Poldhu Cove to Cury

The walk follows the coast from Poldhu Cove to Church Cove and Dollar cove where the seabed still contains treasure. The route then passes along Halzephron cliff to Fishing Cove and heads inland to the Halzephron Inn. The walk then follows footpaths across the fields to Cury and descends into the river valley at Chypons. The return route passes through the edge of Mullion and meets the coast via the Marconi Centre.
The footpath from Gunwalloe to Cury is currently closed whilst boardwalks are being replaced. Diversion is back along the coast path effectively defeating the circular route until works are complete.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 7.6 miles/12.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Poldhu Cove car park
  • Parking: Poldhu Cove. Follow the A3093 towards Lizard and once you reach the roundabout with the St Keverne turning, continue towards Lizard and take the next right to Cury and Poldhu Cove, then follow signs. Satnav: TR127JB
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Sandy beaches at Fishing and Church Coves
  • Buried treasure at Dollar Cove
  • Marconi Centre at Poldhu Cove
  • Panoramic views of Mount's Bay from Halzephron Cliff

Alternative walks in same location

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Turn right out of the car park and follow the lane over the bridge to reach a junction.

    Poldhu Cove is a west-facing beach owned by the National Trust. Although the cove is fairly narrow, the profile of the beach is quite shallow so the tide goes out a long way to create a beach of a reasonable size at low tide. The beach is normally sandy, but the huge storms in the winter of 2014 stripped the sand from this and the surrounding beaches, leaving behind shingle and pebbles. However, there is little long-shore movement of sand in this area, so the sand stayed "parked" a short distance offshore and subsequent storms have returned it to the beach.

  2. Bear left at the junction to follow the small lane uphill towards the sea. Continue past a fenced-off path on the left to reach a waymark where another path departs to the left.
  3. Turn left down the waymarked path and follow it to another waymark where it meets the path along the edge of the coast. Turn right onto this and follow it until it emerges on a track at a waymark.

    In 1669, the San Salvador was en route from the Baltic to Le Havre with a cargo of timber when it was wrecked somewhere near Gunwalloe. For many years, it was thought that the San Salvador ended up in Dollar Cove, but it is now thought that it is likely to be the wreck found by divers driven into the cliffs of Poldhu Cove. The remains include a number of small iron cannon, and Spanish silver real coins (also known as "pieces-of-one") have been found on the rock ledges.

  4. Turn left and walk through the car park to join the path leading from the other side. Follow this to a coast path sign beside a fence.

    From mediaeval times until Victorian times, the Spanish currency was based on silver coins known as real (meaning "royal"). A hefty one-ounce silver coin worth 8 silver reals was known as the dollar or piece of 8. Higher value gold coins were also issued including the escudo (worth 2 dollars or 16 reals) and the doubloon (worth 2 escudos or 32 reals). Due to its high uniformity, the Spanish Dollar was used as international currency for many centuries and is the coin upon which the US Dollar was based. The pieces of 8 coins featured the pillars of Hercules, depicted as columns with S-shaped scrolls wrapped around them, and this may be the origin of the dollar symbol.

  5. Pass through the fence and follow the path down the beach to reach a waymark.

    The Schiedam was a Dutch ship in the East India service. It was captured in 1863 by French privateers on the way back from northern Spain with a cargo of timber, but was soon re-captured by an English galley frigate and then served in the English Navy fleet. In 1684, on a return voyage from the military evacuation of Tangiers, the vessel was driven ashore at Gunwalloe Church Cove in a gale. The ship was carrying navy miners, horses and machinery as well as guns and stores which had been captured in the assault. It is reported that the Gunwalloe locals plundered the stores from the wreck together with the ship's sails and cables. The remains of the wreck were rediscovered in 1971, the surviving objects being mainly those of metal such as pewter spoons, brass candlesticks and copper cooking kettles. It is now a designated historic wreck site.

  6. Follow the path from the waymark to reach a footbridge.

    In December 1918, the Norwegian cargo ship Heidrun was on its way from Swansea to Rouen with a cargo of anthracite to support the war in France. On the day after Boxing Day, they rounded Land's End and encountered a violent storm in Mount's Bay. The ship disappeared without trace and all the crew were lost.

    A wreck off Gunwalloe was thought to be a ship known as the Ibis for many years as a life ring from the Ibis had been found floating at this location. However a local diver recovered a plate from the engine block from which the ship was identified as the Heidrun. The discovery was the first news that relatives of the crew in Norway had received of what had happened and a party of them flew over to talk to the divers. As a result, the relatives arranged for a memorial to be placed in Gunwalloe church.

