Poundstock to Millook

The walk starts at Poundstock, where the gildhouse has a good selection of mediaeval outfits to try on when it is open to the public. The route follows a country line out of the Wanson valley then decends through field into Millook valley where it enters the woods. The path winds through the bluebells woods to meet a track through the meadows to Millook Haven. The walk follows the coast path from Millook Haven, along Penhalt Cliff towards Widemouth Bay, then returns via the Wanson valley to Poundstock.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.4 miles/5.4 km
  • Grade: Strenuous
  • Start from: Poundstock church
  • Parking: Poundstock church car park. From the A39, turn down vicarage lane and the car park is on your left after the houses. Satnav: EX230AU
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Spectacular coastal views over Widemouth Bay
  • Rich heritage of Poundstock Church and Gildhouse - a late mediaeval church house
  • Ancient woodland around Millook Valley, with bluebells in spring
  • Delicate honeycomb reefs and geological origami at Millook Haven
  • Winding country lanes and tracks lined with pretty flowers in spring and summer

Directions

  1. From the church car park, turn left onto the lane and follow it past the churchyard to a junction.

    Poundstock is a small village just off the A39, near the rocky cove of Millook Haven. Poundstock was a centre for smuggling and piracy from 1300 until the Black Death wiped the village out in 1348. However, smuggling and wrecking continued after the village was refounded.

  2. At the junction turn right then follow the lane in the direction of Millook. Continue until you reach a junction on the other side of the valley, after the lane has become a track.

    Poundstock Gildhouse, located next to the church, is a well-preserved late mediaeval church house, the only surviving one of its kind in Cornwall. It has been used continuously since it was built, and is a Grade I listed building. Church houses were built with the aim of using them as extensions of the church, and the one in Poundstock is contemporary with the later phases of the mediaeval church building.

    The unique structure was built between the 15th and 16th centuries by skilled craftsmen using traditional techniques and materials such as cob, local stone and slate. In the beginning, the ground floor probably comprised a kitchen, bakehouse and brewhouse, a meeting place and a store room. The first floor was an open feasting hall where the Church Ales would have been held.

  3. At the junction, bear left to stay on the track and follow it until you reach another junction, with a waymark in front of the gate ahead.
  4. Go through the kissing gate next to the field gate. Bear right slightly across the field towards a grassy hillock in the distance and then towards the right corner of the field. Just before the far side of the field, when you cross the brow of the hill, you'll see a waymark. Make for this.

    Church Ales were celebrations held within the church calendar, particularly at Whitsuntide and May Day, when ales were brewed and sold in order to raise funds for the Church or for good causes in the parish. With the growth of Puritanism in the late 17th century, drinking was seen as sinful. Church Ales were considered to be nothing but drunken disorders and were suppressed. Church houses were gradually abandoned, demolished or put to other uses.

  5. Take the track into the woodland and follow it until you reach a footbridge.

    The Millook Valley, above Millook Haven, contains an area of anciend woodland. The broad-leaved woodland is now owned by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are primroses in spring, wildflowers including orchids in summer and blackberries and sloes in autumn. Fauna includes dormice, otters and smooth snakes.

  6. Cross the bridge and follow the path alongside the stream, passing a kissing gate, until you reach a waymark in front of another gate.

    Millook was a notorious spot for smuggling.

    In the 1780s, Britain was in financial crisis after losing the American War of Independence. High levels of duty were imposed on luxury goods in order to recoup the national debt and this included the curing salt vital to the pilchard industry which was taxed at around 4000%! Consequently many Cornish fishermen that were previously legally employed by the trade were driven into illegal smuggling. Towards the end of the 18th Century, nearly half a million gallons of brandy and more than a quarter of a million pounds of tea were being smuggled into Cornwall each year. This continued until the 1840s, when Britain adopted a free-trade policy that slashed import duties. Within ten years, large-scale smuggling was just a memory.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge of the meadow to another gate.
  8. Go through the gate and bear left onto the path to the footbridge. Cross the bridge and climb the steps to reach a track.
  9. Turn right on the track and follow it to a gate onto the road. Turn right on the road to reach Millook Haven.

