Tregantle to Crafthole circular walk

Tregantle to Crafthole

A circular walk in tributary valleys of the St Germans River and past the Victorian coastal defences overlooking Whitsand Bay where one of the forts is still in use today.

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After circling the inland side of the fort via the not-so-coastal section of the South West Coast Path, the route heads into the tributary valleys of the St Germans River on quiet lanes and footpaths to reach Crafthole. The route then meets the coast near Portwrinkle and follows the coastal path to the Tregantle ranges. The route passes through the firing ranges (having been timed for when they are inactive!) to return via the fort and the path to Tregantle beach.

Considerations

  • Part of the coastal section is closed when the firing ranges are active - use the firing times to plan your walk.
  • The route involves crossings of a B-road and paths along the verge close to fast traffic.
  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 108
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 108 OS Explorer 108 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Views over Whitsand Bay
  • Sandy beach at Tregantle
  • Wildflowers in spring
  • Optional short extension to Portwrinkle

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Finnygook Inn

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Turn right onto the verge outside the car park and follow the path along the verge to reach a lay-by with a postbox.

    The car park is on the site of the Tregantle Down Battery, constructed in 1892. It was designed to cover Whitsand Bay with high angle fire and was also the terminus of a military railway. It was abandoned in 1905 and the guns were removed in the 1920s. The battery remained in good condition until it was demolished in the mid-1970s.

  2. Continue through the lay-by to follow the path along the verge and continue until this ends opposite a track leading to a wooden gate on the opposite side of the road just before a road sign for Seaton and Plymouth.

    The body of water you can see across the fields is the St Germans River (another name for the Lynher). The military railway ran out of the back of the car park and then curved around to the left across the middle of the nearest field - the clump of trees was part of the line. The railway then curved to the right to resume its course towards the river. It then followed the riverbank upriver to the quays at Wacker, where military equipment was landed on barges.

  3. Carefully cross the road and turn right to follow the path along the verge past the road sign. Continue until the verge ends and carefully walk a couple more paces on the road to reach a flight of steps ascending from the road.

    Clover is a native plant and a member of the legume (pea and bean) family. It is also sown as a fodder crop and as "green manure" as it improves soil fertility. The two most common species are known simply as white clover and red clover, based on the colour of their flowers, with the latter generally being a slightly larger plant. Red clover leaves also have a white V shape.

  4. Climb the steps and follow the path along the top of the verge and then between the fence and hedge. Continue to reach a double metal gate where a track leads from the road.

    Cow parsley, also known by the more flattering name of Queen Anne's Lace, is a member of the carrot family. Over the last few decades, cow parsley has substantially increased on roadside verges: there is more than half as much again as there was 30 years ago. The reason is thought to be to an increase in soil fertility caused by a few different factors. In the more distant past, verges were grazed or the grass was cut and used for hay. Now when it is cut by mechanical devices, it is left to rot in place forming a "green manure". In the last few decades there has also been an increase in fertilising nitrogen compounds both from farm overspill and from car exhausts. Whilst this extra fertility is good news for cow parsley and also brambles and nettles, it is causing these species to out-compete many other wildflowers along hedgerows.

    The frothy "cuckoo spit" that can sometimes be seen on the stems of plants in May and June is a foam produced from plant sap that a froghopper nymph uses to protect itself. This acts as a thermal and moisture-conserving blanket that also hides it from predators and tastes nasty for those that get too inquisitive. The association with cuckoos is simply that it can be seen in spring when cuckoos can be heard.

    Froghoppers get their name as the adults jump from plant to plant. Some species can jump up to 70 cm vertically which is even more impressive relative to body weight than fleas. To put this in perspective, on the rollercoaster with the highest g-force in the world, riders experience an acceleration of just over 6 gs. A fighter pilot with a g-suit may experience acceleration of around 9 gs. Froghoppers exceed 400 gs of acceleration and that is self-propelled!

    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.

  5. Turn right to reach the road and turn right onto this. Walk carefully along the road a short distance until you are opposite a junction. Carefully cross to the junction and then follow the lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    When a caterpillar is still developing, it grows a small group of cells - known as an imaginal disc - for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly. When a caterpillar pupates, it digests itself, releasing enzymes which dissolve all of its tissues into a soup leaving only the imaginal discs. These then act as seeds from which the adult butterfly is resurrected.

    The spore from a fern doesn't grow into a fern. Instead it grows into an organism resembling a liverwort (i.e. a small green blob). Instead of producing spores, these produce eggs and also sperm which they interchange with neighbouring blobs to get a new mix of genes. The fertilised egg grows into a new fern and so this alternating process of ferns and blobs repeats.

