Tregardock to Dannonchapel

A circular walk from Tregardock, passing the long, remote sandy beach, to the ruins of the mediaeval manor of Dannonchapel, and includes one of the steepest and most spectacular sections of the North Cornish Coast path with vibrant wildflowers in spring and summer.

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The walk begins by descending the valley from Tregardock towards Tregardock Beach to reach the Coast Path. The route then follows the coastal path behind Trerubies Cove to the steep gorge at Dannonchapel. After climbing out of the valley to reach Crookmoyle Rock, the route turns inland to the abandoned hamlet of Dannonchapel now owned by the National Trust. The return to Tregardock is over the fields of the West Downs.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.4 km
  • Grade: Strenuous
  • Start from: the end of the lane at Tregardock
  • Parking: On the edge of the road at Tregardock (limited space) PL339ED. At Westdowns on the B3314, take the road signposted to Treligga. Pass a farm track on your left and then turn left down lane marked as a no-through road.
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)

Highlights

  • Caves, rockpools and waterfalls and a huge expanse of golden sand at Tregardock Beach at low tide
  • Panoramic views over Port Isaac Bay from the coast path
  • Birds of prey hunting along the deep gorge at Dannonchapel
  • Eerie 1000-year old ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel
  • Wildflowers along the cliff tops in spring and summer

Directions

  1. Walk down the road to the barn on the right and turn right down a track marked with a "To Coast Path" sign. Follow the track (through a kissing gate to the right of the gate if closed) until you reach a waymark on the corner of a field.
  2. At the waymark, bear left to follow the path down the valley, through another kissing gate until you reach a waymark to Tregardock Beach.

    Blackthorn trees were planted as hedges to keep out cattle and they are still common in Cornish hedgerows today. In Celtic tree lore, blackthorn was associated with evil and in the Celtic language of Ogham was known as Straif. This is thought to be the origin of the English word "strife" and a bad winter is sometimes known as a Blackthorn Winter.

  3. At the waymark, turn left uphill and follow the coast path in the direction indicated to Dannonchapel until you eventually cross a wooden footbridge and reach a waymark to Tregragon.

    When you reach the waymark, you can continue ahead to visit the beach before resuming the walk. When you've finished visiting the beach, follow the path back up to the waymark.

    Tregardock beach is about a mile along the coast from Trebarwith Strand, in the direction of Port Isaac and is reached via a public footpath that crosses the coast path to reach the farm at Tregardock. There is no beach at high tide at Tregardock. As the tide goes out, several small beaches merge into a long stretch of sand. A waterfall plummets from the cliffs at the back of the beach and there are some caves within the cliffs. The largest part of the beach is on the left and this gets cut off as the tide rises, so check the tide times carefully and don't get stranded when the tide comes in!

  4. At the Tregragon waymark, keep right and follow the coast path into a deep valley to reach a footbridge over the stream.

    In the past, when the cliffs were grazed regularly, this provided habitat for wild thyme and red ants on which the large blue butterfly depends. As farming became more intensified and cliff-top grazing stopped, the cliffs became overgrown and there was too much shade. Consequently the large blue became extinct in the UK in 1979. Now the cliffs are once more being grazed and the conditions are suitable, work is underway to reintroduce the large blue to Cornwall after highly successful reintroductions in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

  5. Cross the footbridge and go through the gate, then keep right to follow the cliff-edge path alongside the barbed wire fence. About half-way up the side of the valley, the path forks: keep left here to follow the zig-zag path to emerge onto a flight of steps and follow this to reach a gate.

    In 2000, a pilot project was run at Dannonchapel for the re-introduction of the large blue butterfly in Cornwall. 12 adults and 300 larvae were released into the valley. The colony survived for seven generations before finally dying out. This showed that all the ingredients (wild thyme and red ants) are present to support all stages of the butterfly's lifecycle. A much larger population could recover from setbacks such as predation or bad weather.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the coast path a short distance until you reach a kissing gate on your left.

    There are more than 20 breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons along the coast from Bude to Padstow.

    The peregrine falcon can reach over 322 km/h (200 mph) during its hunting stoop (high speed dive) making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom. In 2005, a peregrine was measured at a top speed of 389 km/h (242 mph). The air pressure at this speed could damage a bird's lungs. However small bony tubercles on a falcon's nostrils guide the powerful airflow away, enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving. In Cornish dialect, these falcons are known as "winnards" and local expressions include "shrammed as a winnard" (meaning chilled) and "rumped up like a winnard" (meaning huddled).

