St Keverne to Porthallow

The walk starts at the church and follows the wooded valley to Porthoustock where there is an optional diversion to the beach. The walk then continues to Porthkerris where again a diversion is possible to the cove before continuing on the route along the coast to Porthallow beach. The walk back is across the fields to Tregaminion and finally along the river to Tregoning returning to St Keverne via Well Lane - thought to be the site of the mediaeval holy well.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.4 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: St Keverne church
  • Parking: The Square, St Keverne. Satnav: TR126NB
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty woodland paths with bluebells and orchids in spring
  • Thatched cottages and cottage gardens at Porthoustock and Porthallow
  • Sandy beach at Porthallow at low tide
  • Views along the south Cornish coast to the Helford River, Carrick Roads and the Roseland

Directions

  1. From the square, enter the churchyard and follow the path along the left side of the church to reach a crossing of paths just past the church.

    St Keverne was the site of a mediaeval monastery from around 600AD, which would originally have been built of wood. The settlement of St Keverne was first recorded in the 1086 Domesday survey as Lannachebran. The manor included 20 acres of pasture and land for 7 ploughs and was owned by the canons of St Achebran's monastery.

  2. Continue ahead towards the wall and follow alongside the wall to reach a metal gate out of the churchyard. Go through this to reach a wooden kissing gate.

    The church is dedicated to St Akevernus (also known as St Kieran) who is said to have founded the monastery. The current church mostly dates from the 15th Century but some of the stonework from a previous church was re-used in its construction. The columns within the nave are constructed from a number of different colours of stone which is thought to have been imported from Brittany. The church was restored in the 1830s and a mural of St Christopher was discovered beneath whitewash.

  3. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path along the left hedge to reach a stone stile.
  4. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge to reach a stone stile in the corner of the field.
  5. Cross the stile and the track to the gate and stile opposite. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open). Follow the path ahead into a field and along the left hedge. At the end of the hedge, continue across the field to a stile and gateway in the bottom corner.
  6. Cross the stile or go through the open gateway and follow the path through the woods to reach a footbridge over the stream.

    The name Celandine is thought to come from the Latin word for swallow. It is said that the flowers bloom when the birds return in Spring and fade when they leave in Autumn. Celandine flowers close each night and open each morning. This is controlled by a circadian rhythm, so they really are 'going to sleep' at night and 'waking up in the morning'. It is likely that this has arisen to protect the internals of the flowers from any frost during the night as they begin flowering in March when frosts are still common.

  7. Cross the footbridge and stile and continue following the path until you descend some steps and emerge onto another path.
  8. When you reach the bottom of the steps, bear right to follow the path between the walls and follow this onto a driveway which ends in a T-junction with a lane
  9. Turn left onto the lane and follow it past the cottage to where a path departs to the right from the far side of the cottage.
  10. Bear right onto the path and follow it over a bridge and some steps to a metal gate. Go through the gate and keep right where a track departs to the left to go through a gateway. Continue following the path, passing through another metal gate, to reach a waymark beside a kissing gate.

    Red and Roe deer are the two truly native species of the six found in the UK and both have pointy, branching (rugose) antlers. The Red deer is the largest of the species and has a characteristic large white V on its backside whereas the Roe deer just has a small white patch.

    The fallow deer was introduced by the Normans and has flat, elk-like (palmate) antlers and an inverted black horseshoe surrounding a white patch on its rear end.

    In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, three "exotic" Asian species (munjac, sika and chinese water deer) were introduced. These all have quite rounded ears whereas the European species all have pointy "elf-like" ears.

    Roe deer, Fallow deer and Red deer are all present in Cornwall and the populations of all three species has increased substantially over the past decade, possibly by as much as a factor of ten. There are also a small number of munjac deer, but far fewer than in the rest of England.

  11. The route continues through the gate on the left but beforehand you may want to continue ahead to explore Porthoustock before continuing. From here, go through the gate and follow the path uphill along the fence and cross straight over the track near the top to reach a kissing gate in the corner of the field.

    The settlement of Porthoustock was first recorded around 1250 as Pordeustek and is pronounced "prowstock" by locals. Other than the porth meaning cove or harbour, no-one is quite sure of the origin of the name. The sheltered and steeply-sloping beach makes it a good boat launching location. A lifeboat was therefore stationed here from 1869 until 1942 and the lifeboat house remains, albeit re-purposed. Fish cellars also existed here and at least one of these has been re-purposed into accommodation.

