Circular walk from Cadgwith Cove to Church Cove

Cadgwith Cove to Church Cove

A circular walk on the serpentine coast of The Lizard from Cadgwith Cove to Church Cove, returning via two ancient churches and the holy well of St Ruan.

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The route follows the Coast Path from Cadgwith around the Devil's Frying Pan and Polbarrow to Church Cove The walk then comes inland via St Winwalloe church. The return route is then mostly across the fields, passing the church of St Grada and the Holy Well of St Ruan.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 4.1 miles/6.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes during a dry summer, walking boots otherwise. Wellies after prolonged wet weather.

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 103 OS Explorer 103 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Pretty fishing village and pebble beach at Cadgwith Cove
  • The Devil's Frying Pan - a collapsed sea cave
  • Historic wireless and signalling stations

Pubs on or near the route

  • Cadgwith Cove Inn

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the road linking the upper and lower areas of the car park and follow the path leading downhill signposted to the village. Continue until the path ends on a road.

    Cadgwith Cove was originally called Porthcaswydh based on the Cornish words kas meaning a fight and wydh meaning wood, which were combined to mean "thicket", probably because the valley was densely wooded. In mediaeval times, there was little more than a collection of fish cellars around the cove used by local farmers for fishing. From the 16th Century, the cove became a permanent settlement with fishing as the main industry.

  2. Turn right onto the road and follow it around the bend, past the waymark, to reach a junction outside "Pennard". Turn left up the no-through road and follow this until you reach a sharp bend near a garage with a Coast Path sign.

    Cadgwith has an anthem which has been recorded with slightly different variations of words, sometimes under the title "The Robbers Retreat". It starts with:

    Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry, For to rob bags of plunder it is our intent.

    ...which sounds promisingly Cornish, but it then mentions mountains, valleys, lilies and roses and even "the beauty of Kashmir" which has everyone confused. In fact it makes no mention of Cadgwith, Cornwall or even the coast. Nobody is quite sure where it came from, when it originated, or to what it refers!

  3. Go through the gate onto the driveway (or cross the stile on the left if closed) and follow the path to emerge outside a cottage named "Ruan".

    The old coastguard hut is on the far side of the inlet.

    The hut overlooking Cadgwith Cove was used as a Coastguard lookout and is now maintained by the National Trust. A stone near the hut inscribed with 1869 may possibly indicate its age. It is postulated the hut may have originally been built as a huer's hut to spot shoals of pilchards.

  4. At "Ruan", follow the tarmacked track ahead to a junction of paths and tracks with a footpath signpost.

    The coastline around Lizard Point is scattered with the remains of shipwrecks, now mostly broken into small pieces by storm waves crashing onto the exposed headlands.

    The Bellucia was in a convoy on its way to London in July 1917 with a cargo of flour from Montreal when one of the crew noticed a periscope 300 yards off the port side. His warning was too late: a torpedo from a German U-boat killed four of the crew but did not immediately sink the ship. The remainder of the crew escaped in lifeboats and rafts, and were rescued. Meanwhile the wind drove the sinking vessel onto the shore where it grounded and tipped over onto its side. Tons of flour were later salvaged by cutting a hole in the exposed side of the hull. The sea has since broken the wreck up so that the pieces now all lie underwater.

  5. Turn left at the signpost and follow the stony path along the front of "Townplace" and keep right to reach the coast. Follow the path to reach a wooden pedestrian gap leading into a field.

    The Devil's Frying Pan (also known by the Cornish name of Hugga Dridgee) has been created by the collapse of a sea cave resulting in a 100 metre deep funnel-shaped depression. The arch remaining from the cave forms a connection to the open sea. The origin of the name is said to be because in rough weather, the sea appears to be boiling within the cave and the central boulder resembles an egg frying in a pan.

  6. Go through the gap into the field and follow the left hedge to reach a similar pedestrian gap with a waymark post on the far side.

    Waves pounding into a cave compress the air inside. This can often be seen venting quite explosively from a cave as a blowhole. Inside the cave, the force from the air being rapidly compressed and decompressed gradually fractures the rock. Eventually this is unable to support the weight of the roof of the cave. Once this collapses, the sea washes away the soil and smaller stones leaving just the largest boulders which are slowly smoothed by the wave action.

  7. Go through the gap and then follow the coast path for a quarter of a mile to reach a waymark inscribed "Inland path to Cadgwith" and "Church Cove".

    Adders are easily identified by the pretty diamond pattern along their backs. Also known as vipers, these are Britain's only venomous snake. Adders are a protected species, are not aggressive, and generally only bite if trodden on or picked up (unsupervised dogs or children may attempt the latter).

