Pendower Beach to Veryan

The route follows the coast along Pendower beach and around Nare Head where there are panoramic reviews and a cold war nuclear bunker is preserved underground. The walk then follows tracks and footpaths across the fields to Veryan, where the church, holy well and pub can form a small diversion from the route. From Veryan, the walk follows a small lane to the mill at Melinsey. The route then joins a footpath to Pendower beach along the wooded valley which has a nice display of bluebells and wild garlic flowers in spring.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.4 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Rocky Lane Car Park
  • Parking: Rocky Lane Car Park. Follow the A3078 through Ruan High Lanes, past the turning for Melinsey Mill. Take the next left turn signposted for Pendower Beach. Satnav: TR25LW
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic views from Nare Head
  • Restored Cold War nuclear bunker
  • Bluebells in the woodland in May
  • Restored mill at Melinsey

Directions

  1. Follow the path downhill from the car park to reach a fork just before a Coast Path sign.
  2. Keep left at the fork to pass the Coast Path sign and follow the path over a bridge. Once over the bridge, follow the middle path to reach another car park.

    Pendower beach joins with Carne beach at low tide to form a sandy beach that is roughly a mile long. There are numerous rockpools along the sides of the beach at low tide (below the car park at Pendower Beach and alongside Nare Head on Carne Beach).

  3. Once you reach the car park, turn right and follow the lane up the hill to a bend where a small footpath departs via a stone stile.
  4. Turn right off the lane and cross the stile. Follow the path until you reach a fenced garden with a gate leading into it.

    The village along the coast to the right is Portscatho.

    The fishing port of Portscatho is named from the Cornish word skathow meaning boats, and is likely to have been uses for launching fishing boats since mediaeval times. The small harbour that you can see today was developed during the 18th and 19th centuries during the pilchard fishing boom. Two fish cellars were shown on a map from 1841 and a coastguard watch house on an 1880 map. An early 19th century boatman's shelter is still present, overlooking the harbour. At this time, it was a separate settlement from Gerrans where less marine activities such as blacksmiths shops were located.

  5. As you approach the hotel garden, keep left to follow the path alongside the fence to some steps.
  6. Follow the path up the steps to a waymark and between the fences to a grassy helicopter landing area. Cross this to the stepped gravel path and turn right to descend the steps and reach a lane.
  7. Follow the lane downhill until you reach a ramp to the beach at the bottom.

    On the eastern side of Pendower beach (towards Nare Head), the rocks contain fossils, preserved as impressions in the quartzite rocks. These are mostly of shells from the Odovician period when the first fish with jaws evolved. Very occasionally, trilobite fossils are found. If you are lucky enough to find a trilobite, it should be reported to a museum as they are scientifically important.

  8. From the ramp, follow the lane ahead around the bend to reach a coast path sign opposite a flight of steps on the right.

    The striking magenta flowers seen in Cornish hedgerows and gardens in May and June are known as Whistling Jacks, Mad Jacks, Cornish Jacks or Corn Flag. The "whistling" is thought to be from children using the leaves as a reed between their fingers and blowing. The plant is a species of Gladioli originally from the Mediterranean but has been naturalised in Cornwall for some time. Opinions differ on exactly when it first arrived but numerous opportunities have existed during the trade that has taken with Cornwall over the centuries, and the great gardens and cut flower industries in more recent times.

  9. Turn right at the coast path sign and climb the steps to a kissing gate. Go through the gate and follow the path along the edge of the field to a stone stile.
  10. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway to the left of it if muddy) then keep right to follow the lower path along the edge of the field. Continue to reach a kissing gate on the far side of the field.

    The bays either side of Nare Head contain a large number of shipwrecks. Many of these vessels were running for safety to Falmouth harbour from a storm but misjudged the narrow passage between the Manacles reef and St Anthony's Head. Once a sailing ship had passed on the wrong side of St Anthony's Head, it became trapped within the "lee shores" between Dodman Point at St Anthony's Head where there was no safe anchorage. The Whelps reef beside Gull Rock was particularly hazardous, with jagged rocks just below the surface.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path to a waymark.

