Maenporth to Budock Water

A circular walk between the beaches in Falmouth Bay and where one of the most dangerous marine rescues of modern times took place, requiring the rescue helicopter to fly backwards.

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The route ascends the valley from Maenporth to Penwarne then follows footpaths across the fields to Budock Water. After passing through the woods and beside the church the walk enters Falmouth passing the Boslowick Inn on the way to the Swanpool Nature reserve. After reaching the beach at Swanpool, the final stretch is along the Coast Path to Maenporth.

Reviews

the directions and descriptions along the way made the walk one of the best we have ever done.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 7.0 miles/11.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Maenporth
  • Parking: Maenporth TR115HN. When you reach the roundabout on the A39 with the blue "Welcome to Falmouth" sign, turn right, signposted to Glendurgan garden. Continue ahead over the 2 roundabouts, signposted towards Budock Water, and follow the road until you reach Maenporth beach.
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Mature woodland with chestnuts, hazelnuts and beechnuts in Autumn
  • Swanpool nature reserve
  • Views along the Falmouth coastline towards the Lizard
  • Sandy beaches at Swanpool and Maenporth

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Boslowick Inn

Directions

  1. Make your way to the central exit from the car park just before the brown sign for The Cove. Cross the road to the red postbox and turn left to cross the Maenporth Estate road and reach a public footpath sign at a gravel track beside the Old Boatyard. Turn right and follow the gravel track marked "Private Lane". Continue until you reach a turning area beside a house.

    Maenporth, pronounced "main-porth" is an east-facing, crescent-shaped beach, sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds. Due to its proximity to Falmouth and easy parking, the beach gets fairly busy in the summer but out-of-season, or even early on summer mornings, you can have the beach to yourself.

  2. Follow the small path ahead from the turning area and continue until you reach a fork in the path, just before the left-hand path reaches a stile.

    The name Celandine is thought to come from the Latin word for swallow. It is said that the flowers bloom when the birds return in spring and fade when they leave in autumn.

  3. Keep left at the fork and cross the stile. Follow the path until it eventually emerges onto a lane.

    During the 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.

    The plants get their name due to their triangular flower stems. As the name also suggests, they are members of the onion family and have a small bulb. In fact, in New Zealand they are known as "onion weed".

  4. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past the houses and a public footpath sign on the right, and through the 40mph signs to reach a Public Footpath sign on the left, just before a sharp bend.

    Woodpeckers can sometimes be heard hammering on the tall trees in the valley.

    Green woodpeckers are the largest and most colourful of the woodpeckers native to Britain and have a distinctive laughing "yaffle" call. The two species of spotted woodpecker are smaller and usually noticed from the drumming sound they make on trees. All of the woodpeckers bore holes in trees in which they nest, but only the spotted woodpeckers drill into trees in search of food, spending most of their time perched on a tree. Conversely, green woodpeckers spend most of their time on the ground, hunting for ants. The ants nests are excavated using their strong beak and ants caught on the barbed end of their long tongue. In fact, their tongue is so long it needs to be curled around their skull to fit inside their head.

  5. Go through the gate on the left indicated by the footpath sign and follow the track to a gateway in the hedge opposite.

    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.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the track parallel to the right hedge to the gateway opposite.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  7. Go through the gateway and follow along the right hedge to a gate to the right.
  8. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge for roughly three quarters of the length of the field until you reach a recess in the hedge with a gate on your right. Head to the gate.
  9. Cross the stile to the left of the gate and follow the path to emerge on a track. Continue on the track until it meets a road at the entrance to a farm café.
  10. Continue ahead on the driveway marked "No Entry" (which is intended for cars) until you reach a gate on the right, just past a building and opposite a sign on a tree on the left marked "No public rights beyond this point".

    The first record of settlement of Penwarne is from 1327. Fragments of a mediaeval building have been found in the garden and incorporated into one of the current buildings. It is thought that these came from either a mediaeval chapel or manor. The name is from the Cornish words pen (meaning top) and guern (meaning alder) - perhaps depicting a location above a grove of the trees - and is also name of a manor near Mevagissey.

