St Ives to Carn Naun

The walk heads out through the Ayr mining district of St Ives and follows the footpaths of the Zennor Churchway to Trevalgan. Here, the route picks up an old miners' path and follows this to remains of the Brea Consols engine house and then meets the coast near Carn Naun point. The route then follows the rocky coast to Hor Point, where it departs onto a footpath around point before rejoining the path to Porthmeor beach used by the Revenue men to keep watch for smugglers. The final part of the route is past the art studios of Downalong and along the harbour front before returning to the car park.
The route passes through farms that can get quite muddy in the winter months.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.8 miles/11 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Trenwith car park in St Ives
  • Parking: Trenwith car park in St Ives. Follow the B3306 to the double roundabout in St Ives and then follow signs to the Leisure Centre. The easiest way from the A30 roundabout at Lelant is via Mill Hill and Halsetown rather than through Carbis Bay. Satnav: TR262FH
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or wellies in winter

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Rugged coastline between Zennor and St Ives
  • Spectacular views over St Ives, across the bay and along the coastline
  • St Ives historic harbour and buildings
  • Tate Art Gallery and a myriad of small galleries

Alternative walks in same location

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the roundabout at the entrance to the car park and turn left. Follow the road, signposted All Traffic, until it ends at a double roundabout.

    During Victorian times, St Ives consisted of two quarters known as Upalong and Downalong, between which there was a fierce rivalry. Upalong, on the higher ground, was an area of farming and mining. Downalong, situated beside the harbour, was the realm of fishermen and sailors.

  2. Cross the main road at the roundabouts and follow Carnellis Road, opposite, signposted to the Garrack Hotel. Follow the road to the junction with Alexandra Road, then keep right around the corner to reach a small lane on the left signposted to The Garrack Hotel.

    The residents of of Ives were collectively known by the pejorative of "Hake" or "Hakeies" which is said to be based on the irreligious practice of fishing for hake on Sundays when most other fishermen stayed ashore to go to church.

  3. Turn left and follow the small lane. When you reach the entrance to the hotel car park, keep left past Treventon. Continue following the increasingly narrow lane, past the sign for Venton Vision Farm, until you reach a wooden footpath signpost.

    The area to the right is known as Ayr and is on the site of an old mine - Wheal Ayr.

    In 2002, eight houses on Wheal Ayr terrace had to be demolished when they began to subside into a mineshaft. A year later, part of Porthmeor Hill also subsided into a horizontal tunnel connected to the workings.

  4. At the signpost, cross the stile on the left, signposted to Zennor, and follow the path to a stile and gate into a field.

    The path across the fields is known as the Zennor Churchway or Coffin Path and runs all the way from St Ives to Pendeen across the flat "bench" cut into the granite by waves when sea levels were higher during the Pliocene era. The path was marked by a number of round-headed wayside crosses which date back to early mediaeval times, although not many survive intact. Some are now only evident as cross-bases - a roughly trimmed boulder containing a square hole to take the cross shaft.

  5. Descend into the field and follow the right hedge to another small gate and stile.

    The hedges in fields such as this one provide a habitat for stoats which are most likely to be seen early in the morning before any dogs have been walked.

    Stoats and weasels are related to badgers and to otters, which they more closely resemble. The stoat is roughly twice the size of a weasel but can be distinguished without the need to measure it by its black-tipped tail. The weasel preys mostly on voles, but the stoat will take on prey much larger than itself including birds and even full-grown rabbits. During the winter, the coat of the stoat (and also some populations of weasel) changes colour from brown to white to camouflage it in the snow. The soft, silky winter fur of the stoat is known as ermine and garments made from this were a luxury associated with royalty and high status. Given that stoats mark their territory using pungent anal scent glands, it’s likely a fair amount of washing of the furs occurred before being draped over royalty.

