St Just-in-Roseland to Messack Point

A circular walk on the Roseland 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 creek-side at Messack Point and returning through woodland and fields. The final leg is along public footpaths connected by a fairly short stretch of road.


lovely walk

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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


  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. The sites were seen as portals to another world, and is why fairies are often associated with springs. Where the springwater dissolved minerals, for specific conditions (e.g. deficiency in a mineral) or where the minerals present had antibacterial/fungal properties, the water appeared to have healing powers.

  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 - they grow towards shade to find a tree to climb up. 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 path to the left of the building opposite. Follow the path to a stile.

    The bright green heart-shaped leaves along the path are winter heliotrope.

    During winter, from November to March, winter heliotrope is visible along the edges of roads and paths as carpets of rounded heart-shaped leaves.

    The leaf shape of winter heliotrope is similar to its close relative butterbur, but the leaf edges are more rounded than butterbur and the leaves are evergreen whereas butterbur puts up flowers before it has any leaves. Both plants spread via rhizomes (underground stems) and their broad leaves can crowd out other plants making them potentially invasive.

  5. Cross the stile and cross over the track to the narrow path. Then continue ahead on this to reach a kissing gate into a field.

    Betony is a grassland herb, common on the coast, with pretty purple anthers that stick out from the plant. The name is derived from the ancient Celtic words bew (meaning head) and ton (meaning good) as it was used as a cure for headaches. From Roman times onward, it was believed to be a cure for a number of things (the Romans listed 47!) including drunkenness; even as late as the 1800s, Richard E. Banks stated that you should "Eat betony or the powder thereof and you cannot be drunken that day" and John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well". Betony was also used to ward away evil spirits (hence it is planted in a number of churchyards) and also to make a dark yellow dye for wool.

    Cornwall bounces by around 4 inches every time the tide goes in and out. As the tide rises, the extra weight of water on the continental shelf deforms the Earth's crust; as the tide goes out, it springs back. The tidal range is greatest on the southwestern side of the British Isles and so Cornwall is one of the bounciest places in Britain.

  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.

    Exactly why butterflies 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 older an oak tree becomes, the more acorns it produces. A 70-80 year old tree can produce thousands. Acorns are high in carbohydrates and as well as being a staple food for squirrels, they are also a really important food for deer and make up a quarter of their diet in the autumn.

    Lichens often grow on sick or dying trees so some gardeners assume that the lichen might be harming the tree. In fact, it's purely because these trees have fewer leaves so there is more light available for the algae inside the fungus to photosynthesise. It's too dark under many healthy trees for the lichen to grow.

  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.

    Holly has separate male and female plants, so not all holly bushes produce berries - only female plants. In less biologically-enlightened Pagan times, holly was though to be a male plant (the spikes symbolising aggression) whereas ivy was regarded as a female plant (symbolising attachment). The Christmas Carol "The Holly and the Ivy" is thought originally to derive from Pagan fertility myths onto which Christian symbolism has subsequently been added.

  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 (these lead down to the shoreline) 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 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.

    Buzzards breed once they reach 2-3 years old. During their breeding season in spring, male buzzards create spectacular aerial displays to impress females by soaring high into the air and dropping suddenly towards the ground. The birds then pair for life.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path over a pair of footbridges to a gate into a field.

    During the 21st Century, wood pigeons have been migrating into urban areas where garden feeding has attracted them. There has also been an exodus from the rural environment where changing farming practices have made fields less attractive.

  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 a miscarriage. 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 (woolless) 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 and continue following the right hedge (in the direction indicated for Turnaware) until you reach a waymark and wooden pedestrian gate in the corner of the field.

    In August, blackberries start to ripen on brambles.

    To make blackberry wine, combine 2kg blackberries + 4 litres of boiling water in a plastic container with a lid. Once the water has cooled to lukewarm, mash blackberries and add red wine yeast and pectic enzyme (blackberries are high in pectin so this is needed to stop the wine being cloudy). Cover for 4-5 days then strain through muslin.

    Transfer the liquid to a demijohn and add 1kg of sugar. Top up with a little more water to make it up to a gallon. After fermentation, the wine should clear by itself; in the unlikely event that it doesn't, use some finings. Rack off from the sediment and bottle; it's worth allowing the wine a year or two to mature as it massively improves with age. As a variation, you can add 500g of elderberries and increase the sugar content for a more port-like wine which will need a couple of years longer for the elderberry tannins to mellow out.

