have the chimneys and towers of the China Clay Works.

The coast path heads along the back of the beach, but as the tide was out I walked closer to the waters edge, on the hard sand.

Par Beach

Soon I reached the eastern end of the beach, where there were sand dunes and a good view back over the pleasant sandy beach. At the very eastern end of the beach though a stream flows over the beach, so I then head to turn inland through the dunes to the beach car park, and at the end of the car park, could cross the stream via a bridge. The coast path then ran alongside this stream in the edge of dunes, back to the coast. The height gained gave me a good view back over the beach and the steaming China Clay works at the end.

Par Beach

The path climbed fairly gently up the cliffs soon passing a little rocky cove below, joined to the main beach at low tide. Heading further south I got nice views around St Austell Bay, which looked more rural from here than I remember it being.

I soon reached another little beach, this one sandy and backed by cliffs. It was also deserted, although the lack of parking nearby is probably partly the reason – one of the joys of walking the coast. This is Booley Beach and there is a path down to the beach.

Booley Beach, Par

Unusually I didn’t take the path down to the beach, but carried on along the path behind it. Once up from the beach, the path briefly becomes flat, giving me a good view back to Par, now looking quite distant.

Booley Beach, Par

Ahead and almost vertically below me, I come to an unexpected little harbour, Polkerris. Again there is a sandy beach and there are no boats in the harbour, although a few canoes on the beach.

Polkerris

As I descend down the steep path to the beach there is more of a village here than I realised, including a pub, which the coast path heads right past. The beach is rather lovely and the sea so calm, with not really even any waves to speak off – I can see why it is popular with canoeists, who are now getting ready to head out to sea.

Polkerris

Polkerris

It’s a very steep climb back out of the village, as the coast path zig-zags back up the cliffs through a small area of woodland and reaches the cliff top, where there is a good view back to Polkerris.

Polkerris

AheaI can see the gently undulating cliffs leading to Little Gribbin and behind it, Gribbin Head. The coast path now is gently undulating and below there is a rocky little beach, with grey sand from the slate rocks, although I don’t think it is accessible without a boat.

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The good coast path continues right on the top of the cliffs and is fairly easy going. I soon reacht he small headland of Little Gribbin which is little and hence lives up to it’s name. Beyond this there is another unamed beach, this one sandy, and on top of the cliffs I can now see a red and white striped tower, like a lighthouse, but without the light on top. This is Gribbin Tower, and acts as a navigation aid for ships (during the day, at least, I don’t think it is lit a night).

Beach at Gribbin Head

The path just in front of a small area of woodland and then comes out onto the grassy area around Gribbin Tower. The tower is taller than I first realised and looks a bit like a lighthouse, even if it isn’t.

Daymark on Gribbin Head

The coast path cuts off the far end of this headland, but I don’t and take the lower path around it soon reaching a little rocky beach rather ironically marked as Sandy Cove on the map. Maybe there is some sand at low tide.

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The path then heads north on the eastern side of the headland through more woodland and emerges again to an open area with a lovely view. Ahead is the sandy beach at Polridmouth.

View north from Gribbin Head

The walking here is good as the path descends gently down to the beach. This is a quiet and secluded little beach, facing south and I imagine is something of a sun trap in the summer. There is grass and dunes at the back of the beach.

Polridmouth

The beach is rather split into two with a path over the rocks sperating the two parts of the beach. The second part has a large house, the owners of which I suspect would love for this to be a private beach. As it is, walkers have to go over stepping stones rather than the bridge a just behind the low fence, which is part of the private garden of the house. It’s a lovely peaceful setting though, although I suspect the concrete wall has been built to defend the house from erosion and detracts a little from the natural beauty.

Coast path at Polridmouth

The rock here is a sort of slate type rock, which breaks off into thin flat pebbles, which are dotted all over the beach. It reminds me a bit of the area around Lee Bay in North Devon. The path heads up from the beach through woodlaand out onto the grass cliff tops. There is a National Trust “Coombe Farm” sign indicating this land is in the care of the National Trust. I pass behind another small sandy beach, again, inaccessible other than by boat at Southground Cliffs.

Southground Cliffs

Looking back the white and red stripy tower on Gribbin Head is still very visible, which I guess is the intention.