  11. Go through (or around) the gate on the far side of the building and follow roughly half-way along the right hedge of the field to reach a stile made of rusty iron.

    Crows can sometimes be seen in the field or flying to the tall trees.

    Crows are omnivores and their ability to eat anything from animal feed to potato chips has allowed them to capitalise on food sources created by humans. Their problem-solving skills also allow them to access food that less savvy animals cannot, for example tugging on bin liners and tucking each fold under their feet to raise the contents of waste bins in motorway service stations.

  12. Cross the iron stile on your right and turn left when you reach the drive. Follow the drive until it ends on a lane.

    Compared to many native trees, the beech colonised Great Britain relatively recently, after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Beech trees can live up to 400 years.

  13. Cross the lane to the stile and gateway opposite. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway if open) and follow the path to cross the field just to the left of the buildings to reach a gate.

    In the distance you can see the lighthouse on St Anthony's Head.

    St Anthony's Lighthouse was built out of granite in 1835 on the eastern entrance to Falmouth Harbour to guide vessels clear of the Manacles rocks. In most directions, the light is white but a sector close to The Manacles rocks is coloured red, warning vessels to steer offshore. The lighthouse was featured in the UK version of the TV series "Fraggle Rock" as "Fraggle Rock Lighthouse". Until 1954, the lighthouse possessed a huge bell which hung outside the tower and was used as a fog signal. This was later replaced with a foghorn.

  14. Go through the gate and turn right onto the driveway. Follow this past Higher Crill Farm to a bend with a stepped stone stile. Continue past this to reach a small stone stile at the end of the wall.

    The settlement of Crill was first recorded in 1321. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish words ker and kel with meanings of "fort" and "concealed", respectively.

  15. Cross the stile on your left and follow the right hedge of the field to reach a stile in the hedge opposite, roughly 10 metres from the right-hand corner.
  16. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to the side of the embankment ahead. Then continue ahead to keep the embankment and farmyard on your right and reach a small stone stile ahead.

    Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (lion's tooth), which is thought to refer to the shape of the leaves. The plant is a member of the sunflower family.

    Dandelions are dispersed very effectively by the wind. The tiny parachute-like seeds can travel around five miles.

    Every part of the dandelion plant is edible and is high in Vitamin A and higher still in Vitamin K. The leaves can be eaten in salads, though their bitterness is not to everyone's taste. However, the bitterness can be reduced by blanching: drop the leaves into boiling salted water and remove after a minute and quench in ice-cold water to prevent the leaves from cooking.

  17. Cross the stile and follow alongside the barn to reach a gate and stile in the corner of the field.

    The settlement of Trewen was first recorded in 1321. The name is from the Cornish for "white farm".

  18. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track. Follow this, keeping right where the track forks to go into a field. Continue on the track to reach a junction of tracks with some waymarks.
  19. At the junction, bear left to cross the stone stile to the left of the gate ahead. Walk parallel to the left hedge of the field to reach an opening in the hedge with a concrete structure, roughly 15 metres to the right of the bottom-left corner of the field.

    The name "daisy" is thought to be a corruption of "day's eye" (or "eye of the day", as Chaucer called it). The name comes about because the flower head closes at night and opens each morning. In mediaeval times, it was known as "Mary's Rose". The Romans used to soak bandages in daisy juice as an antiseptic for sword wounds.

  20. Go down the flight of steps and follow the path. Where the path forks, keep left to descend the tree covered bank and continue downhill to reach a ford over a stream.

    When photographing bluebells, the flowers that look blue to your eye can end up looking purple in photos.

    The first thing to check is that your camera isn't on auto white balance as the large amount of blue will cause the camera to shift the white balance towards reds to try to compensate.

    Another thing to watch out for is that the camera's light metering will often over-expose the blue slightly to get a reasonable amount of red and green light and the "lost blue" can change the balance of the colours. You can get around this by deliberately under-exposing the photo (and checking there is no clipping if your camera has a histogram display) and then brightening it afterwards with editing software.

