Circular walk from Boscastle to Buckator

Boscastle to Buckator

A circular walk along the coastline from Boscastle via the Pentargon waterfall and the rugged cliffs at Buckator, returning along the Valency valley.

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The walk climbs up Penally Hill from the harbour in Boscastle, with spectacular views. The route then follows the coast to Pentargon where a waterfall plummets from the cliff. The path then continues along Beeny Cliff passing Fire Beacon Point and the Beeny Sisters, to the rugged cliffs at Buckator. The return to Boscastle is along small lanes and through Peter's Wood along the valley of the River Valency.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 5.4 miles/8.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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


  • Historic fishing village and harbour at Boscastle
  • Spectacular views over Boscastle from Penally Hill
  • 120ft clifftop waterfall at Pentargon
  • Panoramic coastal views from Fire Beacon Point
  • Ancient woodland in the Valency valley

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Cobweb Inn
  • The Wellington Hotel


  1. From the car park in Boscastle make your way to the road and turn left. Walk along the road to reach a signpost by the bridge.

    Boscastle is a small fishing village located on the North Cornish coast, just north of Tintagel. Boscastle is one of the few sheltered inlets on the North Cornish coast and therefore a likely landing point for tin traders of ancient times, possibly as far back as Phoenician traders in 2000 BC. The river also provided power for a number of mills which date back at least as far as the 12th Century. In more recent times, as well as being a fishing harbour, Boscastle was a small port (similar to the others on the north coast of Cornwall) importing raw materials such as limestone and coal, and exporting slate and other local produce. In Victorian times, as many as 200 vessels came each year, mostly from Bristol and South Wales.

    In 1302 the name was recorded as Boterelescastel which meant "castle of the Botterels". It's possible this became shortened to bos because this was the Cornish word for dwelling ("bos-castel" would have been understood by Cornish speakers as "village with the castle" as the word kastell also existed in Cornish).

  2. Cross the road to the track before the bridge and follow this along the river past the Visitors' Centre until you reach another bridge.

    Boscastle's Visitors' Centre is located on the north bank of the river, just before it reaches the harbour. The building housing the Visitors' Centre is the former pilchard cellars of the fishing village, which were known as the "Bridge Cellars". By the mid-eighteenth century, the quay had been improved and repaired and was receiving salt from Bristol for the pilchard industry. Around this time, the cellars, that have since been converted to the Visitor's Centre and café, were constructed as purpose-built fish cellars arranged around a central courtyard.

  3. Turn right in front of the Harbour Light café and witchcraft museum. Follow the track signposted to Pentargon uphill towards a row of cottages to a waymark.

    The Harbour Light café is located in Boscastle, close to the harbour on the north bank of the River Jordan, near the witchcraft museum and youth hostel. The Harbour Light was originally built in the 16th Century. After many years of being used to house pigs, it was bought in the 1950s and carefully renovated using local materials for use as a gift shop. During a subsequent round of renovations in the 1990s, a "time capsule" (a glass coffee jar) was embedded in the wall of the shop. The beautiful old building was one of the most photographed in Boscastle. Then sadly in 2004, the Harbour Light was almost entirely swept away by the flood. After the flood, the time capsule was found, still intact, washed up 60 miles away on Woolacombe Beach near Ilfracombe. The building has been rebuilt as a fairly faithful copy of the original, and is now a café.

  4. At the waymark, bear left in front of the terrace of cottages, on a tarmacked road to a path on the far side.

    Penally Terrace in Boscastle gets is name from Penally Hill on which it is situated, above the Harbour Light café. Penally Terrace was formerly a fish cellar, purpose-built in the late 18th century when the pilchard trade was at its heyday. The original arrangement would probably have been open sheds on the ground floor and net lofts above, arranged around the central courtyard. They were converted into domestic accommodation in the early to mid nineteenth century. It seems that Boscastle's pilchard industry may have peaked a little earlier than Port Isaac where the new cellars were not built until the 1820s.

  5. Once past the cottages, follow the footpath until you reach a waymark at the bottom of a flight of steps.

    Pilchards are from the same family of oily fish as herring and mackerel, and are also high in omega-3 fatty acids and provide a range of minerals and vitamins. Some historical texts rave on about how amazingly healthy and radiant the Cornish peasants were when pilchards were a main component of their diet.

  6. Climb the steps up to the right to a waymark. Continue on the coast path up the side of the headland to reach a waymark on the top beside a kissing gate.

    Before you climb the steps, you may want to continue ahead to Penally Point first to admire the views, before returning to the waymark to climb the steps. Towards the end of the headland is Boscastle Blowhole.