  7. Cross the footbridge and take the left-hand path to reach the beach. Make your way along the top of the beach to reach the entrance to the churchyard, marked with a blue sign.

    The church giving Church Cove its name is said to be on the site of the monastery of St Winwaloe - a 6th Century Breton, and appears as the manor of Winnianton appears in the Doomsday book. It's also possible that the saint was matched to a similar-sounding name, as beside Gunwalloe is Chyvarloe, from the Cornish, chy war logh meaning "house on the lake". Gunwalloe could have similar origins such as goon war logh which would be along the lines of "downs by the lake".

    The current church was restored in 1870 but dates from the Middle Ages. The detached tower is thought to be the oldest part, dating from early mediaeval times. The church was extended in the 15th Century and the bedrock next to the church was excavated in preparation to add a tower to the church itself, but this was never carried out.

  8. At the church, turn right onto the track and follow it along the wall, past an opening to Dollar Cove to reach a stile beside the junction with the lane.

    Dollar Cove is named after the silver Spanish dollars that have occasionally been found from the wreck of a 18th century Spanish Galleon, which is now thought might have been a lost vessel known as the Rio Nova and not the San Salvador which was also wrecked nearby. The ship wrecked in Dollar Cove was carrying two and a half tons of the coins from Spain to the Bank of England for safe keeping during their war with France. In January 1787, she was driven ashore at Dollar Cove in a violent storm. The ship broke in two and spilled the coins into a gully in the bay. The silver dollars found so far are dated from 1765 to 1777.

  9. Climb the stile on the left and keep right along the path to join a cliff-edge path at a waymark for Loe Pool. Follow the path along the cliffs, past a number of small coves, until you emerge into a large field on the headland.

    A number of schemes were tried in the 1840s to recover the silver dollars from Dollar Cove. These focused around the under-sea gully where the ship had reportedly spilled its treasure. In 1845 a company was formed to dam the gully from the sea so that it could be pumped dry. After a month's work to construct the dam, on the night before the gully was due to be drained, a storm obliterated the dam. Two years later an attempt was made to drive a mine shaft beneath the gully and up towards the surface so that the sand and coins would fall into the shaft. No coins emptied into the shaft, but the Atlantic Ocean did, and the miners barely escaped with their lives.

  10. Follow along the left side of the field to reach a corner where a path leads out onto the headland.

    The name "Halzephron" is well documented as being derived from "Hell's cliff" in Cornish, but note that the "Hal" at the start does not mean "hell"; the words in Cornish are the other way around: als (meaning cliff) and yfarn (meaning hell). The cliffs were given their name due to the many ships that were driven ashore and wrecked here. Some of the bodies that washed ashore are buried on the cliffs as there was no legal requirement to bury the bodies of shipwrecked sailors in churchyards until the start of the 19th Century.

  11. Keep right at the corner to continue following along the edge of the field and join a path alongside a hedge. Follow this along the coast until it emerges between a pair of granite gateposts at a junction of paths.

    There are panoramic views of Mount's Bay from the end of the headland.

  12. After the gateposts, keep left and follow the path alongside a fence to emerge next to a lane. Follow the path parallel to the lane until you approach a wooden fence on the cliff-edge, just before some houses.

    In November 1807, the army transport ship "James and Rebecca" was homeward bound with a squadron of the 9th Light Dragoons including their wives and children. At midnight, she ran aground at Halzephron Cliff due to a navigation error compounded by the dark night. The ship's guns were fired and many local people came to the ship's assistance. Over half the people onboard were rescued using a rope chair, but about 80 were still onboard when the ship broke up. Roughly half of these were rescued from the water but 10 sailors, 28 soldiers and 3 children died.

  13. Keep left to follow the path along the wooden fences, over a stile and through a gate. Continue along the coast path to reach another pedestrian gate, just before a stile.

    In November 1872, a sailing vessel called "The Lochleven's Flower", carrying a cargo of grain, was caught in a south westerly gale as it crossed Mounts Bay. It was obvious that she would not be able to escape the bay and must run for the shore. Local people gathered along the beach and the Porthleven lifeboat was launched. To the surprise of all, the crew disembarked into small boats and rowed to the shore. An account was published in the Western Morning News:

    Breaker after breaker was surmounted. The features of the poor fellows were plainly seen, and it was hoped some at least would reach the shore. But a few seconds dispelled all hope. No sooner was the last roller passed than the boat fell into the truck, a huge mass of water rose like a wall, and all were engulphed. The boat was smashed into splinters, and the seamen were seen struggling for a short time in the white seething waters, and in sight of unavailable assistance and pitying friends they perished. An attempt was made by joining hands to rescue some, but the sea claimed its victims and all were soon lost to sight.