  21. Just before the ford, bear right along a path to a stone and concrete river crossing just downstream of the ford. Cross the bridge and bear right to follow the path on the other side of the river. Continue to reach a waywmark beside a crossing over a wall.

    The stream is the major tributary of the river at Maenporth beach. This feeds the pools just inland of the beach. To prevent water backing-up in the lagoons during heavy rain and causing flooding, a drainage tunnel was dug under the headland which emerges through opening in the rocks. Exploring the tunnel is not recommended due to the large number and size of crabs which inhabit it. These have a tendency to drop on passers-by which included down the neck of the boiler suit of one local caver. Another caver described a section of the tunnel as having a "moving floor" (several crabs deep).

  22. Cross the wall at the waymark and bear left onto the driveway. Follow this uphill until you reach a gravel driveway on the right, just after a building and before you reach some staddle (mushroom) stones on your left.

    The settlement is known as Sparnon and was first recorded in 1327. The name contains the Cornish word spern, meaning "thorns", perhaps describing an area of hawthorn or blackthorn trees.

  23. Turn right and walk towards the wooden gate into the property until you reach some steps leading up to a pedestrian gate on the left. Climb these and go through the gate into the field. Follow the path around the edge of the field to reach a stile.

    Staddle Stones (also known as Mushroom Stones) were originally used to raise granary barns off the ground. These had two purposes: the first was that the elevation above the ground kept out the damp which would spoil the grain. The second was that the overhanging stone cap made it an extreme rock-climbing expedition for any mice and rats wishing to enter the barn.

  24. Cross the stile and turn right onto the footpath. Follow this to a waymark at a junction of paths.

    The footpath is the remains of a mediaeval cart road, beside which there was once a cross. At one time Nangitha Lane, as it was known, was described as "a good road with pavement along one side".

  25. Keep right at the waymark and follow the path beneath the trees. Continue ahead as the path merges onto a surfaced drive, keeping left past the buildings to reach a waymark.
  26. At the waymark, bear right over the stone stile and down the small footpath. Follow this over one stile to reach a second stile, leading onto a road.

    As the name suggests, Wood Sorrel grows in shady places and as it spreads slowly it is used as an indicator of ancient woodland. It is recognisable by a carpet of bright green leaves that look a bit like clover. It is said that St Patrick used the three-lobed leaves to illustrate the Holy Trinity and therefore it's one of the plants dedicated to him and collectively known as "shamrock". Around Easter, wood sorrel produces delicate white flowers which gives rise to its European common name of Alleluia.

    The leaves and flowers fold up at night and reopen each morning, and they do the same during rain. This is a protection mechanism to avoid damage to the leaves when there is no solar power available, or pollen being knocked out of the flowers by the rain.

  27. Cross the stile onto the road and carefully cross this to the steps opposite. Climb these, go through the pedestrian gate and cross the field towards the church to reach a footpath sign.

    Hazelnuts can be found beneath the trees in October and are a favourite with squirrels so you'll need to forage those that haven't already been nibbled. Once harvested, the nuts need to dried before shelling and eating. Wash and dry the nuts first to reduce the chance of them going mouldy. Then lay them out on something where the air can circulate and dry them for 2-4 weeks. An airing cupboard is a good place. You can tell that they are ready when the nuts rattle in their shells. Once shelled, the nuts can be stored in a fridge or even frozen for a couple of years.

  28. Turn right on the drive as indicated by the footpath sign then keep left to cross a low stone stile with a small waymark and follow a path along the wall of the churchyard. Follow this to another stile and waymark at a junction of paths.

    The church in Budock Water dates from the 13th Century with a rebuild during the 15th Century. The churchyard itself is thought to date back to the times of the Celtic saint Budock in 470 AD, also associated with St Budeaux in Plymouth.

  29. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow the path to reach another waymark and stile.

