Portreath and Tehidy Country Park

The walk follows a byway to the coast at Basset's Cove and follows the coast path along the rugged coastline to Portreath, passing the endearingly-named cove of Ralph's Cupboard. The route follows the cliffs behind the beach at Portreath then follows small lanes to Illogan Woods. The route climbs through the wooded valley and emerges near the remains of an old mine. Mining trails then form the route to Tehidy Country Park where the route follows Pine Walk and the Rose Garden to reach the bluebell woods of the North Cliffs plantation.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.4 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Tehidy North Cliffs car park
  • Parking: Tehidy North Cliffs. From the B3301, the car park is signposted Tehidy Country Park Satnav: TR140TW
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Rugged coastline along the North Cliffs
  • Sandy beach at Portreath
  • Bluebells in Illogan Wood and the North Woods Plantation

Directions

  1. Follow the track back out of the car park towards the road. Turn right at the road and follow the verge until you are opposite a track.
  2. Carefully turn left across the road and follow the public byway towards the coast to reach a National Trust sign for Basset's Cove.

    Not to be outdone by Bedruthan Steps or Bolster at St Agnes, the North Cliffs has its own maritime giant legend too. The Wrath of Portreath was said to throw rocks at passing boats, steal their treasure and eat their crew. This could have arisen from the shallow reefs in these waters which were highly dangerous for shipping and resulted in a similar outcome.

  3. Bear right to join the coast path leading from the far right-hand side. Follow this to reach a stile on the far side of Basset's Cove.

    The spring that emerges in the field on the right is known as Mirrose Well.

    Before Christianity, the Pagan Celtic people of Cornwall worshipped wonders of the natural world. Where clean, drinkable water welled up from the ground in a spring, this was seen as pretty awesome. Where the springwater dissolved minerals, for specific conditions (e.g. deficiency in a mineral) or where the water was antibacterial, the water appeared to have healing properties. The sites were seen as portals to another world, and is why fairies are often associated with springs.

  4. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a footbridge at the bottom of the next valley.
  5. Cross the footbridge and continue on the coast path to reach another footbridge at the bottom of a deeper valley.

    Hanging valleys are common on the North Cornish coast and are created due to erosion of the relatively hard cliffs by the Atlantic waves being faster than erosion of the valley by a small river. In many cases, this results in a waterfall where the small river meets the sea cliff, though many of these are little more than a trickle in dry weather. When there is a strong onshore gale, the waterfalls sometimes run backwards!

  6. Cross the footbridge and follow the path a short distance to where it splits left and right.

    The (outermost) islet is appropriately known as Samphire island.

    Rock Samphire has been a popular wild food since Celtic times. It was very popular as a pickle in 16th century Britain until it almost died out from over-picking in the 19th Century. Consequently, it's currently a protected plant but is now making a good comeback. In Shakespeare's time, a rope was tied to a child's ankles and he was dangled over the cliff to pick the rock samphire that grew in crevices and clefts in the rocks.

    The completely unrelated but similar-looking Golden Samphire also grows around the North Cornish coast. The leaves look almost identical, but the daisy-like yellow flowers in summer are a giveaway, as Rock Samphire has tiny green-white flowers that look more like budding cow parsley. Golden Samphire is edible, but is inferior in flavour to Rock Samphire; it is also nationally quite rare in Britain.

  7. Turn right and follow the waymarked path until you eventually reach a kissing gate beside a farm gate.

    As you reach a bay, the narrow inlet is known as Ralph's Cupboard after a smuggler who hid contraband here. The narrow inlet, formed from a collapsed sea cave, provides a safe haul-out for seals.

  8. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to reach a waymark at a junction of paths.

    The rock furthest off the point ahead is known as Gull Rock.

    It has been suggested that a law must have been passed in Cornwall whereby all offshore rocks must be renamed to Gull Rock! It seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon as many reports from the 1800s use different names for the rocks now named Gull Rock.

    In the local dialect, the word "Orestone" was used to describe such offshore rocks. An object was described as "orey" if covered in seaweed (Oarweed being another name for the commonest kelp found around the Cornish coast).

  9. At the waymark, follow the leftmost path to another waymark. Follow the waymarked path around the headland and from the next waymark down a steep descent to reach a final waymark next to a kissing gate.

    The cliffs on the opposite side of the bay were the site of RAF Portreath.

