Palace Cove and Lansallos short circular walk

Palace Cove and Lansallos

A circular walk to the small coves of Lantivet Bay used in Victorian times for pilchard fishing, collecting seaweed as fertiliser and smuggling barrels of French brandy.

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The walk descends to the coast and the route then follows the coast around Lantivet Bay to West Coombe, with paths leading down to some small coves along the way. From there, the walk turns inland, following the wooded valley to Lansallos church. The return route is across fields and woods to Trevarder and follows small lanes, tracks and footpaths across the fields.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 2.4 miles/3.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Panoramic views over Lantivet Bays
  • Sandy beach at Lansallos Cove
  • Pretty wooded path to Lansallos

Directions

  1. From the car park entrance, cross the road to the gate opposite and follow the path to reach a gate onto a small lane.

    Ivy is a creeping vine which is well-known for being able to climb up almost anything. With good support, an ivy plant can climb as high as 90ft. A plant can live over 400 years and on mature plants, stems can reach a diameter of over 10cm.

  2. Go through the gate and cross the lane to the gate marked Lantivet Bay. Go through this and follow the path through the tree tunnel to a gate at the far end.

    The ferns with solid leaves are appropriately called hart's tongue as the leaf resembles the tongue of a deer. It's an evergreen so leaves can be seen all year round but there's usually a flurry of new growth in mid March when new leaves can be seen gradually unfurling over a number of days. The Latin name for the species means "centipede" as the underside of the leaves have rows of brown spore cases that form a pattern resembling centipede legs. The plants thrive in shady places and are tolerant of the lime used in mortar so are sometimes found growing in old walls.

  3. Go through the gate and follow along the left hedge to a waymark at the corner of the hedge. Turn left to keep following the left hedge to reach a small footbridge with a stile in the centre.

    The trees provide plenty of perches for crows to survey the farmland for food.

    The collective noun for a group of crows is a "murder". The term has been traced back to around the 15th Century, originally as a murthre (which was a Middle English word that meant "murder"). It is thought that the expression may be based on crows scavenging carcasses.

  4. Cross the footbridge via the stile and follow the well-worn path around to the right, passing alongside the trees and then in a gentle arc to the left to reach a gateway with a waymark post just in front of it.

    A large buoy in the bay, with an eerie bell which can be heard ringing when there is a swell, marks the position of Udder Rock. A white obelisk on the coast path between Lansallos and Polperro also provides a daymark that boats can use to avoid it. Udder Rock is a pinnacle reef which breaks the surface at low tide but is fully submerged at high tide, making it particularly hazardous to shipping. The reef consists of a number of ledges and these support an array of marine life, making it a fairly popular dive site.

  5. Go through the gateway and follow the lower of the paths across the field towards the headland to reach a stile.

    As you cross the field, there is a small path leading from the bottom of the field that descends to Palace Cove.

    Palace Cove may sound grand but it is from a local dialect word for pilchard cellars (which were known as Pilchard Palaces). The term is thought to have its origins in the Cornish word for "place". Little remains of the old cellar at Palace Cove; it is now just a flat grassy area with some remnants of walls. The cove is rocky at high tide and has a good selection of rockpools, but care must be taken not to get cut off by the tide. As the tide falls, a sandy beach is revealed.

  6. Cross the stile and follow the path across the field to a gate.

    In 1930, the "Islander" yacht foundered on the rocks of Palace Cove in rough seas. The boat was in trouble for some time and attempted to anchor to stay off the rocks but the anchor would not hold fast under the force of the wind and was slowly dragged along the seabed. Flares were spotted by campers on cliffs, but the time taken to get 1930s cars stuck in muddy fields and then drive to Polperro to make a telephone call meant that the boat had hit the rocks by the time the lifeboat reached it. Despite the efforts of the lifeboat and local people climbing down onto Palace Cove in an attempt to rescue the crew from the shore, none of the 6 aboard survived. In part because one of the crew was an ex member of Parliament, the incident was reported all over the world. An investigation came to the conclusion that the crew may have been rescued in time by the lifeboat if the Coastguard lookout in Lantivet Bay had been manned.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path down into the valley to a stile onto a footbridge.

    The disaster at Lantivet Bay ultimately resulted in 1931 in the establishment of the Coastal Life-saving Corps, later renamed the Coastguard Auxiliary Service in which volunteer rescue personnel were trained and coordinated by the Coastguard. The Children's Newspaper of August 1931 commented:


    A CHANCE FOR YOUTH TO DO SOMETHING
    LEND A HAND ON THE COAST
    A Good Idea Comes Out of a Sad Disaster
    ARMY OF OCEAN WATCHERS

    Something good has come from a sea disaster of a year ago, when the yacht Islander foundered and Commodore King and his five companions were drowned in Lantivet Bay. The Board of Trade is planning a new civilian, Life-Saving Corps, nearly 6000 strong, to supplement the present coastguard service. Here is a wonderful new chance for Scouts and Guides if the scheme comes into being, for they are to be specially welcomed as helpers. Women would also be enrolled in the corps. ... The idea of performing some national service is bound to appeal to a vast number of people. If the Government approves the scheme we can prophesy that all round the coasts of our little island there will be a great army of volunteers for serving the ships that pass in the night.