  6. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane to the bottom of the valley. Continue uphill on the lane to reach a junction by an ivy-covered building named "Coach House".

    Settlements in the valley date from mediaeval times with Kerslake in 1349 and Trethill recorded in 1393. Kerslake is thought to be from "cress" (presumably watercress) and "stream" (for which "lake" was sometimes used in mediaeval times).

    A little further down the valley was a mill, originally recorded as Kestlake Mill in the 18th Century but renamed to Bagg Mill in the 19th Century. A mill pond was recorded on the Tithe map from around 1840, further down the valley from the ponds beside the road and now under tree cover.

  7. Turn right and follow the lane until you reach a gate on the left with a public footpath sign, just before the lane ends in a junction with an A-road.

    As you walk down the hill, there's a nice view of Sheviock church. It's possible to take a diversion to the church by walking along the edge/verge of the A-road to the left then swapping to the pavement from the buildings on the opposite side, but note that the A-road has fast traffic so this may not appeal to everyone.

    The first record of Sheviock Church is recorded in 1193, after being rebuilt, but it is likely that there was a church here for at least a century before this in 1086 when the manor of Sheviock was owned by Tavistock Abbey. Nothing survives from these, or any earlier churches, but in 1259 the church was once again rebuilt and also rededicated, and the west tower and font date from this period. The remainder of the church dates from the 14th and 15th Centuries and was restored during Victorian times. The church has an eye-catching large and colourful stained-glass window above the altar and there are three mediaeval tombs in the church of the Norman family that were Lords of the Manor of Sheviock.

  8. Go through the kissing gate on the right of the gate and then follow the path to eventually reach a kissing gate.

    Spring is the best time to harvest nettles. They should not be harvested when flowering (the flowers look like small catkins hanging down from the stems), as during flowering they produce microscopic rods of calcium carbonate (limestone) which can interfere with kidney function.

    To prepare them, wearing gloves, strip off the young tender leaves, discarding any large coarse leaves and stems. Use lightly boiled, steamed or wilted as if it were spinach (though not raw unless you want to live dangerously!). All the usual spinach flavour combinations apply (e.g. with ricotta).

    Red and Roe deer are the two truly native species of the six found in the UK and both have pointy, branching (rugose) antlers. The Red deer is the largest of the species and has a characteristic large white V on its backside whereas the Roe deer just has a small white patch.

    The fallow deer was introduced by the Normans and has flat, elk-like (palmate) antlers and an inverted black horseshoe surrounding a white patch on its rear end.

    In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, three "exotic" Asian species (munjac, sika and Chinese water deer) were introduced. These all have quite rounded ears whereas the European species all have pointy "elf-like" ears.

    Roe deer, Fallow deer and Red deer are all present in Cornwall and the populations of all three species has increased substantially over the past decade, possibly by as much as a factor of ten. There are also a small number of munjac deer, but far fewer than in the rest of England.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the path along the fence to reach another kissing gate.

    The stream is a tributary of the St Germans River and the lower part of its river valley (just after the stream crosses under the main road) has been flooded by rising sea levels, creating a tidal creek known as Wacker Lake.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path along the fence and into the woods to cross a footbridge and reach a kissing gate.

    Some of the bluebells in the woodland are Spanish invaders.

    Spanish bluebells have been planted in gardens and these have hybridised with native bluebells producing fertile seeds. This has produced hybrid swarms around sites of introductions and, since the hybrids are able to thrive in a wider range of environmental conditions, the hybrids are frequently out-competing the native English bluebells. Sir Francis Drake would not be impressed! The Spanish form can be fairly easily recognised by the flowers on either side of the stem. In the English form, they are all on one side. In general, the English bluebells also have longer, less-flared flowers and are often a deeper colour. However, the easiest way to tell the difference between native and non-native bluebells is to look at the colour of the pollen: if it is creamy-white then the bluebell is native; if it is any other colour such as pale green or blue then it's not native.

    Trees need a lot of water. A large oak tree can absorb around 450 litres of water per day, most of which is released into the atmosphere as water vapour through transpiration. Trees therefore help to reduce flooding from heavy rain in low-lying river floodplains and also reduce erosion from runoff.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path to emerge into a field and continue to reach a kissing gate leading into the trees.

    The early purple orchid has a Latin name meaning "virile" which is in keeping with the word "orchid" coming from the Greek word for testicle (on account of the shape of the tuber).