    Meanwhile, the unmanned ship was driven against Halzephron Cliffs and smashed to pieces. It was thought that if the crew had stayed aboard the ship, that they could have been rescued.

  14. Go through, or around, the gate ahead and cross the stile. Follow the coast path until it passes beside a house and emerges onto a driveway.
  15. Bear right onto the drive and follow it to meet the track to the beach.

    In January 1527, the San Antonio was sailing from Lisbon to Antwerp with a cargo including copper and silver ingots, cloth, candlesticks and musical instruments. The cargo was extremely valuable, with an equivalent value in the order of hundreds of millions of pounds today. The vessel encountered bad weather and anchored in Mount's Bay, hoping for it it pass before rounding the Lizard. However her anchor cable snapped and she was driven towards the shore. The captain attempted to beach the vessel on the shingle of the Loe Bar but instead struck the reef just off the beach near Fishing Cove. The ship was destroyed and nearly half the crew drowned. Much salvage took place from the wreckage and the survivors accused some prominent local gentry of robbery with violence. The King of Portugal pressed charges and a court case followed but the outcome is unknown, however, there is evidence that the estates of the three accused landowners grew substantially afterwards, presumably assisted by the value of goods salvaged. In the 1970s, a copper ingot was recovered by a shellfish diver, but the significance of this was not understood and the location of the wreck was not known until 1981 when a holidaymaker discovered a copper ingot washed up on the beach. A local diver then found a melon-sized ball of silver weighing nearly 9kg lying on the reef. The wreck is now protected and no diving is allowed within 75 metres of its position.

  16. Keep right to follow the track away from the beach and to pass the barn on your right. Continue on the track until it ends in a T-junction with a lane.

    A pilchard industry was established at Fishing Cove in the early 19th Century. The large building known as "the cellars" was derelict for most of the 20th Century but was restored in the 21st. Even when derelict, it had many more windows than a typical pilchard cellar which may indicate it had a dual use. The winches along the cliff edge were used to raise boats from the beach to protect them from storms. These were still in use into the 20th Century as evidenced by the remains of a petrol engine.

  17. Turn right onto the lane and walk past the Halzephron Inn to reach a track on the left beside Chy-an-Vounder Cottage.

    The Halzephron Inn was built in 1468, making use of the timber from shipwrecks. Many features of the pub are centuries old, including the bar counter. Within the thick wall between the lounge and "Fishermen's Bar" is a shaft leading to a tunnel. It is thought this connected the Inn to a nearby monastery and is also said that it connected to a passage from Fishing Cove, used by smugglers.

  18. Turn left down the track and follow it to a path with a red waymark to Cury. Follow the waymarked path to reach a gate.

    The settlement of Chyanvounder was first recorded in 1345 when it was spelt "Chyenvondre". The name transliterates from Cornish as "Cottage the lane", but the implication was probably "on" or "beside". A lack of prepositions still hangs over in Cornish dialect in use today such as "We'm goin' beach". The Cornish word for lane, bownder, crops up on quite a few road signs these days. In case you're wondering where the "b" went, it mutates to a "v" after an (the Cornish word for "the").

  19. Cross the stile on the right of the gate and bear left slightly across the field to an opening just before the corner in the hedge. As you approach, you'll see that it's marked with a red waymark.

    Public byways are rights of way down which motor vehicles may be driven depending on how brave you are and how expensive your car is to fix. You are also permitted to use a horse-drawn carriage, should you own one. Byways tend to be surfaced in an ad-hoc manner either with gravel or occasionally with a smattering of tarmac, but still leaving plenty of room for a good crop of grass to grow down the centre. They are conventionally marked using red waymarks or a "Public Byway" sign. There are 130 miles of byways in Cornwall.

  20. Go through the waymarked opening and follow the track to a waymark beside a gateway. Turn right as indicated and continue following the track to a yellow waymark.
  21. Turn left onto the track at the waymark and cross the stile on the right of the gate. Follow the track to another waymark.
  22. Follow the path along the hedge on the right to reach a waymark in a gateway.
  23. Go through the gateway then bear left along the path down the field to reach a footbridge and stile.
  24. When you reach the footbridge, cross the stile and the walkway on the other side; then follow the path along the edge of the marsh to reach another stile and wooden walkway.