    The SS Hera was a steel-hulled German sailing vessel which in February 1914 was bound for Falmouth from Chile with a cargo of nitrates. She had been sailing in thick fog for three days, using dead reckoning for navigation. As the ship approached Falmouth, the captain shortened the sails to reduce speed and was hoping to see the lights of The Lizard or St Anthony's Head on his approach but the fog was too thick. The ship passed on the wrong side of St Anthony's head and hit The Whelps Reef before he was able to turn it away. The holed ship continued travelling for another 10 minutes and then began to sink. The crew fired distress flares and were initially confident of being rescued. Although two lifeboats had broken free and drifted away, most of the crew climbed aboard a third and successfully launched it. However, moments later, the ship's hull failed and sank quickly without any warning, swamping the nearby lifeboat, but a few survivors managed to cling to the foremast which stayed above the water. Delays in launching the rescue, and locating the stranded crew in the dark, meant it was nearly 6 hours before the five surviving crew members were rescued; the remaining 19 crew members perished and only 12 of the bodies were recovered, now buried in a grave in Veryan churchyard. The grave is 30 metres long with a headstone at one end and is thought might be the longest in Britain. The wreck broke into two pieces when it sank, but parts of the wreck still stand 5 metres above the seabed and it provides a habitat for a variety of marine life, making it popular with scuba divers.

  12. Keep right at the waymark to climb over the wall. Follow the path to a stile into a field.

    The large daisy-like flowers on the coast from July are Oxeye Daisies, also known as the Dog Daisy or Moon Daisy - the latter is said to be because they are so bright that they appear to glow in the evening. The flowers are edible and can be used in salads or deserts. The flower buds can also be picked in vinegar and spices and used like capers.

  13. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge to a path leaving the field. Follow this down into the valley to reach a kissing gate.

    Choughs are sometimes seen along this stretch of coast.

    The chough is a member of the crow family, with striking red legs and a red beak. It was known as the "Crow of Cornwall" and appears on the county coat of arms. The birds have a distinctive call which is perhaps best described as resembling a squeaky dog toy! They are also recognisable from feathers, spread like fingers, on their wings.

    In the 1800s, many choughs were killed by "sportsmen" and trophy hunters. Also around this time, grazing livestock were moved to inland pastures where they could be more easily managed. The result was that the cliff slopes became overgrown and choughs found it increasingly difficult to find suitable feeding areas. By 1973, the chough had become extinct in Cornwall.

    Since then, clifftops have been managed more actively which has included the reintroduction of grazing and choughs have returned to Cornwall by themselves from colonies in Wales or Ireland. The first pair settled in 2001 on the Lizard Peninsula. Since then, the birds have successfully bred and been joined by a few more incoming birds, and the population has slowly but steadily grown. Each chough is fitted with one leg ring in the colours of St Piran's flag and two other colours on the opposite leg to identify them.

  14. Go through the gate, cross the footbridge and follow the waymarked path up the hill to reach a stile.

    The stone and cob cottage overlooking Paradoe Cove was built by a fisherman, who kept a boat in the inlet beneath his home, hauling it clear of the waves when not in use. He married a woman from Veryan, but the marriage cannot have been a happy one as he lived here alone during the week and only visited her at weekends with his catch. In the 1840s, he emigrated to Australia, leaving his wife behind, and started a new family there.

  15. Cross the stile and follow the path until it emerges into a a field at the top of the hill.
  16. On reaching the field, follow along the right hedge to reach a junction of paths near the far side.

    Nare head was known until the 16th Century as Penare, which still survives in the name of Pennare Farm; since then, the name for the headland has become shortened to "Nare". The name is from the Cornish word penn-ardh (pronounced "penarth") meaning promontory. Dodman Point was originally known by the same name.

  17. At the junction of paths, there is an optional diversion to the right to the headland.
    To continue the walk, take the leftmost path to stay in the field. Follow this to merge onto a grassy track and keep left at the pair of green ventilation shafts to reach an iron post beside a mound on the left.

    The green ventilator shafts protruding from the ground on your right are the top of the Cold War bunker.

    The bunker on Nare Head was built during the Cold War for the Royal Observer Corps who were in charge of monitoring radiation in the event of a nuclear war. It opened in 1963 and was accessed via a hatch connecting to a 12ft ladder. Below ground, it consisted of a state-of-the-art operations room and living accommodation that was designed to support three people for three weeks, giving them protection from radioactive fallout. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the bunker was decommissioned, and has since been restored in a joint project between the National Trust and Royal Observer Corps, and is open to visitors several times a year.

  18. Follow the track ahead and go through the kissing gate beside the cattlegrid. Continue following the track to reach a National Trust car park.

    The grassy mound with a concrete doorway on Nare Head is a World War Two bunker that was earthed-over after the war. It was the control bunker for a naval decoy centre built by Ealing Film Studios to lure German night bombers away from Falmouth. A sister site existed on Nare Point on the other side of Falmouth Bay, so whichever direction bombers approached from, they could be intercepted before they reached Falmouth. The sites were used to create two types of decoy. The first used muted lights to simulate the railway of Falmouth Docks. The second used a series of controlled fires to replicate a military or urban area that had been targeted by bombs. Orders came from Falmouth on an underwater cable.

