Towan Beach to Place House

Towan Beach to Place House

A walk on contrasting coastlines from the rugged Roseland coast to the sheltered creeks of the Percuil River opposite St Mawes.

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The walk starts along the Roseland coast from Towan Beach towards Zone Point, then crosses the peninsula to Place House (with an optional diversion to St Anthony church). The walk then follows the creeks of the Percuil River to complete the circular route.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 3.3 miles/5.4 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes or trainers in summer; walking boots in winter

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Views across Veryan Bay to Nare Head
  • Views across The Percuil River to St Mawes Castle and St Mawes
  • Sandy beach at Towan

Directions

  1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the road past Porth Cottage to reach a bridleway signposted to the right.

    In December 1963, the oil tanker Allegrity ran aground on Greeb Point between Portscatho and Towan Beach on St Anthony Head. As the tide rose, the ship re-floated and drifted along the Roseland, finally running aground on Veryan Beach. Just over a week later, it capsized and was declared a total loss. Her 14 crew were saved by the Falmouth lifeboat. The ship was scrapped on the beach with material being brought ashore using metal cables. 800 tonnes of crude oil were spilled in the incident.

  2. Go through the gate and follow the bridleway towards the beach, stopping short when you reach the coast path crossing the path.

    Towan beach faces southeast into Gerrans Bay so it is exposed in easterly winds which also cause seaweed to be thrown up onto the beach. When the wind is coming from the west or north, it is nicely sheltered. At high tide, the beach is sand and shingle but as the tide goes out, areas of rocks are revealed with some rockpools.

  3. When you reach the crossing, turn right up the step and follow the path until you reach a gate.

    The post that you pass on the left is a wreck post.

    Wreck posts, resembling a telegraph pole with wooden steps, were used for Coastguard practice exercises. The post emulated the mast of a sinking ship. A "shore" team would fire a rocket carrying a light line known as a whip to a man on the post. Once he caught this, it was secured to the post and a heavier line known as a hawser was pulled out using the light line and secured to the post. This was then used to haul out the Breeches Buoy (a lifebelt with an attached pair of shorts) that the crew member could be rescued with.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path to a bench and a National Trust sign for Killigerran Head. Just past this, keep right along the main path and follow this until you reach a gate.

    The Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust gather information about the numbers of seals in each location to study migration behaviour. Each seal has a unique pattern of spots which is like a fingerprint, allowing individuals to be identified so photos are also very useful.

    If you see one or more seals, take a photo if possible but never approach the seals to take a photo - use a zoom from a clifftop. Send the location, date, number of seals and photos if you have them to sightings@cornwallsealgroup.co.uk.

    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.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path along the bottom of the field to reach a gate on the far side.

    Look (and listen) out for choughs which are being sighted increasingly frequently around the Roseland peninsula. The birds can range over a long distance within a day and the headland here is well within range of their stronghold around The Lizard.

    In the 1800s, many choughs were killed by "sportsmen" and trophy hunters. Also around this time, grazing livestock were moved to inland pastures where they could be more easily managed. The result was that the cliff slopes became overgrown and choughs found it increasingly difficult to find suitable feeding areas. By 1973, the chough had become extinct in Cornwall. In recent years, clifftops have been managed more actively which has included the reintroduction of grazing. Choughs have returned to Cornwall by themselves from colonies in Wales or Ireland.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the path along the bottom of the field to a gap on the far side. Go through this and follow along the bottom of the field to reach a bench beside a Coast Path signpost.

    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, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    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.
  7. Turn right and head up the field to a kissing gate onto a lane.

    The beach is called Porthbeor - Cornish for "large cove". Mutation of the initial consonant happened a lot in Cornish words and the word for "large" consequently crops up in names as "meor", "veor" and "beor". Thus Porthmeor at St Ives means the same thing. A landslide occurred in 2014 and the collapsed cliff has continued slipping which has made the path to Porthbeor beach unsafe.

  8. Go through the kissing gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane to a junction of two no-through roads by the entrance to Roseland Place.

    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".

  9. Continue ahead at the junction and follow the lane past St Anthony Church to where it ends at Place Quay. Continue to where the fence ends in front of a slipway and there is a footpath signpost on the right.