    On a foggy morning in 1882, the Mosel - a German steamship on its way to New York with 620 passengers - ran straight into the cliffs of The Lizard at full speed. All aboard were rescued and much of the cargo was also salvaged but many personal effects were lost with the ship. Divers have found penknives, scissors, buttons, combs, toothbrushes, shoe brushes, spectacles, and even mouth organs buried in the sand or amongst the wreckage.

  8. Turn left at the waymark to cross the stile over the wall. Follow the path for roughly half a mile to reach a footbridge.

    Vrogue Rock, usually known as "The Vrogue", lies 800 metres southeast of Bass Point and is hidden 2 metres beneath the surface. In a strong tide, disturbance of the water can sometimes be seen at the surface. Unsurprisingly, a number of vessels have come to grief on the rock as they have attempted to cut the corner by Bass Point, and it is consequently listed by the Admiralty as "very dangerous".

    In January 1859, the Czar was on its first long voyage to Malta with munitions but had to turn back due to a boiler fault. It hit The Vrogue on the way around The Lizard and ran so far over the reef that it ended up pivoting on top of it. The majority of those onboard disembarked into two lifeboats, but one of these was immediately swamped by the rough seas and moments later the ship tore in half and sank. Coastguards and Cadgwith fishermen launched boats and managed to save 6 people but 13 drowned including the Captain, his wife and young son.

    Some of the cargo still remains on the seabed next to Vrogue Rock, including a number of 68-pounder guns and their huge shot. Within cracks and gullies in the rocks, military buttons from the uniforms within the cargo and musket shot are often found by divers.

  9. Cross the footbridge and the stepping stones then follow the path up the steps, passing through a wooden pedestrian gap. Continue on the path to emerge into a field.

    The Clan Malcolm was a steamship built in Glasgow which was on its way from London to the Clyde in September of 1935 and grounded on the Tregwin Rocks off the Lizard in fog. Her crew of 75 were landed safely and tugs tried to get the ship off the rocks, but were unsuccessful. After two days, the wind rose and the ship became a complete wreck in the rough sea. Quite a large amount of the material from the ship was salvaged but some broken up remains lie on the sea bed including the three boilers in around 14 metres of water.

  10. Follow along the left edge of the field to reach a stone stile next to a large red and white marker at the top.

    The large red and white wooden diamond is known as the Balk Beacon and is a daytime navigation aid (daymark) to assist ships in avoiding The Vrogue rock. It was erected in 1859 and restored in 2002 by the National Trust. The Balk Beacon lines up with a painted white mark on Hot Point to indicate the position of The Vrogue rock.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the path over another stile. Continue following the waymarked path until it ends at a gate at Church Cove.

    During late April, St Mark's flies occur in quite large numbers. They are recognisable by their shiny black colour, slow flight and dangly legs and have a habit of landing of anything in their path, walkers included. The larvae live in the soil feeding on roots and rotting vegetation and hatch around St Mark's Day (25th April), sometimes later into May in a cold year. The adults only live for about a week but they do feed on nectar, making them important pollinators. Each of the males eyes are divided into two parts by a groove and each part has a separate connection to their brains. This allows them to use one half to fly whilst using the other half to look for females.

    The headland just before Church Cove is known as The Balk.

    The Balk forms the eastern boundary between the serpentine rocks making up much of the southern area of The Lizard and the ancient rocks on Lizard Point which were once at the bottom of an ancient ocean.

  12. Turn right onto the concrete track and follow it uphill to where it becomes a tarmacked lane. Continue until you reach a track on the right leading around the churchyard, just before the 30 mph signs.

    The RNLI was founded in 1824 under the original name of the National Institution for Preservation of Life from Shipwreck. It was renamed to the RNLI in 1854. Until 1890 all the lifeboats were rowed with oars until some steam-powered boats were introduced. By 1905, petrol-powered boats were being trialled and fairly quickly replaced the bulky steam-powered predecessors. Today a fleet of over 340 lifeboats provide a 24/7 search and rescue service around the UK. The charity has saved over 140,000 lives since it was set up.

  13. Turn right onto the track and follow it alongside the churchyard to a bend with a wooden gate on the left.

    The church was founded in the late 6th or early 7th century and is dedicated to St Winwaloe, the son of a Cornish prince who was an Abbot in Brittany. The current building dates from the 12th century, from which the Norman doorway remains. The church was rebuilt in the thirteenth century when the porch was added and in the fifteenth century with a new window in the tower.

  14. There are some steps into the churchyard in the corner on the left if you want to have a look at the church before continuing the walk. To resume the walk, continue following the track until it ends in a gate and stile into a field.

    Several churches in Cornwall have been dedicated to St Winwalloe (or Wynwallow) including at Gunwalloe and Landewednack on the Lizard, Tremaine near Launceston and Poundstock near Bude. Winwalloe was the son of a prince of the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia (now known as Cornwall) born in 460. He fled to Brittany to avoid the plague, founded a monastery and died at the age of 72.

