Crantock circular walk

Crantock

A circular walk along the Gannel Estuary from Crantock Beach to Penpol Creek, returning though the village of Crantock.

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The walk starts at Crantock beach and follows the Coast Path through fields and woods to Penpol Creek. The walk then follows a footpath to Little Trevithick and joins another footpath across the fields to Crantock, passing the holy well and the two pubs to reach the church before returning to the beach.

Considerations

  • The path between hedges from direction 24 can get overgrown with nettles and brambles in summer. A stick or pole and secateurs are recommended.
  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104
  • Distance: 2.3 miles/3.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 104 OS Explorer 104 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Huge expanse of sand on Crantock beach and along the Gannel
  • Birdlife in the Gannel estuary

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Cornishman
  • The Old Albion Inn

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Facing towards the car park entrance, go through the gate on the left side of the car park, just before the hut. Climb the steps to emerge onto a track.

    The deep gully on the west side of Crantock Beach is known as Piper's Hole. Within this, inside the first cave on the right is a flat surface with carvings which include a female figure, a horse and a few lines of verse.

    This has given rise to romantic stories that the poem and drawings were carved by an an artist after his lover got cut off by the tide on her horse and both were washed out to sea. However the horse was added around 40 years later and its tail wasn't added until 2011!

    The original carving made of the female figure was made by London artist Joseph Prater who often visited relatives in Crantock and made the carving on one of his visits, probably in the early 1900s. The identity of the woman is not known. The horse was carved in the 1940s by James Dyer of Crantock but for some reason this didn't include a tail. The carving was tidied up by an artist commissioned by the Parish Council in 2011, removing some graffiti, re-carving the poem and adding the missing tail.

    More about Piper's Hole

  2. Turn left onto the track and follow it until it ends in a turning area in front of some houses with a waymarked path.

    During the summer months, a ferry operates at high tide between the Fern Pit Café and the beach at Crantock.

    Crantock beach is a dune-backed beach south of Newquay across which the River Gannel runs. Due to the strong currents associated with the tidal river, the northern area of the beach is not recommended for swimming. The best place to swim is towards the southern side, backed by the cliffs of West Pentire.

  3. Join the waymarked path leading ahead along the wall from the turning area and continue until the path forks at a waymark for "Caravan Park" and "Penpol".

    The name of the river is from the Cornish An Ganel meaning "the channel". At high tide, the River Gannel used to be navigable all the way to Trevemper Bridge, and schooners and barges would transport coal, timber and sand to the mining and agricultural industries further inland. In 1838 the East Wheal Rose mine began discharging mine waste into the tributaries of the river. This caused silting and slime to coat the riverbed. Despite complaints to the Admiralty about the impact on the river's navigability, the silting continued.

    Since the closure of the mines, the water quality has greatly improved and the Gannel river supports wildlife including salmon and the once common but now endangered European eel. The salt marshes created by the silting have also become an important habitat which is now earmarked for protection within a Marine Conservation Zone.

  4. Bear left to follow the coast path towards Penpol. Continue to reach a kissing gate into a field.

    The settlement of Penpol was recorded in 1216, and is Cornish for "top of the creek". The word pol - literally "pool" - was also used to refer to a natural harbour, e.g. Polperro.

  5. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path along the bottom of the field to a gap in the far hedge.

    Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant with a spike of pink flowers in late summer which can often be seen beside paths and tracks. Their long leaves have a distinctive thin, white vein along the centre.

    The name "rosebay" dates from at least Tudor times and is thought to be based on loose resemblances of the leaves to bay leaves and the flowers to wild roses. The overall family are also known as "willowherbs" due to the resemblance of the leaves to willow leaves. The two names have since been brought together resulting in the slightly confusing duplicate description of the leaf shape.

    As long as the sun is below 42 degrees from the horizon, you can see a rainbow. In the summer, the angle of the sun is too high during the middle of the day for rainbows but you can still get them in the morning and evening (you can potentially see a rainbow before about 10 am and after about 5 pm on any day in Cornwall).

  6. Go through the gap and then keep right at the waymark to stay in the field. Follow the path to reach a kissing gate into the woods.

    The path to the left leads down to the shore, but a deep stream runs from the top of the creek, cutting off the higher part of the Gannel estuary.

    Common knapweed (also known as black knapweed) is most easily recognised by its bright purple thistle-like flowers but without spiky leaves. It's actually a member of the daisy family and is often seen along paths and roadside verges. Other names for the plant include "hardhead" (used in Cornwall in Victorian times) and "loggerhead" due to the sturdy flower heads. "knap" is from the Middle English word for "knob" and consequently another name for the plant is "knobweed".

    It is an important plant for pollinating insects and was rated in the top 5 for most nectar production in a UK plants survey. In terms of plants that produce both nectar and pollen, it is rated as the top producer overall, producing a good amount of each.

