St Just-in-Roseland to St Mawes

The walk descends through St Just churchyard to the side of St Just Creek follows this to its confluence with Carrick Roads. The route then follows the edge of Carrick Roads to St Mawes Castle. The walk continues on the harbour-front road and follows this all the way through St Mawes to Polvarth. The walk then follows a footpath up the Percuil River to the bluebell woods of Bosloggas and the return route is along the National Trust permissive path through the fields of Tregear Vean.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.1 miles/9.8 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: St Just church car park
  • Parking: St Just church car park. Follow signs towards St Mawes through St Just until you reach the sign for St Just Church and Bar. Turn here to reach the church car park. If it is full, you can use the village car park on the side of the main road. Satnav: TR25JD
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • St Just church set in sub-tropical gardens
  • Views over Carrick Roads and the Percuil River
  • Tudor castle at St Mawes

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Turn right out of the car park onto the road and immediately right through the churchyard gate. Then bear left down the concrete path and make your way through the churchyard to the church (keeping left after you pass the well), and walk around the church to the side facing the creek.

    St Just In Roseland Church is based on a 13th Century building that was remodelled in the 14th and 15th Centuries and then reworked fairly heavily in a 19th Century restoration.

    During Victorian times, the area around the church was landscaped into gardens using semi-tropical species that are able to survive in the mild climate beside the river. The granite blocks alongside the path to the church are inscribed with quotations from the Bible.

  2. With the church on your left and creek on your right, follow the creekside path to reach a pedestrian gate.

    The wreck of a wooden boat on the beach beside the church in St Just-in-Roseland was a mackerel handlining boat called "Pride of the Isle" which was abandoned there in the 1930s. Three stone slabs rest on the wooden frame and these may have been used as ballast to keep the boat steady when fishing in rough seas.

  3. Go through the gate and follow the path along the edge of the creek until it emerges on a concrete ramp beside the boatyard.

    The parish of St Just in Roseland was recorded in 1046, just before the Norman invasion, as "Ecciae Sci Juste".

    The first records of the settlement around the church are a little later, from 1202, but this used the Cornish name Lansioch. The name contains the Cornish word lann, meaning "enclosed cemetery", which is typical of settlements dating from the Dark Ages. The remainder of the name is thought to be from a Celtic saint's name. It's therefore likely that the church is on the site of an older churchyard, possibly dating from the Dark Ages, and the presence of the Holy Well further supports this.

    When maintenance work was carried out on the church in the early 20th Century, a Roman coin was found beneath the floorboards, indicating that there may have been settlement in the vicinity of the church prior to the Dark Ages.

  4. When you reach the concrete ramp, turn left to walk along the front of the boatyard and then along the track up the hill to reach a wooden public footpath sign.

    "Holy wells" were created because the Christian church was most unhappy with the Celtic people continuing their old Pagan ways and worshipping sacred springs. In the 10th Century, the church issued a cannon (law) to outlaw such practices. This didn't work, so they issued another one in the 11th Century, and again in the 12th Century. Even despite the church going to the lengths of building a chapel over the top of some springs to obliterate them, the people still hung onto their sacred springs. The church finally settled on a compromise and rebranded the springs as (Christian) Holy Wells, so the old practices could continue behind a Christian façade.

  5. From the sign, follow the track ahead, signposted to St Mawes. Keep left at Bar Point and walk a short distance further along the track to reach a gate on the left, marked with a National Trust Churchtown Farm sign.

    The name for the Roseland Peninsula derives from the Celtic word ros which can be used to mean a number of things including "moor", but the meaning most applicable in this case is "promontory".

  6. Go through the gate on the left and turn right in the field. Follow along the right hedge to reach a pedestrian gate in the far hedge.
  7. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge past a gate on the right (leading to a beach) to reach a gate in the far hedge.

    At low tide, there is a shingle beach here and below a number of other gates along the route, leading on to the shoreline. At high tide, most of the beach is covered.