    Below Penally Point, the headland which forms the right wall of the natural harbour of Boscastle, is a natural blowhole. Around an hour each side of low tide, when a swell is running (which is most of the time in North Cornwall), the blow hole shoots a horizontal jet of water across Boscastle harbour and emits a thundering sound, hence it is also known as the Devil's Bellows. There is a cave all the way through Penally Point from the blowhole, following a fault in the rock. Inside is a large cavern and when the water rushes through from the outside, it compresses the air in the cavern which vents through the blowhole. Eventually the sea will erode away all the rock along this fault, forming a new island at the mouth of the harbour.

  7. At the waymark, bear right through a kissing gate and follow the coast path through a gate until you reach a waymark between a pair of stiles.

    At the top, you can take a short diversion to the left to get an excellent view over the harbour, then return to the waymark to continue the walk.

    The steep-sided valley of the river Valency forms a sheltered natural harbour at Boscastle. The two stone harbour walls date back to Elizabethan times, built in 1584. The outer breakwater was built in 1820, but destroyed in 1941 by a drifting mine and then rebuilt by the National Trust.

    The harbour was very difficult to approach in a sailing ship and it was not safe for ships to enter under their own sail. On a ship's arrival, a boat with eight men, known as a "hobbler", would go out to tow them into the harbour, whilst men on the shore held the ship in the middle of the channel, using ropes.

  8. When you reach the waymark, cross the stone stile on the right and follow the left hedge to a waymark beside a gap in the wall.

    The stile on the left leads to a viewpoint over Pentargon waterfall. NB. The viewpoint is close to the edge of an unfenced cliff so exercise extreme care if you decide to have a look.

    The small stream at Pentargon, just north of Boscastle, drops down a 120ft waterfall from a hanging valley to the sea. In contrast, the larger Valency River at Boscastle has cut a deep canyon, forming the harbour, and the valley floor slopes to meet the sea.

  9. At the waymark, bear left through a kissing gate then follow the left edge of the field to a gate.

    The white boulders in the field and also built into the walls are quartz.

    Quartz is the second most abundant mineral on Earth and chemically one of the simplest - it's just silicon dioxide. Pure quartz is colourless and forms hexagonal crystals where there is enough room to grow into an empty space (e.g. cave or geode). However, it is most often encountered as cloudy white lumps which have formed in a confined space so the crystals are all intermingled.

    Small amounts of metallic minerals such as iron can colour quartz pink (known as rose quartz) and can also create clear yellow (known as citrine) or purple (known as amethyst) crystals.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the coast path along a wall past the stile to the farm shop and café, until the path ends at a gate.

    The cliff on the opposite side of the bay is known as Beeny Cliff.

    Thomas Hardy wrote the following poem, entitled Beeny Cliff, in remembrance of his wife:

    O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
    And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free—
    The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.

    The pale mews plained below us, and the waves seemed far away
    In a nether sky, engrossed in saying their ceaseless babbling say,
    As we laughed light-heartedly aloft on that clear-sunned March day.

    A little cloud then cloaked us, and there flew an irised rain,
    And the Atlantic dyed its levels with a dull misfeatured stain,
    And then the sun burst out again, and purples prinked the main.

    —Still in all its chasmal beauty bulks old Beeny to the sky,
    And shall she and I not go there once again now March is nigh,
    And the sweet things said in that March say anew there by and by?

    Nay. Though still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore,
    The woman now is—elsewhere—whom the ambling pony bore,
    And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will see it nevermore.

  11. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow along the wall on the left to reach a kissing gate

    English Stonecrop grows as a mat in rocky places and is recognisable in summer as dense clumps of star-shaped white or pale pink flowers. This is now being actively encouraged to grow on roofs in eco-housing projects to provide insulation.

    The leaves turn pink in dry conditions when moisture to move nutrients around the plant is limited. This causes sugars created by photosynthesis to build up in the leaves. At high concentrations, these react with proteins in the sap to produce red anthrocyanin compounds. This is the same process that causes autumn leaves to turn red when the plant cuts off supplies to the leaf.

    The writer Thomas Hardy met his first wife, Emma Gifford, while he was working as an architect on St. Juliot's church, and they were married in 1874. Hardy wrote several poems about their first meeting and their marriage, most of which were written in the years immediately after her death in 1912. In the poems, he disguises some of the more well-known place names, for example "Castle Boterel" refers to Boscastle, while "Lyonesse" is the name of the mythical land of ancient Cornwall.

  12. Go through the gate and descend around 200 steps to the bottom of the valley to reach a footbridge.

    Most primroses tend to be pale yellow but 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.

