Circular walk from Tehidy Woods to Deadman's Cove

Tehidy Woods to Deadman's Cove

A circular walk through the wildlife reserve and bluebell woodland of Tehidy Country Park to Deadman's Cove and the North Cliffs where many sailing ships were wrecked before the Godrevy Lighthouse was built.

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The walk begins through the Tehidy Country Park wildlife area with its famously tame squirrels. The route follows the river through Tehidy Woods to Coombe and then crosses the Reskajeage Downs to reach the North Cliffs near Deadman's Cove. The walk then follows the coast path along the top of the steep cliffs to Basset's Cove. Here the walk re-enters Tehidy Country Park, passing through the bluebell woods of the North Cliffs Plantation to complete the circular route.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/7 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 104 OS Explorer 104 (laminated version)

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


  • Lakes and river cascades through the Country Park
  • Wildlife including birds, butterflies and very tame squirrels
  • Rugged coastal scenery along the North Cliffs
  • Bluebells in spring in the North Woods Plantation
  • Autumn colours in Tehidy Woods


  1. Go through the Tehidy Country Park South Drive entrance and turn left into the wildlife area. Follow the path over two bridges to a junction, with another bridge to the right.

    The manor of Tehidy was owned by the Basset family from Norman times until 1916. During the 1700s, the family became very wealthy from copper mining and a mansion was built in 1734, set in extensive grounds with a lake. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the manor was frequented by the gentry and inventors of mining technology. Shortly after the manor was sold, it was converted to a hospital which was devastated by a fire just two weeks after opening. In 1983, the grounds were purchased by Cornwall Council and were developed as a Country Park which is now the largest area of woodland in West Cornwall.

  2. Turn left at the junction (away from the bridge) and follow the path until you reach a purple waymark where a path leads to the edge of the lake.

    The waterfowl and squirrels here are exceptionally tame due to being fed by park visitors. Feeding bread to waterfowl is actually really bad for them. The birds become hooked on "junk food" and stop foraging for their natural foods which causes them to become malnourished and can lead to wing deformities and disease.

  3. Turn right and follow the path alongside the lake until you reach a junction of paths by a footbridge made from stone slabs.

    Swans usually mate for life, although "divorce" can sometimes occur if there is a nesting failure. The birds can live for over 20 years but in the 20th Century many swans were found to be suffering from lead poisoning. This was tracked down to the tiny "lead shot" weights used for fishing that swans would hoover up with weed and roots from the bottom of rivers and lakes. Since the introduction of non-toxic metals for making fishing weights, incidents of poisoning have disappeared and the swan population is now even growing very slightly.

  4. Follow the path ahead, alongside the river, to reach a larger bridge with iron railings on the far side.

    The stream running through the Tehidy Country Park was heavily canalised and widely diverted during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This was to feed a series of "streamworks" to extract alluvial tin. In Oak Wood, the various banks and river channels are thought to be the remains of a large stream-working operation.

  5. Cross the path which goes over the bridge and continue ahead on the path alongside the river until another path merges from the left, at a bench.

    In order to later find the nuts that they've buried, squirrels need to be organised. Some species of squirrel have been studied and found to structure their hoards by type of nut e.g. burying all their acorns under one tree and all their conkers under another. This is equivalent to us organising all the veg onto one shelf of the fridge to make it easier to remember where to look for them.

  6. Continue ahead on the path until it ends at a T-junction of paths, opposite a signpost.

    Some of the tallest trees in the woodland are beech.

    Young beech leaves can be used as a salad vegetable, which are described as being similar to a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture. Older leaves are a bit chewy, as you'd expect.

    Beech bark is very delicate and does not heal easily. Consequently some graffiti carved in beech trees is still present from more than a century ago. This is a practice that should be strongly discouraged as it permanently weakens the tree, making attack by insects more likely which can prematurely end its life.

  7. Turn right in the direction of Kennels Hill and cross Otter Bridge. Follow the path to another signpost.

    The bridge is named after the otters that lived along the river here. There are reports of otter sightings in the park in relatively recent times, although they are likely to lie low when there are people and dogs around.

    The otter's semi-aquatic nature has been well known since ancient times, in fact the words "otter" and "water" both derive from the same original word. It has been reported that Bodmin Moor acts as an interchange for commuting otters as the rivers Camel, Delank, Fowey and Inny all have sources or tributaries in a quite a small area.

    During the 1960s, the otter population crashed in the UK due to the widespread use of pesticides such as DDT which leached into the waterways and poisoned the otters. However, due to predominance of dairy farming in Cornwall during this period rather than the more pesticide-reliant arable, the county remained an otter stronghold. The Tamar Otter Sanctuary near the Devon border was a key part of the otter conservation movement which has been a remarkable success. It is thought that otters have now re-colonised all the areas in the UK that they were wiped out from during the 20th Century.