    RAF Portreath was opened in March 1941 as a base for bombing raids against the occupied French Channel ports and fighter escorts for shipping convoys. Later in the war it became the main "jumping off" point for equipment headed south. The airfield was closed in 1946 and taken over by the Ministry of Supply where it was used a secret base for chemical weapons manufacture. Long after its closure in the late 1970s, it emerged that former workers there had died of exposure to the nerve gas, Sarin. As a precautionary measure, a large cleanup operation was mounted in 2000, though no residues of toxic materials were found to be remaining.

  10. Turn left through the kissing gate and follow the path to reach a driveway.

    The first quay was built at Portreath in 1713 near Amy's Point, though it was destroyed by the sea before 1749. In the late 1770s, during the American Revolutionary war, the harbour was fortified and shortly after this, in 1786, the pier was built. In the 19th century, Portreath was one of the main ports for the export of copper ore. In fact, in 1827 it was described as Cornwall's most important port. The two rectangular basins that today make up the harbour and the long breakwater just below the cliffs were built for the copper trade.

  11. Turn right onto the driveway and keep right as it merges onto a lane. Follow the lane until it eventually meets the main road.

    Portreath beach faces NNW so it is relatively sheltered from prevailing southwesterlies by Western Hill. Southerly or southeasterly winds provide the best surf conditions.

    Beneath the beach at Portreath are the remains of a submerged forest. During the 1980s, the beach was scoured by a storm and this was uncovered. The remains consisted of tree roots and fragments of wood set in peat.

  12. Cross the road to the track opposite but, almost immediately, bear left off the track onto a small path along the river. Follow this until you reach a bridge on the left, opposite the pub on the right.

    On the beach at Portreath there are six rectangular pools cut into the rock. These were created in the late 1700s on the orders of Frances Basset at Tehidy for his daughter Frances. During Georgian times, it was widely believed that bathing in cold saltwater was especially good for one's health and this continued into Victorian times with bathing machines being created to avoid ladies being seen in their extensive swimming garments.

  13. Continue ahead along Tregea Terrace until it ends on a road.

    Portreath is situated on the coast north of Redruth. The name Portreath was first recorded in 1485 and is from the Cornish Porth Treth meaning "sandy cove". As with many coastal villages, there was a fishing fleet who fished mainly for pilchards. Mining for tin and copper nearby led to further development of the port. There are records of tin being extracted from the valley stream beds at least as far back as 1602 and the proximity to the mines of Camborne and Redruth resulted in large amounts of ore being exported during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

  14. Bear right beneath the bridge and follow the road (Glenfeadon Terrace) until you reach a Mining Trail signpost on the left, opposite Primrose Terrace joining from the right.

    In 1837, a branch line of the Hayle Railway was built to connect the port of Portreath to mines in Camborne and Redruth. In order to transport wagons from the top of the valley to the harbour, the Inclined Plane was built. This was a massive 1:10 slope running all the way from the top of the valley which was cut into the bedrock and over the viaduct that Glenfeadon Terrace passes beneath. A steam engine at the top of the valley hauled a wagon up with a cable, whilst a wagon was lowered at the same time to act as a counter-balance. It was typically ore being brought down and (in much larger quantities) coal was taken up to power the many steam engines, including the one for raising the coal. Letting that one run out of coal would have been a major mistake!

  15. Continue ahead along Primrose Terrace until the lane forks.
  16. At the fork, keep right and follow the lane until it ends at a public footpath sign
  17. Follow the path ahead into the woods, passing through a gap in a wall across the path and over the river. Follow the path alongside the river until the path passes over the river a second time.

    The wall that you pass through just before the first stream crossing is the remains of an anti-tank defence constructed during the Second World War. A cider mill was situated close to the second stream crossing.

    The UK produces nearly two-thirds of all cider in the European Union and by volume of alcohol, the excise duty on cider is lower than any other drink. Cider has had a huge resurgence in populartity over the last few years and three in five adults now drink it.

    Cider is part of the Westcountry heritage and this includes a tradition dating back to the early Middle Ages known as the "Orchard Wassail" where an offering of bread and cider was made to the apple trees and incantations were recited to promote a good harvest.

    Cornish ciders beginning to achieve popularly outside the county include "Cornish Rattler" from Healey's cider farm (distributed by St Austell Ales) and "Orchard Cornish" cider (a joint venture between Cornish Orchards and Sharp's Brewery). In the interests of research, both have been extensively tested and deemed very refreshing and conducive to the recital of incantations.

  18. Follow the path over the river and continue along the path, slowing bearing away from the river until the path crosses over a brook at some granite gateposts.

    The river at Portreath was known as the Red River due to minerals from the mines draining into the river. Just after the river crossing in Illogan wood is the remains of a building and above this is a tiny stream flowing into the river which is still bright red.