    The little egret - a white member of the heron family - can be seen on many of the creeks in Cornwall and yet is only a very recent settler in Britain. The birds first appeared in Britain in any number in 1989 and the first to breed was in 1996 in Dorset.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path through the woods to a waymark post with a gate to the right.

    The name "Kissing Gate" is based on the way that the gate touches either side of the enclosure. Romantics may however wish to interpret the name as part of the walk instructions.

  8. Keep left at the waymark to follow the creek-side path to where the path forks at another waymark.
  9. Keep left at the waymark to follow the path downhill and along the creek to emerge via some steps on a track crossing the top of the creek.

    During Victorian times there was a lime kiln beside the river and a quay for unloading coal and limestone.

    Internally, a lime kiln consisted of a conical stone or brick-lined chamber which was loaded from the top with alternating layers of limestone and carbon-rich fuel such as charcoal, peat or coal. At the side of the kiln was an alcove known as an "eye" which was used to access the kiln and remove the quicklime from a hole at the bottom of the chamber. The kiln was often run continuously with more layers of fuel and limestone added to the top as the previous layers worked their way down through the kiln. Air was drawn in through the bottom of the kiln and heated up as it passed through the quicklime (also cooling the quicklime) before it reached the level where combustion was taking place.

  10. Turn left to cross the concrete across the creek then go through the gate on the right. Follow the track through another metal gate and continue to a wooden gate into an area with houses.

    One of the fields on the right was known as "Chapel Close". There is a record of some foundations of a building being found here in 1959. It was thought that these might be the remains of a mediaeval chapel. Nothing has been found or recorded since but there are remains of what appears to be a mediaeval field system nearby.

  11. Continue through the gate to pass the houses and reach a pedestrian gate on the right immediately after the house on the left.

    A settlement at Trevithick was already present in the 1880s, although not named on OS maps until the 1900s. The buildings are likely to have been built from stone quarried in one of the nearby fields (just where the public footpath emerges from a walkway crossing the stream). The quarry is referred to as "old" in the 1880s. The name in Cornish means something along the lines of "woodland farm" which would be consistent with the wooded valley along the stream. It's possible that the settlement may have early mediaeval origins (when the Cornish language was spoken by landowners and used to name places). There is evidence of old, possibly mediaeval, boundaries within the fields which are also recorded on 19th Century maps.

  12. Turn right to go through the gate signposted to Crantock. Follow the path through a waymarked gate, down some steps and through another gate. Follow the path along the wooden walkway via two more gates. After the walkway, pass the opening on the left (which goes into the wrong field) to reach a kissing gate ahead leading into a field.

    The wooded valley surrounds the small stream running into Penpol Creek. The tree cover provides shelter for wildlife including robins and blackbirds.

    Blackbirds in the UK are resident all year round but the blackbirds that live further north (e.g. in Norway) migrate south for the winter. To help with migration and also to avoid being eaten by predators, blackbirds can sleep half their brain at a time. This allows them to get some rest whilst still maintaining enough alertness to fly or spot predators.

  13. Go through the kissing gate and head uphill towards the brow of the hill. Continue to the top-right corner of the field (if there is a crop you may need to follow the right hedge) to reach a kissing gate in the corner of the field.

    The reason the sky looks blue is due to rays of light travelling out from the sun in directions that would normally not reach your eyes. When these bump into a molecule of air, they are scattered in all directions, one of which is the way you are looking. As the blue-violet end of the rainbow is scattered more, there are more of these colours but we see just blue both because our eyes are much more sensitive to blue than violet and also because some of the violet is absorbed by other interactions with molecules in the atmosphere.

  14. Go through the gate and follow the path beneath the trees to reach a stone stile.

    Red campion is also known by a few local names including Johnny Woods (from its habitat) and Ragged Jack (from its flower shape). Some are colour references such as Scalded Apples, and particularly in the southwest, Red Riding Hood. Cuckoo-flower is a reference to the time of year that it flowers. Another name - "Batchelors' buttons" - suggests it was once worn as a buttonhole by young men.

  15. Cross the stile and go through the kissing gate into the field. Cross the field diagonally to a wooden stile in the wire fence and cross this to reach a kissing gate in the right-hand hedge.

    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 continue a short distance along the left hedge to pass through a sequence of 2 pedestrian gates either side of a lane. Once in the field on the other side of the lane, follow the path along the fence to a kissing gate in the middle of the right-hand hedge.

    There are several different reasons why passing walkers should never feed horses. A range of plants can make horses ill and many human foods such as chocolate also contain cumulative poisons that build up over time. The horse could also have allergies to a normally safe plant or have an underlying medical condition such as blood sugar issues. A horse may have behavioural problems that feeding it can make worse, and singling a horse out for "special" attention can also cause it to be attacked by jealous herd members. Some horses may also accidentally bite a hand containing food even when held flat.

  17. Go through the gate and bear left slightly to the kissing gate in the corner of the field, just to the right of the house.