  12. Go through the kissing gate, cross the stone stile and turn right. Follow the right hedge and then turn left to reach a gateway.
  13. Go through the gateway and turn left onto the road. Follow the road to a junction.
  14. Keep right at the junction to keep following the road towards St Keverne. Continue until you reach another junction with a "Porthkerris Land Sea and Sports" sign.

    The settlement of Trenance was first recorded as a manor in the Domesday survey of 1086 spelt Trenant. The name is the Cornish for "valley farm". In 1086 it had a pasture of 100 acres and arable land for 6 ploughs and was owned by Algar. Prior to the Norman conquest it had been owned by Oswulf.

    In Norman times, ploughing was done with oxen and where the Domesday survey mentions "land for one plough" this was a standardised measurement of land area. The amount of land that could be planned with an 8 oxen team in one season was around 120 acres and represented enough to support a household.

  15. Turn right down the small lane and follow it to a gate across the lane beside the Ministry of Defence site.

    The radar station near Porthkerris is thought to have been associated with the Torpedo Range at the mouth of the Helford River. Radar aerials were originally sited beside the building but have since been removed.

  16. Go through the gate ahead and follow the lane to reach a sharp bend to the right with a track departing to the left.

    The track to the right leads down to the St Keverne Quarries.

    Quarrying of the coast between Porthoustock and Porthkerris started in 1896 to extract the hard schist and gabbro rock to make gravel for roadbuilding. Remnants of the workings include engine houses, bunkers where the stone was graded, the bed of a tramway system with inclines to the quarries, and the large quay at Batty's Point dominating the beach at Porthoustock. The quay was built around the early 1900s (hence it is made of rather unattractive concrete), was serviced by the tramway and contains four large chutes used to load the stone into waiting vessels.

  17. Keep right to continue on the lane a short distance further to reach a second track departing to the left.

    The settlement of Porthkerris was first recorded in 1296 as Porthkersis. As well as the Cornish word porth for "cove", it is thought that the name might be based on the word cors meaning "reeds".

  18. Turn left and follow the track through the gate into the field. Follow along the left hedge then bear right to a stile below the large tree.

    Over the cliffs to the right, in a disused quarry at Porthkerris is the Cornish Sea Salt Factory.

    The Iron Age saltworks on The Lizard inspired the idea for the Cornish Sea Salt Company in 2004 which, after three years of development work, began trading in Jan 2008. The salt is harvested from the sea in a purpose-built building on the Lizard coast. Only a fraction of the salt is extracted from the seawater, which is then allowed to trickle back into the sea through a fault in the rocks, ensuring that the local salinity levels are not greatly disturbed. Roughly 90-95% of the sea salt is sodium chloride; the remaining fraction contains a range of other minerals which are generally thought to make it more healthy than the more pure sodium chloride and anti-caking agents present in standard table salt.

  19. Cross the stile and follow the path, passing through a kissing gate and then downhill to emerge next to the beach.

    The coast ahead stretches to Nare Point on the mouth of the Helford River.

    During World War 2, a decoy site was constructed at Nare Point which was built by Ealing Film Studios and manned from a bunker above Men-Aver beach. A sister site existed on Nare Head on the other side of Falmouth Bay, so whichever direction bombers approached from, they could be intercepted before they reached Falmouth. A mark in the grass alongside the coast path is the remains of a fake railway with red and green lights on posts to simulate signals. The site consisted of a range of fire-making devices that were designed to emulate a town that was in blackout where bombs had hit their targets. These included exploding sand bags, tanks with tar and 15 foot long fire-trays which could be filled with different mixtures to emulate the effect of a hit on a ship or a train. During Falmouth's most destructive bombing raid of 1944, the decoy site managed to lure 9 heavy bombs away from Falmouth.

  20. At the bottom of the steps, continue ahead towards the toilets to reach the road.

    Porthallow is now probably best known for being the midpoint of the South West Coast Path.

    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.

  21. Follow the road past the Five Pilchards and uphill until you reach a Public Footpath sign on the right just after the Porthallow place name sign (facing in the opposite direction).

    As the name of the pub - the Five Pilchards - suggests, the port flourished during the heyday of pilchard fishing and a number of the buildings are relics of this. During mediaeval times, it was a major fishery, initially owned by an Abbey, and the pilchard fishery continued into Victorian times. In more recent times, Porthallow was largely owned by the Trelowarren Estate and the beach was still owned by the estate until the 1970s when it was purchased by the village. The placename is pronounced locally as "pralla".

  22. Turn right and follow the path to a stile next to a gate. Cross the stile and follow the path to emerge into a field.

    The Early Purple Orchid has a Latin name meaning "virile" which is in keeping with the word "orchid" coming from the Greek word for testicle (on account of the shape of the tuber).