  8. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge until you reach a fork in the path, just before the far hedge. Keep left at the fork to reach a pedestrian gate in the middle of the hedge.

    In August, blackberries start to ripen on brambles. Blackberries are closely related to raspberries and technically neither is a berry but an aggregate of many individual tiny fruits, each containing a tiny stone like a miniature cherry. Blackberries are high in vitamin C, K and antioxidants. The seeds, despite being a bit crunchy, contain omega-3 and -6 fatty acids and further enhance blackberries' "superfood" status.

    According to folklore, you should not pick blackberries after Michealmas Day (11th October) as this is when the devil claims them. The basis for this is thought to be the potentially toxic moulds which can develop on the blackberries in the cooler, wetter weather.

  9. Go through the pair of gates and bear right slightly to a kissing gate in the bottom corner of the far hedge.

    The cluster of boats moored on the opposite side of the creek are at Mylor Harbour.

    Mylor is the name of the parish but there is not as such a village of Mylor. The closest thing to this are the separate villages of Mylor Bridge, which is the largest in the parish, and Mylor Churchtown which includes the harbour as well as the church.

  10. Go through the kissing gate, cross the footbridge and go through the gate on the other side into the field. Then follow along the right hedge to reach a pedestrian gate.

    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.

  11. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge, passing a gate on the right (leading to a beach) to a kissing gate in the far hedge.

    There are nice views across the river from this field. The point opposite is Penarrow Point, where the Restronguet Sailing Club are now based.

    The Restronguet Sailing Club (RSC) was founded in 1933 and had its first Olympic Gold Medalist in 1948. By 1965, it had become so popular that it outgrew its location on Restronguet Creek and was relocated to its current position near Mylor Harbour. More recently, Ben Ainslie learned to sail here and went on to win a number of Olympic medals and receive a knighthood.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to another gate.

    The Fal estuary is home to a native species of oyster known as the "flat" or "edible" oyster. These are fished sustainably by the last commercial fleet in Europe to use only sails and oars. The fishermen, known as "oyster dredgers" or "dregemen", work the oyster beds with triangular iron dredges which drag along the riverbed as the boat is allowed to drift. The use of non-powered boats is a local bye-law to guarantee the stocks. This has proven effective: the Carrick Roads stocks are as good both in quantity and quality as they were 50 years ago, whilst the Oyster fishing industry has died out on the East coast of England due to overfishing.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a stile beside a gateway.

    Falmouth harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world and the deepest in Western Europe. The large waterway of Carrick Roads, forming the junction of seven estuaries, was created after the Ice Age from an ancient valley which flooded with the rising sea levels as the ice caps melted.

  14. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge past a gate on the right (leading to a beach) and a bench to reach a gate in the far hedge.

    During the last Ice Age, up to about 12,000 years ago, ice sheets up to 2 miles thick lay over the northern half of Britain. The weight of this ice was immense and it pressed down onto the Earth's mantle which is a treacle-like liquid rock. The mantle was slowly squished away from beneath the Earth's crust beneath heavy ice. When the ice melted, the pressure was released and the mantle began to flow back creating a super-slow motion rebound effect which will take thousands of years to level out. The result is that the north-western edge of Britain is rising and the south-eastern part is sinking. As South Cornwall has been slowly sinking into the sea over the past few thousand years, this has compounded the rise in sea levels, creating creeks from flooded river valleys.

  15. Go through the gate and cross the wall and follow the winding path across the field to reach a waymark. Continue ahead in the direction of the yellow arrow to reach some steps and a gate with a Newton Cliff sign.

    Where the inlet to Falmouth begins on the opposite side of the bay, the "corner" of the land on this side of it is known as Trefusis Point, after the name of the estate that overlooks it.