  6. Cross the stile, or go through the gateway if the gate is open, and follow the path to emerge into a field at a waymark.
  7. At the waymark, bear right to follow along the right hedge a short distance past a gateway to reach a gateway in the corner of the field with a stile alongside.
  8. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway if open) and follow the right hedge to reach a stile.
  9. Climb up the stile but then keep left to stay on the left side of the hedge. Follow the right hedge a short distance to another stile. Cross this and follow the path between the bushes to reach a stile leading onto a track.
  10. Cross the stile and the track towards the left of the two gateways opposite. Climb over the small gate tied to the farm gate and follow the right hedge to reach a gate and stile beside the gateway.

    Hellesveor was originally the larger (veor being the Cornish word for "large") of two tenaments that Hellas was divided into during the Middle Ages, the other being Hellesvean (as you probably guessed, vean means "small"). The name Helles itself is likely to be from the Cornish words hen lys (sometimes written together as hellys) meaning "old court". The name Helston is from the same origin (with some subsequent Saxon rebranding).

  11. Go through the farm gate if open, or through the pedestrian gate and stile to the right of it, and then cross the field to a gap in the hedge opposite.
  12. Go through the gap and follow the left hedge to reach a stile in the corner of the field, behind some wooden posts.
  13. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a gap in the hedge opposite.

    The patchwork of small fields may date from the Celtic period.

    In Celtic times, fields were small and surrounded by banks or stone walls. The fields were used both for growing crops such as oats, wheat or rye, and for keeping livestock. The field shape was round or square, rather than rectangular, so that the stones didn't have to be carried further than necessary. The small size was because they needed to be weeded by hand, in many ways similar to a modern-day allotment.

  14. Go through the gap and follow the left hedge all the way across the field to a stile in the corner.
  15. Cross the stile and another stile on the opposite side of the small field. Then cross the larger field towards the buildings to reach a stile.
  16. Cross the stile and head across the field towards the buildings to reach a stile in the hedge opposite.
  17. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a track leading into a courtyard.

    The settlement of Trowan was first recorded in 1327 but is thought to be on the site of a much earlier farmstead, possibly even prehistoric. The name is Cornish, but there are different theories about the word following the "Tre". One is that is from oghan, meaning oxen. Another is that is from an extinct word that existed as waun in old Welsh, meaning meadow. Trowan Vean, originally the Manor, is thought may be the oldest surviving building in St Ives parish. It is thought that around 150 people would have lived in the hamlet during its heydey. By the end of the 20th Century, many of the buildings were used as barns until they were painstakingly restored in 2005.

  18. Continue ahead towards the circular stone wall in the centre of the courtyard, then bear left to follow the small path between the buildings and reach a stile.

    A local archivist uncovered a tale of a miner from Trowan who awoke on a dark winter's morning to find "a frightful apparition - two staring, large, glassy eyes, an enormous mouth, with ghastly teeth, and a pair of hideous ears! He started back, crying that the Devil was upon them. But when a candle was brought, he found that the creature was a dead donkey which some waggish youths had brought under cover of darkness and propped up before the miner's door."

  19. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to the gate in the corner.
  20. Cross the stile beside the gate and follow the right hedge to a gap in the hedge opposite, in front of the buildings.

    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!

  21. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field toward the farmyard gate.

    Where footpaths cross an electric fence, there is often a section that unclips with plastic handles to allow access through. Ensure you re-clip this on passing through so animals cannot escape. The connecting cord between the handles is conducting so avoid touching this and be aware of any dangling rucksack straps.

  22. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the path between the wall and the fence to reach a stile.

    The settlement of Trevalgan was first recorded in 1320 as Trevaelgon and is thought to date from early mediaeval times. The place name is thought to be based on a personal name e.g. "Aelgon's farm".

  23. Cross the stile and follow the path along the wall on the left. Keep the wall on your left to reach a waymarked stile next to a gate between the buildings.
  24. Cross the stile and bear right to the stile in the wall on the right, marked with a black-and-white post. Cross the stile and follow the path between the hedge and the fence to reach a narrow stone stile beside a gate.
  25. Cross the stile and continue ahead across the field to the marker post on the corner of the hedge, then follow along the left hedge to reach a stile.
  26. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to reach a gap in the hedge opposite.

