Crackington Haven to The Strangles

A circular walk from Crackington Haven, with panoramic views of the Shipwreck Coast, to the long, sandy Strangles beach, returning through bluebell woodland along the Ludon river valley.

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The walk starts on the Coast Path at Crackington Haven and follows it to the headland at Cambeak, passing Bray's Point and Tremoutha Haven. From Cambeak, it continues past Little Strand and The Strangles towards High Cliff then climbs over the hill and into a wooded valley. The return route follows the river along the floor of the valley through East Wood, back to Crackington Haven.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Reviews

Awesome walk today with the IWalk Cornwall app - Crackington Haven to The Strangles... directions were perfect and the views were a-may-zing smile emoticon
Crackington to the Strangles done today just before the rain came. Lovely coast walk followed by a calming stroll along the river. Wonderful. Thank you!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/6.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Sandy beach and rockpools at low tide at Crackington Haven
  • WW2 Shipwreck at Tremoutha Haven
  • Spectacular coastal views all along the coastpath
  • Long sandy beach at The Strangles
  • Bizarre folded rock formations at Cambeak
  • Pretty riverside walk through bluebell woodland in East Wood
  • Local food and drink at the Coombe Barton Inn at Crackington Haven

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Coombe Barton Inn

Directions

  1. From the car park, cross the road and bear left to reach the track leading onto the beach from beside the phone box. Follow this over the bridge and then bear left to pass to right of the bench and join the Coast Path. Follow this to reach a gate.

    Until the nineteenth century, Crackington Haven was a small port, importing limestone and coal and exporting local produce such as slate. When the railways reached the district in 1893, the beach could be reached more easily (from Otterham Station) and became popular with holidaymakers.

    As the tide falls, the pebble beach gives way to a large sandy beach. It is west-facing and consequently quite popular for surfing when the tide is out, but care must be taken of the rocks on either side. The rocky ridges along the left side of the beach trap seawater, forming rockpools which support a range of shore life.

  2. Go through the gate and follow the path to a kissing gate.

    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 winkles in the rockpools exposed at low tide leave quite artistic trails in sand wasted into the pools as they meander around grazing for algae.

    Winkles and Whelks are marine snails which can often be found on rocks exposed at low tide. Some species were widely eaten in England, rivalling France's snail-eating reputation. If you're considering foraging for these, you'll need to know your whelks from your winkles.

    Winkles (also known as periwinkles) are vegans which graze on algae on the rocks. They are fairly small and have a rounded shell, similar to a land snail but much thicker. They were a staple part of the diet of coastal communities in the past and were popular takeaway food at many English coastal resorts until recent years.

    The term "whelks" is applied to a range of shellfish species that are predatory, eating other shellfish by producing chemicals which dissolve the shells of their prey. The Common Whelk is another edible species. It is larger than a winkle and with a more elongated, wavy shell resembling a small, fluted ice-cream cone.

    The Dog Whelk, as you might guess from the name, is not regarded as edible by humans. It is more similar in size and shape to a winkle but with a notably more pointy shell (resembles a winkle with a church spire). It was collected to make purple dyes used for cloth and even to decorate the manuscript of St John's Gospel.

  3. Go through the gate and up the steps to the waymark. Follow the path to the right, indicated for Cambeak, to reach a sharp left bend at Bray's Point overlooking Tremoutha Haven.

    On a very low tide, you can walk to the left along the rocks from Crackington Haven to Tremoutha Haven. Amongst the rocks are the remains of the shipwreck of a German "E-boat" S-89 which, having survived several sea battles during the war, broke free from a tow in 1946 and ran aground. This was a high-speed torpedo boat with three V20 Daimler-Benz engines, the remains of which can be seen on the beach. Together the engines produced a hefty 2000bhp and consequently these were referred to as "Schnell boats". During service this one was moved between the Baltic and Black Sea by dismantling it and floating the parts down the Danube.

  4. Follow the path around the bend to the left, and onwards past a house. Continue through 2 kissing gates and down a flight of steps into a small valley to reach a footbridge.