    King Henry VIII planned to build a castle in the field on Trefusis Point as part of the Falmouth coastal defences to go alongside the castles at St Mawes and Pendennis. However, the funds had to be diverted in order to finance the front line of his wars in France and Scotland, so the castle was never built.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the path along the narrow meadow, passing a gate on the right (leading to a beach) to reach some stepping stones over a stream to a gap in the hedge.

    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.

  17. Go through the gap into the next meadow and follow the path to the gap in the next hedge. Continue to the next gap, where there is a Countryside Stewardship sign on the left, and to another gap where there is a second sign.

    The large, round building on the headland opposite is Pendennis Castle.

    Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to defend the coast against a possible French attack and was re-inforced during the reign of Elizabeth I. During the English Civil War, more re-inforcement took place and the castle withstood five months of siege from Parliamentary forces before it was captured. The castle was adapted for the World Wars of the 20th Century and the guardhouse has been restored to how it might have looked in the First World War. During the Second World War, underground tunnels and magazines were added which can now be visited.

  18. Go through the gap in the hedge and follow the path to a gap in the middle of the far hedge.

    In Elizabethan times, the town of Falmouth did not exist, only a few small settlements around Carrick Roads which had been there since mediaeval times. A few castles had been built during the Tudor period to defend the river system and there was a manor house of Arwenack which was owned by Sir John Killigrew. When Sir Walter Raleigh visited Arwenack in 1598, he was so impressed with the natural harbour of Carrick Roads that he recommended that it should be developed as a port. Following this, the town of Falmouth was created in 1613.

  19. Go through the gap and follow the path to reach a footpath signpost. Continue ahead from the signpost to a pedestrian gate.

    The name "Carrick Roads" is thought to be a mangling of the Cornish Karrek Reun meaning "seal rock". It is now known as "Black Rock" and located in the centre of the harbour entrance, between Pendennis Point and Carricknath Point, and marked with a large conical beacon. It is still used at low tide as a haul-out spot by seals.

  20. Go through the gate and follow the lane to reach St Mawes Castle. As the castle comes into view, continue up the hill until a small path departs to the right to the castle entrance.

    St Anthony's Lighthouse was built out of granite in 1835 on the eastern entrance to Falmouth Harbour to guide vessels clear of the Manacles rocks. In most directions, the light is white but a sector close to The Manacles rocks is coloured red, warning vessels to steer offshore. The lighthouse was featured in the UK version of the TV series "Fraggle Rock" as "Fraggle Rock Lighthouse". Until 1954, the lighthouse possessed a huge bell which hung outside the tower and was used as a fog signal. This was later replaced with a foghorn.

  21. Bear right down the path to the castle entrance. Continue past the entrance and follow the path to emerge onto a road.

    St Mawes Castle is part of the chain of coastal defences built during the reign of King Henry VIII to protect against an invasion threat from Catholic France and Spain after establishing the Church of England. St Mawes' clover-leaf shape was designed so that heavy "ship-sinking" guns could be mounted to face in three directions and together with Pendennis Castle could protect the important anchorage of Carrick Roads. Whereas Pendennis was further developed after Tudor times, St Mawes was not. Thus it is one of the best preserved of these fortresses and is also the most elaborately decorated of them all.

  22. Follow Lower Castle Road down into St Mawes to reach the quay.

    The quay at St Mawes dates from mediaeval times. The first record of it is from 1539 and there are many records of repairs during the 17th Century. It was also rebuilt at least twice during Victorian times.

  23. Continue along the road past the Quay towards The Idle Rocks Hotel until you reach a junction beside the Rising Sun.

    The holy well is a short diversion up the alley between the Ship and Castle and Victory Inn. When you reach the top, bear right and the well is the arch on your left. You can descend Bohella road to return to the harbour a little further along.

    St Mawes Holy Well dates from mediaeval times, possibly when there was a Celtic graveyard here. The age of the stonework around the well is the subject of debate, but is thought to be from either the 14th or 15th Century. In Victorian times the well was described as being "arched over" so that visitors could use it as a wishing well and drop pins into the water. In the 1930s, the well-house was rebuilt and the site was re-dedicated.

