St Just to Nanquidno

A circular walk from St Just to Cape Cornwall and the Cot Valley where an ancient beach has been eroded from the cliffs at Porth Nanven releasing granite boulders resembling Dinosaur eggs.

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The walk heads across the fields from St Just past Cornwall's oldest pasty makers to England's only Cape. The walk follows the cliffs from Cape Cornwall to Porth Nanven and then to Nanquidno beach, both covered in granite boulders smoothed by a prehistoric ocean and lost beneath the soil when sea levels fell. The return route is via a permissive path to the Iron Age settlement at Nanjulian and then across the fields across the top of the Cot Valley.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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One of our favourite walks and one we’ve done so many times and never tire of it.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 7.4 miles/11.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or shoes in summer

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Heinz monument and St Helen's Oratory on Cape Cornwall
  • Ballowall cairn - a prehistoric tomb
  • Granite boulders at Porth Nanven and Nanquidno sculpted by a prehistoric ocean
  • Views over Whitsand Bay to Sennen Cove and Land's End
  • Wildlife including choughs and peregrine falcons

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Kings Arms
  • The Star Inn
  • The Wellington Hotel

Directions

  1. Facing towards the Fire Station, turn right out of the car park and follow the road past the phone box and a few paces further until you reach a gap between the houses on the left.

    The lane continues past the Laundrette to meet the main road at the village square and St Just church is on the opposite side.

    The churchyard at St Just is thought to date to early mediaeval times. The current building dates from 1334 and was substantially rebuilt and extended in the 15th Century. The granite stone with Celtic carvings that is built into the wall was once a cross shaft and is thought to date from the 9th Century. The paintings in the church date from the 15th Century, and the small stone basin beside the font was found in St Helen's Oratory on Cape Cornwall.

    The church is dedicated to St Jestyn, in common with St-Just-in-Roseland (hence the two identical place names) and also the chapel in Gorran Haven, which was formerly known as Portheast (thought to be a corruption of Porth Just).

    The upright stone in St Just church is thought to be from around the 5th or 6th Century and has a Latin inscription which translates to "here lies Selus". It is thought that this commemorates St Selevan (also known as St Levan) who was recorded as being the brother of St Jestyn (St Just). As well as the church and chapel of St Levan near Porthcurno, it is also postulated that Lansallos near Polperro may be dedicated to the same saint. During mediaeval times, the stone was built into the church wall by the altar but it was extracted during the restoration in 1824.

  2. If you don't have a dog with you, bear left to some steps at the back of the parking area, to the right of the lamp post. Climb the steps and bear right across the grass to the gateway beside the clock tower. If you have a dog, continue on the lane and turn left to reach the clock tower instead.

    The circular grassy area is a mediaeval meeting area and amphitheatre known as a plain-an-gwarry (Playing Place) where "miracle plays" were performed, re-enacting miracles performed by the Saints. These were described as "often noisy, bawdy and entertaining". Plays are still occasionally performed here. It is over 600 years old and thought to be the oldest outdoor theatre in Britain that is still in use.

  3. Bear left around the clock tower and cross the road to the narrow lane between the Cape Cornwall and Boswedden Road signs. Follow Boswedden Road to a crossroads.

    The clock tower was built as a memorial to the men of the town who died in the First World War. However, it was not completed until 1931 and it is thought that this may be due to the time taken to raise the funds. Within 8 years of its completion, the Second World War began, and tablets with more names were subsequently added to the tower.

  4. At the crossroads, continue ahead to reach a bend in the road where a path carries on ahead.

    For many years, the pasties for Warren's Bakery were made here. Closure of the factory was announced in 2019 as part of a restructure after the company made a loss of nearly £1 million.

    Warren's Bakery was established in St Just in 1860 and is Britain's oldest pasty maker. At the time of writing, the bakery has 50 shops throughout the West Country and there are plans to expand further afield.

  5. Follow the path ahead from the bend. Continue on the path between the two walls, ignoring any footpaths that lead off to the sides, until the path ends at a gate and stone stile.

    Alexanders are very salt tolerant so they thrive in Cornwall's salty climate. They are just as likely to be found along coastal footpaths as along country lanes. New growth appears in the autumn so during the winter, when most other plants are dormant, it is a dominant source of greenery along paths and lanes in exposed coastal areas.

    "Pasty" was another word used for "pie" throughout England from the Middle Ages onward, and did not necessarily imply the characteristic shape and crimping we associate with the Cornish Pasty. A pasty recipe from 1746 contains no veg, just meat (venison), port wine and spices. The first "Cornish pasty" recipe is from 1861 which contained just beef and no veg.