    The large hill on the left with the chimneys is Rosewall Hill. The name is likely to be from the Cornish word ros, meaning hill-spur.

    Behind Rosewall Hill is Trendrine Hill, the second highest point in West Penwith at 247 metres. Watch Croft, the highest point on the peninsula, near Rosemergy, is only 5 metres higher.

  27. Go through the gap and follow the left hedge to reach a waymarked gateway.

    The chimneys on Rosewall Hill are relics of a Victorian tin mine. The mine is thought to have been opened in around 1818 and operated until the end of the 19th Century. Between 1827 and 1892 it is recorded as producing over 16,000 tonnes of "black tin" (concentrated tin ore) and in the 1860s employed 170 people. There were three engine houses: one for pumping water from the mine, one for winching the ore up from the mine, and one for crushing the ore.

  28. Cross the stile next to the gate and bear right slightly to follow along the right hedge to a waymarked stile in the corner of the field. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach another waymarked stile.

    In order to be processed, ore-bearing rock mined from mineral veins needed to be crushed to a powder. In earlier times, millstones were used to grind down lumps of ore but later it was done using a process known as "stamping" where the ore was crushed by dropping heavy granite or metal weights to pound it against another hard surface (often a piece of granite known as a mortar stone - as in "pestle and mortar"). The crushing was automated first with waterwheels and later with steam engines. The process was far from quiet and could often be heard from a number of miles away.

  29. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge to a gap in the far hedge in the corner of the field.

    Once rendered into a powder, the tin ore was separated from fragments of less useful rock, usually using water and taking advantage of the heavier tin ore sinking more quickly out of a suspension than the other minerals. The slurry was sometimes run slowly down an inclined wooden board: the heavier tin fragments would settle near the top and could be scraped off whereas the fragments of lighter rock could be discarded from the bottom, and the material in the middle could be recycled into the next batch. It's possible that the Cornish mining word for the waste sludge of rock fragments - gange - is the origin of the English slang word "gunge".

  30. Go through the gap and follow the right hedge to a waymarked stile.
  31. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a waymarked stile in the hedge opposite.
  32. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a stile in the corner of the field.
  33. Cross the stile and turn right on the bridleway. Follow the path a short distance to a junction of tracks at a footpath sign. Keep right and follow the track to a fork; then head to the right-hand of two gates.
  34. Cross the stile on the left of the gate and bear right to a gap in the corner of the far hedge.
  35. Go through the gap and follow along the right hedge to reach a wooden stile.

    At least seven old tin mines including the 18th Century Wheal Fat and Wheal Brea and the older Wheal Parkis were combined into the Brea Consols in Victorian times and worked intermittently until the early 20th Century. The lodes were rich in high-quality tin but very small, typically only three inches in width, which eventually made mining uneconomical. The ruins of some of the engine houses can still be seen on Trevega Cliff and a little further inland.

  36. Cross the stile and follow the path through the bushes and along the wall on the right to reach another wooden stile.

    Lichens are a partnership of two different organisms: a fungus providing the "accommodation" and an alga or cyanobacterium providing the "food" through photosynthesis. The fungal partner provides a cosy, sheltered environment for the alga and tends it with mineral nutrients. However, the alga partner is more than simply an imprisoned food-slave: it is such a closely-evolved alliance that the fungus is dependant on the alga for its shape and structure. If the fungal partner is isolated and grown on an agar plate, it forms a shapeless, infertile blob.

  37. Cross the stile and follow the path a short distance to reach the coast path. Bear right and follow the coast path to reach a metal kissing gate across the path.

    Known as the "Merry Harvesters", the stone circle beside the Coast Path is reported as being fairly recently constructed to resemble one of the ancient stone circles, although many of the ancient circles were themselves reconstructed in Victorian times: The Merry Maidens near Lamorna Cove even gained an extra Maiden during its Victorian reconstruction.

  38. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a wooden gate across the path.