    This particular species is the con-man of the plant kingdom, with brilliant purple flowers resembling those of other nectar-rich orchids. When the insects arrive and push through the pollen to investigate the promising flowers, they discover that the flowers contain no nectar.

    When a tree is injured, it exudes resin - a thick, sticky liquid which hardens and seals up the wound. The resin also contains anti-fungal and insecticide chemicals to protect it from parasites and pathogens. Frankincense and myrrh are both examples of resins.

  12. Go through the gate and pass the private access gate. Follow the path until it eventually emerges onto a road.

    The path is lined with wild garlic in spring.

    Like its domesticated relatives, wild garlic grows from a bulb. To distinguish it from other wild plants from the onion/garlic family (such as the three-cornered leek), the species sometimes just called "wild garlic" (Allium ursinum) is often known by the name ramsons or broad-leaf garlic. The scientific name (meaning bear leek) is because the bulbs are thought to be a favourite food of brown bears on the European mainland.

    Crafthole Reservoir which was dammed in 1900 to provide a water supply to Torpoint (not Crafthole which is uphill of it). It was managed by South West Water and formed part of the public water supply until just after the Second World War. It is now stocked with carp and managed by the South West Lakes Trust for coarse fishing. A number of springs feed both the lake and into the stream that the walk has been following.

  13. Turn left onto the road and follow it to the roundabout. Turn right at the roundabout and follow the lane past the pub to a crossroads (signposted Portwrinkle to the left).

    The settlement of Crafthole dates from mediaeval times when it was centred around a triangular grassy plot, forming a village green, which has since been built over. A market and fair were granted in 1314 which presumably took place in this area. The name is a mangling of the English word "croft" and possibly either "hill" or "hollow".

  14. Turn left at the crossroads and follow the lane downhill, passing some residential lanes on the left to reach the corner of the golf course with a "Coast path follows road" sign. Continue downhill on the road between the areas of golf course until you reach a green public footpath sign on the left beside another stony track leading onto the golf course.

    The small cross in Crafthole was originally in the middle of the road, but was moved in the 1950s after being hit by a bus. Due to it being positioned both beside the market area and on the road, there is difference of opinion as to which of the two the cross marked.

  15. Turn left onto the golf course and follow the path between the banks ahead. When you re-emerge on the golf course, continue towards the sea to pass a waymark on your left and then follow the hedge, keeping it on your right until you reach another waymark at the bottom of the golf course.

    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.

  16. Turn left and follow the path along the bushes to reach a waymark indicating a stony path leading from a sign with a "5".
  17. Join the stony path and follow it in the direction waymarked to where it re-emerges on the golf course.
  18. Bear right slightly but pass to the left of the short section of wall and then go through the gap in the bank below. Then turn left to keep the bank on your left. At the end of the bank, continue past the bench to the gate in the hedge.

    The huts on the cliff at Tregonhawke arose from a farmer allowing local families to pitch tents on the cliff and then tea huts for a nominal rent. No planning regulations existed at this time, so huts sprang up wherever someone could dig a small terrace into the cliff slope. Water was initially obtained from a spring but the landowner soon provided a water supply with stand pipes at intervals along the path. During the Second World War, people from Plymouth bought huts here to escape the bombing.

    In 1979, a policy was drawn up by the council limiting the changes made to chalets in order avoid the cliff degenerating into a modern housing estate and much of this was incorporated into conditions of the leases. In 2003, the land was put up for sale and a management company formed by the leaseholders bought the land with the objective to keep the landscape as natural as possible.

  19. Go through the gate and follow the path along the bottom of the field to reach another gate.

    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.

  20. Go through the gate and follow the path past one waymark to a waymark at the end of the gorse. Bear right to follow the waymarked path towards the black-and-white pole with a triangle on the skyline to reach a kissing gate on the right.

    The current Eddystone lighthouse was designed by Trinity House civil engineer James Douglass, using the design principles that John Smeaton had pioneered on the previous lighthouse. The granite was quarried from the De Lank quarries on Bodmin Moor, transported down the railway which is now the Camel Trail, and carved in Wadebridge, along the road that became known as Eddystone Road. As each layer was completed, it was checked for its fit with the layer above and then sent out to the Eddystone rocks by sea. Douglass designed a special ship, called the "Hercules", to transport and lift the three ton blocks of granite into position. The lighthouse was completed in 1882 and is 95ft tall.

  21. If a RED FLAG is flying, the firing ranges are ACTIVE: do not enter, stop following the directions and instead follow the coast path waymarks from the left of the kissing gate back to the car park.