    The "traditional" Cornish Pasty recipe contains beef, onion, potato and swede (referred to as "turnip" in the local dialect from its more formal name of "Swedish turnip") seasoned with salt and pepper. It's thought that this probably dates from the late 18th Century (when the Poldark novels were set) when potatoes and turnips were a staple diet for the poor but the first documented "traditional" recipe is not until 1929.

    Even during Victorian times, main meat available to poor people would have been pork. In fact, the really poor had "tiddy oggy" (with no meat at all). The Cornish word for pasty is "hogen" (pronounced "hugg-un") which evolved into "oggy" - the dialect word for pasty. Over 120 million Cornish pasties are now consumed each year.

  6. Cross the stile next to the gate and cross the field towards the gate in the opposite corner.

    Tin lodes to the west of St Just were first recorded as being worked in 1782, initially via several small mines which were eventually amalgamated in Victorian times under the name Wheal Cunning. The workings extended beneath the sea near Cape Cornwall, where it was hoped as in the Levant and Botallack mines, the lodes would become richer. In this case however, the seaward excavations proved poorly productive and the mine closed in 1876.

  7. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow along the left hedge to a stone stile roughly three-quarters of the way along the hedge.

    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.

    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.
  8. Cross the stile on the left and then cross the field to the stepped stone stile opposite.

    Researchers have found a recessive gene which appears to turn normal 3-leaf clovers into the 4-leaf version. Normally this is masked by the 3-leaf gene but environmental conditions can promote the 4-leaf form. Some domestic varieties have also been selectively bred to increase the proportion of 4-leaf plants. Genetically-engineered four leaf clovers are now a possibility with some farms in the USA reportedly already using genetic modification to churn-out thousands of plastic-sealed "lucky" charms per day.

  9. Climb the steps and walk along the wall a short distance to reach the descending flight of steps. At the bottom, follow along the right hedge to reach a stepped stone stile in the far hedge.

    According to folklore, you should not pick blackberries after Michaelmas Day (11th October) as this is when the devil claims them. The basis for this is thought to be the potentially toxic moulds which can develop on the blackberries in the cooler, wetter weather.

    Being attached to tasty a blackberry means that bramble seeds are spread widely. Mammals, birds, insects and even some fish will eat blackberries. Bramble seeds can survive up to 100 years in the soil, which helps them to colonise recently-cleared land.

  10. Climb the steps over the wall and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane to a bend with a stone stile on the left, marked with an upright scaffold pole.

    Like other members of the pea family, gorse produces its seeds in pods. The seeds are ejected with a popping sound when pods split open in hot weather. This can catapult the seeds up to five metres. The plants are able to live 30 years and survive sub-zero temperatures, the seeds can withstand fire and remain viable in the soil for 30 years.

  11. Cross the stone stile on the left and cross the corner of the field to the gap in the middle of the hedge opposite, below the telegraph pole.

    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 too such as those on either side of Advent Church.

  12. Cross the coffin stile in the gap and turn right to follow along the wall on the right and reach a stone stile in the far hedge.

    Ribwort plantain is a common weed on cultivated land with unmistakable black seed heads on the end of tall stalks often with a halo of white flowers. Generations of children have worked out that by knotting the stem, the seed head can be launched as a projectile at unsuspecting adults.

    A tea made from the leaves is a popular herbal remedy used as a cough medicine. Care should be taken where the plant is harvested as it is not only highly tolerant of high metal levels in the soil but also accumulates these. It will even tolerate and accumulate arsenic which is normally toxic to plants. It therefore has the potential to be used for cleansing soils contaminated with mine waste.

  13. Cross the stile and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane until you reach a driveway for The Forge on the right opposite the entrance to the National Trust car park on the left.

    The grand house that you pass on the right is Porthledden.

    Porthledden was built by Francis Oats, a local man who was a mine captain by his early twenties and went on to make his fortune in the gold fields and diamond mines of South Africa, becoming the Chairman of De Beers within 3 years of joining the company as a mining engineer. Porthledden was completed in 1909, towards the end of his life, and was run as a hotel by his son after his death. As the family was heavily invested in Cornish mines and the hotel was not that successful, the family debts mounted and eventually they had to sell off the house. Towards the end of the 20th century it became derelict until it was bought in 2003 by a young couple who had built a successful company in the .com boom with a website about hotels, ironically. The restoration of the house took them 10 years and had to be approached as a maritime engineering project due to the salt-laden winds that blow over the Cape that would corrode any materials that are not marine grade.

  14. Bear right onto the driveway to The Forge and then immediately left across the stile with a wooden bar beneath the waymark. Follow along the wall on the left to reach a gap in the wall opposite. Then bear right to pass the ruins of an old chapel and reach a stone stile in the corner, to the left of the gate.

    The small ruined building in the field next to The Forge is St Helen's Oratory.