    Earliest records of the parish of Budock are from 1207. The "water" was appended to indicate the village was near a stream (as with Chacewater and Canworthy Water).

  30. Cross the stile and follow the lane ahead until it ends. Then follow the path leading from it alongside a garden to emerge into a yard.

    Wild Garlic can be seen flowering along the path in May.

    Wild garlic has been found in settlements dating as far back as the neolithic period which given its springtime abundance and aroma is not that surprising. Its culinary use was eventually overtaken by domesticated garlic which first arrived with Mediterranean traders and had the advantage that the bulbs could be stored for relatively long periods.

  31. Cross the yard to the lane ahead. Follow the lane until you reach a public footpath sign on the left.

    Chestnut trees overhang the lane.

    The size of the nuts from wild British chestnut trees is quite variable but the largest approach that of the nuts sold in supermarkets. Nuts that are very flat or less than the girth of your little finger are not worth harvesting; anything bigger is viable. A painless way to extract the nuts is to grip the husk between your feet and rub it between your boots or against the ground. This saves having to handle the spiky husks as the spikes are very sharp and tend to break off under the skin to leave behind splinters. Often the husks contain one (fairly round) large nut surrounded by several small, flat nuts, so it's worth squeezing out quite a few husks to get the larger nuts. Discard any nuts with holes in (as they will contain maggots) or that are very dark in colour - the fresher ones will be "chestnut" brown rather than dark brown.

  32. Cross the stile below the footpath sign and bear right across the field to a stile in a gap in the middle of the hedge opposite.

    On the skyline you can see Pendennis Castle, on the top of the headland ahead.

    Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to defend the coast against a possible French attack and was re-inforced during the reign of Elizabeth I. During the English Civil War, more re-inforcement took place and the castle withstood five months of siege from Parliamentary forces before it was captured. The castle was adapted for the World Wars of the 20th Century and the guardhouse has been restored to how it might have looked in the First World War. During the Second World War, underground tunnels and magazines were added which can now be visited.

  33. Cross the stile and carefully cross the road to Prislow Lane opposite. Follow the lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    The Boslowick Inn was formerly a house, and was originally thatched. During WW2, the building was hit by a shower of incendiary bombs. Fortunately, due to the steeply-sloping roof, these rolled off the roof without doing any serious harm. In the more distant past, the building is reputed to have been the haunt of smugglers. A number of rare coins were found in a vegetable garden during the 20th Century and sent to the British Museum.

  34. Turn right at the junction and follow the road uphill until you reach a junction for Carrick Road on the left.

    The large trees on the rigth are sycamore.

    Research suggest that Sycamore was common in Britain up to Roman times but then died out due to the warming climate apart from some mountainous regions such as in Scotland. During the Tudor period it is thought to have been reintroduced by landowners looking for a rapid-growing tree for their estates and was found to be salt-tolerant - essential in Cornwall. It has since spread widely as the seeds are extremely fertile and able to grow just about anywhere. In fact, in some areas it is regarded as an invasive weed. The timber was traditionally used for milk pails as it does not impart any flavour or colour. It is still used today for kitchenware and is recognisable by the light colour and fine grain.

  35. Turn left onto Carrick Road and follow this until it ends in a turning area.
  36. Keep right along the pavement at the turning area to pass through a gap then turn left and follow the path along the front of the houses and through some railings to emerge onto a residential road.

    Alexanders grow alongside the path.

    All parts of the Alexanders plant can be eaten and this was traditionally one of the "pot herbs" that were added to stews. Alexanders was particularly useful during lean winters as it was available so early (in December and January) before many other spring greens. It is a good source of vitamins A and C and iron. The flavour has been described as somewhere between parsley and angelica. The dried seeds can also be used as a spice.

  37. Cross the road to the footpath opposite and follow this downhill to a residential road. Cross over this and continue downhill on the path until it eventually ends at a junction with a surfaced track beside a metal gate.