    Millook Haven is a pebble beach at mid-high tide, though there is some sand at the very lowest part of the tide. The cliffs behind the beach have impressive zig-zag folding patterns, formed 320 million years ago. The rocks are part of the "Crackington Formation": thin layers of sandstones and shales, deformed by the tectonic plate collision at the end of the Carboniferous period, that crumpled the earth's crust, giving rise to the tors of Bodmin Moor.

  10. From Millook Haven, continue on the lane and follow it over the river. Walk a short distance uphill to the coast path sign.

    At low tide, a series of delicate reefs is revealed.

    Honeycomb Worm reefs are fascinating structures, built out of sand on the lower shore. The large golden hummocks have an intricate honeycomb structure up to several metres across and a metre deep. Filter-feeding worms, about 3-4cm long, live in tubes, fanning out plankton from the passing water and capturing particles of shell and rock to build their tubes. Each worm can live for 3-5 years, although the overall reefs last much longer. Although quite brittle, the reefs provide a habitat for a number of other species including anemones, barnacles, limpets, winkles, whelks, mussels and crabs.

    The worms need hard rock to build on, and sand to build with, so their requirements are very specific: there must be enough wave action to bring a supply of sand to the rocky areas, but not so much that the worms are blasted off the rocks. The formation of reefs is assisted by a clever biological mechanism. Honeycomb worm larvae drift around in seawater and could settle anywhere to grow into adults. However, the presence of existing worm colonies, or their dead remains, strongly stimulates any passing larvae to settle out at that location, helping to ensure that the reef continues to grow.

  11. Turn left onto the coast path and climb up to Bridwill Point, to a gate next to a bench. Go through the gate and follow the coast path along Penhalt Cliff to Foxhole Point where the path goes through another gate, down some steps, and you reach a lane next to a signpost.

    The fossilised remains of plant stems and ammonite-like creatures from about 320 million years ago can be found in lilac and grey shales at the far north end of Millook Haven, at Foxhole Point. However, these are quite poorly preserved, which perhaps isn't that surprising when you see what has happened to the rock beds in the middle of Millook Haven.

  12. Turn left onto the lane and follow it, for a quarter of a mile, until you reach the Adventure holiday centre, at a sharp right bend.

    Whilst much of the rock along the Tintagel and Boscastle coast is slate, the rocks around Bude are sandstones and shales. Where the softer upended rock layers have been eroded by the sea, a series of ridges has been formed such as at the sides of the beaches at Widemouth, Northcott Mouth and Sandymouth, creating many rockpools.

  13. From the Adventure Centre at Wanson Mouth, follow the lane for about a quarter of a mile further until you reach a sharp bend to the left, with two eagles on the gateposts facing you.

    At Wanson Mouth, just south of Widemouth Bay, goniatites (extinct ammonite-like creatures related to cuttlefish) can be found in the black mudstone layers between the layers of sandstone at the foot of the cliff, at the north of the beach.

  14. Turn right, following the public footpath sign, into Widemouth Bay Caravan Park and follow the entrance road to a junction.

    Widemouth Bay is the southernmost of the sandy beaches around Bude. As the name implies, this is a substantial stretch of sand and faces west into the Atlantic. Consequently, when there is a big surf running, there can be some absolutely monster waves at Widemouth which can make you wonder why going surfing seemed like a good idea at the time. In the autumn and winter, it's a good place to see expert surfers.

    In the past, sloops from Wales would use Widemouth as a port (in the most basic sense), unloading goods such as coal and limestone; and taking Cornish wares back to Wales such as granite, slate, tin, copper and even Cornish pasties! The beaches in the bay are now the landing points for many Transatlantic cables linking the USA and UK, supporting an altogether different kind of surfing.

  15. At the junction, bear right towards the entrance to the car park (not sharp right into the car park exit). Bear left at the entrance to the car park onto an unsurfaced track and follow this to a gate.
  16. Go through the gate and head straight ahead, following a wide path uphill, until you eventually reach another gate.
  17. Go through the gate and walk along the left-hand hedge of the field, passing two gates, until you reach a third gate, ahead, leading onto a track.

    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.

  18. Go through the gate ahead and follow the track until you eventually reach a farmyard gate.
  19. Go through the gate, and the one directly ahead of it, to reach the lane in Poundstock; turn left to reach the junction and keep left at the junction to reach the church car park.

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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