    St Helen's Oratory is thought to be on the site of a 6th century church and the font in St Just church might have originally come from here. In the mid-19th Century, an ancient cross was discovered on the site with markings that were in use during the 4th and 5th centuries. A small stone basin was also found and this is now inside St Just church. The cross has since been lost; according to one account, it was thrown down the St Just vicarage well! The cross that is now on the chapel is another ancient one that was found nearby.

  15. Cross the stile and follow either of the paths to reach the monument on the summit (the left-hand path marked as the coast path is the less steep of the two).

    In 1889, the steamship Malta ran aground at full speed on the rocks offshore of the Kenidjack Valley, in dense fog. The crew and passengers were all rescued by the Sennen lifeboat. A court found the captain's navigation to be substandard and suspended his licence for three months. The cargo included copper, tin and iron and has been heavily salvaged but copper ingots still turn up occasionally.

  16. Bear left to pass the monument and reach a rock platform on the cliff-edge, then turn left to follow the path descending from the rock platform to the cottages and reach a gap between two walls.

    Cape Cornwall is the only headland in England referred to as a "cape" and one of the only two in the UK (the other is Cape Wrath in Scotland). According to some sources, Cape Cornwall was once thought to be the most westerly point of the mainland, although most maps from the 16th Century onward clearly show Lands End as protruding further west. The name Cape Cornwall first appeared on maritime charts in Tudor times though on some maps it was marked as "Chapel Just". The Cornish name for the headland is the topographically-inspired Kilgodh Ust which has been translated as "goose-back at St Just" and eloquently describes the view from the headland at the bottom of the Kenidjack Valley.

    There is a lookout on the seaward side of Cape Cornwall which is manned by volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institution and during Victorian times, there was a tin mine on the headland which operated intermittently between 1838 and 1883. The mine's chimney near the peak of the cape was retained as an aid to navigation, and during a period in the early 20th century, the former ore dressing floors were converted into greenhouses and wineries. In 1987, the headland was purchased by the Heinz corporation and gifted to the nation, to be managed by the National Trust. The chimney is marked with a commemorative plaque and is now known as the Heinz monument.

  17. Follow the path through the gap between the walls and bear left onto the track. Follow the track to a gate.

    The Hottentot Fig (Carpabrotus edulis), was once classified as a Mesembryanthemum but as plant genetics were better understood, was found to be a close relative but in a different sub-family of the larger ice-plant family. They are called ice plants due to hairs on the leaves which refract sunlight and make them sparkle. The plant is native to South Africa and was originally grown ornamentally in gardens but has subsequently gone feral and settled on the coastline where it thrives in sandy soils, helped by its resistance to wind and salt. It forms a dense mat which crowds out other species and is therefore considered invasive.

    The reason that Cape Cornwall could once have been thought to be be most westerly point of the British mainland it that is almost is. The tip of Cape Cornwall is further west than the coastguard lookout overlooking Sennen Cove and the shipwreck near Land's End.

    In fact, the longitude of Cape Cornwall's most westerly point is approximately equivalent to the exit from the Land's End coach parking area. The most westerly point on Dr Syntax's head is only about 450 metres further west than this.

  18. Go through the gap next to the gate and turn right down the steps. Follow the path to meet a tarmacked track from the beach at a waymark. Turn left at the waymark and follow the tarmac track until it ends in a junction with a gravel track at a waymark.

    Priest's Cove has nothing to do with the clergy and everything to do with misspelling. The cove was originally known as Porth Ust (St Just Cove) which was shortened locally to "Por Ust". At some point, "Por Ust Cove" was misrecorded on Ordnance Survey maps as "Priest Cove" and the name stuck.

    The beach is rocky at all states of the tide, with shingle at the top of the beach and boulders and rock platforms further down the beach. As the tide goes out, numerous rockpools are revealed. One area of rocks has been dammed to create a small seawater swimming pool for children.

  19. Turn right onto the track and follow it uphill to the cottages. Continue uphill on the stony track to where it passes through a gateway with a huge stone stile alongside.

    The rocks in the middle of the bay are The Brisons. On a clear day, the Scilly Isles can be seen on the skyline behind the rock on the left.

    The pair of rocks roughly a mile off the coast near Cape Cornwall are known as The Brisons which is from the French word brisant meaning "reef". They are part of a reef system that extends all the way from Gribba Point (Pen an Gribow in Cornish which is from the word krib, meaning "reef"). The smaller rock has a large protruding "nose" whilst the larger rock is more rotund and consequently the pair have been described as forming the profile of General Charles de Gaulle lying on his back.

  20. Pass through the gateway and bear left onto the tarmacked lane. Follow this past a trig. point on the left until you reach a large circular stone cairn on the right with an information board.

    The process of placing trig points on top of prominent hills and mountains began in 1935 to assist in the retriangulation of Great Britain - a project to improve the accuracy of maps which took three decades.

