St Just to Messack Point

A circular walk along both sides of St Just creek to Messack Point where there are spectacular views over one of the largest natural harbours in the world.

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The route descends through the churchyard to the creek and follows a footpath to the head of the creek. Here the route follows a permissive circular path around the headland, descending to the creekside and Messack Point and returning through woodland and fields. The final leg is along public footpaths connected by a fairly short stretch of road.

Reviews

lovely walk

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: St Just church car park
  • Parking: St Just church car park TR25JD. Follow signs towards St Mawes through St Just until you reach the sign for St Just Church and Bar. Turn here to reach the church car park. If it is full, you can use the village car park on the side of the main road.
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Views over St Just Creek and Carrick Roads
  • Wildflowers in spring and early summer

Directions

  1. Turn right out of the car park onto the road and immediately right through the churchyard gate. Then bear left down the concrete path and make your way through the churchyard to the church (keeping left over the wooden bridge and left again after you pass the well). Bear right at the church to an arch (lychgate) signposted to the holy well.

    St Just In Roseland Church is based on a 13th Century building that was remodelled in the 14th and 15th Centuries and then reworked fairly heavily in a 19th Century restoration.

    During Victorian times, the area around the church was landscaped into gardens using semi-tropical species that are able to survive in the mild climate beside the river. The granite blocks alongside the path to the church are inscribed with quotations from the Bible.

  2. When you reach the arch signposted to the Holy Well, turn right to go through it. Follow the path along the edge of the creek, past the path to the holy well and continue to reach a waymark.

    Before Christianity, the Pagan Celtic people of Cornwall worshipped wonders of the natural world. Where clean, drinkable water welled up from the ground in a spring, this was seen as pretty awesome. Where the springwater dissolved minerals, for specific conditions (e.g. deficiency in a mineral) or where the water was antibacterial, the water appeared to have healing properties. The sites were seen as portals to another world, and is why fairies are often associated with springs.

  3. Keep left at the waymark and follow the path, passing over a stile, to reach a gate.

    There are two types of ivy leaf. Those on creeping stems are the classic ivy leaf shape with 3-5 triangular lobes. However, more mature ivy plants grow aerial shoots with a completely different (teardrop) leaf shape. These are the shoots that bear the flowers and fruits and are typically located in a sunny spot such as on an upright ivy bush or top of a rock face. The reason for the different shapes is that the larger, multi-lobed leaves are able to catch more light in shady areas whereas the smaller, stouter leaves are more resistant to drying out.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the remainder of the path then cross the driveway to the building opposite and bear left onto the waymarked path. Follow the path to a stile.
  5. Cross the stile and continue ahead on the narrow path to reach a kissing gate into a field.
  6. Go through the gate and follow the path along the left hedge of the field to reach a kissing gate in the far corner.

    During the summer, the wildflowers in the meadow attract butterflies including the Common Blue and Yellow Brimstone.

    A popular misconception is that a butterfly was originally called flutterby. In fact, the name stems from the Old English word buttorfleoge which literally means "butterfly". Exactly why they were associated with butter is a bit of a mystery. One theory is that they were seen hovering over pails of milk and thought to be stealing or protecting the butter. Another is that the Yellow Brimstone was the species for which this name was first devised. The term "flutterby" is thought to have been coined by Shakespeare.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path over a concrete walkway and stile. Make your way into the field and follow the left hedge to a gap into the adjoining field.

    The National Trust is the largest owner of farms in the UK. It has around 2,000 tenants and over 618,000 acres of land. It has been calculated that 43% of all the rainwater in England and Wales drains through National Trust land.

  8. Go through the gap and continue ahead to meet the line of trees on the left. Follow along the trees to a gate in the far hedge.

    Some of the smaller trees along the left hedge are hazel.

    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.

  9. Go through the gate and follow along the left hedge. Pass two pedestrian gates until you reach a third with a green waymark.

    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. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. The sloe gin produced from sloes in September and October seems just as good but possibly requires a little more sugar to compensate.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path over a pair of footbridges to a gate into a field.
  11. Go through the gate and head towards the farm gate in the top-right corner of the field, but stop short at a gap in the hedge with a waymark in it.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleating, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  12. Go through the gap and then through the gate to the left of the waymark. Then follow the left hedge all the way along the large field to a pedestrian gate on the far side.

    Sheep were one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans thought to be roughly around 12,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. The first sheep weren't woolly and were used for meat, milk and their (unwoolly) hides which were sometimes tanned to make leather. Woolly sheep were bred about 4,000 years later in Iran.

  13. Go through the gate and cross the driveway to a gate opposite signposted "Messack Point Circular Walk". Go through the gate and follow along the left hedge to a gate in the far corner.

    Although there is fresh water flowing down the rivers, as the tide begins to rise, the majority of the water in the creeks is seawater. Therefore on rocky outcrops such as Messack Point, rockpools containing seawater are formed by the ebbing tide which support saltwater species such as anemonies.

    There are two types of anemone that you're likely to encounter on Cornish beaches. The most common are those that look like red blobs out of the water, known as beadlet anemones; in the water they open into a crown of tentacles. The little blue beads around the edge that give them their name are fighting tentacles, used to beat up rival anemones and chase them out of their territory (they can move around the on rocks albeit very slowly). The other species is larger, green-and-purple snakelocks anemone which has tentacles that contain a fluorescent green algae which glows under UV light (should you own a battery-powered UV lamp and be on the beach at night). Anemones are very long-lived, often reaching 60-80 years and more. They do not age and have the potential to live indefinitely if they are not eaten by predators.