    Large daisy-like flowers on the coast are likely to be oxeye daisies, also known as the dog daisy or moon daisy - the latter is said to be because they are so bright that they appear to glow in the evening. The flowers of oxeye daisies are edible and can be used in salads or deserts. The flower buds can also be picked in vinegar and spices and used like capers.

    In 2004, a Neolithic polished stone axe was found in the stream bed after the period of heavy rain that caused the Boscastle flooding. Erosion caused by the rainwater had presumably excavated it and carried it into the stream. There are ploughed-down remains of prehistoric burial sites in the fields on the northern side of the valley.

  13. Cross the footbridge and follow the path up some steps and over the headland, to a sign where there is a choice for the coast path to Firebeacon or an alternative path which departs through a gate to the right.

    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.

    During June and July, you might come across a plant on the coast with long and very bright yellow flowers, a bit like elongated gorse flowers. This is likely to Dyer's Broom (also known as Dyers Greenweed). As the name implies, the bright yellow flowers were used to dye clothing. As green was generally a more popular colour than yellow, the yellow fabric was often re-dyed with a blue dye such as woad or indigo to create green cloth. During Victorian times, there was so much demand for the dye that the plant was grown commercially. In West Cornwall, there is a variety of the plant that isn't found anywhere else in Britain.

    The 10ft long Porbeagle shark caught and released off Boscastle in May 2012 was estimated at 550lb which would make it the largest shark ever caught in British waters. The Porbeagle feeds on a variety of fish and is fast enough to chase mackerel, herring and pilchards which shoal around the Cornish coast hence is sometimes known as the "Mackerel Shark". Despite its size, there are very few reported attacks on humans (and these are questionable). The reverse however cannot be said: the Porbeagle has been overfished to the point of being endangered and continues to be caught both intentionally and as by-catch. Strict regulations and greatly reduced fishing quotas introduced in 2000 have begun to reverse the stock decline, though recovery is projected to take decades.

  14. Either continue ahead to follow the coast path up Firebeacon Point or go through the gate to take the easier optional path which rejoins the coast path via a pedestrian gate.

    There is evidence that at the time of the Danish invasions, the Saxons used beacon fires to warn their people to retreat to strongholds (in fact "beacon" is an Anglo-Saxon word). However most of the "Fire beacon" coastal place names are likely to stem from the early warning system put in place during Tudor times by Mary I. Initially this was to defend against a possible French invasion, but it was invaluable when the Spanish Armada approached Cornwall in 1588 and continued to be used throughout the Napoleonic wars.

  15. From where the alternative path rejoins the coast path in a gate, continue uphill on the coast path a few paces and go through the kissing gate into the field above. Follow the coast path between the fences to another kissing gate at the far side of the field.

    Seals are easily disturbed by the presence of humans (and dogs) and this is can be the difference between life and death for seals in several different ways. Perhaps the most obvious is that a panicking seal is liable to injure itself rushing for the water. When breeding, even mild disturbance can lead to mothers abandoning their pups which then starve to death. More subtly, disturbance also causes seals to burn up their precious energy reserves. Even in a "good" year, 75% of young seals can end up dying due to insufficient energy reserves (95% in a very bad year!). If a seal looks at you, this should ring alarm bells as it means you're too close. To watch seals responsibly, it's important to keep your distance (at least 100m), avoid being conspicuous (e.g. on the skyline) and minimise noise.

  16. Go through the kissing gate and follow the left hedge of the field to an opening in the far hedge.

    Grey Seals are one of the rarest seal species in the world and the biggest land breeding mammal in the UK. Roughly half of the world population of grey seals is found in Britain, a large proportion of which are found in Cornwall. They are big animals with the larger males often over 10ft long; the females are somewhat smaller at around 6ft and usually lighter colours than the males. The Latin name for the grey seal translates to the somewhat unflattering "hooked-nosed sea pig" and the alternative common name of "horsehead seal" isn't much better.

  17. Go through the opening and cut the corner of the field then follow the fence on the left until you reach a waymark in front of a kissing gate.

    Skylarks are the most common member of the lark family in Britain and are often known simply as "larks".

    The phrase "up with the lark", used to describe early risers, dates back to at least the 16th century. Skylarks are the first birds to sing in the dawn chorus, often whilst it's still dark.

  18. As you approach the waymark, turn right to stay in the field and then follow the left hedge inland to reach another waymark in front of a gate.

    Dandelions can often be seen flowering in the fields in spring. Later in the summer, yellow dandelion-like flowers on the coast are more likely to be cats ear (named due to their furry leaves).