  8. Turn left at the signpost, in the direction of West Drive to Coombe, and follow the bridleway all the way through the woods to emerge on a driveway, and follow this to reach a lane.

    The jay is a member of the crow family recognisable by the flash of electric blue on their otherwise brown body. Their natural habitat is woodland, particularly oak.

    Like squirrels, jays collect and bury acorns as a winter food store. Once jays were the main means by which oaks colonised new locations as a population of 65 jays can bury (but not always find again afterwards) half a million acorns in a month. Jays prefer to bury their acorns in open ground which is an ideal spot for a new oak tree.

  9. Turn right onto the lane and follow it for about 100 metres, past Coombe Park, to reach a public footpath sign on the right, with a pedestrian gate.

    Cornwall has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • tenow - valley floor
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream (from Old English)
  10. Turn right through the gate marked with the public footpath sign and follow the path uphill until you reach a sequence of 2 gates.

    Hawthorn berries have traditionally been used to make fruit jellies as they contain pectin and have an apple-like flavour. A reason for making seedless jellies is that the seeds in hawthorn berries contain a compound called amygdalin, which is cyanide bonded with sugar. In the gut this is converted to hydrogen cyanide.

    There are two species of hawthorn found in the UK. Common hawthorn (also known as one-seed hawthorn) has a single seed in each berry. The other species - known as midland or woodland hawthorn - has two seeds per berry (and 2 stigmas in the flower rather than one). In Cornwall, the "midland" species is - as you might guess from the name - not that common.

  11. Go through both gates and continue along the path to another similar sequence of 2 gates.

    An impressively purple blackberry, pear and ginger chutney can be made with blackberries stashed in the freezer. Simmer 500g blackberries, a few chilli flakes, 4 chopped pears and a finely-chopped 8cm piece of fresh ginger until the liquid reduces. Add 150ml distilled or white wine vinegar, and sugar to taste (amount will depend on tartness of the blackberries). Reduce a bit longer until the desired "gloopy" consistency is achieved and finally season with a little salt to taste to balance the sweetness.

    Bramble roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!). In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers.

  12. Again go through the gates and follow the path to a kissing gate, just before the road.

    The coast between Godrevy and Portreath is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    There are 33 regions in England designated Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) many of which were created at the same time as the National Parks. In fact the AONB status is very similar to that of National Parks.

    There is a single Cornwall AONB which was established in 1959 and is itself subdivided into 12 sections. 11 of these are stretches of the coastline and the 12th is Bodmin Moor.

  13. Go through the gate and then carefully cross the road to the track opposite (marked with a National Trust North Cliffs sign) and follow it to a parking area. Walk along the right edge to reach a short waymark post by the coast.

    Heather plants can live up to 40 years and over time they form woody stems. This provides them with a way of excreting heavy metals that they absorb by locking it up in the layers of dead wood (found by researchers as the areas in the plant with the highest concentrations). Their woody stems have also found many uses over the centuries including fuel, thatch and ropes. One other use has made it into the genus name for heather - kallune is Greek for "to brush".

    At the bottom of North Cliffs between Portreath and Godrevy Point are a pair of beaches to which narrow, steep paths run from the clifftop. Due to their north-facing aspect, the beaches are often in the shadow of the cliffs. The one with a sandy shoreline is known as Greenbank Cove and the neighbouring beach where the surf breaks onto rocks is known by the somewhat swashbuckling name of Deadman's Cove.

  14. Turn right at the waymark and follow the coast path to reach another car park.

    At the end of the promontory is a pair of 2-metre-high banks and ditches, which are the remains of an Iron-Age fort known as Crane Castle. Much of the land that it was on has since collapsed into the sea.

    Promontory forts are only found in the South West of England and are thought to be introduced from Brittany due to the strong links between the Celtic communities. Although many do contain the foundations of Iron-Age roundhouses, it is thought unlikely that the wind-beaten areas on clifftops were permanent residences. Although the initial assumption was that the ramparts were purely functional and for defence, another possibility is that the ramparts were used as a status symbol, making a statement about the power and importance of the owners. If this were the case, the locations could have been used for a range of functions including religious, social, or trade.

  15. As you enter the car park, turn right and follow the track to the road.

    During Tudor times - in the late 1570s, four hogshead barrels washed up on the beach at Portreath. Much to delight of the inhabitants of Portreath, each of these was found to contain around 60 gallons of French wine. More wreckage washed up along the North Cliffs and below the Carvannel Downs including a ship's mast, from which it was identified as from a cargo ship from Gascony. It is thought that it may have foundered in rough seas off Portreath; possibly its cargo of wine had shifted.