  8. Cross the stile and footbridge and follow the fence on the right to a gate. Go through this to a junction of paths and turn left onto the path heading away from the beach. Follow this to a gate marked Lansallos, just past the point where the coast path continues up the headland.

    Lansallos Cove is also known as West Coombe, after the valley. The sheltered beach is composed of sand and shingle and was used to launch small fishing boats. The same characteristics that made it a good launching spot also make it good for swimming, particularly at mid-high tide when the bottom is sandy (at low tide, rocks are exposed). The bowl shape of the cove also traps warm water as the tide rises over the rocks and sand exposed to the sun. Sand from the cove was used by local farmers to improve soil drainage and as a source of lime. Seaweed was sometimes also used as a fertiliser as it is rich in potassium and contains a number of trace elements needed by plants. The small waterfall on the side of the beach was once used to power a mill.

  9. Go through the gate and the one ahead of it and follow the path to a waymark. Continue ahead at the waymark and follow the path alongside the stream until it ends on a track in front of the churchyard.

    Celandine flowers close each night and open each morning. This is controlled by a circadian rhythm, so they really are "going to sleep" at night and "waking up in the morning". It is likely that this has arisen to protect the internals of the flowers from any frost during the night as they begin flowering in March when frosts are still common.

    The footpath along the stream, known as Reed Water, is an ancient route from the village to the cove. It was cut out to form a cart track to serve both the cove and the mill, and ruts from the cartwheels are still visible. In March and April, celandines flower along the wooded path.

  10. Turn right onto the track and follow it to a junction, then bear left along the churchyard wall to a stile beside the entrance to the churchyard.

    The church is on the site of an earlier Norman church and before that, Celtic missionary monks had an establishment here that the "Lan" in the name refers to. The present church building was dedicated to St Ildierna on 16th October 1321, was rebuilt in the 15th century, and contains a number of important architectural and historical features.

    In 2005, the church and many of its ancient artefacts were badly damaged in a fire which is thought was an act of arson. The now partly incinerated mediaeval chest gives an idea of the intensity of the blaze which also damaged both the roof and organ. Fortunately, the magnificent carved oak benches, made between 1490 and 1520, survived the fire.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the path alongside the churchyard wall to a stile at the far end.

    The inscription on a gravestone in Lansallos churchyard records the untimely death of John Perry at the age of 24 in 1779 "unfortunately killed by a cannon ball by a person unknown," probably as a result of an encounter with a Revenue vessel at sea.

    In Prime of Life most suddenly.
    Sad tidings to relate.
    Here view my utter destiny
    and pity my sad fate.
    I by a Shot which rapid flew.
    Was Instantly Struck dead.
    Lord pardon the offender who.
    My precious blood did shed.
    Grant Him to rest and forgive me.
    For all I've done amiss.
    And that I may rewarded be.
    With everlasting bliss.
  12. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a waymark, then bear right slightly and cross the field towards the buildings to reach a stone stile enclosed in wooden railings.

    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, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    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.
  13. Cross the stile and footbridge and go through the gate into a field. Follow the left hedge of the field to a pair of gates in the bottom corner.
  14. Go through the gate in the fence ahead and walk downhill to the pedestrian gate in the fence below. Then follow the path down the valley to a waymark. Turn right at the waymark and follow the stone steps between the wooden railings to a footbridge. Follow the path from the bridge to reach a gate.

    A copper mine known as Wheal Howell operated in the valley for around 20 years at the start of the 19th Century. The three mineshafts that are known about have been filled in but the National Trust recommend that you stick to the paths through the valley, in case you discover a fourth.

  15. Go through the gate and bear left slightly to cross the field diagonally towards the clump of trees in the corner, keeping the buildings and fenced-in stone structures to your right. Pass a standing granite post to reach a set of steps over the hedge.

    The local name for the steps, possibly coined by the bawdy miners of Wheal Howell, is the charming "Kiss Me Arse Steps"; two people climbing the steps in close succession will likely arrive at one possible explanation.

  16. Cross the hedge and turn left onto the lane and follow it until it ends at a junction.

    The Royal Cornwall Gazette reported in April 1825:

    During the last week the coast between Polperro and Fowey has been kept in a state of disorder as a consequence of a quantity of smuggled liquor found on the shore. It has been particularly annoying to the agents of Wheal Howell Mine, the miners having been in a continual state of drunkenness. On Wednesday last the whole of the men had assembled, and by stratagem succeeded in getting underground where they concealed part of a keg of brandy, and drank to usual intoxication - so much so that it was with extreme difficulty that several of them were brought to the grass.
  17. Go through the small pedestrian gate on the right beside the Coast Path sign and follow the path to return to the car park.

    Project Neptune was started by the National Trust in 1965 to purchase and protect large portions of the British coastline. By 1973 it had achieved its target of raising £2 million and 338 miles of coastline were looked-after. The project was so successful that it is still running although mainly focused on maintenance. There is still an occasional opportunity when privately-owned coastal land is sold. A particularly notable one was in 2016 when the land at Trevose Head was put up for sale and successfully purchased by the National Trust.

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