    This particular species is the con-man of the plant kingdom, with brilliant purple flowers resembling those of other nectar-rich orchids. When the insects arrive and push through the pollen to investigate the promising flowers, they discover that the flowers contain no nectar.

  23. In the field, bear left slightly as you cross the field to a stone stile. Cross this and follow the path until it emerges on a track.

    The common name "foxglove" dates back many hundreds of years but the origin is unknown. The "gloves" almost certainly refers to the shape of the flowers, and the latin name Digitalis (fingerlike) is along similar lines. The curious part is the "fox" and many different suggestions have been made as to where it came from. It is likely that it is a corruption of another word; possibly "folks" which was once used to mean "fairies".

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. As an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

  24. When you reach the track, keep left to follow it ahead and continue until the track ends in an area of tarmac beside a building.

    Elderflowers appear in June and are easily recognisable as large white umbels on the shrubby green trees. Elder trees were associated with witchcraft which may have arisen because their berries were used in medicines. Consequently there were many superstitions about cutting down or burning elder trees.

    Elder be ye Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed ye'll be.

    If you are harvesting the flowers to make cordial or wine, avoid picking umbels where the flowers are going brown or haven't opened yet; they should be bright white with a yellow centre. If you are harvesting the berries they should be black (not red) and not shrivelled.

    To make elderflower cordial, remove the bitter stems from about a 20 flower heads and soak overnight in 1 litre of water containing the juice of 2 lemons. Strain the liquid and dissolve around 600g sugar to make a sweet cordial. To make dissolving the sugar easier, you can pre-dissolve the sugar in the water in advance by boiling the water and allowing it to cool before adding the elderflowers, though you lose some of your sugar on the discarded elderflowers that way. Dilute with water or sparkling water to serve.

  25. Bear left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a waymarked kissing gate on the right with a Public Footpath sign to St Keverne.

    The settlement of Tregaminion dates from mediaeval times and was first recorded in around 1250 as Trecheminion. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish word kemmyn meaning "common" or "commoner", but could also be from kemmynn meaning "legacy" or "inheritance".

    A neolithic axe made of the hard metamorphic rock greenstone was found here around 1968 and was recorded as being given to the Helston museum in 1971.

  26. Go through the gate on the right and keep left where a path leads off the the right through a gate. Follow the path over a crossing with a gravel path and onward to reach a stone stile into a field.

    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!

  27. Cross the stile and bear right slightly to a metal pedestrian gate to the left of the field gate.

    If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • If cows approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size.
    • Avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If you must: if cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  28. Go through the pedestrian gate and cross the stile behind it then follow the path along the right hedge to reach a stile.
  29. Cross the stile and go through the gate into the field. Bear left slightly across the field, roughly in the direction of the church on the skyline to reach a small gap in the hedge with a stone stile roughly half-way between the telegraph pole and the corner of the field.
  30. Cross the stile and continue towards the church to reach a small stone stile.

    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.

  31. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane to reach a Public Footpath signpost.
  32. Cross the stile below the footpath sign and follow the path along the right hedge of the field to reach a stone stile in the corner.
  33. Cross the stile and continue following the path along the right hedge to reach a waymark.
  34. From the waymark, follow the path into the woods and down some steps. Continue on the path to cross a stone stile and a short distance further to emerge onto a track via a concrete stile.
  35. Bear left onto the track and follow it to a gate.

    The St Keverne parish has one of the densest distribution of place names beginning with tre- anywhere in Cornwall, indicating heavy settlement during the Dark Ages. Around St Keverne itself, these places are thought to be part of a monastic estate. During this period, there were strong links with the Celtic people of Brittany and this may explain the unusual stone within St Keverne church which is thought to have been imported from Brittany.

  36. As you approach the gate, bear right to reach a stile and cross this. Follow the path leading over the stream and continue to emerge on a lane beside the Parish Hall.

    The clapper footbridge over the river and the remains of a weir and sluice gate on the stream are thought to possibly date from as far back as mediaeval times. The path is known as Well Lane and is thought to have been the location of a mediaeval Holy Well recorded in 1260 as Funten Keran and 1280 as Funten Kevan. It was later described as a disused pump erected on a foundation of old stones.

  37. Follow the lane ahead from the hall to reach the road and turn left to return to the square.

    The Three Tuns Hotel dates back to at least the mid 1400's, although the physical structure has been replaced since the first building. It is said to take its name from an incident in 1467 where the local vicar was found in the building with three huge casks (tuns) of wine or brandy, "obtained" from a French wreck. Each tun held around 250 gallons, so in total this would have been the equivalent of four and a half thousand bottles.

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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