    In autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas although more tend to shrivel as the autumn advances. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. This is because freezing breaks down the bitter tannins. Therefore you can pick your sloes in September before they go too wrinkly and then pop them in the freezer to achieve the same thing.

    From geography lessons at secondary school, you'll probably know that wave-cut platforms form where waves hit the cliff face and create a wave-cut notch into which the cliffs above eventually collapse. The reason the cliffs are eroded faster than the platform below them is more in the realms of physics:

    • The energy from a wave is concentrated when it breaks against the cliffs; when waves are breaking onto the gently-sloping platform, their energy is more diffuse.
    • On the platform, the force from the waves is spread along the breadth of platform as the tide recedes. However, the cliff face usually takes a beating not just at the very highest point of the tide, but also for some of the time either side.
    • The tide rises and falls sinusoidally with time, in other words, it changes at its most slowly at high tide where it can spend a bit more time bashing the living daylights out of the cliff face.

    Nevertheless, the platform does slowly erode. At Porthleven it is estimated that the platform is eroding at a rate of 1mm every 5 years.

  5. Cross the footbridge and follow the path to reach a gate and flight of steps leading to another footbridge.

    The sunny coastal fields provide an important habitat for wildflowers and the insects that depend on them.

    In early spring, queen bumblebees need to visit up to 6,000 flowers per day to gather enough nectar and pollen to establish their colony. Many commercial crops such as oil seed rape flower too late for the queens so the survival of bumblebees is heavily dependent on early-flowering rough ground plants and hedgerow bushes such as blackthorn.

    The point on the opposite side of the beach is recorded on OS maps as Pencannow Point.

    The imposing headland along the right-hand side of Crackington Haven is recorded on Ordnance Survey maps as Pencannow Point. The name Pencannow is a corruption of Penkenna which has persisted in some of the house names in Crackington Haven and has been revived on many of the coast path signs. Penkenna is likely to be a variation of the Cornish Pengenna, with pen mean meaning top or head, and genna meaning wedge-shaped.

    From the end of the point, there are nice views over Crackington Haven and across Tremoutha Haven to the Cambeak headland. In the other direction, you get a good view of Great Barton Strand and Little Barton Strand.

  6. Cross the footbridge and go through the gate on the far side. Then follow the path up the steps and go through the gate into the field. Follow along the edge of the field and over a stile into a deep ravine and follow the wooden walkway at the bottom to a fork in the path at a waymark post.

    The noise that grasshoppers make is created by rubbing their hind legs against their wings. Crickets do something similar at night but just by rubbing their wings together.

    Grasshoppers "sing" for a number of reasons which include staying connected socially and sometimes simply because they are happy. Bad weather leads to grumpy grasshoppers and less singing.

    In the late 1700s, the Department of Ordnance (forerunner of the Ministry of Defence) began a mapping exercise for military purposes and the Ordnance Survey maps were born. The Ordnance Survey remains a government department but acts as a Trading Fund, raising revenue through the sale of its maps.

    The first edition OS maps were produced in the late 19th Century and were far more detailed than the previous tithe maps which were mostly concerned with land boundaries for taxation. The Ordnance Survey snapshot of the late Victorian period has been invaluable for historians to discover what was around before the 20th Century.

    The frequency with which the modern maps are updated is based on how much change there has been in a particular area together with a five-year rolling surveying programme; this means that the OS maps on sale can be out-of-date by up to approximately seven years. There is a web page on the Ordnance Survey site which gives the date when each 1:25000 raster tile was updated in their digital dataset, which will appear within the next paper map print run.

  7. The route continues on the zig-zag path to the right to reach a waymark post near the top of the hill. The views from the top are spectacular but if you'd prefer to avoid the climb you can follow the path to the left instead indicated by the white waymark and skip the next two directions.

    Heather plants can live up to 40 years. Heather plants have a symbiotic relationship with fungi which grows inside and between some of the plant root cells. Up to 80% of the root structure can be made up of fungi. The fungi are able to extract nutrients from poor, acidic soils that plants struggle with. Conversely the plant is able to generate other nutrients that are useful to the fungi by photosynthesis.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round. They can often be spotted perching on dead sticks or brambles protruding above gorse and heather. Their name comes from the sound of the call which sounds like stones being knocked together.