    The buildings at the top of the hill form a settlement known as Chypye.

    The settlement of Chypye dates from mediaeval times - the first record of the name is from 1492 when it was written Chypy. The name is thought to be based on the name of the owner as well as the Cornish word chy, meaning "cottage".

  25. Follow the sequence of stiles and wooden walkways across the marsh to emerge beneath a bank on the other side.
  26. At the end of the walkway, turn right and follow the path along the bottom of the bank to reach a stile.

    The grassy slope here can be a good spot for parasol mushrooms.

    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.

  27. Cross the stile and bear left slightly over the brow of the hill and then make for the stile and footbridge at the bottom of the field.
  28. Cross the sequence of stiles along the walkway and head towards the gateway in the top-left corner of the field. Before you reach the gateway, bear right to stay in the field and follow along the hedge to a waymarked stone stile at the very top of the field.
  29. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a track.
  30. Turn left onto the track and follow it past the house to a waymark. Then keep right around the bend to pass beside the stone barns. Follow the track until you reach another bend with a metal gate ahead.

    The farm is called Sowanna Farm.

    The settlement of Sowanna was first recorded in 1201 by a Latin-literate scribe as "de Sancto Ywene". The original Cornish name is likely to predate this and is possibly from the Cornish word sen, meaning "Saint", and the name of the Saint in question, which would have been something along the lines of "Wenna".

  31. Go through the gate and bear left very slightly across the field to a gate in the hedge opposite. As you approach, make for the stile to the right of the gate.
  32. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow it until it ends in a T-junction opposite the church.

    The settlement of Cury is thought to date from a religious settlement in the Dark Ages. The circular shape of the churchyard is thought to be the remains of this. In 1201, the settlement was recorded as "Eglosculy". The name is from the Cornish word Eglos, meaning church, and the name of a Celtic saint, so it is thought that there would have been a church here by this time.

  33. Turn left and follow the road until you reach the 30mph speed limit signs and just after these is a wooden pedestrian gate on the right next to a driveway.

    The church is dedicated to St Corentin and the building dates from the 11th Century. An 11th Century doorway and font remain from this time. In the 13th Century, it was owned by an Abbey in Gloucestershire and attached to the parish of Breage. In the 15th Century, the church was rebuilt and much of the current building dates from this time. Money was left extending the church in the 16th Century but the work was never carried out.

    The head of the mediaeval cross now standing in the churchyard was found lying in a ditch within the churchyard and was reunited with its base in 1849.

  34. Turn right through the wooden gate and follow the path alongside the fence to emerge into a field. Follow the path along the right hedge to the corner, then turn left to stay in the field and keep following the right hedge to reach a stile in the corner opposite to where you entered the field.
  35. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a stile in the corner of the far hedge.
  36. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow the path between the fence and the hedge on the right, into the trees and down the valley to a waymarked gate. Go through this and continue ahead over the footbridge then follow the path to emerge into a field.

    The footpath that continued ahead leads to Nanplough farm. The farm was first recorded in 1302 when it was spelt Nasbloth. The name is from the Cornish words nans, meaning "valley", and blough, meaning "bare".

  37. Follow the right hedge of the field to a grassy corner, where a path departs to the right.

    At the top of the field was the mediaeval settlement of Pentire which was first recorded in 1327. The last record of the settlement still standing was in 1813. By 1880, all that was left was a small enclosure, and even that has now disappeared.

  38. Bear right down the path and follow it through a gateway then alongside the hedge on the left to emerge on a driveway opposite Lampra Mill.

    The first record of Lampra Mill is in the 1880s but it was probably around for some time before this. There were two sources of water available: the small stream which the route crossed a little earlier via a footbridge, and a leat was also run from the main river at Chypons which carried water alongside the driveway.

  39. Bear right onto the driveway and follow it downhill to a waymarked gate. Go through the gate and follow the driveway past Lampra Mill Cottage and through another gate to meet another track. Continue ahead on the track until it ends on a road opposite Chypons.

    The track from the mill is planted with Daffodils and Camelias which are also in flower in early spring. There are also snowdrops, and an abundance of wild garlic.

    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.

  40. Turn right onto the road and follow this over the bridge to a bend with a Public Bridleway sign on the right.

    The settlement of Chypons dates back to mediaeval times and was first recorded in 1416. The name is Cornish, meaning something along the lines of "Bridge Cottage".