  15. Cross the stile and head straight across the field to the brow of the hill until you can see some mounds/piles of rocks, then bear right towards the lowest mound to join a path between this and the higher mounds. Continue on the path down the hill to reach a waymarked stile in the fence.

    At this point the route passes over the last of the ancient rocks of Lizard Point before returning to serpentine rocks for the remainder of the route.

    Serpentine is not a single mineral but a broad group of minerals formed when minerals rich in iron and magnesium react with water in a series of chemical reactions known as serpentinization. Rocks containing these minerals are known as Serpentinite. The name is due to the resemblance of the patterning in the rocks to the skin of reptiles.

  16. Cross the stile, carefully cross the slippery rocks in the stream and go through the pedestrian gap opposite. Then follow the path a short distance to a junction of paths at a waymark. Turn left at the waymark and when the path enters a field, follow the left hedge past a metal gate to reach a stone stile next to the gateway in the corner.

    The slippery rocks in the stream are Serpentine.

    Serpentine rocks are well-known for being slippery. Part of the reason is that the serpentinization process produces soft minerals such as talc. These minerals have a plate-like structure that have strong chemical bonds within a layer, but the bonds between layers are weak so that the layers glide over each other. Rocks composed almost entirely of talc are known as "soapstone" as they are so slippery. Also, because the minerals are quite soft, foot traffic causes the surface of the rocks to become polished.

  17. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge past the gateway to a stone stile in the hedge ahead.

    Like other members of the pea family, gorse produces its seeds in pods. The seeds are ejected with a popping sound when pods split open in hot weather. This can catapult the seeds up to five metres. The plants are able to live 30 years and survive sub-zero temperatures, the seeds can withstand fire and remain viable in the soil for 30 years.

  18. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a stile below a footpath signpost.

    A well-known country remedy for the stings of nettles is to rub the sore area with the leaf of a dock plant. A common misconception is that dock leaves are alkaline and neutralise the acids in the nettle sting but, in reality, docks contain a mild (oxalic) acid and nettle stings aren't caused by the acid content anyway. Although dock is claimed by some to contain a natural antihistamine, no scientific evidence has been found for this. It is thought that it is simply the rubbing and moisture in the leaf which provides a short-term relief/distraction whilst the sting itself is diminishing over time. It's possible it may also dislodge any stinging spikes left in the surface of the skin. Therefore almost any moist leaf should provide a little relief, with the exception of another nettle leaf!

  19. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track and follow this to where it meets a concrete track with a stile and footpath sign on the left.
  20. which ends in front of the house. Turn right onto the track and follow this past the house to a stone stile on the left of the double gates at the end of the track.

    The farmstead of Trethvas is thought to date from the early middle ages and was first recorded in 1277. The origin of the place name isn't known but it could be from the Cornish words vos, meaning "dwelling", and possibly treth, for "beach", as it lies above the sandy beach at Parn Voose Cove.

  21. Climb the stile and follow the path along the top of the wall until it ends in a similar stone stile.

    Betony is a grassland herb, common on the coast, with pretty purple anthers that stick out from the plant. The name is derived from the ancient Celtic words bew (meaning head) and ton (meaning good) as it was used as a cure for headaches. From Roman times onward, it was believed to be a cure for a number of things (the Romans listed 47!) including drunkenness; even as late as the 1800s, Richard E. Banks stated that you should "Eat betony or the powder thereof and you cannot be drunken that day" and John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well". Betony was also used to ward away evil spirits (hence it is planted in a number of churchyards) and also to make a dark yellow dye for wool.

    The name Lizard comes from the Cornish lysardh which literally means "high court" but could also be interpreted as "fortress". It is possibly a reference to the high cliffs along the coast and maybe also that it is a peninsula. Much of the rock making up the peninsula is known as "serpentine" but this is thought to be a coincidence; the name is thought to be based on the appearance of the rock and not a reference to the place name.

  22. Climb down the stile and cross the field to a gateway in the hedge leading to a track.

    The settlement of Gwavas was first recorded in 1300 and comes from the Cornish for "winter dwelling".

    Even as recently as the 19th Century, a system of dairy farming was used in Cornwall which involved grazing cattle on the moorland during the summer and then moving them to the coast for the winter. This had been going on for centuries and is reflected in Cornish language place names such as Gwavas on the coast (meaning the cattle's "winter dwelling") and moorland places with the name Laity, meaning "dairy" (which took place during the summer after calving).

  23. Go through the gateway and bear left at the crossing of tracks to reach a lane. Bear left onto the lane and follow this until you pass some houses on the left and reach a track with a gate on the right (with St Grada Church in silver lettering), just after the garden wall on the left ends.