  16. Carefully cross the road and turn right. Walk along the verge to the Tehidy signs.
  17. Turn left and follow the track to the stone walls at the far side of the car park.

    There are four country parks in Cornwall, managed by Cornwall Council:

    • Mount Edgcumbe (885 acres and managed jointly with Plymouth City Council)
    • Kit Hill (400 acres)
    • Tehidy (250 acres)
    • Seaton (130 acres)
  18. Go through the gap and continue ahead for a few paces to reach a waymark post on the right with green and pink arrows.
  19. Turn left through the gap in the wall opposite and follow the main path until it ends in a junction with a waymark post with green and pink arrows.

    In early spring, the yellow flowers of lesser celandine carpet the woodland.

    Celandine roots have numerous knobbly tubers and when these break off, a new plant can regrow from the tuber. Digging animals such as rabbits and squirrels can therefore help to spread celandines. In some parts of the world they have become an invasive problem where their dense mat of leaves chokes out native species which have not evolved to compete with them.

    Most of a large tree's trunk is actually made of dead wood known as "heartwood". Only the outer layers (known as sapwood) are actually active. The sapwood transport water and minerals up the tree from the roots to the leaves. The sapwood next to the heartwood gradually fills up with resin and then dies to create another strong layer heartwood which supports the increasing weight of the tree.

  20. At the junction, turn right and then stay on the main path, following it until it forks at another waymark (with the left path leading between 2 huge green bushes).

    Sycamore flowers are pollinated by flies such as bluebottles rather than the wind. Within the female flower, two of the carpels (reproductive parts) are fused together. These develop into the pair of fused seeds with their "wings" at an angle. When the seeds fall, this creates the "helicopter" action that allows the seeds to be caught and carried by the wind as they slowly spiral downwards.

  21. Keep right at the fork and follow the path past a junction to the right opposite a waymark (green and pink arrows point ahead) to a junction with a path to the left (green and pink arrows point left).

    The beech woodland of the North Cliffs plantation has an impressive display of bluebells in the spring. Along the edges of the woods, strong, salt-laden winds have stunted the trees and made them bend away from the prevailing south westerly winds. The woods also include exotic tree species such as a huge monkey puzzle tree and Japanese maples which were planted around 200 years ago as part of the formal gardens.

  22. At the junction, turn left and follow the path until you reach a junction of paths with a signpost under the tree on the left.

    Bluebells come into flower here in April, peaking at the start of May.

    Some plant nutrients such as phosphorus tend to be more abundant near the surface of the soil where decaying organic matter collects. Bluebell seedlings start life at the surface so these are OK but as bluebell plants mature and send their roots deeper into the soil to avoid winter frosts, they have a phosphorus problem. They have solved this by partnering with a fungus that extends from their root cells, drawing in minerals from the soil in return for some carbohydrates from the plant.

    The formation of most of the world's coal deposits from wood occurred during a single geological period suitably-named the Carboniferous. It was postulated that this might be because white rot hadn't evolved by then so dead wood just accumulated. However, it's now thought more likely to be due to the formation of particularly deep swamps from the crust-buckling collisions of tectonic plates in this period which allowed wood both to accumulate in a low-oxygen environment and then be compressed into coal.

  23. At the signpost, bear right (signposted Coombe) then keep left along the major path to reach another signpost.

    One of the birds you may encounter in the woodland is the robin.

    The tradition of robins on Christmas cards is thought to arise from Victorian postmen wearing red jackets. Consequently they were nicknamed Robins.

  24. At the signpost, continue ahead in the direction marked "South Drive" 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.

  25. Go through the kissing gate next to the gate and follow the lane ahead until you reach a path marked "Footpath to Country Park", just past a junction on the right.

    Listen out for "fore": any stray golf balls will be from the left.

    In mediaeval times, golf balls were made from wood. In the 17th Century, the "featherie" was created, made from leather and stuffed with feathers. In the mid-1800s balls moulded from sap were the first to be mass-produced. They could also be heated and re-cast if they went out of shape from being hit. However people noticed that battle-scarred balls that had been used a long time seemed to fly more consistently. Golf ball manufacturers began etching different protrusions on the surfaces in attempts to improve the aerodynamics. The potential of a ball of elastic bands was discovered by a bored golfer waiting for a friend to finish work and by the 1890s, these were being coated in sap to make golf balls. In the early 1900s, it was found that indentations (rather than protrusions) on the surface resulted in better aerodynamics.

  26. Turn right down the path marked "South Drive Car Park" and follow this to a signpost.

    It is recorded in Flora Britannica that up until the 1980s: "From the woods at Tehidy, gypsies used to gather daffs to sell in Camborne outside Woolworths on a Saturday morning".

  27. Turn left at the signpost to reach the car park.

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