Polzeath to St Enodoc Church

The walk starts at Polzeath beach and follows the coast path, known as "The Greenaway", around past a number of small beaches with purple-and-green pinstripe rocks and many rockpools to explore at low tide. The route continues past remains of shipwrecks on Trebetherick point and descends onto the beach at Daymer Bay before heading through the sand dunes to St Enodoc Church - the burial place of Sir John Betjamen. The route then loops inland, across fields and golf courses, to reach Polzeath.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.7 miles/6 km
  • Grade: Easy
  • Start from: Polzeath beach
  • Parking: Polzeath beach car park (on the sand). Satnav: PL276TB
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Golden, sandy beaches at Polzeath, Broadagogue Cove and Daymer Bay
  • Panoramic views across Polzeath beach and Hayle Bay
  • Surreal purple-and-green-striped rocks and remains of shipwrecks around Trebetherick Point
  • Panoramic views along Daymer Bay and across the Camel Estuary to Stepper Point
  • St Enodoc Church - burial place of Sir John Betjamen and itself once buried in the dunes
  • Rolling countryside around Trebetherick and Roserrow with views of Pentire Point

Alternative walks in same location

Directions

  1. From the beach car park with the sea behind you, turn right onto the road and follow it up the hill to the bend with a coast path sign.
  2. Follow the coast path from the signpost, along the fence, to eventually reach a footbridge.

    The name Polzeath comes from the Cornish words for "dry" and for "pool/harbour", perhaps because there is a beach at all stages of the tide. Down the left side of the beach, there are some good rockpools at low tide. The rest of the beach is very flat and sandy, which can make for some long rides (and paddles!) if you are surfing. This also means that in the shallows, the waves are small which makes it safer for small children to paddle or surf than some of the steeper beaches further north. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards and there is usually a separately flagged malibu area to avoid surfers mowing down swimmers.

    The tide goes out and comes in a long way so bear that in mind to avoid floating picnics. In the event of such a catastrophe or for those more inclined, there are a number of cafés around the beach and even a grocery shop. There is often an ice cream van on the beach in the summer, so parents may want to be armed with change to avoid diplomatic incidents.

  3. Cross the footbridge and follow the path (known as "The Greenaway") along the cliffs, passing a couple of small sandy beaches, until you reach the larger Greenaway Beach where there is a "to the beach" sign (facing away from you).

    The sandy soil along the coast is able to support plants more commonly seen on chalk downs such as cowslips, due to the sand being comprised of small fragments of shell (calcium carbonate). The majority of the soil in North Cornwall is acidic, particularly towards Bodmin Moor, so sand from the beaches was used extensively to improve the soil fertility for farming.

  4. From Greenaway Beach, follow the coast path which runs along a wall on the left to reach a waymark at the end of the wall.

    As you round the point, next to the path are the remains of shipwrecks, washed ashore in heavy seas.

    On 11 April 1900, the sailing ship "Peace and Plenty" was returning from fishing and, on rounding Stepper Point at the entrance to the Camel Estuary, was becalmed. The vessel was anchored but in the rough sea, the ship began to roll and the anchor dragged. Eventually she struck Greenway Rocks on the opposite side of the estuary. The Padstow lifeboat "Arab" was launched and anchored close to the stricken ship. A tremendous wave struck the lifeboat, breaking ten oars and washing eight of her crew overboard. The men managed to regain the lifeboat without loss of life but due to the lack of oars, it was incapacitated. Using the remaining oars and the anchor cable, the coxwain managed to manoevre the boat into a creek where the crew jumped ashore, moments before she was dashed against the rocks. The new Padstow steam lifeboat was then launched, but as it left the harbour, a large wave broke and capsized it; eight of her crew of eleven were drowned and it was also wrecked. The Trebetherick rocket brigade managed to attach lines to the "Peace and Plenty" just before it sank beneath the surface, and five of the eight crew were saved.

  5. At the waymark, bear left to stay on the coast path and follow it along the edge of Fishing Cove and into Daymer Bay car park.

    Just after the path turns the corner, you can (carefully) climb down onto the stripey slate formations of Trebetherick Point.

    Trebetherick Point at Daymer Bay is a geologist's paradise, deemed "difficult and controversial (therefore interesting and exciting!)" by the Open University Geological Society. The rest of us can admire the pretty green-and-purple-striped slate!

    Slate is formed when clay or volcanic ash is compressed under millions of years of deposits to form shale, and then the shale is subject to a (relatively low, in geological terms) heat and pressure transforming it into a harder, less-crumbly rock - slate. The heat and pressure can arise from an intrusion of molten magma into the sedimentary rocks or from the friction associated with collision of tectonic plates. Like shale, slate also has a layered structure, splitting into thin sheets which have proven ideal for shedding water from roofs without collapsing them under the weight of stone. However, the direction that the slate splits into layers is often not the same as the direction of the layers that were laid down in the original shale. This is because a reorganisation of the mineral components occurs during the metamorphosis, based on the direction that the pressure was applied. In other words, it's possible to have stripey slates.