  24. Keep right at the junction to follow the road behind the Idle Rocks Hotel. Join the pavement at the Tredenham Road sign and follow this until it ends at a Summers Beach sign beside a ramp leading to the beach.

    The settlement of St Mawes originally had a Cornish name which was first recorded as Lavada in 1284 and last recorded in 1502 as Lavousa, after which it died out and was replaced by St Mawes. The Cornish name is thought to have originally started with Lan, which implies it was a Dark Ages religious settlement.

  25. Keep left to stay on the road and rejoin the pavement. Follow the road all the way around the long bend until you pass the driveway to Polvarth and reach Polvarth Lane.

    As you go around the corner, there is a view across the creek to Place house, behind which is St Anthony's church.

    The parish church of St Anthony was established by the Augustinian Priory of Plympton and was built in 1150 and included a priory alongside, where Place house is now located. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, part of the priory was used as a residence and other parts were pulled down and the stone was used to build St Mawes Castle. Despite being extensively restored in the 19th century, the church still retains its original mediaeval plan.

  26. Turn right down Polvarth Lane (after the driveway to the house called Polvarth) and follow it towards the boatyard to reach a footpath signpost on the left.

    Polvarth Quay was built by the American troops in WW2 in preparation for D-Day. It was used for training, leading up to the event. Meanwhile, the BBC ran a competition for French holiday photographs which were used to gather intelligence on suitable beaches to land the troops. Submariners then visited the candidate beaches at night to take soil samples. On D-Day, Polvarth Quay was used as an embarkation point for troops.

  27. Turn left and go up the steps signposted to Porthcuil. Follow the path until it eventually emerges on a driveway.
  28. Turn right onto the driveway and follow it towards the boatyard to reach a waymark on the left. Turn left down the waymarked path and follow it until it eventually emerges into a field.

    The quay associated with the boatyard was built during the first half of the 20th Century and is thought may have been constructed as part of the preparations for D-Day landings together with the other quay at Polvarth.

  29. Bear left slightly up the field to a waymark in front of the bushes.
  30. Follow the path from the waymark into the bushes to reach another waymark.
  31. Keep right at the waymark and follow the path downhill along the metal railing. At the bottom, keep right to follow the path above the creek. Continue until you reach a fork in the path, just before a gate marked "No right of way". Keep left at the fork and follow the path uphill to emerge into a field.
  32. Follow the right hedge of the field, then follow the path into the bushes and beneath the trees. Follow the path up a small inlet to reach a waymark.
  33. Turn right at the waymark and cross the stream and stile at the bottom of the valley. Climb the steps and follow the path to reach a footbridge over the stream.
  34. Follow the path over the bridge and up the steps. Continue until you eventually reach a waymarked kissing gate.

    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.

    bar
  35. Go through the gate and turn left onto the track and follow it through a gate across the track. Continue to reach a junction of tracks at a farm.
  36. Keep right at the junction and follow the track through a gate. Continue on the track until it ends at a road.

    The settlement here is called Nanshuttal and was first recorded in 1327. It contains the Cornish word nans, meaning valley, but the origin of the rest of the name is not known.

  37. Cross the road and turn right. Follow along the verge past the water tower until you reach a track on the left with a stile marked with a National Trust sign for Tregear Vean.

    Tregear Vean was first documented in 1697 although it is thought to be much older, dating to the mediaeval period, if not before. The name Tregear is from from the Cornish word ker, meaning fort or earthwork and Vean means "small" in Cornish and survived for a long time in the local dialect, even when English replaced Cornish as the spoken language (e.g. "E'm only a vean child"). The gist of the name is therefore thought to be "little farm by the fort". However, no trace of an earthwork has so far been found so it has been postulated that "Little Tregear" might be in relation to the (main) Tregear in Gerrans Parish.