  41. Turn right down the track marked with the Public Bridleway sign and follow this to a ford. Cross the stream via the footbridge on the left and continue on the track to reach a gate crossing the track, just before a bend beside two field gateways.
  42. Go through the gate and keep right to stay on the track. Follow this until you reach another gate across the track beside a Public Footpath sign.
  43. Go through the gates ahead to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow this until it eventually ends in a T-junction opposite a Poldhu Cove sign.

    The farm that you pass on the right is Polhormon, which also gives its name to the road (Polharmon Road).

    The settlement of Polhormon dates from mediaeval times and was first recorded in 1301. It is thought that a number of the existing buildings date from the 1880s.

  44. Turn right in the direction signposted to Poldhu Cove. Follow the road to a public footpath sign on the left at Angrouse Court.

    At the junction, you can make an optional diversion to the left into Mullion to the church and pub, which are approximately one-third of a mile from the junction.

    The church in Mullion dates from the 13th century but most of the stonework that can be seen today dates from the 15th Century with some restoration in the 20th Century. The main south door dates from the 13th century and has a dog flap to allow restless sheepdogs to be released during a long service. The wooden-studded north door is thought to have been brought from another church and to be around 1,000 years old. The north door was known as The Devil's Door as it was opened during baptisms to allow evil spirits to escape. The carved bench ends are thought to date from Tudor times and the wood is reputed to be from an ancient oak forest that once covered part of the Goonhilly Downs.

  45. Turn left down the track marked with the footpath sign and follow it past Seven Pines to a corner with a pedestrian gate ahead; keep right to stay on the track and follow it as it peters out into a path to reach a gate.

    At the first bend in the track, just before you reach Angrouse Cottage, is a pedestrian gate on the left behind which is Mullion's commemorative stone to John Wesley.

    John Wesley's visit to Mullion is commemorated on the stone near Angrouse Farm, engraved in 1762 which simply says "ST 1762". Wesley was invited to preach in Mullion by the wife of the farmer at Angrouse and "ST" is the initial either of the farmer or his wife (their surname was Triggs and the "S" is either "Samuel" or "Sue", short for Ursula). Wesley also recorded the event in his journal:

    I rode on to Mullion, near the Lizard Point. A man who was a sinner gladly received us, for he knew God had received him - having been deeply convinced of sin the last time I preached near Helston, and not long after filled with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. A flame was kindled almost as soon as I began to speak, which increased more and more all the time I was preaching as well as during the meeting of the society. How tender are the hearts of this people! Such is the advantage of true Christian simplicity!

    Angrouse Cottage is thought to date from the early 18th Century and was once the farmhouse for Angrouse Farm. It is said that the original roof beams included deck planks from wrecked ships. The name is Cornish for "The Cross", and may refer to a mediaeval wayside cross which was once nearby.

  46. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the path to emerge onto a driveway.

    After his successful preliminary tests near Lizard Point, Marconi set out to build a high-powered transmitter, one hundred times more powerful than any built previously. He selected the site near Mullion as it faced West, had a hotel to accommodate the workforce, and was away from the prying eyes of competitors and the press. Work began in October 1900 and a huge circular aerial was constructed supported by a ring of twenty masts each 200ft tall.

  47. Turn right onto the path alongside the driveway and follow this to reach a tarmacked driveway.

    By September 1901, Marconi was close to being ready to make a long-range test transmission, but a gale in Mount's Bay destroyed the massive Poldhu aerial. A makeshift "fan" aerial was hastily constructed as a replacement.

    Marconi then travelled to Newfoundland by steamer and found a site where he could hoist aerials attached to kites and balloons. He then had to wait for a lull in the bad winter weather to get his kite aloft and finally on 12 December 1901, Marconi made history by detecting the Morse code for the letter "S" on his earphone.

    The wireless transmission from Poldhu's makeshift aerial had successfully propagated over 2,000 miles of open ocean by repeatedly bouncing off the electrically charged layer in the upper atmosphere and the reflective surface of the sea.

    Marconi later said that "the experiment had involved risking at least £50,000 to achieve a result which had been declared impossible by some of the principal mathematicians of the time".

    The Marconi Centre was erected in 2001 to mark the 100th anniversary of Marconi's transatlantic experiment and is the base for the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club, with displays on the history of the site.

  48. Turn right onto the driveway and follow this to the road. Turn left on the road to reach the car park and complete the circular route.

    After the success of his experiment, Marconi developed Poldhu into a wireless station to communicate with ships on transatlantic routes. It operated commercially until the 1920s, and played a key role during the First World War. It was closed and demolished in the 1930s, leaving only embankments in the field and concrete foundations as a reminder of what was once here.

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.

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