Rock to St Minver

The route follows the dunes from Rock to Daymer Bay opposite the Doom Bar, then passes St Enodoc Church - the burial place of Sir John Betjamen - on its way inland to the pretty village of St Minver with its characteristic (and slightly wonky) church spire. The return route passes 3 pubs and Sharp's Brewery, presenting opportunities for the more refreshing kind of Doom Bar and limited edition ales, as it descends from the fields of the St Minver Highlands to the St Minver Lowlands along the Camel Estuary.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.7 miles/10.9 km
  • Grade: Easy
  • Start from: Rock council car park
  • Parking: Council car park. Head along the main road in Rock towards the beach and follow it to the very end: it ends at the car park Satnav: PL276FD
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic views over the Camel estuary
  • Sand dunes with wildflowers
  • Long sandy beach from Rock to Daymer Bay
  • St Enodoc Church - the burial place of Sir John Betjamen
  • Sharp's Brewery - reknowed producer of real ales such as Doom Bar
  • Pretty rural village and church at St Minver
  • Three pubs on the return route: The Pityme Inn, The Fourways Inn and Rock Inn

Directions

Alternatively you can do this walk from Padstow by catching the ferry to Rock and making your way to the council car park above the ferry drop-off point.
  1. Go up the steps beside the toilets and turn right. Follow the path past one waymark on the corner to a waymark at a junction of paths.

    Due to its sheltered position in the Camel Estuary, Rock has been popular for sailing for decades. There is a car park with toilets and a slipway to launch boats into the estuary. Rock is also home to Sharp's brewery. There is a pub, next to the car park, which serves food, and a café. A passenger ferry to Padstow runs frequently and, if it's not too busy, will let you take bikes across.

  2. Keep left at the waymark and follow the path past the steps to the beach and then parallel to the beach for a few hundred metres to reach a stream crossing at the bottom of a flight of steps.

    On the opposite side of the Camel estuary is the Doom Bar, on which you may see waves breaking or even exposed sand, depending on the state of the tide.

    The Camel Estuary is notorious for the Doom Bar - a sand bar which has caused many ship and small boat wrecks. For ships sailing into the bay on the prevailing SW wind, a great hazard was caused by the immediate loss of power due to the shelter from the cliffs. Once becalmed, they would drift helplessly and run aground on the Doom Bar. Therefore rockets were fired from the cliffs, to place a line onboard, which could then be used to pull the ship to the shore. Along the coastal path, on the cliff top, is an abandoned manual capstan which was used to winch the ships towards the harbour.

  3. Cross the stream to the path opposite then keep left at the waymark to keep following the path parallel to the beach. Continue to reach a fork in the path just before a waymark.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay. The name Cam-El is from the Cornish meaning "crooked one". It is documented that only the upper reaches of the river, above Boscarne, were originally known as the "Camel". The section from Boscarne to Egloshayle was known as the "Allen" and below this, it was known as "Heyl".

    The River Camel is classed as a SSSI and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EC Habitats Directive. Bullhead, Atlantic Salmon and Otters breed in the river.

  4. Continue ahead on the main path to reach a waymark in the middle of the path.
  5. Turn left at the waymark and follow the path downhill to reach another waymark. Turn right at this and follow the main path until it forks.
  6. Keep right at the fork and follow the main path across the dunes towards the hill in the distance. As you approach the white house, head towards this to reach a waymark just behind a bush.

    Red valerian is also known as kiss-me-quick, fox's brush and Devil's or Jupiter's beard and can be seen flowering in early summer in hedgerows near the coast. The plant is originally from the Mediterranean and is thought to have been introduced as a garden plant roughly around the Tudor period. It has since become naturalised and the brightly-coloured flowers provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths. Over time the base of the stems can get as thick as a small tree trunk which can lever apart the walls in which it can often be seen growing.

  7. Turn right at the waymark in front of the house and follow the path inland until you reach a fork in the path indicated by a white stone.

    The largest ship wrecked in the Camel Estuary on the Doom Bar is believed to be the Antoinette, a barque of just over 1100 tonnes built in 1874. On New Year's Day 1895, she set sail from Newport in South Wales with a cargo of coal for Brazil, but foundered near Lundy Island. She was towed by a steam tug to Padstow but struck the Doom Bar. Her crew of fourteen and several men who had attempted to salvage her were rescued by lifeboats from Port Isaac and Padstow, following which she rapidly sank.

