Trevose Head short circular walk

Trevose Head (short version)

There has been a cliff fall at Long Cove in Mother Ivey's Bay. The coast path is closed so it's necessary to divert around it by staying on the road at direction 9 and turning left at the junction to bypass directions 10 and 11 and continue from 12.

A circular walk around the rugged coastline of Trevose Head via the iconic lighthouse and golden sandy beach at Mother Ivey's Bay, with spectacular wildflowers in spring and summer and thundering waves in winter that sometimes expose the shipwreck at Booby's Bay.

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The walk begins at the end of the headland near the lighthouse and follows the coastline towards Padstow to reach the Padstow lifeboat station and the sheltered beach of Mother Ivey's Bay. The walk then cuts across the headland to the western side, facing the Atlantic swells, to reach Booby's Bay and then follows the coast path past a collapsed cave before finishing at Dinas Head.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 2 miles/3.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in dry weather

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Spectacular coastal views overlooking The Bull and The Quies, the lighthouse and Padstow lifeboat station
  • Rockpools at Booby's Bay with wildlife including blennies and shrimps
  • Circular abyss created by a collapsed cave on Trevose Head
  • Coastal heath rich in bird life and wildflowers
  • Sheltered beach at Mother Ivey's Bay with azure water in summer

Directions

  1. In the car park, head towards the lighthouse to locate a small path running alongside the road to the lighthouse. Follow this to a waymark where a path joins from the left.

    Trevose Head is named after Trevose Farm near Mother Ivey's Bay. In 1302, this was recorded as Trenfos and is thought to mean "farm by the wall". Walls were obviously needed to keep livestock away from cliff edges.

  2. Walk parallel to the road towards the lighthouse until you are opposite the steps to the right.

    Trevose lighthouse is situated on the north west extremity of Trevose Head. Built in 1847 of granite quarried from the headland, the lighthouse tower is 27 metres tall, and has a range of 20 nautical miles (37 km). Between 1912 and 1995, the lighthouse flashed red (since then it's been white). Up until 1995, the lighthouse had a keeper; now it's automated. Between 1913 and 1963, a fog horn developed by Lord Rayleigh was in use here. This consisted of a 36 foot long rectangular trumpet. Walking along the coast path on a foggy day was not for the faint-hearted back then!

  3. Descend the steps to the road, climb the steps opposite and follow the coast path to a kissing gate.

    Until electric lighting was introduced, the light for a lighthouse was produced by burning a thin oil such as paraffin. However this wasn't burnt on a wick like domestic lighting. Instead, a pressurised system was used, typically powered by a hand pump, to force the oil through a nozzle to create fine mist which instantly vaporised in the heat from combustion. This mixture of paraffin gas and air burnt rapidly, generating a bright light. As well as header tanks in the lighthouse itself, larger storage tanks were needed nearby.

  4. Go through the kissing gate and another and continue to reach a waymark near a bench.

    Trevose is at a corner on the Cornish peninsula, so a lot of shipping traffic passed close by. During the first World War, a number of cargo ships were sunk by German U-boats lurking off Trevose Head, or mines laid in the area. Two of the ships sunk here towards the end of the war were cargo ships carrying coal from South Wales.

    The Poldown was a 1370-ton steamship. On 9 October 1917, she was on her way from South Wales with a cargo of coal, when she struck a German mine and sank.

    The Anna Sofie was a large cargo ship of 2577 tons. On 23 July, 1918 she was returning from Northern France to South Wales when she was torpedoed by U55, just off Trevose Head. Four days before sinking the Anna Sofie, the U55 had sunk the Carpathia (the liner that rescued survivors from the Titanic in 1912).

    The approximate position of the Anna Sophie was recorded on Admiralty charts. However, when divers eventually located and dived the wreck, they had a surprise: this was the Poldown with its cargo of coal. For many years, another shipwreck alongside Diver Rock was known about, but its identity was unclear. Once the Poldown had been correctly identified, there were suspicions that this one might be the Anna Sofie. This was finally confirmed by a number found on a steam valve.

  5. Continue on the outer path around the headland past the remains of a large concrete platform to where the path passes the corner of a wall with a wire fence and then immediately forks at another waymark.

    The concrete remains on Trevose head are thought to be linked to a wartime observation post and bombing range in the bay. There was an air station at Crugmeer during WW1 and an airfield at St Merryn during WW2 so it is possible that elements of the remains date from both periods.

  6. At the waymark, follow the path to the left past a cairn to a bench on the headland.

    Kestrels are easily spotted when hovering, watching their prey. Whilst hovering, kestrels have the extraordinary ability to keep their head totally still, even in strong winds.

  7. From the bench, double-back and keep left at the fork to a kissing gate in the corner where the fence meets the hedge.

    From the headland there are good views of the lifeboat station and the rocks around Barras Bay. The headland on the opposite side of the bay with the tower is Stepper Point, forming one edge of the Camel Estuary. The tower (known as the "Pepper Pot") is a daymark used by shipping for navigation.

  8. Go through the gate onto the lane and through the kissing gate opposite onto a path. Follow this along the fence until you emerge through a gap in a stone wall onto a narrow tarmacked lane.