  14. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the gate, then bear left from the metal sign to stay in the field and walk parallel to the right hedge. Continue to the bottom of the field to reach a gate.

    As you descend the hill, there are views across Carrick Roads to Falmouth.

    Falmouth harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world and the deepest in Western Europe. The large waterway of Carrick Roads, forming the junction of seven estuaries, was created after the Ice Age from an ancient valley which flooded with the rising sea levels as the ice caps melted.

  15. Go through the gate and descend to some large trees, then turn right and follow the path parallel to the creek. Follow the path through the woods, eventually crossing a bridge and then climbing to a gate into a field.

    Beneath the trees, a path leads down onto the rock platform on the point. From here there are panoramic views back up St Just Creek to the left and along Carrick Roads to the right.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge past a pedestrian gate for the Messack Point Upper Path and continue following the right hedge until you reach a waymark and wooden pedestrian gate in the corner of the field.

    The hedge on the right contains hawthorn trees.

    The flowers of the hawthorn are known as "May Blossom" and were traditionally used as decorations in May Day celebrations. Now, however, the hawthorn generally doesn't flower until the middle of May. The reason for this is that May has moved! Until 1752, Britain used the Julian Calendar which had leap years every 4 years but no other corrections. This results in a length of day that is fractionally too long, so the first of May gradually slipped forwards over the centuries. By the 1700s, the first of May was 11 days ahead of where it is today.

  17. At the waymark, go through the gate on the right and turn left to follow the path between the hedge and fence to another gate. Go through this and follow the path between the electric fence and hedge to reach a gate on the far side of the field.

    Electric fences are powered with a car battery which charges a capacitor to release a periodic pulse of electricity; this is often audible as a quiet "crack" which is a good indicator that a fence is powered. The power is not high enough to cause serious injury but touching an electric fence is nevertheless unpleasant in a similar way to stinging nettles. If you are answering the call of nature in the vicinity of an electric fence, be mindful of the conductivity of electrolyte solutions!

  18. Go through the gate and follow the path through the bushes to a gate.
  19. Go through the gate and turn right to cross the lane to a waymarked gate on the opposite side of the lane. Go through the gate into the field and follow the left hedge to a waymark beside the bushes.
  20. At the waymark, pass the brambles and gorse then bear left to descend to the path beneath the trees. Follow this downhill beneath the trees until you emerge into a field.

    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.

    Compared to red squirrels, grey squirrels are able to eat a wider diet (including acorns), are larger so can survive colder winters, and are better able to survive in the fragmented habitats created by urbanisation. They are also thought to be carriers of a squirrel pox virus which they usually recover from but has been fatal to red squirrels, although Red squirrels are now also developing some immunity.

    As the grey squirrel is classified as an invasive species, it is illegal to release a captured animal into the wild but it is also illegal to kill it in a way that is deemed as causing "unnecessary suffering". This has resulted in members of the public being prosecuted for e.g. drowning a squirrel caught in a trap, believing they were doing the right thing.

    To date, culling of grey squirrels has not reversed their domination of woodland habitat and alternative approaches such as planting food with contraceptives are being explored as a means to control the population. The theory is that infertile squirrels can compete for food against fertile squirrels, whereas culling can create a glut of food resulting in a higher number of squirrels surviving which replace those that were exterminated.

  21. Continue ahead to cross the field to the bottom corner and reach the stile and footpath sign that you encountered earlier. Cross the stile and follow the walkway back to the kissing gate.
  22. Go through the kissing gate but bear left to follow the path along the left hedge of the field, passing a path to a metal field gate, to reach a small metal pedestrian gate.
  23. Go through the gate and follow the path through the bushes to a stile.

    Foxgloves flower along the path in June.

    The common name "foxglove" dates back many hundreds of years but the origin is unknown. The "gloves" almost certainly refers to the shape of the flowers, and the latin name Digitalis (fingerlike) is along similar lines. The curious part is the "fox" and many different suggestions have been made as to where it came from. It is likely that it is a corruption of another word; possibly "folks" which was once used to mean "fairies".

  24. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a road.
  25. When you reach the road, turn right and carefully follow the road past the 30mph and narrow signs until you reach a Public Footpath sign on the right beside Jasmine Cottage.

    The parish of St Just in Roseland was recorded in 1046, just before the Norman invasion, as "Ecciae Sci Juste".

    The first records of the settlement around the church are a little later, from 1202, but this used the Cornish name Lansioch. The name contains the Cornish word lann, meaning "enclosed cemetery", which is typical of settlements dating from the Dark Ages. The remainder of the name is thought to be from a Celtic saint's name. It's therefore likely that the church is on the site of an older churchyard, possibly dating from the Dark Ages, and the presence of the Holy Well further supports this.

    When maintenance work was carried out on the church in the early 20th Century, a Roman coin was found beneath the floorboards, indicating that there may have been settlement in the vicinity of the church prior to the Dark Ages.

  26. Turn right down the footpath and follow this to a gate.

    The name for the Roseland Peninsula derives from the Celtic word ros which can be used to mean a number of things including "moor", but the meaning most applicable in this case is "promontory".

  27. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to reach a pair of gates.
  28. Go through the gate on the right and follow the path to reach the waymark that you encountered at the start of the walk. Turn left and follow the path back towards St Just churchyard to complete the circular route. You can follow the path leading from the stile just before the Holy Well as a short-cut to get to the drive leading up to the car park.

    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".

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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