    Attempts by three tugs from Cardiff to remove the wreck were unsuccessful, and the next spring tide carried the midsection up the estuary where it grounded on the Town Bar opposite Padstow, creating a hazard for shipping. A miner attempted to remove it using gelignite and although the explosion broke many windows in the town, it did not break up the wreck which eventually became buried in the sand.

    In 2010 a wreck resurfaced on Town Bar which was almost certainly the Antoinette, and again presented a hazard to shipping. Attempts by The Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Unit to demolish it with explosives were once again unsuccessful (although Padstow's windows survived this time) and it was marked with a buoy; in 2011 much the remainder was finally demolished using saws.

  8. At the fork keep left, and keep left shortly afterwards where it joins another path to head inland; follow the path until you reach the golf course.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay. The name Cam-El is from the Cornish meaning "crooked one". It is documented that only the upper reaches of the river, above Boscarne, were originally known as the "Camel". The section from Boscarne to Egloshayle was known as the "Allen" and below this, it was known as "Heyl".

    The River Camel is classed as a SSSI and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EC Habitats Directive. Bullhead, Atlantic Salmon and Otters breed in the river.

  9. When you reach the golf course, go straight ahead following the path indicated by white markers until it ends at a lane.

    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.

  10. At the lane turn left, then immediately right in the direction indicated to the church. Follow the path to the other side of the footbridge across the lake.

    Although the current town of Rock has only been built relatively recently, it is thought that in mediaeval times there might have been a settlement somewhere between St Enodoc church and St Michael's Church at Porthilly, and that this became overwhelmed with sand and was abandoned. In 1778, the shifting sands revealed a chapel and cemetery containing slate coffins and human bones. There are also reported finds of kitchen utensils such as spoons, ornaments and jewellery and English coins spanning the reigns of Henry I to Elizabeth I. Excavations at Porthilly to lay pipes have also found that the thick layer of sand seems to have been laid down after Tudor times.

  11. On the other side of the footbridge, turn left along the edge of the lake and follow the path indicated by white markers along the edge of the golf course. Follow this along a short length of track and along the edge of the trees until you reach the green.

    A number of lead mines were located around Rock and Polzeath. As well as the big one on Pentire Point, there were a number of smaller mines including one at Porthilly and one within the dunes where St Enodoc golf course is now located. An incident in one of these is reported in The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times of 19 Sept 1874:

    Mr Thomas Cock, draper, &c, Rock, St Minver had a narrow escape from death on Saturday last. Whilst superintending the removal of the woodwork of a mine shaft, the ground, chiefly sand, gave way, burying him up to the chin, and despite all the efforts made it was six or seven hours from the time of the accident until he was dug out and brought to the surface, men having to be lowered and suspended by ropes to extricate him.
  12. Follow the white marker stones along the edge of the green to reach a surfaced path leading past an outbuilding towards the church. Turn right onto the path and follow it to the church.

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.
  22. Bear right onto the tarmac lane and follow it out of the complex and around the bend to the left to reach a white waymark post.
  23. When you reach a white waymark post, turn right through a double gateway and bear left onto a track. Follow this across the meadow to a gateway.
  24. At the gateway, bear left into the field and cross the field in the direction of the church spire to a footbridge in the bottom hedge, about 50m from the opposite corner of the field.
  25. Cross the footbridge and continue ahead into the field (ignore the stile to the left). Bear right across the field in the direction of the houses to a stile half way along the right hedge.
  26. Cross the stile, heading for the stile opposite to the left of the tree.
  27. Cross the stile and bear left slightly to the pedestrian gate in the fence opposite.
  28. Go through the gate and bear right to a stile next to the farm gate in the corner of the field.
  29. Cross the stile and bear left to the T junction. At the T junction, turn right and follow the lane until you reach another junction.
  30. Where the lane ends at a junction, keep left to carry on in the same direction, following the lane past the churchyard to the pub in St Minver.

    The parish name St Minver (Sen Menvre in Cornish) is named after the saint to whom the church is dedicated. Menfre was one of the 24 children of the 5th Century Celtic king Brychan.