    During the Second World War, a large fuel depot for use in the D-Day landings was located on the hillside behind Swanpool. During the final air raid on Falmouth, the depot was hit by a bomb and a flood of burning fuel swept down the valley towards the houses below. An American navy officer managed to use a bulldozer to divert the flow away from the houses and was awarded the British Empire Medal for his bravery.

  38. When you reach the track, pass the gate and turn right onto a small path with three bollards marked with a "Public Footpath Swanpool Beach" sign. Follow the path until it emerges, via two more bollards, onto a drive.

    The brackish lagoon forms an unusual habitat that supports some rare wildlife. This includes the Trebling Sea Mat which is found nowhere else in the UK. The wooded wetland behind the lake is criss-crossed by six small streams and it provides a valuable habitat for birds and small mammals. The whole area is now a designated nature reserve.

  39. Continue ahead on the driveway until it ends in a T-junction and then turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane alongside the lake and past some houses until it ends in a junction.

    The lake at Swanpool was once part of the sea but after the last Ice Age, a shingle bar formed (similar to the Loe Bar near Helston) which cut off the lake from the sea and it became a freshwater lake, roughly three times the size of the current lake. In the mid 1820's, a culvert was dug to drain much of the lake into the sea, creating the lake you see today. On high Spring tides, the seawater flows back through the culvert into the lake so the water is brackish (slightly salty).

  40. Turn right onto the road and follow the pavement until you reach a coast path sign, just past a driveway with a pair of gates.
  41. Turn left onto the coast path signposted to Maenporth and follow it to a waymark.

    Eight German U-boats surrendered at the end of the war were moored in Falmouth Bay, anchored at Gyllyngvase. Two were intentionally sunk during Navy exercises, and the remaining six broke free from their moorings in a fierce winter gale and were swept onto the rocks along Castle Drive. The remains of one can be seen at low tide at Castle Beach. The others have broken up but fragments of hull can seen amongst the rocks on low spring tides or by snorkelling.

  42. Continue ahead at the waymark, passing the gate on the right. Follow the path to the point, where a small path leads ahead and the main path bends to the right.

    In October 1940, the coaster Jersey Queen suffered an aerial attack with machine gun, cannon fire and incendiary bombs on its way though the Irish Sea. Two of the crew were injured but the incendiary bombs slipped off the hull into the sea preventing any major damage. Two days later, she struck an accoustic mine in Cornish waters and sank in Falmouth Bay with the loss of two crew. When the mine detonated, the captain was knocked unconscious but was pulled from the water before he drowned by one of the crew. Despite suffering attacks on two subsequent ships he captained, he survived the war and was awarded an MBE for his service.

  43. Keep right and stay on the main path and follow it to reach a waymark.

    In December 1978 the Scottish trawler Ben Asdale was in Falmouth Bay unloading its catch of mackerel into a Russian Factory ship. As the trawler cast off from the factory ship, the stern rope jammed in the rudder and the trawler was unable to steer. The captain attempted to anchor the vessel but in the force 8 gale, the anchor dragged and the ship was driven ashore on Newporth Head. Three of the crew who attempted to swim ashore drowned but eight were rescued by helicopter which had to fly backwards to avoid the headland in one of the most dangerous rescues of modern times. The remains of the vessel can still be seen at low water.

  44. Keep left at the waymark and go through the metal kissing gate. Follow the path until it emerges at the entrance to Maenporth car park, or alternatively cut down the steps beside the café.

    Razor clams are molluscs that get their name from the shape of their shell which resembles a cut-throat razor. They live in burrows in the sand using a powerful foot to dig to a safe depth. Their presence in the inter-tidal zone is indicated by keyhole-shaped holes made by their siphons as they filter-feed for plankton. They are very sensitive to changes of temperature and salinity and this has been exploited to catch them (pouring salt or brine down their holes) as well as simply digging them out. They have been quite overfished on many beaches and are in decline in many areas. In deeper water, they face a different problem: suction dredging hoovers them up with the sand. Although they usually survive the actual dredging process, they are deposited on the seabed and often get eaten by fish before they can dig to safety.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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