- OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
- Distance: 4.2 miles/6.8 km
- Grade: Strenuous
- Start from: St Saviour's Hill Car Park
- Parking: St Saviour's Hill Car Park. Pass the car park on the outskirts of Polruan and follow the road until you reach St Saviour's Hill on the left; turn down this to reach the car park. Satnav: PL231PZ
- Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or shoes in summer
- Spectacular views over Lantic Bay
- White sandy beaches
- Historic fishing village of Polruan
- Wildlife along the creeks
- Make your way to the wooden gate in the corner of the car park near the coast. Follow the surfaced path past the coastguard lookout until the path ends at a gate on a lane.
The ruin next to the NCI lookout at Polruan is of St Saviour's chapel, originally built in the 8th or 9th Centuries. The chapel, originally quite small, was enlarged, possibly by Sir Richard Edgcumbe in 1488, to a building with a nave, three large windows and a tower. The chapel had become an important navigational marker, and a beacon was lit on the tower during the night. The tower also served as a lookout to spot enemy ships approaching to attack the port of Fowey. After 1572 the chapel fell into ruin following the dissolution of the monasteries.
- Bear right onto the lane and follow it until you reach Furze Park where there is a driveway on the right with a Coast Path sign.
The coastguard lookout is run by the National Coastwatch Institution.
The National Coastwatch Institution was set up to restore visual watches along the UK coastline after two Cornish fishermen lost their lives within sight of an empty Coastguard lookout in 1994. The first station - at Bass Point on The Lizard, where the fishermen had died - opened in December 1994. The organisation, staffed by volunteers, now runs 50 lookout stations around England and Wales.
- Turn right down the driveway indicated by the Coast Path sign and follow this to a pedestrian gate on the left. Go through this and follow the coast path to reach a pedestrian gate on the far side of the field. Go through this and follow the path a short distance further to reach another gate leading into another field.
Furze Park takes its name from the gorse growing along the coast.
Gorse, also known as furze, is present as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century). Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads and to make a tea, beer or wine.
- Go through the gate and follow the path along the right hedge of the field to another pedestrian gate.
- Go through the gate and follow the path around the point, through one pedestrian gate to another at the top of the hill where the path passes through a wall.
The hawthorn trees along the path have been shaped by the wind and consequently point northeast, away from the prevailing southwesterlies.
The hawthorn tree is most often found in hedgerows where it was used to create a barrier for livestock, and in fact haw was the Old English word for "hedge". The flowers of the hawthorn are known as "May Blossom" and were traditionally used as decorations in May Day celebrations. Now, however, the hawthorn generally doesn't flower until the middle of May. The reason for this is that May has moved! Until 1752, Britain used the Julian Calendar which had leap years every 4 years but no other corrections. This results in a length of day that is fractionally too long, so the first of May gradually slipped forwards over the centuries. By the 1700s, the first of May was 11 days ahead of where it is today.
In Mediaeval times, bringing hawthorn blossom into the house was thought to bring death and it was described as smelling like the Great Plague. The explanation for this is thought to be that the hawthorn blossom contains trimethylamine which is one of the first chemicals formed when animal tissue decays. Young leaves of the plant can be used in salads as the chemical is not present in the leaves so these taste nutty rather than of death.
- Go through the gate and continue on the coast path to reach another gate.
- Go through the gate and follow the path to a bench where a path leaves to the left.
- Keep right at the bench to go down the steps and through the gate. Follow the path through a second gate and keep right to reach a third gate in a hedge, leading into a steeply-sloping field.
- Go through the gate and follow the path along the coast, up the steep incline, to reach a gate on the right with a path also leading ahead.
The crescent shape of Lantic Bay shelters it from the wind and its white, sandy beaches face south towards the sun. Within the bay, the main beach - Great Lantic Beach - is accessible via a flight of steps. At low tide, this joins to the other beaches in the bay - Little Lantic Beach on one side and some small coves on the other. As the tide comes in, these are cut off and there is no path up from them, so care should be taken in exploring them.
- Go up the steps next to the gate and follow the path along the right hedge to reach another gate at the top of the field.
- Turn left and follow the path along the right hedge, signposted to Pencarrow Car Park, until you reach a pedestrian gate on the right, just before the field gate ahead.
- Turn right through the pedestrian gate and follow the path until it ends at another gate.
- Go through the gate and carefully cross the lane to the small lane opposite with a car park sign. Follow the lane past the church until it ends at a junction.
The church is dedicated to St Wyllow who according to legend was born in Ireland in the 6th Century, lived as a hermit in Cornwall and was beheaded by the locals. The current church was built in the 14th Century and altered in the 15th. The brass of Thomas de Mohun within the church dates from this period and the brasses depicting John Mohun and his wife date from the start of the 16th Century. The bench ends were also carved in the 16th Century and carefully preserved during an 18th Century restoration. Daphne Du Maurier featured the church as 'Lanoc Church' in her first novel, "The Loving Spirit" and she was married here herself in 1932.