  19. Continue past the car park to join a rough lane and follow this to reach a stone stile between two metal gates on the left, just after passing the cottage.

    In late spring and summer, listen out for the characteristic song of skylarks hovering high above the coast. The coastal heath is a particularly good habitat for them, being mild but with fairly short vegetation in which they can hunt for insects.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to the wooden stile beneath the telegraph pole ahead.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleeting, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  21. Cross the stile and bear right across the field to a stile beside the metal gate in the hedge opposite.
  22. Cross the stile and bear right to the second telegraph pole from the right where the right hedge protrudes into the field. Then follow along the hedge to a kissing gate.
  23. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to reach a stile onto a lane.
  24. Turn left onto the lane and follow it past Tregamenna Manor Farm to reach a public footpath signpost on the right.
  25. Cross the stile beneath the footpath sign and head to wooden posts beneath the tree protruding from the right hedge to reach a stile.
  26. Cross the stile and head towards the rightmost of the cottages ahead. As you cross the brow of the hill, a gate will come into view. Head to this.
  27. Go through the gate and follow along the fence to reach a farm gate. Go through this and follow the track to a lane.

    The name Veryan is thought to be from Symphorian being corrupted to Severian and finally Saint Veryan. The settlement was recorded during Norman times in the Domesday book as the manor of Elerchi which has given rise to the various road and house names containing Elerkey. The name is from elerch - the Cornish word for swan.

  28. Turn right onto the lane and follow it between the roundhouses and past Treverbyn House to a junction.

    The thatched roundhouses in Veryan were built by Rev Jeremiah Trist in the early 19th-century with a crucifix was placed on the top of each. They were located in pairs either side of the roads entering Veryan to stop the devil entering the village. A fifth, roofed with slate, was built beside the school. The round design was said to be so that the devil could not hide in the corners.

  29. At the junction, you can optionally take a small diversion to the right to reach the pub, church and holy well, returning here afterwards.
    To continue the walk, turn left at the junction, signposted Portscatho, and follow the lane down to Melinsey Mill. Continue past the mill and uphill a short distance to reach a public footpath sign on the left.

    The plan of Veryan church is unusual, being one of only four Cornish churches with a south tower and having a floor that slopes up to the altar, reminiscent of the churches in northern France. The church has some Norman features including the carved faces on the porch, however it is possible that some these may have been the result of some souvenir collecting from another old church by one of the vicars! The building also contains mediaeval elements such as the door arches and window frames, and the font.

    Veryan Holy Well is thought to have a mediaeval core which was reassembled in Victorian times by the vicar, Samuel Trist and restored again in 1912. The mediaeval core which contains elements from the 15th, 13th and possibly 12th Centuries and the trefoil cross on the top dates from the 14th Century. Possibly as a result of the construction work for the roads and buildings immediately surrounding the well, groundwater no longer feeds the well and it is now dry.

    There has been a mill at Melinsey since at least 1210 and the name is from the Cornish word melinjy, meaning mill-house. The building there today dates from 1565. The mill originally had two sets of millstones: one for grinding flour and the set which remain which were used to produce animal fodder until 1928. The remaining stones are made from local granite but it was desirable for the stones used for grinding flour not to produce pieces of grit so these would likely have been a more fine-grained stone imported from Brittany. The building fell into disrepair after it closed but has since been restored and was opened to the public in 1996. Prior to the 19th Century, all of the mill mechanism would have been made from wood but it was replaced with cast iron in 1882.

  30. Turn left and either cross the stile and duck under the tree or go through the gate and duck under the fence. Then follow the path along the valley to reach a footbridge.

    In folklore, the bluebell is a symbol of constancy, presumably based on the fact that they flower in the same place every year. It was said that anyone who wears a bluebell is compelled to tell the truth. This is probably the origin of the '…something blue…' that a bride should wear on her wedding day.

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  31. Cross the footbridge and follow the path to reach a drive. Follow this up the hill to a bend with a bronze flower sculpture.

    Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are the useful bit rather than the bulb, so cut/pull off the leaves (don't pull up the plants). The leaves are quite delicate, so you can use quite large quantities in cooking; therefore, harvest it in the kind of quantities that you'd buy salad leaves from the supermarket. There are some lillies that look fairly similar (and some are poisonous) but the smell is the giveaway: if it doesn't smell of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic.

  32. Continue ahead on the grassy path past the bronze sculpture to reach a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path all the way to reach the car park you encountered near the start of the walk and cross this to the Pendower information board.
  33. Follow the path beside the information board and then bear right across the beach to complete the circular route.

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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