  6. As you enter the car park, bear right along the edge and take the steps down to the beach. Cross the stream and walk roughly halfway along the beach to a gap in the dunes between the two fences.

    Daymer bay is situated around the corner from Polzeath, facing into the Camel Estuary. The beach lies directly in front of the car park, down a short flight of steps. The sheltered estuary means that Daymer Bay is popular for windsurfing, kitesurfing etc. There is a beach at all states of the tide and the waves are never very big so it's a safe place to take young children paddling, though in deeper water the tidal river currents can be strong so swimming out into the estuary is not advised.

  7. Turn left and follow the path to reach a waymarked post at the far end of the fence on the right.

    Dunes (called towans in Cornish) form when dry sand from the beach is blown by the wind, and initially lodges against an obstruction, eventually forming a ridge. More sand can then accumulate against the ridge and vegetation such as marram grass can then take hold, preventing the resulting sand hill from washing or blowing away. Erosion of the vegetation by foot traffic can cause the dunes to disintegrate, so areas are sometimes fenced off to allow the all-important weeds to recover. Most of the major dunes on the North Cornish coastline are thought to have formed more than 5,000 years ago when sea levels finally stopped rising after the glacial ice from the last Ice Age had finished melting.

  8. Continue ahead from the end of the fence until a path comes into view with white St Enodoc Golf Course signs. Follow this path (marked out with white stones) across the golf course, heading for St Enodoc church, until the path enters some bushes and emerges on another path at a waymark.

    In 1889, some local golf enthusiasts laid out a few holes amongst the dunes at Rock and they formed St. Enodoc Golf Club in 1890. A course was built in 1890 but initially only consisted of 9 holes. It wasn't until 2 years later that another 9 were added. In 1907, a new 18 hole course was laid out, which forms the basis of today's course, with a number of alterations in the intervening years. The course now ranks within the top 100 in the world.

  9. At the waymark, bear right onto the path and follow it a short distance to another waymark.

    Golf developed in The Netherlands during the Middle Ages and was introduced into Scotland towards the end of this period where it evolved to its present form. The word golf is thought to be a Scots alteration of Dutch colf meaning "club". Golf is first documented in Scotland in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament, prohibiting the playing of the games of gowf and futball as these were a distraction from archery practice.

  10. At the waymark, turn left and hug the edge of the churchyard on the left until you reach the entrance.

    St Enodoc church is located amongst the greens of the St Enodoc Golf Course. The church dates from the 12th century and is said to lie on the site of a cave where St Enodoc lived as a hermit. It is thought that St Enoder (aka Enodoc) was the grandson of the 5th Century Celtic King Brychan.

    Over a number of centuries, the church became virtually buried by the towans (dunes) and was known locally as "Sinking Neddy". In order to collect its tithes, the church had to host services at least once a year so the vicar and congregation had to enter through a hole in the roof during this period. During the 19th century, the church was excavated and later it became a favourite place of Sir John Betjeman who is buried in the churchyard.

  11. Facing away from the church, turn left at the waymark and follow the path behind the church indicated by the white marker stones across the golf course, until you reach a wooden gate on your right.

    You'll notice that there is lichen growing on many of the headstones in the churchyard. Of the 2,000 British species, over a third have been found in churchyards and more than 600 have been found growing on churchyard stone in lowland England. Almost half the species are rare and some seldom, if ever, occur in other habitats. Many churchyards are found to have well over 100 species.

  12. Go through the kissing gate next to the gate and bear left slightly, heading towards the middle of the hedge opposite. Once you have crossed the brow of the hill, a wooden stile will come into view; make for this.

    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.

  13. Cross the stile and a stone footbridge; then bear right slightly onto the path across the field towards the hedge opposite (in front of the houses) to reach a stone stile which emerges onto the road.

    Barley is a fundamental part of the rural culture - the word "barn" literally means "barley house". During mediaeval times, only the ruling classes had bread made from wheat; the peasants' bread was made from barley and rye.

    Barley was one of the first domesticated crops and has been dated back over 10,000 years. Consequently beer made from barley is likely to have been one of the first alcoholic drinks consumed by the Neolithic tribes.

  14. Carefully cross the road to the signposted track opposite. Follow the track along the fence on the right then continue ahead, past the houses, to a stile into the field behind.

    The footpath leads to Roserrow, which is pronounced "roz" (as in police) and "errow" (how the queen would say "arrow"). Ros was the Cornish word for "moor" and erow meant "an acre". The acre of moorland is now an acre of golf course.

  15. Cross the stile follow the path between the electric fences towards the opening in the middle of the far hedge to reach an elastic cord across the path between two posts.