    The brass plate with three arms and central depression was used to mount a theodolite which was used to measure the angles between neighbouring trig points very accurately. These angles allowed the construction of a system of triangles which covered the entire country and provided a measurement system accurate to around 20 metres.

  21. Turn right and follow the path around the cairn and the small path leading from the opposite side to reach a path along the coast.

    Ballowall Cairn was discovered in Victorian times after it had been buried under mine tips. It contained a number of burial cists with artefacts dating right back to the Stone Age but others were found from the Bronze Age implying it was in use for thousands of years. The site was excavated in the 19th Century after miners' tales of strange lights and fairies and some reconstruction work was carried out as part of the excavation. Unfortunately many of the finds that were reported from the original excavation of the site have also been lost, possibly into private collections. A Roman coin was found in one of the cists which may indicate that the site was still in use after the Bronze Age.

    More about the Ballowall barrow

  22. When you reach the coastal path, turn left and follow it until you reach a junction with another large path from the left.

    The headland sticking out into the bay is Dr Syntax's Head at Land's End. The islands with a lighthouse are The Longships. On a clear day, you can see another lighthouse on the skyline. This is Wolf Rock.

    Wolf Rock is a pinnacle seven miles southwest of Gwennap Head which rises more than 60 metres to break the surface. The rock earned its name from the howling sound caused by gale force winds blowing through fissures in the rock.

    In the 1830s, a beacon was built on the rock which has survived into the 21st Century. The beacon consists of a metal cone, just under 5 metres in diameter and height, constructed of iron plates and filled with cement rubble. The difficulties of building this were enormous: during 5 years, there were only 302 hours during which work could be carried out. Work on a 25 metre lighthouse began in 1861 and took 8 years to complete. It is constructed of granite quarried at Lamorna Cove and until 1988, it was manned.

  23. Continue ahead at the junction and follow the path down into the valley to reach a small granite waymark at a junction of paths.

    Shafts which are fenced and completely open are one of the favourite nesting places of bats and the Cornish chough. Therefore resist the temptation to drop stones down the shafts otherwise you may unknowingly be stoning bats or chough chicks to death.

  24. Continue ahead on the bridleway until the path ends on a lane beside a footpath sign.

    Fossil records indicate that bracken dates back at least 55 million years. By 24 million years ago it had a worldwide distribution and it is now thought to be the most common plant in the world.

  25. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to the end to reach a granite post on the left with paths leading down to a footbridge, just before the barrier where the lane ends.

    Porth Nanven is also known as "Dinosaur Egg Beach" due to the ovoid granite boulders. The boulders were smoothed into this shape by the sea when sea levels were much higher and then trapped on the land when sea levels dropped, becoming buried under the topsoil. The sea has slowly eroded the land and freed the trapped boulders which you can see embedded in the cliffs behind the beach. Souvenir collecting was causing depletion of the smaller boulders so they are now protected; removing them is an offence which would result in a criminal record.

    More about Porth Nanven

  26. Follow the path from the granite post across the footbridge over the stream. Then keep left and follow the path upwards to reach an area of flat rock where the path joins an inland path

    The area of the Atlantic between North Cornwall and Ireland is also known as the Celtic Sea - a name first suggested in the 1920s. The newfangled name has caught on more in academic and surveying circles. The public generally use "Atlantic" where "the bit of it near here" is automatically implied.

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  27. When you reach the area of flat rock at the top of the climb, continue ahead to follow the path along the coast and reach a granite waymark on a rock outcrop.

    Lizards are cold-blooded so they need to bask in the sun to warm up to their "operating temperature" which is around 30 Celcius. They usually do so with an area of cover nearby which forms an escape route from predators. You're therefore likely to encounter them in sunny spots on footpaths and footbridges. Once they spot you, they will usually make a hasty escape - they can move pretty quickly once they are warmed-up. During winter they hibernate as in cold temperatures they are too slow to catch any food (insects, spiders etc. which are also less numerous over the winter).

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round.

    During the summer months, stonechats eat invertebrates. As temperature drop and there are not so many of these about, they make do with seeds and fruit such as blackberries. Quite a few die in cold winters but this is offset by their fast breeding rate during the warmer months.

  28. Keep right at the waymark to follow the coast path and continue to reach a wooden waymark.

    Choughs sometimes nest along this stretch of coast.

    The chough is a member of the crow family, with striking red legs and a red beak. They are also recognisable from feathers, spread like fingers, on their wing tips. It was known as the "Crow of Cornwall" and appears on the county coat of arms. The birds have a loud, distinctive "chee-ow" call which is perhaps best described as resembling a squeaky dog toy! Once you've heard it a couple of times, you'll be able recognise them from the sound long before you can see them.

