Seaton to Millendreath

The walk follows the coast path from Seaton, initially up Looe Hill and then up the coastal slope to a join a lane to the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary. After this the route joins a path to the Bodigga cliff picnic area and then descends via a bridleway to Millendreath. The return route climbs out of the Millendreath valley on the small lane towards No Man's Land and then more small lanes and tracks to join the bridleway from Keveral Farm through the woods of the Seaton Valley.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107,108 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6 miles/9.6 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Bridge over the river
  • Parking: Seaton car parks. Satnav: PL113JS
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Wildflowers in spring in the Seaton Valley woods
  • Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary
  • Sandy beaches at Seaton and Millendreath

Directions

  1. Make your way to the bridge by the beach and follow Looe Hill past the beach café. Continue following the lane uphill for roughly a quarter of a mile until you reach a wooden coast path signpost on the left, just after the national speed limit signs.

    Seaton might sound like an Old English name for a settlement by the sea but is thought to take its name from the river which had a Cornish name. The river was recorded in 1302 as Sethyn which is likely to be from the Cornish word seth, meaning "arrow" and a contraction of vean, meaning "small".

  2. Turn left up the steps and follow the path through a gate. Continue along the path, up some more steps and along a fence, to reach the coast.

    Arum lillies grow alongside the path and can be seen flowering in spring.

    The Wild Arum (Arum Maculatum) is known by over 90 colourful folk names including "Lords and ladies", "Priest in the pulpit", "Devils and angels", "Cows and bulls" etc. Most of these have sexual connotations as the inflorescence (known as the "spadix") is obviously phallic, and is sheathed suggestively by the encircling, leaf-like spathe. Another name "Cuckoo Pint" alludes to the time of the flower's appearance being with the first cuckoos; "pint" stays on theme, being the Old English slang for penis (a contraction of "pintle").

    In order to attract pollinating insects, the plant heats the flower spike up to 15 degrees C above that of the surroundings. Once pollinated, in late summer, the plant produces clusters of bright orange berries on stalks. Despite being very pretty, these are poisonous and cause skin irritation so children should be warned not to pick them.

  3. When you reach the end of the fence, follow the path along the coast to reach a waymark where the coast path has been diverted.

    The South West Coast Path stretches for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. It was created as a route between lighthouses for use by the Coastguard so they could overlook the bays and coves to catch smugglers.

  4. Turn right at the waymark and go through the gate. Follow the path to reach a flight of steps leading to an old coast path gate.
  5. Keep right to stay on the new path and follow it to reach a gate.

    Gorse, also known as furze, is present as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century). Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads and to make a tea, beer or wine.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a waymark in a gap at the end of the left hedge.

    Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in Spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant.

  7. Turn left at the waymark and follow the path along the fence to a waymark and the end of the fence, then bear right to a waymarked gateway.
  8. Go through the gateway and bear right up the field to reach a gate at the far end of the fence along the top of the field.

    Despite their reputation for being lazy and scavengers, Buzzards are formidable predators. Diving on rabbits and small mammals from a slow or hovering flight, or from a perch, they nearly always make the kill on the ground. During their breeding season in spring, Buzzards create spectacular aerial displays by soaring high into the air and dropping suddenly towards the ground.

  9. Go through the gate and follow along the left hedge to a waymark on the corner, then bear right across the field to a gate beside a wooden footpath sign.
  10. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane until it ends in a junction.
  11. Continue ahead at the junction, signposted to Windsworth. Follow the lane until you reach a wooden coast path sign beside a gate on the left.

    The Monkey Sanctuary was founded in 1964 by Len Williams, father of the famous classical guitarist John Williams. The sanctuary was created as a cooperative to care for woolly monkeys rescued from the pet trade, and has won Green tourism awards. It was the first place in the world where the monkeys bred successfully outside of their native habitat and the woolly monkeys there today are descendants of the rescued pets.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the path until you reach a gate onto a track.
  13. Go through the gate and the one directly opposite, then follow the waymarked path into a grassy area with picnic benches and around an arc to the right to re-emerge on the lane.

    In March 1944, the crew of a battle-damaged B17 Flying Fortress long-range bomber aircraft bailed out over the land, leaving just the pilot who took it out over the sea to avoid civilian casualties before he himself bailed out. The plane crashed into the sea a short distance offshore of Millendreath beach and the pilot was rescued by a local man who rowed out in a leaking boat whilst a local woman bailed out the water. The engines and propellers from the plane were recovered by divers and are now in museums at Looe and St Mawgan, respectively.

  14. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until it ends at a waymark and footpath sign. Follow the bridleway ahead from the sign until it eventually opens out into a lane and ends at the beach.