    The northwest-facing coastline of Penwith was particularly treacherous for shipping. The high cliffs along the coast prevented ships from being able to see the lighthouses at Trevose Head or the Longships. From Cape Cornwall, the wall of granite runs towards the rocks of the Wra, or Three Stone Oar, off Pendeen, some of which are just below the surface. The cliffs continue all the way to St Ives, and part-way along is the protruding Gurnard's Head which was another major hazard for shipping.

  39. Go through the gate and follow the path until you reach a fork in the path.

    If you encounter what looks like a small snake on the coast path with a golden-coloured stripe along the length of its back, it's a slow worm.

    During the summer months, slow worms can sometimes be seen basking in the sunshine, particularly on pieces of stone which act as a sunbed. Being reptiles, they don't generate their own body heat so they need to get it from an external source. Despite their resemblance to snakes, slow worms are lizards that have evolved to lose their legs. They are a good example of convergent evolution, where quite unrelated groups of animals have evolved to fill a similar niche. Slow worms are surprisingly long lived, and may exceed 30 years of age in the wild and over 50 years in captivity.

  40. Bear left down the outer path and follow this around the headland until you reach a fork in the path where the path crosses a small stream.

    The foundations of an engine house are all that remains of the mine buildings which were once on Hor Point. The mine worked a copper lode which is exposed on both sides of the headland.

  41. At the fork, bear left towards the rock outcrop and follow the path until you reach a waymark.

    At Hor Point, a radar station was built during the Second World War to monitor shipping and low-flying aircraft. The stations required the antennae to be swung back and forth to detect reflected signals. These were originally powered by members of the Women's Auxilliary Airforce mounted on wheel-less bicycles which chains attached to a gear system, but were later replaced by electric motors. After the war, in 1945, the radar station was disposed of using explosives, reducing it to rubble which rolled down the hill. Chunks of the debris are still on the coast path and in the undergrowth above it.

  42. At the waymark, bear left towards another waymark on the headland, and follow the path to this.
  43. Keep right at the waymark to cross the brow of the hill then bear left towards the end of the headland and make for the red lifesaving buoy beside the sea. Follow the path along the edge of the coast towards St Ives from the buoy to reach a waymark beside a kissing gate.

    The beach ahead is Porthmeor, which has a typically functional Cornish place name, meaning "big cove".

  44. Go through the gate and follow the path until you reach a fork in the path beside the Porthmeor Bowling Club.

    In January 1938, the SS Alba was on its way from Italy to Wales and sheltering from a gale but mistook the lights of Porthmeor with those of St Ives and ran aground. The St Ives lifeboat was launched and rescued 23 crew from the ship but then capsized and was washed onto the rocks. The lifeboat crew were all rescued but five of the Alba crew drowned. The boilers from the Alba can be seen on Porthmeor beach at low tide. Bomb disposal experts were acquainted with them in 2012 after they were mistaken for an unexploded sea mine by holidaymakers unfamiliar with Cornwall's metallic shoreline fixtures.

  45. Keep left at the Bowling Club to follow the small path ahead. Continue until this emerges onto the pavement of the road.

    The Holy Well of St Ia (Venton Ia in Cornish) is a spring located opposite Porthmeor Beach, below the churchyard. The spring has been incorporated into the stone walls that surround the cemetery and now consists of two recesses each containing a trough of water. The resulting frenzy of stonework has been described as not one of the prettiest holy wells in Cornwall, despite the effort that must have gone into it. A plaque states "The holy well of St Ia, until 1843, the main water supply to Downalong" (the name for this area of the town).

  46. Join the lane and follow it downhill, past The Tate, to reach a junction with a cobbled street.

    During Victorian times, open air painting became popular and the scenery and mild climate of St Ives generated a reputation as the ideal place for marine painting (of the decorative rather than boat-keeping kind). Once the railway was completed in 1877, St Ives became more accessible. Around this time, the pilchard industry was in decline which resulted in many unoccupied net lofts, cellars and workshops. These became converted into artists studios, with the first recorded in 1885 which had been converted from a sail loft. In 1920, Bernard Leach arrived and went on to make St Ives internationally famous through his pottery. St Ives has continued to attract artists and is now considered to be one of the most important art centres in Britain. In 1993, the St Ives branch of the Tate Gallery opened (named after the sugar magnate Henry Tate of Tate and Lyle). Since 1978, there has been a St Ives September Festival which runs for 15 days during which many artists open their studios to the public.