  29. Turn left at the waymark and follow the path uphill to a granite waymark.

    The name "chough" is from the bird's call although this is not that accurate as "chough" is more like the sound a jackdaw makes (a very short "chu"). Locally, choughs were known as "chaws" which is a better representation of their (much longer) sound.

    The old Cornish name for the bird is Palores, meaning digger, which is thought to be a description of it rooting for invertebrates.

    The scientific name (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) means "fire crow" which is likely to be an allusion to its red bill and legs. This possibly also relates to the birds' mischievous reputation during the Tudor and Elizabethan periods for stealing lighted candles or embers and dropping these onto roofs, which were generally thatched in Cornwall at this time.

  30. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path to a junction of paths at the top of the cliff with a National Trust sign for Letcha.

    Sorrel is common in fields and hedgerows and easily recognisable by its red seeds at the top of a tall stalk. The leaves resemble small, narrow dock leaves.

    Sorrel is used both in soups or as a salad vegetable. The leaves have a pleasant lemony flavour. The plant was known in Cornwall during Victorian times as "green sauce".

    In common with many vegetables, sorrel contains oxalic acid. Exactly how much is a bit unclear: many articles mention "high amounts" though some published studies report a lower percentage than in spinach, parsley or rhubarb, though don't specify how easily soluble the oxalic acid is in each case. Oxalic acid poisonous if enough is consumed and prolonged exposure can cause kidney stones. So use sorrel reasonably sparingly and don't eat it every day.

  31. Bear right to follow the path along the coast. Continue to reach a granite waymark where another path joins, beside a gap in a wall.

    In 1851, the ship "New Commercial" ran aground in a storm on the reef of The Brisons and was wrecked. The crew managed to climb onto the rocks but six of these were swept off the rocks by the huge waves. Of the three remaining, one managed with great skill and courage to build a makeshift raft from the wreckage and paddle this into Whitesand Bay where he was rescued by local fishermen. The remaining two on the rocks were the captain and his wife, who couldn't swim and was wearing only a nightdress. They remained there for two days until a rescue boat reached them and fired a rocket line. Both were rescued but the captain's wife - Mary Sanderson - sadly died of exposure in the rescue boat before she could be brought ashore, and is buried in Sennen churchyard. As a result of the tragedy, the Sennen lifeboat was established.

  32. Keep right through the gap in the wall and follow the path. Continue through a kissing gate and up the rough stone steps to reach the top of the next headland.

    The Longships Lighthouse is located just over a mile off Land's End on the highest of the islets known as Carn Bras. The original tower built in 1795 was 40ft high, perched on the 39ft high rock but despite the lantern being nearly 80ft above the sea, it was sometimes obscured by the huge waves off Lands End. A new taller tower was therefore constructed starting in 1869 and completed in 1873 and was manned until 1988. The current lantern emits a white flash seaward, but red-tinted glass colours the light for any vessel straying to the headlands to the north or south.

  33. From the top of the rock outcrop, continue along the coast over the next hill and descend to pass to the left of the walled mineshafts and reach a kissing gate.

    The granite outcrops on the headlands give rise to names beginning carn which means "rock outcrop" in Cornish. The outcrop you climb up to is Carn Polpry (Polpry is the name of the cove). As you descend, the rock outcrop beside the walled mineshafts has a name with a less obvious origin - Carn Ding Dong.

    The rocks provide a holdfast for lichens.

    One in five of all known fungi form lichens. Studies suggest that many species of fungi that form lichens started out from ancestors that lived on organic waste. Fossils have also revealed that the symbiosis between algae and fungi dates back more than 400 million years roughly to the time when plants first evolved from green algae.

  34. Go through the gate and follow the path down the valley to a footbridge.

    The beach is known either as Nanquidno or Nanjulian beach. There are some grassy areas just above the rocky beach which make good picnic spots. According to some sources, the beach is reported as being sometimes popular with naturists. Given that the beach consists entirely of granite boulders, this seems unlikely to be comfortable, especially in strong sunshine when the rocks can get rather hot.

  35. Cross the two footbridges and continue ahead. When you reach a junction of paths, keep right up the steps. Climb the steps to emerge on a path beside a Nanjulian National Trust sign.

    As a wave approaches the beach, the bottom of the wave (which extends as far below the water as the crest does above the surface) starts to get close the the seabed and this begins to slow the wave down. As it slows down, its energy is transferred into increased height and the result is more closely-spaced, taller waves. The bottom of the wave now extends even closer to the seabed and is slowed even more. Eventually, the top of the wave outruns the bottom and the wave breaks. More sudden changes to depth allow the wave to get taller and steeper before it has time to break which is why "reef breaks" attract surfers.

  36. At the top of the steps, turn right and follow the coast path past the Nanjulian sign. Continue until you reach a fork in the path with a sign for a permissive path.