    The parish church of St Anthony was established by the Augustinian Priory of Plympton and was built in 1150 and included a priory alongside, where Place house is now located. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, part of the priory was used as a residence and other parts were pulled down and the stone was used to build St Mawes Castle. Despite being extensively restored in the 19th century, the church still retains its original mediaeval plan.

  10. Go through the pedestrian gate in the fence on the right and then immediately turn left to follow the path along the fence. Continue on the path to a kissing gate.

    Lichens are a partnership of two different organisms: a fungus providing the "accommodation" and an alga or cyanobacterium providing the "food" through photosynthesis. The fungal partner provides a cosy, sheltered environment for the alga and tends it with mineral nutrients. However, the alga partner is more than simply an imprisoned food-slave: it is such a closely-evolved alliance that the fungus is dependant on the alga for its structure. If the fungal partner is isolated and grown on an agar plate, it forms a shapeless, infertile blob.

  11. Go through the gate and keep right to follow the path along the wooded creek edge. Continue on the path through the woods to reach a junction of paths at a signpost and keep left here to reach a pedestrian gate.

    A possible diversion from the ferry pontoon is to take the ferry across to St Mawes, walk roughly a half-mile round-trip to see the castle, then catch the ferry back and continue the walk.

    The settlement of St Mawes originally had a Cornish name which was first recorded as Lavada in 1284 and last recorded in 1502 as Lavousa, after which it died out and was replaced by St Mawes. The Cornish name is thought to have originally started with Lan, which implies it was a Dark Ages religious settlement.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge of the field to reach another pedestrian gate in the far hedge.

    The stile in the left hedge leads onto Lowlands Beach. There were once oyster beds on Lowlands Beach, first recorded on the 1880s Ordance Survey map and recorded again as still there in the early 1900s.

    There is evidence as far back as 8700 BC of Stone Age hunter-gatherers harvesting oysters. At Tintagel castle, oyster shells were found in a refuse tip from the "Dark Ages" (Celtic Early Mediaeval period in Cornwall) which have been dated to around the 6th Century. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, oyster beds were valuable enough to be recorded in the Domesday survey.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the path through the woods to a junction of paths at a signpost to Bohortha. Keep left towards Porth and follow the path parallel to the coast to emerge from the woods into a sloping field.

    Anyone who has sat on a holly leaf will know how prickly they can be but the leaves particularly on larger holly bushes often vary considerably with less spiky leaves nearer the top.

    Holly is able to vary its leaf shape in response to its environment through a chemical process known as DNA methylation which can be used to switch genes on and off. If its leaves are eaten by grazing animals or trampled by walkers, the holly will crank up the methylation level to produce really spiky leaves on these stems. Conversely on the stems where the leaves are able to grow old in peace, the holly will produce versions that are flatter and therefore more efficient at catching the light. An individual leaf can last up to five years.

  14. Follow the path along the left hedge of the field to an opening into the next field.

    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.

    As well as through pollen being transferred by insects from other plants, if there are not many insects around (e.g. in cold or wet weather), bramble flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen).

  15. Follow the path through the opening and continue on the gravel path until it ends in a junction with a track.

    A small settlement on the opposite side of the creek is (now) known as Froe.

    The settlement of Froe is thought to be a corruption of a Cornish Language word and date from early mediaeval times. The first record is from 1809 as Frow but it was also recorded in 1811 as Porthcaith (cat cove).

    The creek was dammed with a causeway to create a pool for a tidal mill. This was used to produce both fine flour for baking and grist (de-chaffed grain) for animal feed.

    Grain for animal feed was ground using millstones made from readily-available Cornish granite which tended to shed pieces of grit that would make flour unfit for human consumption. Fine flour used for baking was milled using millstones made of imported French quartz or limestone.

  16. Turn left onto the track and follow it uphill to reach the road. Turn right to the car park to complete the circular route.

    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).

    The "National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty" was founded in 1895 when snappy names weren't in fashion. Their first coastal acquisition was Barras Nose at Tintagel in 1897. Five years later, Tintagel Old Post Office was their first house to be acquired in Cornwall. The National Trust now owns over 700 miles of British coastline.

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