  31. Just past the pub, turn right and follow the the lane towards the vicarage until you reach a narrow passage between the cottages on the right leading to the church. NB. Dogs are not allowed in the churchyard but the driveway to Churchtown Farm leading from the end of the lane rejoins the public footpath leading from the other side of the churchyard.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales. He had a large number of children, and most of these were reported to have evangelised Cornwall and North Devon, with many of the churches dedicated to them. Consequently, many of the place names in North Cornwall (St Teath, St Mabyn, St Endellion, St Minver, St Clether, Egloshale, Egloskerry, Advent, Morwenstow, Lelant etc) are from the names of his children. Brychan is buried on Lundy Island, known in the Celtic language as Ynys Brychan.

  32. Turn right and follow the passage between the cottages to the churchyard entrance.
  33. Enter the churchyard and proceed ahead to the entrance to the church.

    St Minver church dates from the 12th Century and has been rebuilt a number of times, including the addition of the unusual, and slightly wonky, spire. This was originally added in the 15th Century and rebuilt in the 18th Century restoration. The churchyard is full of celtic crosses, and inside there is a carved 'pious bird' bowing before the altar. The village stocks in the church entrance date back to mediaeval times (circa 1400).

  34. After exploring the church, facing out of the church door, turn right and head down a little path and down some steps to a gate.
  35. Go through the gate and follow the track past the houses to 2 gateways opposite.
  36. Take the left of the two gates onto a grassy track, passing a barn on your left, to a gate.

    Swallows have evolved a long slender body and pointed wings that makes their flight more than twice as efficient as other birds of a similar size. Swallows forage for insects on the wing, typically around 7-8 metres above the ground. They can sometimes be seen skimming the surface of water either to drink or to bathe which they also do in flight.

  37. Cross the stile on the right of the gate and head to the stile in the hedge opposite.

    In summer, you may see swifts high in the sky, chasing insects. Visually, they resemble swallows in that they have long scythe-like wings and forked tails (they can be distinguished by their uniform brown-black colour apart from a small white patch on the throat) and also, like swallows, they migrate to Africa in the winter. That's where the similarity ends because swifts are much more closely related to hummingbirds. They never perch on wires, in fact they even sleep whilst in flight.

    Numbers of swifts have fallen by about 30% in recent years and Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working with the RSPB to gather information on swift nesting sites to see if this decline can be halted. The RSPB are running a national swift survey online where you can record any sightings.

  38. Cross the stile and head for the bottom left-hand corner where there is a stone stile marked with two white-topped posts.
  39. Cross the stile and go through the gate. Follow the path along the left hedge to reach a gate.
  40. Go through the gate and down the steps to emerge beside a lane; turn left and follow the lane through Tredrizzick until it ends in a junction with a larger road.
  41. At the junction, turn right onto the larger road, crossing to stay on the pavement until you reach the Pityme Inn.

    The placenames of Rock, Splatt and Pityme seem surreal but are for the most part explicable: Rock refers to the Blue Elvan quarried nearby and Splatt is the Cornish word for "patch of grass" (which has presumably since had the settlement of Splatt built on it). The origin of the name Pityme is debatable, and there are a couple of other places in the UK called Pity me. As well as the obvious expression of despondency, one possibility is that it is a mangling of "petite mer" which would not be incompatible with the Camel Estuary.

  42. At the Pityme Inn, turn left down Pityme Farm Road, following the road around a bend to the left past Crabbers boat yard until you reach a T-junction.
  43. At the T-junction, turn right and follow the lane until you reach a sign on the right for Sharp's Brewery.

    Just the other side of the building ahead is Sharp's Brewery where there is a shop selling their beers and cider. Once you've explored, return back to the sign.

  44. At the Sharp's Brewery sign, turn right and follow the narrow road marked with a public footpath sign into a car park; head for the bottom left corner of the car park where there is a stile.

    Sharp's Brewery was founded in 1994 at Rock. Their Doom Bar is now one of the UK's most popular cask ale brands and the brewery has had to scale up its capacity a number of times to keep up with demand. As well as producing the ubiquitous Doom Bar and their seasonal specials, Sharp's head brewer enjoys experimenting with new beer flavours and has won a number of awards for these. Consequently, a number of limited edition beers are produced, trying out novel recipes. Look out for these in local pubs or the brewery shop.