    During Victorian times, ravens were exterminated by farmers and gamekeepers throughout much of the UK but retained a stronghold in the southwest. Their nests, constructed of robust twigs, can be seen along the cliffs in Cornwall.

  37. At the fork, bear left up the permissive path to Nanjulian. Follow the path until you reach a gate into a field.

    Several species of heather grow in Cornwall and are most easily recognised when they flower from July to September. The one with the most brightly coloured (purple) flowers is known as bell heather due to the bell-shaped flowers. This is the earliest one to start flowering - normally in June. Bell heather is usually interspersed with ling or common heather which has much smaller flowers which are usually paler and pinker and come out at the start of July. A third kind known as cross-leafed heath is less abundant but can be recognised by the pale pink bell-shaped flowers that grow only near the tips of the stems, resembling pink lollipops. A fourth species known as Cornish heath grows only on the Lizard and has more elaborate flowers which are mostly pale with a dark purple crown at the front.

    Researchers have found that ravens use gesture to communicate in a similar way to humans. Obviously ravens don't have hands so instead they point with their beaks to indicate an object to another bird, just as we do with our fingers. They also hold up an object in their beak to get another bird's attention.

  38. Go through the gate and head straight up the field to a stone stile in the corner of the hedge.

    The carpets of tiny blue flowers on the coast during April and May are the appropriately-named spring squill, which up close is a star-shaped pale blue flower with a dark blue stamen. They achieve their early flowering by storing energy over the winter in a bulb so they can be the first flowers out on the cliffs before they become overshadowed by larger plants. They thrive in locations which are beaten with wind and salt-laden spray which they are able to tolerate but other plants, which might otherwise out-compete them, cannot.

    The interdependency between plants and pollinating insects is thought to have accelerated the formation of new species (i.e. a group where members can only reproduce successfully with other members from that group, not from other groups) both for the plants and for the insects. This is thought to explain why there are a few hundred species of conifer but a few hundred thousand species of flowering plant. This has allowed flowering plants to become highly specialised for habitat niches (e.g. salty coastline) and so dominate many of them.

  39. Cross the stile and bear left across the field initially towards the gateway, then just before this bear right to keep the wall on your left and follow it to a corner with a stone stile.

    The yellow flowers in the field in early spring are celandines.

    Lesser celandines the common plants along woodland paths recognisable by their yellow star-shaped flowers. Despite their name, they are not closely related to the Greater Celandine. Lesser celandines are actually a member of the buttercup family and, like buttercups, they contain the poisonous chemical protoanemonin.

    As you cross the (first) stile, if you turn around, there is a panoramic view which includes Sennen Cove and the Longships lighthouse. The rock outcrop on the other side of the small gate onto the coast at the top of the field, called Carn Creagle, is also known as "The Watch" for this reason.

  40. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a gateway ahead in the far hedge.

    Granite is the most common igneous rock found at Earth's surface and also the oldest - thought to be formed up to 300 million years ago.

  41. Go through the gateway ahead and follow the wall on the right to another gateway.

    The stony area on the left-hand side of the field is the remains of a prehistoric settlement.

    The settlement consisted of a cluster of five houses, each with a courtyard; four of which are around a central enclosed area. It is thought that the central area might have been a community public space. There is also the remains of an underground chamber (fogou), although this one appears to be partially above-ground. Artefacts at the site dates from the Iron Age but it also shows signs of occupation in Roman times. It is possible that the structure of the settlement may have evolved over the centuries as houses with courtyards are more typical of the Roman period.

  42. Go through the gateway and cross the field to the gateway opposite.

    In late spring and summer, swallows can often be seen swooping over the fields here.

    Swallows face a major weather forecasting challenge: to know when to migrate, they need to know what the temperature will be like 7,000 miles away. It is thought that swallows solve this problem by choosing locations at each end where the respective dipping and rising temperatures correlate well, so the temperature when leaving is what they can expect when they arrive.

    Birds are technically considered reptiles and the only surviving group of dinosaurs as they are the descendants of the group known as theropods (that Tyrannosaurus rex belonged to). The oldest bird fossils are about 150 million years old and looked like small, feathered dinosaurs with sharp teeth.

  43. Go through the gateway and bear left very slightly down the middle of the field to reach a track on the far side leading out of the field. Follow this to a gate.

    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.

    Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas (reflecting more heat than carbon dioxide) and there are around billion cows in the world, this has led to concern about the contribution that methane belched out by livestock is making to global warning. However, since methane is quite a short-lived greenhouse gas (about 12 years) and since the number of cattle hasn't changed that quickly over time, atmospheric methane levels are fairly stable. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, lasts hundreds of years in the atmosphere so this is much more able to build up over time. One other factor is that pastureland is able to absorb triple the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide as grain fields so grass-fed cattle are preferable to grain-fed.