    The first lane that the footpath crosses leads to the Padstow lifeboat station.

    The Padstow Lifeboat was relocated to Mother Ivy's Bay in October 1967 due to river silting at Hawker's Cove. The current lifeboat, known as the "Spirit of Padstow", was brought into service on July 17th 2006. Things have moved on a little from Padstow's original lifeboat rowed by hand: this one is controlled using touchscreens, has a top speed of 25 knots and is capable of towing 7 tonne ships. It has a crew of 7, including a doctor.

  9. Cross the tarmac to the path opposite and follow this to a kissing gate leading through the wall onto the coast.

    The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage.

    Traditionally, hedges (stone boundary walls) were built with whatever was cleared out of the fields, whilst buildings were constructed from stone that was quarried and cut. On a long wall, the herringbone sections are often between "towers" of flat-laid slate (built from the larger and squarer stones) which helped to prevent the wall slumping sideways.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path along the cliff to a wooden signpost beside a kissing gate.

    Mother Ivey's Bay is named after a white witch who is said to have cursed the land of a local fishing family who didn't share their catch with the starving inhabitants of Padstow and instead ploughed the fish into their fields as fertiliser. Since then, mysterious deaths have allegedly occurred for people digging in the cursed fields. David Cameron is reported to have stayed in the cursed house for his summer holiday in 2008, some years prior to the Brexit referendum.

  11. Go through the kissing gate (signposted for Booby's Bay) and follow the path to a kissing gate onto the road.

    The area around Trevose Head and Constantine Bay is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for both geological and biological reasons. Wild asparagus grows on the cliffs of Dinas Head, and Shore Dock at the base of the cliffs. The cliffs are also important breeding grounds for fulmar, razorbill and guillemot.

  12. Go through the gate and the one on the opposite side of the road then follow the track to a gap in the fence with a signpost.

    Tamarisks, also known as salt cedars, are able to withstand drought, soil salinity, and salt-water spray and therefore thrive in mild coastal areas such as the Cornish coastline. Their ability to accumulate salt and then excrete this through glands in their leaves prevents less salt-tolerant plants from growing around their base.

  13. Go through the gap and follow the path to another pedestrian gap with three wooden posts.

    A number of prehistoric flint tools have been found in the Booby's Bay and Trevose Head area. The flints were likely to have been from pebbles washed ashore from the offshore chalk deposits that run under the Celtic Sea, possibly from the Haig Fras reefs approx 100 miles to the west of Trevose Head. The flint tools are thought to date from around 6500 BC. In that period, sea levels were much lower and Trevose head would have been a couple of miles inland and forested.

  14. Continue ahead along the wall to reach the coast path at a signpost. Turn right onto this and follow it to a gully (with a small stream in winter).

    Against the rocks of Booby's Bay is the shipwreck of the SV Carl.

    The wreck of the SV Carl lies against the rocks of Booby's Bay, next to Constantine Bay. The SV Carl was in Cardiff docks when war broke out in 1914 and was impounded. In 1917 it broke free in a storm whilst it was being towed to London to be broken up for scrap. An eyewitness account was recalled in 1966:

    The Carl went aground on the outer reef... Two Admiralty tugs came from Devonport to try to refloat her. They got her off the reef, but as soon as they had done so, the towing hawser on each tug parted, Carl went ahead out of control and grounded on the inner reef. She was there examined by salvage experts...who found no damage whatever to the hull. The Admiralty tugs therefore had another try to tow her off, but once more both ship’s towing harnesses parted. Carl broke her back and became a total loss. But for the unusual misfortune of both towing hawsers parting on two successive attempts Carl would in all probability have been salvaged.

    In 1917, work began to salvage the materials from the 60ft ship for scrap metal, but the wreck became covered in sand which put an end to the salvage work. The remainder lay buried beneath the sand with only the occasional part (often just part of the anchor) protruding until the huge storms of early 2014 stripped more than a metre of sand from the beach, exposing the wreck in an excellent state of preservation from being under the sand. One of the three steel masts is amongst the wreckage and is still largely intact.

  15. Keep left to follow the path along the coast and continue onto the headland, passing a huge collapsed cave then a yellow waymark to reach a junction with another waymark post, this time marked both with a yellow arrow and a white arrow to the National Trust car park.

    Waves pounding into a cave compress the air inside. This can often be seen venting quite explosively from a cave as a blowhole. Inside the cave, the force from the air being rapidly compressed and decompressed gradually fractures the rock. Eventually this is unable to support the weight of the roof of the cave. Once this collapses, the sea washes away the soil and smaller stones leaving just the largest boulders which are slowly smoothed by the wave action.

  16. The path to the right completes the circular walk. A path also leads onto Dinas Head to the left from here.

    The rocks off Trevose Head have been the cause of many shipwrecks, and are the main reason that the lighthouse was built. The single large rock, a couple of hundred metres off Dinas Head, is known as The Bull. The group of rocks just over a kilometre offshore are known as The Quies, though were recorded as the "Cow and Calf" on maps of 1720, continuing the bovine herd further out to sea.

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