    Millendreath beach faces south and the high cliffs either side shelter it from the wind, making it a sun-trap. The pier along the left-hand side of the beach was constructed to trap seawater, forming a bathing pool. At low tide, it's possible to walk along the foreshore to the neighbouring beaches. To the west, it's possible to reach Plaidy and East Looe beaches, and to the east it's possible to reach Bodigga and Keveral beaches and even Seaton. Care must be taken not to be cut-off by the incoming tide, however.

  15. When you reach the beach, turn right onto the lane and follow this inland until you reach a junction on the right.

    Millendreath was established as a Holiday Village in the 1940s and was developed in the 1960s, which is evident from the box-shaped apartments tiered up the valley. The Holiday Village declined in the 1980s and 1990s, eventually closed and became derelict, gaining the name "Disturbia" amongst locals. Since 2012, the remains have been regenerated under the name Black Rock Resort, with the some of the larger buildings removed and the original apartments refurbished as holiday villas.

  16. Turn right and follow the lane uphill until you reach a junction, signposted to Windsworth.

    During early spring, primroses flower along the lane.

    Although most primroses tend to be pale yellow, in residential areas, extensive hybridisation occurs with pink and purple garden primulas to create all kinds of weird and wonderful mutants, with some even shaped like cowslips. However there is a pale pink variety of primrose (known as rhubarb and custard) that is thought to be a naturally-occurring variant of the pale yellow (rhubarb-free) version as it has been found miles away from any domestic plants.

    During Victorian times, the building of railways allowed primrose flowers picked in the Westcountry to be on sale in London the next day. Picking was done on a large scale but eventually became unfashionable, being seen as environmentally destructive. However all the evidence gathered suggests as long as the flowers were picked and the plants were not dug up, the practice was sustainable.

  17. Turn right towards Windsworth and follow the lane to a crossroads.
  18. Continue ahead at the crossroads, signposted to Seaton, and follow the lane until it ends at a junction.

    The hamlet of No Man's Land is located on the boundary of the Lostwithiel and Lanlivery parishes. Sometimes a small area of common land with unclaimed or disputed ownership occurred close to or between parish boundaries, often ignored due to relatively poor agricultural value. The name nonesmanneslond was recorded in 1320 for such areas. This has also given rise to place name of Nowhere (in Norfork).

  19. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane until you reach a bend with a track leading ahead beside the sign for Keveral Farm.
  20. Follow the bridleway ahead to Keveral Farm to reach some farm buildings, just after a track departs to the left.
  21. Continue ahead on the main track between the buildings to reach a waymark where a path departs ahead.
  22. Follow the path ahead and keep left to pass the gateway on the right. Continue on the path ahead, alongside the wall, until you reach a wooden footpath signpost on a bend where paths depart to the left and the main path continues to the right.

    The bridleway is lined with wild garlic in spring.

    Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are the useful bit rather than the bulb, so cut/pull off the leaves (don't pull up the plants). The leaves are quite delicate, so you can use quite large quantities in cooking; therefore, harvest it in the kind of quantities that you'd buy salad leaves from the supermarket. There are some lillies that look fairly similar (and some are poisonous) but the smell is the giveaway: if it doesn't smell of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic.

  23. Keep right at the corner, signposted for Seaton Beach. Follow the path through the woods until it eventually opens out into a lane.

    Bluebells flower along the bridleway in late April and throughout May.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells.

  24. Follow the lane down the hill and around a bend to the left to where it ends in a junction with the main road.

    The source of the River Seaton is in Minions near the Cheesewring Hotel and it connects with two tributary streams running through St Cleer. Due to the copper mining activity around Caradon Hill, the tributary streams contain dissolved copper salts where the groundwater drains from old mines or percolates through waste tips. The level of copper in the main river is not high enough to prevent fish living in it but it does restrict the invertebrate species that are able to live in the river and so the fish population is lower than surrounding rivers as there is less for them to eat. The river runs for just over 10 miles before reaching the sea at Seaton beach.

  25. Turn right onto the road and follow it back towards the beach to reach the car parks.

    The beach at Seaton is composed of grey sand which becomes coarser and more pebbly towards the high tide line. At low tide, the beach stretches all the way to Downderry. A sea wall runs along the top of the beach for its full length. It is possible, although not recommended, to walk along the top of the sea wall all the way to Downderry. The Council signs advising against this may seem overly risk-averse as the top of the wall is no more uneven than many footpaths, and benches along the top of the wall would seem to contradict the signs. However, at high tide when there is a big swell, waves can break over the top of the wall and have the potential to sweep people into the sea.

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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