  8. From the waymark, continue a little further on the zig-zag path to another waymark at a junction of paths, then follow the path uphill indicated by the yellow arrow to reach the top.

    The wheatear can often be seen on the coast during the summer month as it nests in rock crevices or rabbit burrows but returns to Sub-Saharan Africa every winter. The name is a 16th-century linguistic corruption of "white arse", referring to the bird's prominent white rump.

    Since modern birds don't have teeth to chew up their food, they swallow stones to do this for them. Gizzard stones have also been found in some dinosaur fossils (some herbivorous dinosaurs also had beak-like mouths) indicating that they used a similar approach.

  9. At the top, turn left, to keep the coast on your right, and follow the path down to a waymark where the easier path joins.

    Wild thyme grows along the coast and flowers from June to September with tiny pink flowers. During mediaeval times, the plant was a symbol of bravery, possibly due to derivation from the Greek word thumos, meaning anger or spiritedness. An embroidered motif of a bee on a sprig of thyme is said to have been given by mediaeval ladies to their favoured knight.

    Coastal land management including removal of excess gorse and grazing to keep taller plants in trim has allowed wild thyme to become more widespread as well as the Cornish chough. Wild thyme is a nectar source for many bees and butterflies and the food plant for young caterpillars of the large blue butterfly.

    Soay sheep are a rare breed, with large curled horns, that can be seen grazing the cliff top heath and grassland near Crackington Haven in winter. This helps to limit the growth of scrub so that rare wildflowers can flourish. This primitive breed is descended from a population of feral sheep, on the Isle of Soay in the Western Isles of Scotland, which is believed to be a survivor of the earliest domesticated sheep kept in northern Europe.

  10. From the waymark where the paths rejoin, keep right along the coast. Follow the path through one kissing gate and continue until you reach a kissing gate at the bottom of a small valley.

    The clumps of red strands in the gorse are dodder.

    If you come across a gorse bush covered in red threads, this is dodder - a parasitic plant. The red colour is because the dodder contains no chlorophyll. Instead of manufacturing its own food by photosynthesis, instead it pierces another plant (often gorse) and siphons nutrients from this instead. Its leaves have shrunk to tiny proportions for the same reason - they aren't needed to catch any sunlight.

  11. Go through the gate, up the steps, and through a gate into the field. Follow the path along the edge of the field until you pass through a pedestrian gate and reach a waymark for Trevigue.

    The ridges of rock leading into the sea are known as Voter Run and Alder Run. They are formed of hard rocks which have been melted and folded by a tectonic plate collision. The cliff ahead is the highest in Cornwall and appropriately named "High Cliff".

  12. When you reach the waymark to Trevigue, keep right on the coast path and follow it until it joins the path to The Strangles beach.

    Trevigue is a farm just south of Crackington Haven, near The Strangles beach. The current farmhouse at Trevigue dates back to the 16th century, but a farmstead has existed on the site since the Norman Conquest. Today, the farm is partly tenanted from the National Trust as its 800 acres includes three miles of coastline, including The Strangles beach.

  13. Keep right on the path and follow it to a fork in the path at a waymark.

    From here, if the tide is out, you may want to stroll down to the beach, returning back to this point.

    The Strangles is a beach between Boscastle and Crackington Haven that is reached via a public footpath crossing the Coast Path. The Strangles gets its name due to the treacherous currents and jagged rocks that have wrecked many ships trying to navigate the rocky coastline of North Cornwall. This is not a safe beach for swimming unless the sea is completely calm without much surf. There is spectacular scenery both on the walk down and from the beach itself including a rock arch and the cliffs are covered with gorse and heather flowers in early autumn.

  14. At the fork, take the path on the left follow it until you reach a waymark, marked "To Road", at the top of some steps.

    Common honeysuckle is a native plant also known as woodbine because it wraps itself around other plants and can cause distortions in their growth also called woodbines. Honeysuckle might be regarded as having plant OCD in that it only ever entwines in a clockwise direction. Flowers appear from June to August and their fragrance is due to a class of chemical compounds known as jasminoids that occur in, as you might have guessed, jasmine but also Ceylon tea. Honeysuckle is the food plant of the White Admiral caterpillar so keep a look for the butterflies in summer.