Southground Cliffs

There is another steep descent around a valley and down to the secluded little beach at Coombe Haven. Beyond this I can see the houses of Polruan on the cliff on the other side of the river from Fowey.

Coombe Haven

This is another pretty little beach with a path heading inland along the valley to the road. The main coast path though carries on along the coast, with a climb out of the valley through the gorse and back onto the cliff tops. Ahead I can see Fowey, which looks like a typical Cornish village, with the white painted houses climbing steeply up from the cliffs.

Approaching Fowey

The path heads along cliffs to a rocky beach, Penventinue Cove. Just past this the path comes out onto the last headland before Fowey, where there is a castle (part ruined), St Catherines Castle. This is I suspect another of the Henry VIII forts, built to protect Fowey and Polruan in this case. There is a good view from the top of the fort and you can easily see why this location was chosen, given an un-interrupted view up the River Fowey, here another fairly wide estuary.

St Catherines Castle, Fowey

Looking across the other side of the estuary I can see the smaller village of Polruan.

View from St Catherines Castle, Fowey

Rejoining the coast path I descend through woodland and to the sandy beach at Readymoney. An odd name – I couldn’t help but think of Roy Walker from Catchphrase announcing it was not time for the Readymoney round (look it up on Youtube if you’re too young to remember). The beach also marks the start of the Saints Way, this is another long distance walk that heads inland from Fowey to Padstow on the north coast, providing a coast-to-coast walk through Cornwall. At the beach there is an odd turrted building and a good sandy beach. I stopped on the rocks at the side of the beach to have a late lunch and as I was heading away a man started waving and shouting at me and kindly pointed out I’d left my camera lens cap on the rocks. So I headed back to retrieve it. Oops.

Readymoney Cove, Fowey

Sadly this marks the end of the good paths, as we now have to follow the road the rest of the way into Fowey. It is a narrow road and lacks a pavement and although not busy, it’s not that quiet either. There are however a few benches and view points to enjoy on the way. I get a good view over to Polruan from one of them.

Polruan from Fowey

Looking across the estuary west of Polruan I can see the pretty wooded creek of Pont Pill, where there are just a few boats moored.

Pont Pill, Fowey

Soon I reach the quay, which marks the end of the South West Coast Path on this side of the river, as it now crosses to Polruan by ferry, although I’m ending the walk here today. Looking north there is a small sea-weed covered beach in front of the houses and many buoys obviously for boats which I presume have been removed from the water for winter.

Rather than immediately end the walk, as it’s still farily early, I headed north on the road (also part of the Saints Way) through the pleasant town centre and to the north of that, the view up the estuary. Looking south I have a good view back to the coast.

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I continue north and soon reach the lifeboat station at the north edge of the town, overlooking the small village of Bodinnick. I can see the blue painted Bodinnick ferry that provides a crossing for cars over the river, to the small village of Bodinnick. This is rather a remote village and it’s still a bit of a drive round to Polruan, so it’s a surprise the ferry still exists, at least as a car ferry. I wonder how many ferries there are around the South West coast? Beyond that I can see the docks. Fowey does still have a working harbour, although it’s north of the town. Here China Clay is transported by train (down what is now a freight-only line) from Par and loaded onto ships.

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Bodinnick Ferry and China Clay Docks beyond

 

The village of Bodinnick can be seen climbing steeply up from the river on the other side of the river, and has some unsual looking buildings, especially the one at the right hand end of the village.

Bodinnick from Fowey

This was a pleasant walk with some good scenery and being fairly short was not too challenging either. I was pleasantly surprised too, having not got a good impression of Par last time, despite the occasional industrial view, there was no industry to pass on this walk. Fowey is also a lovely little town to finish, with a pretty town centre and several pubs and cafes.

Here is details of the transport needed for this walk, which is easier than most – you even get a choice of bus routes!

Western Greyhound route 524 and 525 : Mevagissey – Pentewan – St Austell – St Austell Station – Par Station – Fowey. This bus runs twice per hour Monday – Saturday and six times a day on Sundays.

First service 24 : Mevagissey – Pentewan Turn – London Apprentice – St Austell – Charlestown – St Blazey – Par – Par Station – Fowey. Twice per hour Monday – Saturday between St Austell, Par and Fowey and hourly between Mevagissey and St Austell. No service on Sundays.

Here is the complete set of photos from this walk : Main Link | Details | Slideshow

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