- Bear left from the junction to a pedestrian gate on the right, just past the signpost. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow the path parallel to the lane to a bench.
- At the bench, turn right down the steep path. Follow this until it ends in a junction with another path.
- Bear left onto the path and follow it until it ends on a track.
The path you have just joined that leads to Polruan is known as the Hall Walk.
Hall Manor, just above Bodinnick, was built in the 13th century. An ornamental promenade was created which ran from the manor to Penleath Point and dates back to at least the 16th Century. It was described by Richard Carew in 1585 as:
cut out in the side of a steepe hill….evenly levelled, to serve for bowling, floored with sand, for soaking up the rayne, closed with two thorne hedges, and banked with sweete senting flowers: It wideneth to a sufficient breadth, for the march of five or sixe in front, and extendeth, to not much lesse, then halfe a London mile …..and is converted on the foreside, into platformes, for the planting of Ordinance, and the walkers sitting; and on the back part, into Summer houses, for their more private retrait and recreation.
One of the Summer Houses remains on the point, containing a row of benches. Later, the path was extended to Polruan. The full length of this is now known as the "Hall Walk" but originally the name would have probably just referred to the promenade to Penleath Point.
The land for the walk was given to the National Trust as a joint memorial to Sir Arthur Quiller Couch and the men of Fowey and Polruan who had died during the Second World War.
- Cross the track to the waymarked path opposite and follow this until it eventually emerges via a flight of steps onto a narrow alleyway in Polruan, next to a Hall Walk sign.
The River Fowey rises close to Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and is fed by 7 tributaries along its 25 mile course, many of which also start on Bodmin Moor. The upper reaches run through 2 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the Fowey valley is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is also used as a conduit for the public water system to feed water from the Siblyback and Colliford reservoirs on Bodmin Moor down to Restormel where it enters the water mains. The increased demand for water from summer visitors has the effect of buffering the river levels in the drier months from the reservoirs. The river has populations of Sea Trout and Salmon as well as Brown Trout which make it popular with fly fishermen.
- Turn right at the Hall Walk sign and follow the tarmacked path down the steps to reach another Hall Walk sign.
Polruan is located in the lee of the prevailing winds within the Fowey estuary and is therefore a very sheltered natural harbour. The settlement originated as a small fishing village and later became a centre for boat building. The name is associated with St Ruan, who is said to have settled on the hill above Polruan during early mediaeval times.
- At the bottom of the steps, turn left and follow the path down more steps and along the narrow lane to reach a junction of lanes by the harbour.
During the 6th century AD, an enclosed settlement was established at Fowey by a small religious community containing a small church and dwellings. Fowey developed its fishing and sea trading industries during the Middle Ages and by 1260, was the most important port in Cornwall, taking over from Lostwithiel when the river silted up as a result of streaming for tin in the river valleys. Fowey was a busy port even during the 20th Century with china clay taking over from the ore exports after the tin and copper prices collapsed in the late 19th century, and china clay exports continue although on a smaller scale than previously.
- Continue ahead onto the narrow lane signposted to the Coast Path and Blockhouse. Follow the lane past the Russell Inn and the church to a junction with a sign for the Blockhouse (ahead) and the Coast Path (left).
The location of Fowey close to the mouth of the estuary made it vulnerable to attack by sea. The town was destroyed by fire during invasions by French, Spanish and other pirate ships in 1330, 1380 and 1457. Following the 1380 raid, blockhouses were built on either side of the estuary mouth. A chain spanned between them that could be raised to close the channel in times of need. The chain was later confiscated by the King after boats from Fowey and Polruan were convicted of Piracy.
- Turn left onto Battery Lane and follow this to a junction where there is a Battery Lane sign. Follow the path ahead past the Old Vicarage to a corner with a Coast Path sign. Continue on the path until you reach a small waymarked path leading ahead from Hoe Cottage.
- At this point you have a choice to complete the circular route. You can either follow the gravel path ahead that leads straight back to the car park, or the grassy path to the right leads to the remains of a gun battery on Peak Point with spectacular views over the entrance to the harbour and another path leads back from this to the car park.
On the seaward side of the wall on Peak Point is the base of a gun battery, which may have been in use as early as the 17th Century. By 1860 there were four guns installed here with a further two on the Fowey side of the estuary to cover the entrance to the harbour. The area was also used for naval training and a drill hut was located where Hoe Cottage is situated now. The wall behind the battery was originally three times its current height and was used as a firing range for rifle practice.
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