  47. Keep left at the junction, in the direction signposted for St Ives Museum, and then stay on the lane to reach Quay Road near the pier.

    Smeaton's Pier was constructed towards the end of the 18th Century and was originally about half the current length, ending with the lighthouse. In the 1860s this was extended by adding a wooden pier (which was even longer than the current one) but this had collapsed within 20 years. The remains of the wooden supports can still be seen at the lowest point of the tide. Finally the stone pier was extended at the end of the 19th Century and the three arches were added so that sand could flush out from the harbour to prevent it silting up.

  48. Turn right onto Quay Road and follow this along the harbour to reach the Lifeboat Station.

    The Sloop Inn, which lies on the wharf, is dated to "circa 1312", which makes it one of the oldest inns in Cornwall. The building is likely to have been rebuilt a number of times over the centuries and the current structure is thought to date from the 17th-18th century. It is described by Lonely Planet as "a classic old fishermen's boozer, complete with low ceilings, tankards behind the bar and a comprehensive selection of Cornish ales."

  49. Continue ahead from the Lifeboat station on the path along the sea front to reach St Ives Arts Club.

    St Ives has had a lifeboat since 1840, though the original was a rowing boat launched from the harbour. In 1867, the RNLI relocated it to Porthgwidden beach and built a boathouse for it. This was not well thought out as launching through the surf proved near impossible and so it was quickly replaced by a building in Fore Street. In 1911, a new boathouse was built on the quay which was better suited to launching the lifeboat which had become motorised by this point. This was finally replaced with the station you see today which was built in 1993 to accommodate a larger modern boat.

  50. At the Arts Club, turn right and follow the signs to Tourist Information (Guildhall). Follow the lane past the Guildhall to a junction.
  51. Bear left across the road at the junction to the small lane to the left of Natwest Bank. Follow this until you reach a concrete ramp on the left, leading to the police station.
  52. Bear left up the path alongside the ramp and climb the flights of steps to emerge on a residential road.
  53. When you reach the top of the steps, turn right onto the road and follow it until you reach a car park on the left with a path signposted to Trenwith car park
  54. Bear left up the path to the Trenwith car park and follow it until you reach a signpost for Leach Pottery.
  55. Turn left up the small path beside the signpost to reach the pedestrian crossing to the car park.

    The large car park in St Ives was once the site of Wheal Trenwith which was mainly a copper mine, although a small amount of tin ore was also extracted. Amongst the copper ore was a black crusty ore that miners thought was copper oxide, but smelting it proved unsuccessful so it was discarded on the waste tips. It was identified as pitchblende (a Uranium ore, containing other radioactive decay products of Uranium-238) but it was seen of no value. An account from 1843 states:

    Pitch-blende occurs in great abundance among the copper ores of Wheal Trenwith, and was long carefully collected, and thought to be black copper ore. The low prices obtained for the ores with which it was mixed, and the inferiority of the metal they yielded, equally disappointed the miner and the copper-smelter; until a specimen of the copper was examined by Mr. Michell of Calenick, and found mixed with uranium in a metallic state. The ores were then inspected, and pitch-blende being discovered among them, its nature and prejudice to the copper ores were explained to the workmen, by whom it has been, of course, since rejected. Was there ever an instance in which an acquaintance with Mineralogy and Chemistry would have been more useful ?

    By 1907, the economic value of radium was well understood and waste tips were being worked for this valuable ore; small pockets were also extracted from the shallower areas of the mine. Between 1911-1917 there were 694 tonnes of uranium ore recovered, mainly from the waste tips. Apparently pieces of the pitchblende ore can still be found around the edges of the car park today. It is radioactive so handling pieces of the black rock is not advised (in particular, ingesting any would not be ideal as many of reactions in the nuclear decay chain generate alpha particles).

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 very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa
  • 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 also useful.

Take a photo and 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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