    Dandelion and burdock was originally an alcoholic drink made from the roots of dandelion and burdock plants. In the Middle Ages the roots were fermented to create a light mead. During Victorian times, the non-alcoholic soft drink version was made as a result of the Methodist Temperance movement.

    The Atlantic is the second largest ocean, covering 20% of the Earth's surface. Its formation began roughly 135 million years ago in the Cretaceous period when the American continents started to move away from Europe and Africa. The tectonic plates are still moving - North America gets an an average of inch further away each year.

  19. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path until it ends on a lane.

    Exactly why butterflies were associated with butter is a bit of a mystery. One theory is that they were seen hovering over pails of milk and thought to be stealing or protecting the butter. Another is that the yellow brimstone was the species for which this name was first devised.

    An impressively purple blackberry, pear and ginger chutney can be made with blackberries stashed in the freezer. Simmer 500g blackberries, a few chilli flakes, 4 chopped pears and a finely-chopped 8cm piece of fresh ginger until the liquid reduces. Add 150ml distilled or white wine vinegar, and sugar to taste (amount will depend on tartness of the blackberries). Reduce a bit longer until the desired "gloopy" consistency is achieved and finally season with a little salt to taste to balance the sweetness.

    A flower is effectively an advert to insects that nectar is available and the reason that flowers are coloured and scented is so these adverts get noticed. The basic idea with most flowers is to lure the insect in with a bribe of nectar and then whilst they are there, unload pollen they are carrying from another flower, stick some pollen to them from this flower, and send them on their way.

  20. Turn left on the lane and follow this past North Lodge on the left until you reach a junction on the right.

    Llamas and Alpacas are both from South America and are members of the camel family. Llamas are the larger of the two with longer (banana-sized) ears and a longer face. Alpacas have a very short, blunt face and have been bred for fleece production so they have shaggy hair rather like a sheep. Llamas have been bred for transporting goods (similarly to camels) hence their larger size.

  21. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane past Moomin cottage and further past Kelgernick on your right to a gate and stile on the left beside a "free range children and animals" sign.

    The valley ahead was formed by the Valency river and the smaller valleys in the distance are tributary streams.

    The steep Valency Valley acted as a funnel for the dramatic flash flood in 2004 that put Boscastle on (and nearly wiped it off) the map. Over 1.4 billion litres of rain fell in the course of 2 hours which is thought to have been caused by the Brown Willy effect, where the high tors on Bodmin Moor cause the repeated formation of rain clouds which blow along the prevailing wind and then dump their rain. Around 50 cars were swept into the harbour, the bridge was washed away and roads were submerged under 9ft of water. A total of 91 people were rescued in the largest peacetime rescue operation ever carried out in the UK.

  22. Cross the stile or go through the gate and then head to the bottom-right corner of the field to a small gateway in the fence.

    The Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.


    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).


    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  23. Go through the gateway and bear right to follow the path into the field below. Descend towards the lane, to the stile at the bottom of the field.

    Since 1984, the European Common Market agricultural policy to restrict milk production has reduced dairy herds and prompted shifts to beef and lamb production, and arable crops such as maize and oilseed rape. Two large buyers of Cornish milk - Rodda's for their clotted cream and Dairy Crest for the production of Davidstow and Cathedral City cheeses - have helped to buffer the Cornish dairy industry from this to some degree. Post-Brexit and also in response to the risk from pandemics, there is speculation that Britain may become more agriculturally self-sufficient which could change the dynamics once again.

  24. Cross the stile and turn left onto the lane. Follow it up the hill to the junction with the main road.

    Pineapple weed is related to chamomile and is consequently also known as false chamomile. It's able to colonise poor soils on waste ground including cracks between paving. The flowers resembling little yellow balls are also quite distinctive but even more so is the pineapple scent when is trodden on or squeezed. The leaves can be eaten in salads and the leaves and flowers can also be dried to make tea.

    The stream at the bottom of the valley is the one forming the waterfall at Pentargon. Its source is near the Tresparrett Downs.

  25. At the junction, turn right onto the road and follow it a short distance to a junction with a small lane on the left marked "Unsuitable for Motors".
  26. Turn left and follow the narrow lane to Trewannett farm.

    The first record of Trewannett is from 1360 as Trewathenant. The nant at the name means "valley" but the original Cornish words and meaning of the middle syllable aren't known. It's likely that the farmstead dates from the Early Mediaeval period (before the arrival of the Normans) and a bank and mound in one of the fields are thought to be relics from this period. The remains of field structures from later in the mediaeval period have also been recorded.

