Millook Haven to Dizzard

The walk starts at Millook Haven and heads up the valley through the broadleaf woodland. The route climbs out of the valley to reach the coast at Dizzard Point. The return route skirts across the top of the ancient coastal woodland at Dizzard, passing Cancleave Strand and crossing Millook Common, before descending to Millook Haven with spectacular views over Bude Bay.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.8 miles/7.7 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: the road near the beach at Millook Haven
  • Parking: On the side of the road near the bottom of the hill. Satnav: EX230DQ
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Wildflowers including orchids in the meadows along the valley
  • Ancient woodland around Millook Valley
  • Spectacular coastal views from Millook Common
  • Geological origami at Cancleave Strand and Millook Haven

Directions

  1. From Millook Haven, head up the road towards Crackington (to the left if you are facing the beach) until you reach a gate on the left, just past double white doors. Go through the gate and follow the track to a signpost opposite a house.

    Millook Haven is a pebble beach at mid-high tide, though there is some sand at the very lowest part of the tide. The cliffs behind the beach have impressive zig-zag folding patterns, formed 320 million years ago. The rocks are part of the "Crackington Formation": thin layers of sandstones and shales, deformed by the tectonic plate collision at the end of the Carboniferous period, that crumpled the earth's crust, giving rise to the tors of Bodmin Moor.

  2. Continue along the track from the signpost to reach a waymark where the track emerges into a meadow.

    Millook was a notorious spot for smuggling.

    In the 1780s, Britain was in financial crisis after losing the American War of Independence. High levels of duty were imposed on luxury goods in order to recoup the national debt and this included the curing salt vital to the pilchard industry which was taxed at around 4000%! Consequently many Cornish fishermen that were previously legally employed by the trade were driven into illegal smuggling. Towards the end of the 18th Century, nearly half a million gallons of brandy and more than a quarter of a million pounds of tea were being smuggled into Cornwall each year. This continued until the 1840s, when Britain adopted a free-trade policy that slashed import duties. Within ten years, large-scale smuggling was just a memory.

  3. From the waymark, continue on the track until the track ends at a gate with a concrete bridge ahead over the stream and a small path departing to the right.
  4. Bear right onto the small path and cross the footbridge over the stream to a waymark. Turn right and follow the path along the stream until you emerge in a meadow.
  5. Cross the meadow, to the left of the house in front of you, to emerge onto a track.

    The Early Purple Orchid has a Latin name meaning "virile" which is in keeping with the word "orchid" coming from the Greek word for testicle (on account of the shape of the tuber).

    This particular species is the con-man of the plant kingdom, with brilliant purple flowers resembling those of other nectar-rich orchids. When the insects arrive and push through the pollen to investigate the promising flowers, they discover that the flowers contain no nectar.

  6. Turn right onto the track signposted to Dizzard and Trengayor and follow it to a small bridge over a stream.
  7. Cross the bridge over the stream and then bear left, past the house, to a waymark next to a kissing gate.
  8. Turn right through the kissing gate and cross the meadow to a footbridge into Landy Wood.

    The Millook Valley, above Millook Haven, contains an area of anciend woodland. The broad-leaved woodland is now owned by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are primroses in spring, wildflowers including orchids in summer and blackberries and sloes in autumn. Fauna includes dormice, otters and smooth snakes.

  9. Cross the bridge and climb the steps, following the path up the steps to a waymark. Keep left at the fork and follow the path through the woods, keeping the stream on your left until you reach some planks crossing a brook.

    There is often a dense patch of bluebell flowers next to the bridge in spring, but fewer in the woods themselves.

    In Old Cornish, both bluebells and marigolds where known as lesengoc which translates to "flower of the cuckoo". In Modern Cornish, the marigold has remained more-or-less the same but the bluebell has been changed to bleujenn an gog ("plant of the cuckoo"). The association between bluebells and cuckoos exists in Welsh ("bells of the cuckoo") and Gaelic ("cuckoo's shoe"), and in some English folk names such as Cuckoo's Boots and Cuckoo Stockings. It is thought that the association is due to the time that bluebells flower coinciding with the time that the call of the cuckoo is first heard.

  10. Cross over the planks and follow the path until it cuts through a bank beside a tree with a waymark.
  11. Turn right and follow the path along the bank and down a few steps to a small stream.
  12. Cross the stream to a waymark and turn right. Follow the path uphill until it eventually ends at a gate.

    Although most primroses tend to be pale yellow, in residential areas, extensive hybridisation occurs with pink and purple garden primulas to create all kinds of weird and wonderful mutants, with some even shaped like cowslips. However there is a pale pink variety of primrose (known as rhubarb and custard) that is thought to be a naturally-occurring variant of the pale yellow (rhubarb-free) version as it has been found miles away from any domestic plants.

    During Victorian times, the building of railways allowed primrose flowers picked in the Westcountry to be on sale in London the next day. Picking was done on a large scale but eventually became unfashionable, being seen as environmentally destructive. However all the evidence gathered suggests as long as the flowers were picked and the plants were not dug up, the practice was sustainable.

  13. Go through the gate onto a track and turn right. Follow the track past some cottages and barns until it eventually ends in a T-junction at a lane.

    The settlement of Trengayor was first recorded in 1244. As well as tre, meaning "farmstead", it is thought the name has been mangled from the Cornish word ker, meaning "fort", as there are remains of a circular fortified structure nearby.