    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 typically powered from a low voltage source such as a car battery which charges a capacitor to release a periodic pulse of high voltage electricity. This is often audible as a quiet "crack" which is a good indicator that a fence is powered. As with the high-voltage shock caused by static electricity, the current is not high enough to cause serious injury but touching an electric fence is nevertheless unpleasant. 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.

    Genetic analysis has revealed that domestic apples originated from wild apples in Kazakstan near the Chinese border. It is thought that the apple was probably the first tree to be domesticated by humans, several thousand years ago. Wild apples grew in the British Isles in Neolithic times but domesticated apples were introduced by the Romans. Over 7500 varieties of apple are now known.

    Apple pips contain contain a compound called amygdalin, which is cyanide bonded with sugar. In the gut this is converted to hydrogen cyanide. If you accidentally swallow a couple then don't panic: you'd need to chew and swallow hundreds of apple pips to get a fatal dose of cyanide.

    The settlement of Messack was first recorded in the early 13th Century as Maisoch. The name is based on the Cornish word for "open fields". The farm has the remains of a mediaeval field system which would have originally been long, narrow strip fields. The edges between many of the strips have been removed to create larger fields.

  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 the second of two waymarks beside the bushes.

    In mediaeval times, the Anglo-Saxon "stitch meal" technique was adopted in some parts of Cornwall. This involved dividing arable and meadow land into long strips called "stitches". Villagers would be allocated a (usually disconnected) set of strips so that the "best" fields were shared around as evenly as possible. The long, thin shape was ideal for ploughing with oxen. A typical stitch was one furlong in length and one acre in area, which could be ploughed by a team of oxen in a day.

    A similar, but not identical, system of strip fields known as "burgage" plots was also used in mediaeval times but these were associated with a row of houses along a road in a settlement. The burgage plots were effectively very long, thin back gardens that also contained about an acre of cultivatable land.

  20. At the waymark, continue ahead to pass the brambles and gorse then bear left to descend to the path beneath the trees. Follow this through a gate and continue until you emerge into a field.

    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.

  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.

    Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, around 300 million years ago in the "age of amphibians" before the dinosaurs. Fossils of early dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet across.

    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.

  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.

    Grasshoppers jump by using the stiff cuticle within their legs a bit like a longbow. Muscles gradually build up the energy stored by bending the elastic structures in the leg over quite a long period (around half a second) which and then this is released suddenly.

  23. Go through the gate and follow the path through the bushes to a stile.

    Foxgloves flower along the path in May and 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 (finger-like) 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".

    The building on the headland to the left of Falmouth is Pendennis Castle.

    Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to defend the coast against a possible French attack and was reinforced during the reign of Elizabeth I. During the English Civil War, more reinforcement 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.

  24. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a road.

    Once pollinated, in late summer, the wild arum produces clusters of bright orange berries on stalks. Despite being very pretty, these are poisonous and cause skin irritation so children should be warned not to pick them.

    All members of the lily family, including wild arum, are poisonous to dogs.

    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".

  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.

    Tregorland was recorded in 1302 not as a farmstead beginning with "Tre" but as Kaercorlan. The name is derived from the Cornish words for "fort" and "enclosure" which suggests that an Iron Age hillfort was located somewhere in the vicinity. Within the fields, there are crop marks visible on aerial photographs which are thought might be the remains of Bronze Age Burial mounds.

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

    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.

  27. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to reach a pair of gates.

    The upper part of the main Carrick Roads estuary provides an important habitat for oysters.

    Oysters feed by filtering plankton from seawater and a single oyster can filter around 100 litres of water per day. As with mussels, during the warmer months (May-Aug, remembered as not containing the letter "r"), plankton species which are poisonous to humans are around which can accumulate in shellfish and cause tummy upsets. Consequently the Falmouth Oyster Festival is in October.

  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".

    Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross (a crucifix with a circular ring) developed from the sun cross (a cross inside a circle), a common symbol in artefacts of Prehistoric Europe, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. When Christianity came to the Celtic regions, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol, to remind them of the cross on which their new Saviour was crucified.

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

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