    Biologically, there is no clear distinction between ducks, geese and swans (geese and swans are one lanky subfamily of ducks). Dark-coloured ducks get the equivalent of "grey hairs" with age - their feathers gradually turn white.

  24. Go through the gate onto the track and follow it to the gate into the churchyard.

    The track is hedged with blackthorn trees.

    Once you've made your sloe gin, don't throw away your gin-soaked sloes! Instead buy some cheap sweet "cooking" cider (the kind that comes in 2 litre plastic bottles preferably with words like "value", "basic" or "economy"; do not commit heresy and waste good quality drinking cider) and replace the gin with this. Ensure your lid is on tight so your cider doesn't lose its fizz. Leave to infuse for a few more months for your cider to become osmotically fortified. The resulting delightful drink is known as "slider" (after several glasses anyway). Based on "experience", small-sized glasses are recommended.

    Blackthorn is a spiny type of plum which is more broadly a member of the rose family. It is native to the UK and common on old farmland where blackthorn trees were planted as hedges to keep out cattle. It is still common in Cornish hedgerows today and also common on the coast as it's tolerant to salt.

  25. Go through the gate into the churchyard and follow the path around the other side of the church to the church door. Continue past the church to the bench and then turn left and follow along the edge of the churchyard to reach a gate leading to a stile.

    Built of serpentine, the church dates from around the twelfth century but was extensively rebuilt in 1862, so that only the tower and font remains from the original. In the 13th century, it was known as the Church of The Holy Cross. The story associated with this is that a nobleman was shipwrecked on the Lizard on his way back from a pilgrimage in Jerusalem where he had stolen a small section of Christ's cross, which he donated to the church here in thanks for his rescue. The church inventory from 1533 mentions that the relic was kept in a silver box. However, by 1310 the church had been rededicated to St Grada the Virgin, about whom virtually nothing is known. A tiny door in the North wall was opened during baptisms to allow evil spirits to leave the church. Due to its remote location, the church was used as a filming location for a Dr Who episode in the 1960s. However, it was originally surrounded by a small hamlet known as Treveglos which was still present in the 17th Century.

  26. Go through the gate and cross the stile into the field. Follow the left hedge to reach a stone stile in the far hedge.
  27. Cross the stile and continue ahead to pass to the left of the nearest telegraph pole. Continue ahead to reach a stile in a wooden fence protruding slightly into the field from the left hedge.

    The word "crow" is sometimes used to refer to the whole crow family (including jackdaws, rooks and ravens) and sometimes specifically to the common (carrion) crow. Carrion crows can be distinguished from their cousins by being totally black (jackdaws have grey heads, rooks have pale beaks) and having a slender and fairly straight beak (i.e. not the broad beak with a hooked top that a raven has). Biologists use the word "corvids" for "crow family" to avoid ambiguity, or to show off.

  28. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane past two junctions to the right and continue in the direction signposted for Kennack Sands to reach a public footpath sign just before the bridge over the river.

    When you emerge onto the lane, on the opposite side is the Holy Well of St Grada (or St Ruan).

    The holy well of St Ruan is covered by a building made from serpentine and arched with granite. The building probably dates from Victorian times but the well itself could have been used in ceremonies dating back beyond Christianity.

    The saint to whom it is dedicated is said to have been accused of being a werewolf by his wife, on which she blamed the death of her baby girl and the ravaging of local sheep. According to the story, Ruan was arrested but proved innocent by the King's hunting dogs, which the story states would have reacted to a wolf.

  29. Turn right at the footpath sign and cross the stone stile. Follow the path on the left of the track to reach a gate as the track comes out of the trees.

    During late winter or early spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks. Once you're familiar with their narrow, ridged leaves, you'll be able to spot these emerging from late October onwards.

    All plants in the onion family including three-cornered leeks are poisonous to dogs. Keep dogs away from the plant and wash their paws if they come into contact with it.

    Areas of tree cover such as this are good habitats for blackbirds.

    The reference in the nursery rhyme "sing a song a sixpence" to "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" is thought to be to the 16th Century amusement (though not for the blackbirds) of producing a large pie which included an empty chamber. After the pie had been baked and was ready to be served, a trapdoor would be cut in the empty chamber and live birds were placed inside which would fly out when the pie was cut open. Live frogs were sometimes used as an alternative.

  30. Go through the gate and follow the fence on the left to join a path across the field. Follow this over a stile and then go up the steps on the right to return to the Cadgwith car park.

    The two most common pigeon species are the wood pigeon and feral pigeon (domesticated rock dove). Wood pigeons are larger than rock doves. Rock doves have an iridescent green/purple patch on their necks whereas adult wood pigeons have a white patch on their neck (although this is not present in young birds).

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