Gorran Haven to Dodman Point

The walk follows the Coast Path from Gorran Haven around Pen-a-Mean to Vault beach, named after the wreckage that often washed up here. The walk follows the path around the bay to reach the daymark cross on Dodman Point. The route continues along the coast to Hemmick Beach and then turns inland along footpaths to Penare Farm, Treveague and descends into the valley to return to Gorran Haven.
The car park is currently closed at Gorran Haven. It might be easier to park in the NT car park at Penare and start the walk from direction 17.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.9 miles/7.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Gorran Haven
  • Parking: Gorran Haven. Satnav: PL266JG
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty fishing village of Gorran Haven
  • Panoramic views of South Cornwall
  • Sandy beaches at Gorran Haven, Vault Beach and Hemmick Beach

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the road towards the beach until you reach Foxhole Lane.

    Gorran Haven is a typical fishing village with narrow mediaeval streets and a sheltered place to launch boats: the beach faces East into a bay protected by headlands to the North and South. Prior to the 19th Century, the village was known as Portheast which is thought to be a corruption of Porth Just.

  2. Turn right onto Foxhole Lane and go up the steps. Follow the waymarked path until you eventually reach a kissing gate.

    In mediaeval times, the village at Gorran Haven was the primary fishing village of the area, dwarfing Mevagissey, and the quay has been rebuilt a number of times throughout its history. The first recorded use of seining for pilchards in Cornwall was here, in the 13th Century. Once drift netting became popular in the late 18th century, Mevagissey took over as the primary fishery and the quay fell into ruin but was rebuilt in 1886 and a period of crab and lobster potting continued until the Second World War. After the war, crab and lobster potting resumed from the bigger harbour at Mevagissey.

  3. When you reach the kissing gate, go through it and continue along the path, passing through another kissing gate. Carry on until you enter the next bay then reach a waymark at a fork in the path.

    Roughly 70% of the edible crabs caught in the world are caught around the British Isles, most of which are sold to France and Spain. Around the UK, edible brown crabs are regarded as overfished, with the largest fishery based around Scotland. Devon and Cornwall have the most stringent regulations in the UK on the minimum acceptable size and the pots now have an escape hatch for undersized crabs. The crabs are not harmed by the pots which allows crabs carrying eggs to also be released to improve the sustainability of the fishery.

  4. Keep right at the waymark and follow the path to a kissing gate. Alternatively, if you want to visit the beach, bear left at the waymark to reach the beach and then from the beach, go up the steps and follow the path to rejoin the coast path, bearing left to the kissing gate.

    Vault beach is said to get its name from the cold shadow cast over the beach by Dodman Point in the evenings, and continuing in the death theme of Deadman's Point. The alternative name for the beach - Bow beach - describes its crescent shape. The beach is mostly shingle with some sand at low tide and is over half a mile in length and is sheltered from most wind directions by the points either side. The far southern end (furthest away from the path to the beach) is popular with naturists in warm weather. The main part of the beach was used as the location for filming Richard Curtis' "About Time".

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path until it forks.
  6. Keep left at the fork and follow the path to a sequence of two gates.

    The steam-powered cargo ship, the SS Eastfield, was carrying a cargo of coal from Newport in November 1917 and despite being armed with a small stern gun, was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off Dodman Point. She sank in Mevagissey bay, west of Gorran Haven in 40-50 metres of water. The wreck been commercially salvaged but many parts of it are still relatively intact, with the bow standing 8 metres above the seabed, making it a fairly popular dive site. The ship's bell is on display at the Charlestown Shipwreck Museum.

  7. Go through the gates and follow the path until you reach a gate by a wooden signpost.

    The Darlwyn was a pleasure craft which disappeared on a voyage from Fowey to Mylor on the day after England won the World Cup in 1966. The boat was not seaworthy, with dry rot in the hull and heavily overloaded above its 12 passenger limit. In addition it had no radio and only 2 lifejackets. Despite this the skipper ignored local advice not to go to sea and set out in a storm. The boat disappeared and the 23 adults and 8 children aboard all drowned. An air and sea search was conducted but the boat was never found. 12 of the bodies washed ashore and autopsies indicated they had drowned in deep water. Fifty years later, remains were found on the sea bed off Dodman Point which are all consistent with that was known about the vessel. It is thought the vessel struck the reef and sank almost immediately. Following the disaster, marine regulations were introduced for pleasure craft ensuring boats meet safety requirements and licence holders must demonstrate boat handling skills.

  8. Go through the gate and follow the path (signposted towards Dodman Point) along the field to reach a kissing gate.

    If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • If cows approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size.
    • Avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If you can't avoid it: if cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  9. Go through the gate and follow the path a short distance until you reach a signpost at a junction of paths.

    The National Trust use Shetland and Dartmoor ponies on this section of coast for conservation grazing.

    Dartmoor ponies, bred for hauling goods, have been recorded living on the wild and unhospitable moors since the Middle Ages. They are unsurprisingly a very hardy breed and have a lifespan of around 25 years. Over the 20th Century, their numbers declined from just over 25,000 in the 1930s to about 5,000 by the start of the 21st century when only around 800 ponies were known to be grazing the moor. Dartmoor ponies have recently found a new niche as conservation grazers. As well as on moorland, they are used by the Wildlife Trusts to graze the coast to prevent bracken and gorse taking hold.