  44. Go through the gate and follow the track to a footbridge.

    The settlement of Nanjulian was recorded in 1428 as Nanshelen and is thought to be from the Cornish word elin meaning "elbow", as well as the word for "valley". The name perhaps refers to the bend in the course of the river and its associated valley near Nanjulian Mill where it turns to meet the sea.

  45. Cross the bridge and turn right onto the lane. Follow it uphill until you reach a public footpath sign, marking tracks either side of the lane.

    Clapper bridges are an ancient form of bridge built out of stone slabs spanning piers in the river. Most were built during mediaeval times, often beside a ford where horses and carts would cross. There is disagreement over the origin of the word "clapper". One candidate is an Anglo-Saxon word cleaca meaning "a bridge of stepping stones". Another is a mediaeval Latin word clapus which is is thought to have originated in Celtic Western Europe and mean "pile of stones".

    The settlement of Nanquidno was first recorded in 1327 as Nansgwynyou. The name is based on the Cornish words nans (valley) and gwynn (white).

  46. Turn left at the footpath sign and follow the track uphill to a pedestrian gate before the track reaches a farm gate.

    In the field on the right are the remains of a prehistoric settlement from the Bronze Age or Iron Age. Not much is now left - just a few earth banks and hut circles.

    The low stone walls remaining as hut circles were once the foundations of a round house. The granite foundations were likely to have been set into cob (mud and straw) walls which provided insulation and draft exclusion over bare-stone walls. A conical thatched roof on a timber frame rested on top of the walls. Heating was via a central fire which required some care with the thatched roof - presumably roof fires were not unheard of! These buildings varied in size from a just over a metre in diameter up to 10 metres. Some had walled enclosures attached and a few also had internal partitions.

  47. Go through the pedestrian gate and cross the field to the open gateway ahead (to the right of the barns). If in winter this is too muddy to pass through, there is a gate onto the lane in the right wall of the field - you can turn left onto the lane to pick the walk up after the next direction.

    Despite the proximity to a prehistoric settlement, the rocket-shaped standing stone in the centre of the field is much more likely to be a cattle rubbing stone erected in the 19th century. There are a number of these in West Cornwall. In particular, near Lamorna Cove, there is a group of fields with one in the centre of each.

  48. Go through the gateway and continue straight ahead to cross the field diagonally to the gate in the corner.
  49. Cross the stone stile to the left of the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane until you reach a public footpath sign beside a waymarked stone stile on the right.

    Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids arising from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  50. Cross the stile and continue straight ahead across the corner of the field to a stone stile in the right-hand hedge.

    The stink from decaying cabbages is due to sulphur compounds which it stores in its leaves, ready for the production of seeds later on. The compounds are also more concentrated in the plant if it has been deprived of water. These compounds are also released from the plant when leaves are boiled - the longer it's cooked, the more cabbage smell. The silver lining is that it's thought that the smelly compounds may possibly have anti-cancer properties. Whilst that's being researched a bit more, blanching or braising cabbage is a less smelly way to cook it.

  51. Cross the stile and turn left. Follow along the left hedge to reach a stile in the corner of the field.

    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.

  52. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge of the field to a stone stile.

    Blackberries are closely related to raspberries and technically neither is a berry but an aggregate of many individual tiny fruits, each containing a tiny stone like a miniature cherry.

    The growth rhythm of brambles is so steady that it can be used in forensics to work out how long remains have been at a crime scene.

  53. Cross the stile, and the one after it, then follow the right hedge of the field to a waymarked stile in the far hedge.

    Since prehistoric times, a year of fallow was used to allow soil nutrients to recover before planting a crop the following year. By the end of the Middle Ages, a three-year scheme was in use with alternating crops allowing production two out of three years. In the 18th Century a four-crop rotation was introduced (wheat, turnips, barley, and clover) which not only resulted in continuous production but included a grazing crop and a winter fodder crop, providing food for livestock throughout the year. Crops used in the rotation had different nutrient demands, giving the soil chance to recover. In particular, bean crops and clover impart nitrogen into the soil and are therefore a key part of modern rotation schemes. As well as balancing the use of soil nutrients between years, by staggering the rotation in adjacent fields, the spread of pests and diseases is reduced.

  54. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a gap in the far hedge.

    In spring, some of the fields here are sometimes planted with daffodils as part of the crop rotation. Even in years they are not planted, a few stray ones often grow amongst the crops.

    Growing daffodils has been an important industry in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for over a century. When the Great Western Railway reached Cornwall, this provided a means to export perishable goods such as fresh flowers and fish which previously would not have survived the long journey by boat or horse and cart. Out of respect for the dead, coffins were transported by the railway for free. It was therefore not unheard of for coffins filled with daffodils to arrive in London from Cornwall.

