Portwrinkle to Downderry

The walk follows the coast path from Portwrinkle to Cargloth Cliffs, then there is an optional descent through The Skerrish for a low-tide walk along Downderry beach. From Downderry, the route climbs Trewall Hill to No Man's Land and then follows small lanes and footpaths back to Portwrinkle.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 108 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.7 miles/10.8 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Portwrinkle
  • Parking: Portwrinkle. Satnav: PL113BP
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in Summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Views across Whitsand Bay
  • Portwrinkle beach and harbour
  • 1 mile beach walk to Downderry at low tide
  • Wildflowers in spring

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. From the car park, facing the sea, follow the lane to your right, through the "No Vehicular Access to the Beach" sign to reach a junction beside a "No access for motor vehicles" sign.
  2. Keep left to follow the lane ahead and continue past the slipway and uphill until you reach a coast path sign to Downderry next to a gate on the left.

    The first harbour at Portwrinkle was thought to have been built in 1605, just after the end of the Tudor period, to support a pilchard fishery. A few stones from this original structure remain, and can be seen at low tide. The majority dates from 1822 when the quay was rebuilt after being destroyed by a storm. The storms of 2014 also punched a hole through the harbour wall, which has since been repaired. The walls of the 17th Century pilchard cellars still stand above the harbour, which have been restored and converted into holiday accommodation. During Victorian times, the village was also known as Portwrickle.

  3. Go through the gate beside the coast path sign and follow the path to a pedestrian gate.
  4. Continue through the gate and follow the coast path to eventually reach another pedestrian gate after climbing the headland.

    In 1917, the SS Rosehill was passing Fowey on its way from Cardiff to Devonport with a cargo of coal when it was torpedoed by the German U-Boat UB40. The damaged vessel was towed for the remainder of its journey but sank in Whitsand Bay just before reaching Devonport. By the end of World War One, UB40 had sunk over 100 ships.

  5. Go through the gate and cross the field to the gate opposite. Continue following the path through a sequence of gates to pass a black-and-white, triangular nautical marker and reach a waymark where the path climbs alongside a fence.
  6. Follow the path uphill, along the fence, to reach a pedestrian gate.

    In Jan 1914, the A7 along with 5 other submarines took part in a series of dummy attacks against surface ships in Whitsand Bay. Part-way through the exercise the A7 failed to surface after diving for an attack run. The surface ship returned to where the submarine had dived and found an uprush of bubbles indicating the submarine was attempting to blow water from the ballast tanks in a desperate attempt to surface. A buoy was dropped to mark the position but by the time rescue ships had arrived, the buoy could not be found. The 11 man submarine crew only had enough air to last six hours and perished. A six day search operation was conducted to locate the submarine to find out what had gone wrong. The submarine was found to be so firmly embedded into the mud on the seabed that all attempts to pull it free failed. A video has been made of the story which is available on YouTube

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a waymark on the point.
  8. When you reach the waymark, keep right to follow the path up the steps and continue to reach a pedestrian gate between a pair of metal gates.

    For many centuries, it was traditional for landowning families to create trusts from the land and assets so future generations could live off the income, but were unable to dispose of the assets so these would be available for future generations. The Duchy estate is an example of this and was created in 1337 by Edward III to provide his son (and future Princes of Wales) with an income. Consequently, unlike other Royals, the Prince of Wales and his family are not paid for by the taxpayer via the Civil List; instead their living costs and all their charitable activities (such as The Prince's Trust) are funded by income from the Duchy estate.

    Only 13% of the Duchy land is in Cornwall; the rest is dotted over 23 other counties with some in London but most is in the South West of England, with nearly half on Dartmoor.

  9. At this point you can optionally descend to the beach and walk along the beach at low tide to Downderry, resuming the walk at direction 12. Otherwise, go through the waymarked wooden gate ahead and follow the coast path to reach another pedestrian gate.

    The path leading from the gate on the left leads to the far end of Downderry Beach. At low tide it is possible to walk all the way along the beach to Downderry and resume the walk at direction 12. When you reach the statue of the goat in the garden at Downderry, walk past the steps immediately below it and turn up the next flight of steps to emerge onto a residential road, then follow this ahead alongside the school to emerge on the main road opposite Trewall Hill.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path until it emerges onto a road.