  10. Bear left, signposted to Dodman Point, and follow the path to a kissing gate into a field.

    Bracken releases toxins into the soil which inhibit the growth of other plants, and the shade created by its large leaves and its thick leaf litter also makes it hard for other plants to compete. It is both poisonous and carcinogenic to many grazing animals which therefore avoid it if at all possible. All these things make it quite difficult to control, particularly in steep areas where mechanised cutting or ploughing is difficult. Treading by livestock can reduce bracken's competitive advantage, particularly during winter when frost can attack the plants.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path along the left hedge of the field to another kissing gate.

    Along the coast, in the late summer and autumn, you can sometimes find parasol mushrooms, obvious from their huge size and umbrella shape. They are one of the best eating mushrooms and have firm white flesh.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the path to a waymark, just before the large granite cross.

    Dodman Point is the highest headland on the south coast of Cornwall at around 400 feet high. The name is a corruption of Deadman's Point and the name appears on maps as "Deadmans Pt" or "Deadman Pt" up to the mid 1800s, though the original name was Penare. The massive granite cross was erected on top of the point in 1896 by the rector of St Michael Caerhayes to act as a daymark for shipping.

  13. Turn right at the waymark and follow the coast path until you reach a signpost for Penare in a dip.

    From left to right you can see the protruding headland of the Lizard in the distance and then the area around Falmouth with ships parked-up. This side of Falmouth Bay is St Anthony Head and the nearer headland with the large offshore rock is Nare Head with the fishing village of Portscatho behind it. To the right of that, the narrow group of white houses is Portloe. And further to the right again, the sea wall with a couple of buildings is Portholland.

  14. Continue ahead on the coast path from the signpost, passing through a pedestrian gate, until you reach a V-shaped stile overlooking the beach.

    The path to the right from the signpost runs between the two ramparts of the Dodman Point promontory fort.

    Dodman Point was fortified in the Iron Age, with two large ramparts and ditches running across the headland to create an enclosed settlement containing an ancient field system and some barrows.

  15. Cross the stile and the follow path downhill to where the bank on the right ends. Then turn right to keep the bank on your right. Follow along the bottom of the bank until a gate comes into view, then head for this.

    The beach is mostly sand with some shingle near the high tide line and rocky ridges down either side. At low tide, an area of rock is exposed on the right-hand side which contains a number of rockpools. Due to its remote location and limited parking, there are usually not many people on the beach.

  16. Go through the wooden pedestrian gate on the right of the stile and follow the path between the fences for about a quarter of a mile until you reach a signpost beside a wooden gate.

    In Autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. The sloe gin produced from sloes in September and October seems just as good but possibly requires a little more sugar to compensate.

  17. Continue ahead, signposted Dodman Point, to emerge on the lane then turn right onto the lane. Follow this to a corner outside Lower Penare Farmhouse where various tracks meet the lane at another signpost.

    Penare is from the Cornish word penn-ardh (pronounced "penarth") meaning promontory. The farm graze Dexter cattle on the coast which helps to stop bracken taking over the headland and improves the habitat for wildflowers, butterflies and birds. It also produces some really nice beef fed on grass and wild herbs. If you’d like to try some, their beef is on sale at weekends at Cornwall Market World on the Par road from St Austell.

  18. Keep left to stay on the lane (signposted to Gorran Haven) and follow it uphill past the cottages to a kissing gate on the right just after the last (Bodrugan) cottage.
  19. Go through the gate and cross the field directly ahead (not to the right as signposted) to a gate.
  20. Go through the gap on the right of the gate and cross the lane to the signpost opposite. Go through the gate and follow the path between the fences to the campsite. Continue between the hedges at the campsite to reach a gate.
  21. Go through the gate and follow the track ahead through the campsite to reach a public footpath signpost at a gateway.
  22. Turn right, signposted to Gorran Haven, and follow the track to another signpost by the last cottage on the right. Turn left at this and follow the path alongside a house to some paths leading from behind the house.
  23. Keep left along the wall and follow the path away from the house to a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path until it eventually ends at a kissing gate.

    The path down the valley has a good range of wildflowers in the spring and summer which attract butterflies.

    The Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Tortoiseshell butterflies are all quite closely related and specialised for overwinter hibernation. Their wings, when closed, have a jagged outline and camouflaged colours that allows them to blend in with dead leaves. Their feet contain chemoreceptors (taste buds) which allows them to detect nectar-bearing flowers when they land.

  24. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach another gate.
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  25. Go through the gate and follow the path to merge onto a track and continue a few paces to reach a junction. Turn left here and follow the track to reach a road.
  26. Turn right onto the road and follow it carefully downhill to reach the car park and complete the circular route.

    Gorran Haven has two sandy beaches, separated by a rocky promontory, facing east into a sheltered bay. The northern beach, known as Little Perhaver Beach, merges with the main beach at low tide but can be accessed at high tide via a steep flight of steps connecting to a footpath which departs from the road a short distance uphill from the chapel. For this reason it tends to be a fair bit quieter than the main beach.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa
  • If you have a large dog, let us know if you find problems with the stiles on this walk (e.g. require the dog to be lifted over). A rough idea of how many problematic stiles there are is also useful.

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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