  7. Go through the gate and the gap in the wall ahead. Follow the wall on the left to a gateway in the far hedge.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. 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.
  8. Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge to another gateway in the far hedge.

    The ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel, near Tregardock, is over 1000 years old and included a manor house first recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086 when it was known as Duuenant. Its Domesday entry notes that it had "land for 3 ploughs" and 40 acres of pasture. The name comes from the Cornish "downans" which means deep valley. The suffix 'chapel' was added later in the 1300s.

  9. Go through the gateway and follow the track between the ruined farm buildings and away from the farm until you reach a gate at a bend in the track with a signpost above.

    The farmhouse garden at Dannonchapel included four bee boles - external wall recesses in which woven straw beehives (known as bee skeps) were placed. The woven basket structure provided some insulation for the bees in colder weather. Examples of bee boles and bee skeps can be seen at Godolphin House near Mount's Bay.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge (in the direction signposted West Downs) to another stile just past the gateway at the far end.

    Since relatively few people come out here, particularly early in the morning, this is a good place to see wildlife including deer and foxes.

    The Red Fox has been present in Britain since the last Ice Age and is our most widespread and numerous predator. Foxes are omnivores: as well as hunting small mammals and birds, they will eat fruit and anything else they can scavange, in fact a major component of their diet is earthworms. This flexibility has allowed them to adapt to farmed and urban environments but also varied natural environments including the coast. In the wild, a lucky fox can live an age of about 8 but the lifespan of most foxes is typically only 1.5 - 2 years. One reason for this is that around 100,000 foxes are killed on roads every year.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the fence on the left to a gateway.

    Barbed wire was first used in Victorian times with several different people independently inventing and patenting different designs. Modern barbed wire is made from steel which is then galvanised to prevent it rusting (at least until the zinc coating dissolves away). The barbed wire used for fencing is often made of high-tensile (springy) steel which is suited to being laid in long, continuous lengths. As it is forbidden by the Highways Act of 1980 for barbed wire to block a Public Right of Way, one practical solution used by farmers is to put a plastic sheath over the barbed wire where it passes over a stile. In the rare circumstance that you encounter exposed barbed wire on a stile, the most likely cause for this is mischievous cattle pulling off the plastic sheaths; let the Countryside Team know and they can alert the landowner.

  12. Go through the gateway and follow the track ahead down into the valley to reach a gate across the track next to a waymarked stile at the bottom of the valley.

    As well as the occasional peregrine, other birds of prey such as buzzards and kestrels can often be seen over the valley.

    The majority of buzzards diet is earthworms and carrion and consequently they have a reputation for being lazy and scavengers. However, when they need to be, 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.

  13. Go through the gate, or over the stile if it is closed, and follow the track left around the bend and uphill to a junction beside some barns.

    Kestrels are the most common bird of prey in Europe, although in Britain, numbers have declined in recent years. They are easily spotted when hovering, watching their prey. Whilst hovering, they have the extraordinary ability to keep their head totally still, even in strong winds. They feed mostly on mice, voles and shrews, but will also take birds as large as starlings, and will feed on insects if larger prey are not available.

  14. Turn right and follow the track away from the farm until you eventually reach a stile on the left.

    Tregragon was first recorded in 1327 as Talcragon. The name is based on the Cornish word tal for "front" or "brow" and krak which is also the basis of the name Crackington where it refers to a large rocky headland. It is thought that in this case it's a reference to the high slate cliffs.

  15. Cross the stile on the left and bear left across the field slightly to a stile in the opposite hedge (which looks more like a gate from a distance).

    As you cross the field, the wall behind you is a nice example of herringbone walling.

    The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage. It is known locally as "Jack and Jill", "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave". The latter two names are based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. On a long wall, the herringbone sections are often between "towers" of flat-laid slate (built from the larger and squarer stones) which helped to prevent the wall slumping sideways. Traditionally, hedges (stone boundary walls) were built with whatever was cleared out of the fields, whilst buildings were constructed from stone that was quarried and cut.

  16. Cross the stile and bear right slightly in the direction of the headland ahead to reach a gate in the far hedge of the field.

    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 bleating, 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 gate and turn left onto the lane to complete the circular walk.

    The manor of Tregardock was recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 with "land for 3 ploughs. Pasture, 10 acres". The place name is thought to be based on a personal name from the early mediaeval period.

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

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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