    Only if there is NO red flag flying, continue following the directions: go through the gate and keep the wall/bank on your left to reach a gateway.

    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.
  22. Go through the gateway and head to the waymark beside the embankment with a green hut on top. Then head downhill to the waymark in a gap in the wall.

    Buttercups produce a toxin called protoanemonin, which is at its highest concentration when flowering. It is thought that buttercups may be partly responsible for Equine Grass Sickness. Fortunately the toxin is quite unstable and drying of the plant in haymaking leads to polymerisation into non-toxic anemonin. Buttercups are also toxic to dogs, cats and humans. They have a bitter taste which puts dogs off eating the plants but pollen can collect on fur and be ingested, particularly by cats when they clean themselves. A man in France who drank a glass of juice made from buttercups suffered severe colic after four hours and was dead the next day!

    The red soil results from the weathering of sandstones which contain rust-coloured iron compounds formed from chemical reactions of the iron with water and air. Similar orange-red iron compounds are responsible for the Red Rivers in Cornwall where dissolved iron from the mines enters the river water. Iron is the 4th most common element in Earth's crust after oxygen, silicon, and aluminium. The reason that there wasn't an Aluminium Age rather than the Iron Age is that aluminium is really difficult to separate from the oxygen that also makes up the aluminium compounds in rocks. Iron is still pretty challenging to reduce to its metallic form from its ore which is why copper and tin were used before this in the Bronze Age.

  23. Go through the gap and follow the path alongside the bank on the left to reach a kissing gate.

    The salt-laden breeze coming off the sea dries out leaf buds and inhibits growth so the plants end up growing most vigorously in the lee of the wind. In the direction facing the prevailing wind, the growth is therefore more compact and stunted whereas in the lee of the wind, the branches are much more straggly. The result is that the trees appear to point away from the prevailing wind. Where there are no obstacles interfering with the wind direction, the shape of the trees can be used as a compass. Prevailing winds come from the southwest, so in general, trees in Cornwall point northeast.

  24. Go through the gate and follow the path to a waymark. Follow along the bushes and then fence on the right to reach a kissing gate.

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. Partly, as an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

    Whereas many plants rely mainly on bitter chemicals to avoid being eaten by herbivores, thistles have gone one step further and evolved spikes. Grazing livestock will understandably avoid them which allows them to accumulate in pastureland and become a nuisance. One thistle plant produces thousands of seeds dispersed by the wind which can remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years.

  25. Go through the gate and follow the path to the tarmac drive. Turn left and follow the tarmac to a junction just after a barrier.

    The first of the firing ranges was constructed before the First World War. The earliest record of one is from 1896 and two are recorded on the 2nd Edition OS map from the early 1900s. There are now seven ranges which cover rifles, pistols and live grenades. Hence sticking to the paths and keeping dogs on leads is extremely wise.

  26. Continue ahead to reach the parking area outside the main fort building - if there is a barrier across, replace this when you go through. Continue on the tarmac to reach a metal gate across the tarmac with a kissing gate alongside.

    Tregantle Fort was the largest of the land forts built as part of a programme in the 1850s-60s to protect Plymouth docks against a potential invasion from France. The fort fell out of use after the First World War but was reopened in the lead-up to WW2 and was used by American troops training for D-Day. It is now primarily used as barracks and for its rifle ranges.

  27. Go through the kissing gate and then turn right at the junction. Walk a few paces to where a track departs to the right (indicated by the "Please follow the waymarkers" sign) and bear right to follow this to a gate.
  28. Go through the kissing gate to join the track on the opposite side of the main gate and follow the track downhill past a waymark post and a green hut on the left. Continue downhill to a waymarked junction of paths with a green metal gate ahead.

    The Birdsfoot Trefoil has yellow flowers tinged with red that look like little slippers and appear in small clusters. They are followed by seed pods that look distinctly like bird's feet or claws. Common names referring to the flowers include "Butter and Eggs", "Eggs and Bacon" and "Hen and Chickens", and to the seed pods, the delightful "Granny's Toenails".

    It is a member of the pea family and is poisonous to humans (containing glycosides of cyanide) but not to grazing animals and can be grown as a fodder plant. It is the larval food plant of many butterflies and moths including the common blue and silver-studded blue, and an important nectar plant for many bumblebee species.

    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 name of the plant is Greek for "sun direction" because the flowers turn to follow the winter sun.

  29. Go through the green metal gate and turn left onto the road. Follow this uphill to the junction and carefully cross to the opposite side of the road to return to the car park.

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