  38. Cross the stile and follow the path along the right hedge to a stile between two gateways.
  39. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway if open) and follow the right hedge to a farm gate.

    The promontory on the opposite side of the river is Restronguet Point.

    Restronguet Point still has the remains of two quays. The quay facing into Restronguet Creek known as Marble Head Quay was used to ship copper ore, brought from the Redruth area to Devoran on the railway and then moved along the creek using horses. Copper was shipped to the coalfields of South Wales to be smelted as 16 tonnes of coal were needed for every tonne of ore. A second quay, on the tip of the point, was used for a ferry service across the creek to both Weir Beach and the Pandora Inn. A ship's bell was used to summon the ferry from the other side of the creek.

  40. Go through the pedestrian gate beside the farm gate and cross the stile ahead into the field. Follow the right hedge to a stile and gate.

    Despite the illusion of being a French word, Restronguet is pronounced as if it contained no "u" and it was like any other Cornish place name: "re-stron-get", with the emphasis on the middle syllable. The reason is that it was originally a Cornish name, starting with ros, meaning "promontory". The other part has been suggested as coming from tron (literally "throne", also used to mean "elevated") and koes (meaning "wooded"). Alternatively it could be from the less glamorous stronk, meaning "dirty water". It's possible that the spelling gained its French appearance after the Norman invasion.

  41. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway if open) and follow the right hedge to another gate and stile.

    In the 19th Century, Restronguet Creek played an important part in the mining industry. Minerals were exported and coal was imported from wharves along the creek from Devoran to Point. Waste water from the mines caused gradual silting of the creek and this accelerated during the 19th Century, eventually leading to the complete silting of Devoran harbour.

  42. Cross the stile and cross the field to a gap in the far hedge.

    After the pumps at Wheal Jane were finally switched off in 1991, the rising water flooded the former working areas and exposed ore, picking up waste and dissolving the minerals. It turned out that Wheal Jane is connected to a number of unsurveyed 18th century workings, into which the rising water also flooded. In 1992, the acid mine drainage escaped through surface water systems into the Carnon Valley, and an orange plume of pollution flowed down Restronguet Creek into Falmouth Bay, killing fish. Remedial measures were fairly quickly put in place to stop the pollution which have now been replaced by longer-term measures.

  43. Go through the gap and bear right to a stile in the corner of the far hedge.

    At the time of writing, the ongoing cost of preventing pollution at Wheal Jane is around £2 million per year. However, in the areas flooded with mine waste, scientists have found naturally-occurring algae that absorb many of the metals dissolved in the water. It is not yet understood which species absorb which metals, but it is hoped with some more research and development that it will be possible to extract the metals commercially from the algae and then use the waste organic matter for biofuel. If successful, the approach could be used worldwide to turn what is currently an expensive environmental problem into something that may even generate revenue.

  44. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track. Follow the track to a gate and stile across the track. Cross the stile and continue following the track into a field.
  45. Follow along the left hedge of the field to where the path bends left behind the hedge.
  46. Keep left to follow the path between the hedges. Keep following the path, keeping ahead when you reach a waymark, until it ends in a gate.
  47. Cross the stile next to the gate and cross the driveway to a waymark. Follow the path from the waymark, down the steps, until you reach a waymark at the bottom. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path to return to the car park.

    The two gateways into the churchyard at St Just in Roseland, were originally built in 1632. From their condition, is thought that they might have been rebuilt in the 19th Century, possibly as part of the restoration of the church. The gateways are known as lychgates after the Saxon word lych, meaning corpse.

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
  • Please let us know if there are nice autumn colours on this walk
  • 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.

A free way to not kill penguins: discarded ink cartridges float in rainwater, can wash into rivers, be broken up by the sea into reflective shards eaten by dopey fish, and build up in the stomachs of seabbirds, causing them to starve to death. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?