    The Latin name of the buttercup, Ranunculus, means "little frog" and said to be because the plants like wet conditions. It is thought it may have come via a derogatory name for people who lived near marshes!

    The efficiency of the chemical processes that plants use to metabolise nitrogen compounds varies with pH (acidity). In soils that are too acidic, many plants have trouble absorbing nitrogen (apart from specially-adapted ones known as "ericaceous"). The ongoing decomposition of plant matter into humus within the soil creates acidic compounds. Some soils contain rocks such as chalk and limestone which will react with the acid and neutralise it. In Cornwall, the beach sand includes a high proportion of seashell fragments which contain the same chemical compound as limestone.

  18. Go through the gate and follow the path to emerge onto a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it downhill until it ends in a T-junction.

    The settlement of Crantock dates back to AD 460, when a group of Irish or possibly Welsh hermits founded a chapel there. The parish was once known as Langurroc, which translates as "The Dwelling of Monks". The chapel of Langurroc was said to have been covered up in a sandstorm, and may lie beneath the sand dunes behind Crantock Beach. The village church is dedicated to St Carantoc - said to be one of the founders of the village. In its heyday, when the River Gannel was navigable, Crantock was a river port.

  19. At the junction, continue ahead between phone box and triangular grassy area then bear right after the bus stop to reach a small path leading from a bollard.

    The Memorial Hall commemorates the villagers lost in the First World War.

    During the First World War nearly 10,000,000 military personnel and over 10,000,000 civilians were killed. A further 23 million people were injured. In addition, over 8,000,000 horses, mules and donkeys and more than 1,000,000 dogs lost their lives. The sixteen million animals that served in World War 1 are commemorated with purple poppies.

  20. Follow the path from the bollard to emerge on a lane beside the two pubs.

    Crantock holy well, located beside Well Cottage, is thought may date from mediaeval times although it has also been reported by one source as being 17th Century. In mid-Victorian times, the well was covered by a flat-topped structure. In 1894, it was recorded with a well-house resembling the one seen today:

    the holy well still exists, in the centre of the village, near the church, covered with a curious bee-hive shaped structure with a door. The villagers use the water for all household purposes, and when a pump was erected still preferred the sacred water. It has never been said to have possessed any special virtues.
  21. Turn left to follow the lane between the pubs to the gate into the churchyard.

    The Old Albion Inn is around 400 years old and was partially rebuilt after a fire in 1902. Albion is thought to be the name of a ship built in the Gannel shipyard when Crantock was a busy sea port. The main fireplaces in the pub both have original pasty ovens and the one in the lounge (originally the kitchen) had an entrance to a hole for storing smuggled goods. Water for the pub used to be drawn from a deep well beneath the old bar.

  22. Enter the churchyard and follow the path to a junction before the church.

    After the Norman conquest, the church at Crantock was re-founded in the 13th Century as a college of canons. The 13th Century church included a tower which had fallen into disrepair by the 15th Century and collapsed, destroying much of the nave. The church was rebuilt but in Tudor times, the college was shut down as part of the dissolution of the monasteries and the church once again went into slow decline. At the end of the 19th Century, a restoration was carried out which was completed in 1902, rescuing as much of the mediaeval material as possible. An electrical fault caused a fire in 1985 which damaged the organ and roof. The stained-glass windows tell the story of St Carantoc.

  23. Turn left and go through the gate to the parking area. Cross this and follow the path downhill across the rough ground to a kissing gate.

    The old village stocks are now in the church.

    The stocks was a form of punishment introduced in mediaeval times and was a common sight in most villages by the 16th Century. Many sets of village stocks were able to accommodate the ankles of multiple offenders seated on a bench. The last recorded use was in 1872 but it was never formally abolished and is therefore still a legal form of punishment in the UK although the acts carried out by passers-by in mediaeval times would not be. By Victorian times, it was mostly foot-tickling by mischievous children.

  24. Go through the gate and cross the coffin stile to reach a junction of paths. Turn right and follow the path until it emerges on the road to the beach.

    The stiles in Cornwall that consist of rectangular bars of granite resembling a cattle grid are known as "coffen" (coffin) stiles. These often occur on footpaths leading to churches such as the Zennor Churchway. The mini cattle grids are fairly effective at containing livestock and were significantly easier for coffin-bearers to navigate than stiles crossing walls. They are more frequently found in West Cornwall but there are a few in East Cornwall such as those on either side of Advent Church.

  25. Turn right onto the road and follow it back to the beach car park.

    There are historic references to St Ambrew's Well, St Ambrose Well and St Ambrusca's Well and it is thought to have been destroyed many years ago to make way for the building of a house. The well on Beach Road marked "Ambrose" dates from the early 20th Century. Some confusion has arisen because of the wooden door with the Ambrose inscription but this is thought to simply be a memento to the original well added by the villagers when it was constructed in the early 20th Century.

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