    Metal sulphide ores within mines react with air and water to form sulphuric acid and dissolved metals. When this acidic solution (known as Acidic Mine Drainage) meets other water, it is diluted and the reduced acidity causes dissolved iron to precipitate out as orange or yellow hydroxides, colouring the water and sticking to anything in the watercourse. In the case of copper mines, copper stays dissolved in the water and at higher levels this can be toxic to wildlife, particularly fish.

    Where there is a large amount of water coming from a mine which is not rendered harmless by natural dilution, reed beds have been found to be very effective in treating the acidic water. Plants and bacteria in the reed bed convert the dissolved metals into insoluble compounds that are trapped within the reed bed. There are even suggestions that the metals may be commercially recoverable after they have been concentrated in the reed bed over a period of time.

  19. When you reach the junction, turn right onto the path running alongside the brook. Follow the path until it emerges in a field.

    During spring, the paths in the wood are lined with yellow celandines.

    The name Celandine is thought to come from the Latin word for swallow. It is said that the flowers bloom when the birds return in Spring and fade when they leave in Autumn. Celandine flowers close each night and open each morning. This is controlled by a circadian rhythm, so they really are 'going to sleep' at night and 'waking up in the morning'. It is likely that this has arisen to protect the internals of the flowers from any frost during the night as they begin flowering in March when frosts are still common.

  20. Bear right and follow the right hedge of the field to reach a track by a granite gatepost.
  21. Turn right down the track and follow it to a gate.

    In the yard ahead, one of the buildings was built to house a "horse engine" for threshing corn. The circular building would have contained a capstan-like device known as a "whim" which the horses would turn to provide the source of power. A popular design involved a central wooden pole which rotated in a stone on the ground containing a central hole. Such a stone was found beneath the floorboards when the building was re-floored in 1990. The settlement of Trengove is first recorded in 1319 and the name is thought to be from the Cornish word for "blacksmith" (gof).

  22. Go through the gate and immediately turn right down the Mining Trail. Follow this until it passes a gate on the right and then a path departs from the right.
  23. Turn right onto the path and follow it until it ends at a lane.
  24. Turn left and follow the Mining Trail until it eventually ends on a road.
  25. Cross the road and take the path opposite. Follow it alongside the car park and through the woods until it ends in a T-junction with another path, opposite a signpost.

    The manor of Tehidy was owned by the Basset family from Norman times until 1916. During the 1700s, the family became very wealthy from copper mining and a mansion was built in 1734, set in extensive grounds with a lake. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the manor was frequented by the gentry and inventors of mining technology. Shortly after the manor was sold, it was converted to a hospital which was devastated by a fire just two weeks after opening. In 1983, the grounds were purchased by Cornwall Council and were developed as a Country Park which is now the largest area of woodland in West Cornwall.

  26. When you reach the signpost, turn right in the direction signposted "North Cliffs Plantation". Follow the path alongside the golf course and across a brook, then keep right to reach another signpost.
  27. Turn left in the direction signposted to North Cliffs Plantation and follow the path to reach a junction of paths at a signpost.

    Badgers are most closely related to otters and weasels, but are omnivores and often catch their food by burrowing after it. Up until the 1950s, somewhat prior to the Gastro-pub revolution, many westcountry pubs had Badger Ham on the bar!

    Due to their relatively large body size, badgers are susceptible to the same pathogens as domestic livestock, and so badgers and cattle can catch tuberculosis from each other. In recent years, there has been controversy over badger culling as an attempted means to control the spread of bovine TB. The conclusions of the scientific trials of 2007 were that badger culling was not effective. One reason is that culling creates vacant territories and causes other badgers to roam more widely, continuing a spread. In 2010, a TB vaccine was produced which is hoped will prove more effective than culling, as a band of vaccinated badgers will act like a firewall, blocking a spread.

  28. At the signpost, continue ahead until you reach a kissing gate on your left opposite a track departing to the right.
  29. Turn right onto the track and follow past one waymarked junction to the right to reach a second waymarked junction to the right.

    The beech woodland of the North Cliffs plantation has an impressive display of bluebells in the spring. Along the edges of the woods, strong, salt-laden winds have stunted the trees and made them bend away from the prevailing south westerly winds. The woods also include exotic tree species such as a huge monkey puzzle tree and Japanese maples which were planted around 200 years ago as part of the formal gardens.

  30. Turn right in the direction of the red arrow and follow the path until it ends at a gate leading into the car park.

    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.

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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