    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).

  15. At the top of the steps, turn left onto a path signposted "To Road" to a kissing gate into a field. Go through the gate and continue ahead until a pedestrian gate below a wooden signpost in right-hand corner of the far hedge comes into view - then head for this.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 (a lot of moo is needed for the cheese and clotted cream produced in Cornwall) so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields.

    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.

    Do

    • 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).

    Don't

    • 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.
  16. Go through the kissing gate and turn right onto the lane for a few paces, to reach a gate on the left. Cross the stile next to the gate and bear right across the field towards the barns. As you approach the far side of the field, head to a waymarked home-made wooden gate in the fence, leading to a path into the woods.

    The cattle breeds known as Devon were also the traditional breeds used in Cornwall until recent years. The South Devon breed, affectionately known as "Orange Elephant" or "Gentle Giant", is the largest of the British native breeds: the largest recorded bull weighed 2 tonnes. They are thought to have descended from the large red cattle of Normandy, which were imported during the Norman invasion of England. The other breed, known as "Devon Ruby" or "Red Ruby" (due to their less orange colouration), is one of the oldest breeds in existence, with origins thought to be from pre-Roman Celtic Britain.

  17. Go through the gate and follow the path, over a stream, to a stile into the field.

    The small stream is fed from the marshy meadows along here and meets the river a little further along the walk.

  18. Cross the stile and head up the field, towards the barns, to a gateway in the top-right corner.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomfortable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  19. Go through the gate and turn left to pass the barn. After this bear right over the brow of the hill to cross over the low banks, then head to the middle of the 3 gateways, part-way down the hill.

    Although it's obvious that you should ensure any gates that you open, you also close, what about gates you find that are already open?

    If the gate is fully open then leave it alone as it may well be providing livestock access to a water supply, and by closing it you could end up killing them.

    If the gate is ajar or swinging loose and not wedged or tied open then it's likely that the gate was left open by accident (possibly by another group of walkers). Properly closing the offending gate behind you will not only bring joy to the landowner but you can feel good about saving lives in a car swerving to avoid a cow in the road.

  20. Go through the gate into the left of the two fields and follow the right hedge of the field downhill, to an opening into a field below.

    On a clear day you can see satellite dishes of GCHQ in the distance.

    GCHQ Bude is a satellite ground station, just south of Morwenstow, comprised of 21 satellite antennas which are through to span the full range of communication frequencies. It is staffed by GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), the British signals intelligence service, and the United States NSA (National Security Agency). The activities at GCHQ remain classified but it's thought that the station specialises in the interception and decryption of electronic communications, both domestic and foreign. Prior to the GCHQ station, the site was the location of RAF Cleave, a World War 2 airfield used by Fighter Command.

  21. Cross the next field, aiming for a waymarked path departing from beneath a large tree roughly 30 metres from the right-hand corner of the field.

    Whereas many plants rely mainly on bitter chemicals to avoid being eaten by herbivores, thistles have gone one step further and evolved spikes. Despite this, the plants are still eaten by the caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly as they are rich in nutrients. The non-spiky areas of the plant such as the stem and leaf ribs can be eaten (with extreme care to avoid ingesting any harmful spikes) by people too: the ribs from the middle of the leaves are still harvested and sold in markets in some parts of the world. The flowers are rich in nectar and provide an important food source for bees and butterflies.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 (a lot of moo is needed for the cheese and clotted cream produced in Cornwall) so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields.

    The world cattle is from the same origins as "capital" and was originally a world for any portable wealth. Later it came to mean specifically (any) livestock which was still the understood meaning in Tudor times. It is only in relatively recent times that the scope has been limited further to just cows.

  22. Follow the path under the trees until you reach a path leading to the left through a stream. Cross over the stream to reach a stile. Cross the stile and then bear right to a signpost.

    The stream is the same one that you crossed earlier and its confluence with the Ludon river is a few metres to your right.