  27. Pass Trewannett farm on your left and follow the lane (through a gate if closed across the lane) to a bend. Continue around the bend to the left and down into the valley until you reach Elm cottage.

    There are actually two different species of dog violet although they can interbreed to form hybrids. The common dog violet prefers shade whilst the heath dog violet prefers sunny spots and historically this is what kept them apart as separate species, although they are both relatively tolerant of a wide range of conditions. Human activity, particularly felling of woodland, has resulted in them ending up in each others' "territory" and they can sometimes even be seen growing side-by-side. The easiest way to tell them apart is from the shape of the leaves leaves which are heart-shaped in the common dog violet but upside-down teardrop-shaped in the case of the heath dog violet.

    After A and B roads, the next smallest in Cornwall (by level of traffic) are C roads and then finally the U roads (often small lanes). Both are normally the same minor road colour on OS maps but the C roads are normally drawn with fatter lines. C and U roads are numbered by each council so Cornwall has its own set of numbers. They are not unique nationally, only locally, so the road number for each of these will be the same as several totally unrelated roads in other parts of Britain. The other quirky thing particularly with U roads is that several small lanes in the same area will often be given the same number. Consequently the C and U numbers are not printed on signs to avoid totally confusing motorists.

  28. In front of Elm Cottage, follow the lane round the bend to the right (ignore the waymark to the left). Shortly after, where it forks, keep right on the upper track to pass a "No Vehicle Access" sign and reach a gate.

    Elm Cottage and the neighbouring cottages make up the hamlet of Newmills.

    Newmills is a small hamlet in the Valency valley above Boscastle. Newmills was first recorded as a settlement in 1628, which gives an indication of how old the "old" mills in Boscastle were: mentions of mills in Boscastle go back at least to the 12th Century. The public footpath leading up the Valency valley from Newmills towards Lesnewth was formerly a donkey track used to transport grain from the farms upriver.

  29. Go through the kissing gate next to the gate, and follow the track ahead to reach a white cottage.

    It's thought that as well as the word "rose" coming from Latin (rosa), the "dog" part of "dog rose" may have also come from Latin: the Roman naturalist Pliny attributed rosa canina to a belief that the plant's root could cure the bite of a mad dog. It's been suggested that the belief might be based on the resemblance of the thorns to canine teeth.

  30. Pass in front of the cottage and join the path leading downriver. Follow this, ignoring any paths that lead up from the valley to reach a footbridge.

    There are several species of Woodrush in the UK that all look fairly similar. They are most noticeable in woodland where they often form dense mats - hence the name.

    Woodrush has green pointed leaves which can be mistaken for bluebell leaves when there are no flowers to provide an obvious difference (woodrush flowers are unexciting small brown things that look a bit like grass seed). To tell the leaves apart, woodrush leaves taper steadily to a sharp point whereas bluebell leaves are relatively straight for most of their length and only taper near the end (like a broadsword). Bluebell leaves are also slightly blue-green whereas woodrush is a glossy vibrant green.

  31. Continue ahead past the footbridge on the path downriver to where a gate crosses the path.

    Streams from the marshes of the Otterham Downs give rise to the River Valency which is then fed by five more rivers on its way to Boscastle. The name "Valency" has been explained as a corruption of the Cornish Melinjy (i.e. "Melin chy" = Mill-house) from the mill which existed in Boscastle in mediaeval times.

  32. Go through the gate and follow the path to a waymark beside some stepping stones.

    Alongside the path, particularly on the right as you approach the car park, there are carpets of wild garlic in early spring.

    If cows eat wild garlic, this flavours their milk. Whilst this is definitely not what's wanted for tea or cornflakes, the butter made from it is more useful. This means of producing garlic butter became popular in Switzerland in the 19th Century.

    The growing conditions for trees varies from year to year (e.g. there might be a drought one summer). The "bad years" and "good years" are reflected in the widths of the rings. The pattern of good and bad summers is the same (more-or-less, depending of the location) for every tree so this forms a calendar - the known sequence of wide and narrow rings can be used to assign an exact year to each ring. This can also be done with dead and even fossil trees both to date them and get an idea of what the climate was doing at the time.

  33. Continue ahead (waymarked for Boscastle) from the stepping stones to follow the path along the river to the car park. As you approach the car park, the path forks; either of the paths will lead you back into the car park.

    Despite the names, The Old Mill by the bridge in Boscastle is newer than Newmills (situated further up the Valency valley). The Old Mill is an 18th century building, replacing an earlier 17th century mill on the same site. The mill wheel is 19th century as the wooden structures would eventually rot and need replacing. Newmills dates from Tudor times.

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