  45. Cross the stile and bear left across the field to a stone stile in the middle of the opposite hedge.
  46. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to a stone stile approx 15m from the far left corner.
  47. Cross the stile and the footbridge to a waymark. At the waymark, turn left and follow the path to a lane.
  48. At the lane, turn right then immediately left at a waymark and cross the footbridge to a stile. Cross the stile and follow the path along the fence then down some stone steps to a track.
  49. Turn right on the track next to the cottage and follow it to the junction with a lane.
  50. Turn left on the lane, next to the Little Orchard sign, and follow it to a T-junction.
  51. At the T-junction, turn right and follow the lane downhill until you reach a public footpath sign just past the 30 speed limit, then continue uphill a short distance to a residential road (Little Trelyn) on the left.

    The settlement of Penmayne was first recorded as Penmain in 1223. It is based on the Cornish words pen for "top", "end" or "head" and men meaning stone.

  52. Turn left and follow the road to the end, where there is a waymark.
  53. At the waymark, follow the public footpath (to the right of the track) ahead until you reach another waymark.
  54. At the waymark, take the right-hand path and follow this a short distance to a fence. At the fence keep left, following the fence on your right until the path emerges on a lane.

    Rock has been referred to as "Britain's Saint-Tropez", the "Kensington of Cornwall" and "Chelsea-on-sea" due to its popularity as a holiday destination for rich and famous (including Prince Harry, the actor Hugh Grant, the Rothschilds, the Sainsburys, the Freuds, Mohamed Al-Fayed and Jay Kay of Jamiroquai).

  55. Cross the lane and the stile opposite, and follow the path across the garden to reach a stone stile in the back right-hand corner.

    St Enodoc golf course spans from the area around St Enodoc church to the hill above Rock, and is one of the golf courses in Cornwall that includes a Holy Well.

    The Jesus Well at Rock is said to be where St Enodoc baptised converts to the Christian faith in the 6th Century and the water is still used for baptisms. The well was rebuilt in Victorian times and was restored to its current form in the 20th Century. The reason for it being known as Jesus Well is connected with the tale of a visit to the estuary by tin-trader Joseph of Arimathea with the young Jesus.

  56. Cross the stone stile and follow the path around to the right which leads to another stile. Cross this and walk along the side of the Methodist church to reach the road.

    In the bay, to the left, is a shellfish farm producing mussels and oysters. It's also possible to forage for wild mussels along the far (Trebetherick Point) side of Daymer Bay.

    Mussels are filter feeders and their "foot" is used to generate threads which they use to anchor themselves to rocks. Mussels clump together both to create a more secure attachment to the rock and also to trap water at low tide.

    Mussels are preyed on by dog whelks which dissolve a hole in their shell, through which they inject digestive enzymes which result in mussel soup. Mussels have evolved a defensive strategy whereby they lassoo invading whelks with their threads and tether them to the rocks, where the whelks starve to death.

    Fortunately, consumption of mussels by humans is a little less fraught with danger provided you don't harvest them between May and August: a species of plankton that is poisonous to humans can be hoovered up by the mussels in this period. Make sure you collect more mature mussels of at least 50mm in length as smaller ones are less good to eat. It's worth studying the tides to get the beach for a low Spring tide as this is when you'll find the biggest, juiciest mussels. Ideally, take a bucket and bring your mussels home in clean seawater. Once harvested, soak them for a few hours somewhere cool in clean saltwater to allow them to purge any sand (don't submerge them in freshwater as this will kill them). Sort through them, tapping any that are open on a surface to see if they close shut. Discard any that remain open or any that are damaged (they have perished and are not safe to eat). Before cooking, mussels must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed and the "beard" (threads that secure the mussel to the rock) should be removed.

  57. Turn left onto the road and follow it back to the car park.

    Down the hill to the left is Porthilly.

    Porthily is first recorded in 1284 and is from the Cornish words porth (meaning harbour or cove) and hyly (meaning saltwater), referring to its location on an inlet on the Camel Estuary. During mediaeval times, Porthilly was a village centred around the church of St Micheal's which was a gift from the priory of Bodmin in 1255. It is thought that the settlement was later abandoned due to the encroaching sand dunes and excavations in the area found fragments of 17th and 18th century pottery through the layers of sand deposited above the remains of mediaeval buildings.

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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