  14. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past Old Dizzard to a Coast Path sign at Dizzard Farm.
  15. Turn left onto the farm track and follow it past the barn to a waymarked gate leading onto a track.

    The farm here specialises in breeding Zwartbles sheep, a black breed which you may see in the fields.

    The Zwartbles breed of sheep is originally from the Netherlands, originally primarily used for their milk. In the 20th Century, they declined significantly until by the mid-1970s they were listed as critically rare by the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust. Recently, the sheep has made a comeback in Britain as they produce excellent meat and wool; also being from a cold, wet, windy area of the Netherlands, the UK climate is not a problem. In Cornwall, they develop golden surfer highlights in the sunshine, and are known for being a "chilled-out" breed of sheep.

  16. Go through the gate onto a track and follow it until it ends at a gate into a field.
  17. Go through the gate and follow the right-hand hedge, first to a gateway with a stile, and then further to a footbridge.
  18. Cross the footbridge and go through the gate then bear right to follow the path uphill to emerge into a field.
  19. Follow the right hedge of the field to a stile beside a gate.

    The combination of the Great British Weather and a tonne of cow balanced on stilt-like legs can result in some muddy tracks and gateways to navigate, ideally without sinking below the level of your walking boots (or wellies in extreme cases!). Some suggestions for avoiding liquid-filled socks are:

    • Know your enemy: use a stick as a dipstick to assess how deep the mud is. A lake of extremely unpromising liquid mud may only turn out be a couple of inches deep.
    • If there are any rocks nestling in the mud, these are usually a good bet to stand on. Generally they would have already sunk if they weren't on fairly solid ground.
    • Clumps of grass have a root system that means you’re less likely to sink than in areas with no vegetation.
    • Where there are wheel ruts, the bottom of the ruts are often the firmest ground, having been compressed under several tonnes of tractor. However, ruts filled with deep water are best avoided as mud will have washed in with the water so the overall depth will be hard to estimate.
  20. Cross the stile and turn immediately left over another stile into a field. Bear right around the gorse then follow the hedge on the left until you reach a stile in the corner of the field.
  21. Cross the stile and follow the path down some steps to reach the coast path.

    The name "Dizzard" is from the Cornish word deseth which means "very steep". However, you may be pleased to know that particular section of Coast Path is not on this route. When you reach the coast path, to the left it descends the very steep Chipman Cliff. At the bottom of the valley it's possible to get onto Scrade Beach and at low tide it's possible to walk a long way across the rocks to Chipman Strand and even to Cancleave Strand which the walk passes later on.

  22. Turn right onto the coast path and follow it, passing through a gate, until it ends in a stile.

    The woods on the cliffs of Dizzard are more than 6,000 years old. The trees include sessile oak and wild service trees, stunted by the salty winds. Wild service berries were used to make a strong alcoholic liqueur. The berries and associated spirit are known in some areas as "chequers" and this is thought to be the origin of a number of pubs with this name.

  23. Cross the stile and turn left. Follow the left edge of five fields (crossing stiles as needed), until you eventually reach a waymark, where a path descends into some woods on the left.
  24. Follow the path through the woods, over a stream, back up the other side of the valley and into a field to reach a waymark.

    The ancient broadleaf woodland along the coast and along the valley here supports a population of bluebells.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells.

  25. From the waymark, follow the left hedge to a little waymark. From here, keep left along the edge of the field to reach a fence in front of a garden.

    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.

  26. Follow the path along the fence, past a footpath to the beach, to reach a stile. Cross the stile and follow the coast path for about half a mile through gates and over stiles until it eventually ends at a stile onto a lane, opposite a signpost to Millook Haven.

    The rocky beach at the bottom of the cliff on your left is Cancleave Strand.

    Cancleave Strand is a rocky beach to the west of Millook Haven. The foreshore of Cancleave Strand consists of impressively folded rock strata which have been upended and eroded by the sea creating a maze of rocky ridges. The offshore island on the right side of the beach is, like many other offshore rocks in Cornwall, known as Gull Rock. There are quite good views of the beach from the coast path at low tide, but if you're feeling brave and the tide is out, it is possible to reach the beach. However note the warning on the sign beside the path which offers the words of encouragement: "informal access to beach via roped descent on eroding cliff face".

  27. Turn left and follow the lane downhill to Millook Haven.

    At low tide, a series of delicate reefs is revealed.

    Honeycomb Worm reefs are fascinating structures, built out of sand on the lower shore. The large golden hummocks have an intricate honeycomb structure up to several metres across and a metre deep. Filter-feeding worms, about 3-4cm long, live in tubes, fanning out plankton from the passing water and capturing particles of shell and rock to build their tubes. Each worm can live for 3-5 years, although the overall reefs last much longer. Although quite brittle, the reefs provide a habitat for a number of other species including anemones, barnacles, limpets, winkles, whelks, mussels and crabs.

    The worms need hard rock to build on, and sand to build with, so their requirements are very specific: there must be enough wave action to bring a supply of sand to the rocky areas, but not so much that the worms are blasted off the rocks. The formation of reefs is assisted by a clever biological mechanism. Honeycomb worm larvae drift around in seawater and could settle anywhere to grow into adults. However, the presence of existing worm colonies, or their dead remains, strongly stimulates any passing larvae to settle out at that location, helping to ensure that the reef continues to grow.

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 also very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • 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 useful as some single women can just about manage one or two but not a dozen.

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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