    Daffodils contain chemical compounds which are toxic to dogs, cats and humans and ingestion of any part of a daffodil is likely to cause a stomach upset e.g. when unsupervised children have eaten leaves. The bulbs have both higher concentrations and a broader range of toxins than the rest of the plant and can be mistaken for onions (although don't smell of onion).

    In Celtic times, fields were small and surrounded by banks or stone walls. The fields were used both for growing crops such as oats, wheat or rye, and for keeping livestock. The field shape was round or square, rather than rectangular, so that the stones didn't have to be carried further than necessary. The small size was because they needed to be weeded by hand, in many ways similar to a modern-day allotment.

  55. Continue through the gap, initially along the right hedge, and then straight ahead to reach a stone stile in the hedge ahead.

    The stile you pass in the right hedge is for a path leading to Kelynack.

    In English we often add a -y ending to a noun to turn it into an adjective; for example "rock" becomes "rocky". For many of the nouns imported from French, we add "-ic" (acidic, magnetic, artistic...). The equivalent in Cornish is to add -ack or -ek to the end of the word. Thus meynek is "stony" (men is stone), stennack means "tinny" (sten is tin).

    Kelynn is the Cornish word for holly which means that kelynnek is ... harder to express succinctly in English ("abounding in holly" or possibly "holly-tastic").

  56. Cross the stile and continue straight ahead across the field to a stone stile in the hedge opposite.

    The settlement to the left is called Hendra.

    Hendra is a common Cornish place name meaning "home farm" (from the Cornish word hendre which itself is based on the words hen meaning old, and dre is equivalent to tre). Hendra was also used as a boy's first name with the meaning literally "from the family farm".

  57. Cross the stile and bear left slightly to a stone stile in the hedge opposite.

    The red campion produces a blaze of pink flowers along hedgerows in the spring with the most intense flowering period occurring between late April and the end of June. A scattering of flowers continue throughout the rest of the summer. In the mild Cornish climate, a few plants can also be seen flowering during winter months.

  58. Cross the stile and bear right to a gap in the hedge to the right of the gateway.

    The word crow is from the Old English crawe. Since this sounds a lot like the noise the bird makes, there is a misconception that the Old English is directly derived from this. In fact the word is far older. It's related the the Old Saxon kraia and can be traced back further to a Proto-Indo-European word from the late Neolithic period which is thought to mean "to call hoarsely".

  59. Cross the cattle-grid-like stile in the gap in the hedge and cross the field to a waymark beside the telegraph pole in the bottom-left corner of the field.

    The mounds along the far hedge of the field are associated with mine workings here. About 5 mineshafts have been identified although not much is known about them. They are marked as "old shafts" on the 2nd Edition OS map from the early 1900s. A small tin mine known as Kelynack Mine was known to be in operation in this area in 1901 with an adit down the in valley to drain the mine.

  60. Cross the stile beside the waymark and follow the path until it emerges down some steps onto a lane.

    Navelwort is a member of the stonecrop family which are able to survive in barren locations by storing water in their fleshy leaves. In dry conditions, the plant takes emergency measures to conserve water, producing fewer green chloroplasts (so it goes red) and loses it succulent fleshiness. Leaves with red tinges are therefore not the ones to forage.

  61. Turn left onto the lane to reach a waymark and then cross the stile on the right beside it. Bear left down the field to a gap in the hedge ahead.
  62. Go through the gap and bear left to the gap on the left side of the fence. Go down the steps, through the kissing gate and bear left to the stile beside the telegraph pole.

    Even up to the 16th Century, magpies were simply known as "pies" from the Old French word pie (related to the Latin word for magpie - pica). The term "pied" meaning "black-and-white" (as in pied wagtail) is from the magpie's colouration. It's also possible that the pastry thing we now know as a pie (which can be traced back to Mediaeval Latin) was named after the magpie. It has been speculated that the assortment of ingredients in the pastry crust was likened to objects collected in a magpie nest. The "mag" in the modern name is a (somewhat sexist) mediaeval slang word for someone who chatters, based on the name Margaret.

  63. Cross the stile and bear right to cross the field diagonally to a stile in the top corner.

    Unlike many birds that just sing in spring, robins sing nearly all year round. In fact during winter if you hear birdsong, it's most likely to be a robin. Despite how cute robins look, they are actually very territorial and the chirp is an aggressive warning to any would-be intruders not to even think of trying it. When robins don't sing, this a sign that their body fat reserves are low and they are conserving what little they have left until food becomes more plentiful.

  64. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to reach a kissing gate and stile.
  65. Go through the gate and cross the stile to reach a narrow lane. Follow this until it ends at a junction.
  66. Keep left at the junction and follow the road until you reach a sign for Cot Valley and Cape Cornwall, opposite a junction on the right.
  67. Turn right opposite the Cot Valley sign to return to the car park.

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