    During the spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks. The plants get their name due to their triangular flower stems and, as the name also suggests, they are members of the onion family and can be used in recipes in place of spring onions or leeks. They are at their best for culinary use from February to April. By May, they have flowered and the leaves are starting to die back.

  11. Turn left and follow the road downhill. Continue until you reach a small track to the right marked "Trewall Hill".

    Downderry beach can be reached by turning left into West Camps Bay, just past Trewall Hill, and following the footpath sign at the bottom.

  12. Follow the narrow lane up Trewall Hill and continue until the lane eventually ends at a crossroads.

    The 1447 tonne iron sailing ship Rodney was built in 1874 as a sister ship to the Cutty Sark and was the fastest ship in her fleet, able to keep pace with the Cutty Sark. In 1895, she lost her figurehead in bad weather in the English Channel and this washed ashore six months later in Whitsand Bay. By 1901, the ship was renamed The Gypsy. On a return voyage from Chile with a cargo of nitrates there was a second unlucky encounter involving Whitsand Bay: losing her bearings she ran aground on the reef at Downderry and became stranded. The wreck became a hazard to fishing boats so it was blown apart with explosives. The result is strewn over a large area of seabed to the west of the slipway. The wreck is in around 7 metres of water which makes it popular with snorkellers.

  13. Cross the road to the small lane opposite and follow this until it ends in a junction.
  14. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane until it also ends in a junction.
  15. Bear left onto the road and follow it past Hendra to a junction on a bend next to a large barn.

    Hendra is a common Cornish place name meaning "home farm" (from the Cornish word hendre which itself is based on the words hen meaning old, and dre is equivalent to tre). Hendra was also used as a boy's first name with the meaning literally "from the family farm".

  16. Join the small lane ahead and follow this to a group of houses at a crossroads. .
  17. Continue ahead on the lane to pass a barn then descend to another group of buildings. Pass these to reach a public footpath to Trewrickle on the right just after the last barn.
  18. Go through the pedestrian gate beside the footpath sign and follow along the fence on the right until it ends. Continue ahead to the stile opposite in the bottom fence.
  19. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a stile in the woods.
  20. Cross the stile and follow the path over a footbridge and a stile to emerge onto a lane.
  21. Turn right onto the lane and follow it uphill to a public footpath sign on a bend.

    To the left, the lane leads to Sheviock.

    The settlement of Sheviock dates from mediaeval times and was first recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 when it was owned by the church of Tavistock. The place name is thought to be from the Cornish word sevi and the ending -ack, and mean "abounding in strawberries".

  22. Follow the public footpath ahead from the bend and continue until it ends on a road.

    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.

  23. Carefully cross the road to the footpath opposite and follow this until it emerges onto a track at a sign urging caution when a bell sounds.

    The wooden gates across the path, when closed, trigger a bell when they are opened. These are closed when golf is being played and warn golfers that there are people crossing the path. Be on the lookout for flying golf balls when crossing between the two gates, particularly if the gates are closed. Also if you found the gates closed, make sure you close them behind you so the next walkers reaching this point also trigger the bell.

  24. Follow the track a short distance then bear left onto the footpath with a sign and wooden gateway. Follow the path until it ends in a car park.

    Snowdrops are a member of the onion family, and one of the earliest plants to flower. They use energy stored in their bulbs to generate leaves and flowers during winter, whilst other plants without an energy reserve cannot compete. The downside to flowering so early is that pollinating insects are more scarce, so rather than relying exclusively on seeds, they also spread through bulb division. Although it is often thought of as a native British wild flower, the snowdrop was probably introduced in Tudor times, around the early sixteenth century.

    The bulbs are poisonous but contain a chemical compound which is used in the treatment of early Alzheimer's, vascular dementia and brain damage. The plant produces another substance in its leaves which inhibits the feeding of insect pests. This is being researched to see if this substance can be introduced into other plants.

  25. Cross the car park and follow the driveway leading from it around a bend to the right to meet the road. Turn right onto the road to return to the car park.

    Silas Finn, known locally as Finny, was an 18th Century smuggler who used to land contraband on the beaches of Portwrinkle, which were not well-known to the Revenue men. Various accounts of his story exist, but according to one, he was caught red-handed and was offered the choice of the hangman's noose or to assist in catching fellow smugglers. He reluctantly chose the latter and ended up betraying not only his close friends but also his sister. The local legend is that his restless ghost ("gook") still haunts the cliffs between Crafthole and Portwrinkle.

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.

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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