  23. At the signpost, take the lower of the two paths ahead, signposted to "HAVEN" (ignore the path to the far right over a bridge). Follow the path along the bottom of a field and through East Wood until you reach another signpost.

    In early spring, there are nice displays of primroses, and a little later, bluebells along the path through the woods.

    During periods of cold weather, spring flowers, such as bluebells, have already started the process of growth by preparing leaves and flowers in underground bulbs during summer and autumn. They are then able to grow in the cold of winter, or early spring, by using these resources stored in their bulb. Once they have flowered, the leaves die off and the cycle begins again.

    Other species (such as cow parsley or dandelions) require warm weather before they are able to germinate and grow. With the warmer springs induced by climate change, bluebells lose their "early start" advantage, and can be out-competed.

    The mixture of broadleaf trees here include oak and ash.

    Ash trees can live for over 400 years and the life of the tree can be prolonged further by coppicing. Ash was traditionally coppiced to provide wood for firewood and charcoal. However, the name is nothing to do with this. It is from æsc - the old English word for spear. This comes about because ash is one of the toughest hardwoods and absorbs shocks without splintering. It is still used for making tool handles and sports equipment, including hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars.

  24. At the signpost, again head for "HAVEN". Follow the path through the woods until you cross a footbridge and shortly afterwards reach a junction in the path.

    Although most primroses tend to be pale yellow, 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.

    There are over 280 species of hoverflies in Britain. As the name of the family implies, they are very good at hovering completely stationary in flight and can switch from very fast flight to a perfect hover in the blink of an eye.

    Many have colour patterns that mimic stinging bees and wasps so predators avoid them even though they don't sting. They are quite convincing con-artists and when caught will push down their abdomen in a simulated stinging action to keep up the illusion.

    Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK from the USA in the late 19th Century and within decades they had replaced the native red squirrel in most parts of the country.

  25. At the junction, turn left in the direction indicated by the sign to "Coast Path" and follow the path over a footbridge and down the valley, until it ends at a gateway onto a lane.

    Broadleaf woodland such as this is ideal habitat for wood pigeons.

    There is no biological distinction between "pigeon" and "dove" although "dove" seems to now be used for the more elegant species and "pigeon" for the more unexciting ones. Due to the Norman ruling classes, it's relatively unusual in the English language for the French/Latin word to be the vulgar form and the Norse/Germanic word to be the "posh" form. It's is likely that the reverse was true in mediaeval times: pigeon meat was considered super-posh and the French word was used for the young, tender birds of the species that were eaten.

  26. Go through the gateway and follow the lane downhill to reach the road at Crackington Haven. Turn left on the road to reach the car park.

    If the tide is out, there are some rockpools on the left-hand side of the beach.

    Rockpool fishing is quite a popular childhood pass-time as a number of species can be lured out from hiding places by a limpet tied on a piece of cotton (leave a trailing end as if anything swallows the limpet, very gently pulling both ends of the cotton will cause it to release the cotton-tied limpet from its gullet). If you are intending to put the creatures into a bucket: ensure it is large, filled with fresh seawater and kept in the shade; ideally place in a couple of rocks for the creatures to hide under; do not leave them in there more than a couple of hours or they will exhaust their oxygen supply; ensure you release them into one of the rockpools from which you caught them, preferably a large one (carefully removing any rocks from your bucket first to avoid squashing them). Species you're likely to encounter are:

    • Blennies which are fish about 5-10cm long, often found hiding under rock ledges. They can change their colour from sandy to black within a couple of minutes in order to match their surroundings. They have strong, sharp teeth for crunching barnacles and will bite if provoked.
    • Shore crabs and sometimes edible crabs which can also sometimes be found hiding under rocks (carefully replace any rocks you lift up). Shore crabs have a fairly narrow shell which is almost as deep as it is wide. They vary in colour from green through brown to red (the redder individuals are apparently stronger and more aggressive). Edible crabs have a much wider shell which resembles a Cornish Pasty and are always a red-brown colour. Both have powerful claws so fingers should be kept well clear.
    • Shrimps and prawns - do you know the difference? Prawns are semi-transparent whereas shrimps are sandy coloured and generally bury themselves in sand.

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