    The town of "Rock" gets its name from the Blue Elvan that was quarried nearby.

    Elvan is very hard volcanic rock formed where magma intruded into other rocks to form a (vertical) dyke or (horizontal) sill that cooled fairly quickly, resulting in fairly small crystals. Chemically it is very similar to granite, but in the case of granite, slower cooling resulted in large crystals. Elvans can be seen in many of the churches across Cornwall where it is often used for intricate parts of buildings, such as doorways, so they can be finely carved.

    The term "greenstone" is used by quarrymen to describe igneous rocks that, unlike granite, are rich in iron and magnesium and these give it a blue-green colour. When greenstone is formed as a sill or dyke it is sometimes called "blue elvan". This is also quite common in Cornwall and has been quarried for a long time: in the Neolithic period, stone axes made from blue elvan were exported from Cornwall to various parts of Britain.

  16. Go through the three electric fences by unhooking the clips between the closely-spaced wooden posts with the black handles and rehooking afterwards. Once through the last fence and in the field ahead, bear left very slightly across it to a small opening in the middle of the section of hedge you are facing (with another electric fence clip).

    Electric fences are powered with a car battery which charges a capacitor to release a periodic pulse of electricity; this is often audible as a quiet "crack" which is a good indicator that a fence is powered. The power is not high enough to cause serious injury but touching an electric fence is nevertheless unpleasant in a similar way to stinging nettles. If you are answering the call of nature in the vicinity of an electric fence, be mindful of the conductivity of electrolyte solutions!

  17. Go down the steps and cross the stream and stile on the other side, which emerges onto the golf course. Avoiding golf balls (which would be coming from the right), cross the grass towards the corner of a small section of hedge ahead and slightly to your right, which has a white marker on the corner.

    The golf course at Roserrow is now known as "The Point" due to the rather nice view of Pentire. Although the course's website states that "suitable golfing attire is compulsory", there is no need to dress in Argyle jumpers for this part of the route. However, please respect the grass when crossing the fairways (e.g. avoid stabbing it with walking poles). Also take note of the locations of any players and direction of play, to avoid any parts of your anatomy from impeding the progress of golf balls.

  18. Turn right and follow the hedge to the end, then bear left to join and follow the line of white marker posts. Follow the posts past a patch of gorse (keeping to the left of the gorse) to where a rough path departs towards the fence.

    In previous centuries, the mines in the area provided employment for both sexes.

    During Georgian and Victorian times, many teenage girls were employed in Cornwall as "Bal Maidens" (sometimes shortened to "Bal Maids"). Whilst the period may conjure up images depicted in Jane Austen novels, young ladies were somewhat less sappy in Cornwall. The girls would break ore-bearing rocks with a heavy pointed hammer to separate the ore from the surrounding rock. The ore was then broken into granules (a process known as buckling) by bashing it with a lumphammer. It was recorded in 1851 that there were more than 6,000 women and girls working at Cornish mines.

  19. Follow the path along the wooden fence to reach a tarmac road with a track opposite signposted for the footpath to Polzeath.

    Cargo washed from ships wrecked on the Doom Bar provided some supplements to the income of the locals. The West Briton Newspaper reported on 5 Feb 1819:

    The country people in the neighbourhood of Padstow have been rather busily employed, for some time, in securing the part of the cargo of a vessel lately wrecked on their coast. On Wednesday evening last, a box of figs, part of this cargo, was discovered on St Minver Commons which gave rise to a serious affray between a party of damsels who were on the lookout for secreted plunder, and some bal maidens who were returning from a mine. The contest lasted for two hours in the course of which some of the combatants were reduced to a state of approaching nudity. In the end the bal maidens were victorious and carried off the prize.
  20. Cross the tarmac to the track opposite and follow along the fence then continue to a white sign where the hedge ends.

    You might have noticed that Hayle Bay is marked on maps as not at Hayle near St Ives but at Polzeath. Although this might look like the cartographer had a prior engagement with local scrumpy, there is another explanation: Heyl is Cornish for "Estuary". Further up the River Camel at Wadebridge is Egloshale, which translates to something along the lines of "church by the estuary".

  21. Turn left and follow the path along the hedge past one waymark to a second waymark with a sign.
  22. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path downhill across 2 greens to reach a path leading into some bushes.
  23. Follow the path downhill and follow the hedge on the left until the hedge ends before the path turns left through a gap in the wall.
  24. Continue ahead along the line of the hedge to a junction of paths beside an old stile in the trees.

    Shilla Mill is situated at the confluence of two streams above Polzeath: one rises 2 miles to the south near St Minver, and the other rises north of Pityme. The mill dates back to Tudor times (built around 1590) and operated until late Victorian times when it was converted into a house.

  25. Turn right at the junction and cross the bridge to Shilla Mill. At Shilla Mill, bear left to follow the track to Polzeath.

    Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.

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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