West Pentire and Polly Joke

A circular walk through the poppy fields of West Pentire to Polly Joke beach, returning over the headland to "the pink pub" that was a cowshed until the mid-20th Century.

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The walk begins by zig-zagging through the poppy fields as the flowers are rotated between fields each year so we cover all the bases. The walk then descends to Cubert Common and follows the valley down to the beach at Polly Joke (aka Porth Joke). From here the route follows the coast and crosses the top of the headland where there are lovely views. The return route is past the remaining poppy fields before finishing at the Bowgie Inn.

The poppies flower from the end of May through June with some of the other wildflowers lasting into July.

Reviews

Fab family friendly walk. We did this one in August whilst on holiday. Just right for little legs
This is a brilliant walk at any time of year!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 2.2 miles/3.6 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Bowgie Inn
  • Parking: West Pentire Car Park (below Bowgie car park) TR85SE. Follow the A3075 towards Newquay until you reach the junction with the pink elephant(!), signposted for the Bowgie Inn.
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Spectacular display of poppies and corn marigolds in June
  • Panoramic coastal views across Crantock and East Pentire to Trevose Head
  • Golden, sandy beaches at Porth Joke and Crantock
  • The historic Bowgie Inn at Crantock

Directions

  1. Make your way out of the car park and bear right to reach the road beside the signpost. Turn right onto the road and follow it to a junction with a pair of Public Footpath signposts.

    West Pentire is part of the parish of Crantock.

    The settlement of Crantock dates back to 460 AD, when a group of Irish or possibly Welsh hermits founded a chapel there. The parish was once known as Langurroc, which translates as "The Dwelling of Monks". The chapel of Langurroc was said to have been covered up in a sandstorm, and may lie beneath the sand dunes behind Crantock Beach. The village church is dedicated to St Carantoc - said to be one of the founders of the village. In its heydey, when the River Gannel was navigable, Crantock was a river port.

  2. Keep right at the junction and follow the lane and track leading from it to a gate with a National Trust sign.

    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.

  3. Go through the gate and follow the path until you reach a signpost at a junction of paths.
  4. Turn left (signposted to Porth Joke beach) and follow the path downhill to a kissing gate.

    The fields on West Pentire are owned by the National Trust and seeded with wildflowers each year both to create a spectacular display and to provide a nectar source for wildlife. From late May to July, there are carpets of red poppies and yellow corn marigolds.

  5. Go through the gate and turn left between the wooden fences indicated by the black arrow. Follow the path along the bottom hedge of two fields to where the path crosses through the hedge.

    The common red poppy is also known as the corn poppy as they were once common in many agricultural fields but modern herbicides have eradicated most of them. The flowers produce a very large amount of pollen but very little nectar so pollen-gathering insects (e.g. bees) are important in their fertilisation as the pollen is not carried by the wind. Although each flower is short-lived, often just lasting a day, one poppy plant can produce up to 400 flowers resulting in half a million seeds.

  6. Follow the path through the line of the hedge to now follow along the hedge on your left. Continue to reach a metal gate.

    Wheat is the neatest of the grains with grains arranged on alternate sides of the tip of the stem, so that the seed head looks like giant, fat grass seed. Barley is similar but each grain has a long whisker protruding from the end. The hairyness of barley makes amazing patterns and rustling sounds as the wind moves through the crop. Oats are much more loosely arranged than wheat and barley, with individual grains hanging off short threads like a Christmas decoration. Wheat is amazingly easy to turn into flour: once ripe, wheat grains easily pop out from the husk and a handful of these in a pestle and mortar results in lovely wholemeal flour. In contrast, the husk is very much more firmly stuck to barley grains and specialist mechanical processing is required to de-hull it, producing pearl barley.

  7. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow this downhill to where a small path departs to the right indicated by a "Footpath" sign just before the track enters a private property.

    Kestrels are the most common bird of prey in Europe, although in Britain, numbers have declined in recent years. They are easily spotted when hovering, watching their prey. Whilst hovering, they have the extraordinary ability to keep their head totally still, even in strong winds. They feed mostly on mice, voles and shrews, but will also take birds as large as starlings, and will feed on insects if larger prey are not available.

  8. Take the footpath indicated to the right. Follow it over the bridge and along a hedge, to a kissing gate.

    Dragonflies are named after the way they hunt, as both the larvae and adults are carnivorous predators. Their two sets of wings beat out of phase, and the frequency, amplitude and the angles of each set of wings can be controlled. This allows dragonflies to hover in a completely stationary position for over a minute, perform extravagant aerobatic manoeuvres and even fly backwards.

  9. Go through the gate and continue a few paces ahead to reach a track. Turn right onto the track and keep right when you reach the fork to reach a gate into a car park.
  10. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the main gate and cross the car park to the gate opposite.

    Flag irises grow along the small stream in front of the car park.

    The yellow water iris (also known as yellow flag) is a native plant but can become invasive and have a negative effect on biodiversity due to its ability to out-compete many other water plants. It is thought by some to be the original plant on which the 'fleur-de-lis' heraldic symbol is based.

    If heavy metals are present in the soil, the plant is quite effective at absorbing these and this together with its aptitude for growing in pools of shallow water makes it potentially useful for detoxifying contaminated water such as mine drainage.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the main path for a quarter of a mile, ignoring paths to the left, to reach a gate across the path.
  12. Go through the gate and follow the main path ahead to reach a signpost at the top of the beach.

    Dunes (called towans in Cornish) form when dry sand from the beach is blown by the wind, and initially lodges against an obstruction, eventually forming a ridge. More sand can then accumulate against the ridge and vegetation such as marram grass can then take hold, preventing the resulting sand hill from washing or blowing away. Erosion of the vegetation by foot traffic can cause the dunes to disintegrate, so areas are sometimes fenced off to allow the all-important weeds to recover. Most of the major dunes on the North Cornish coastline are thought to have formed from around 5,000 years ago when sea levels finally stopped rising after the glacial ice from the last Ice Age had finished melting.

  13. Turn right and cross the bridge to reach a kissing gate.

    The sandy cove known both as Porth Joke and Polly Joke belongs to the National Trust and is completely uncommercialised except for the occasional cow wandering on the beach. The confusion about the name arises because it was originally known as Pol Lejouack (the old Cornish words for "Jackdaw Cove") and sounds a bit like "Polly Joke". Porth (beach or port) and Pol (cove or harbour) were used fairly interchangably, which possibly gave rise to the two competing names.

  14. Go through the kissing gate and keep left at two forks in the path to reach an ivy-covered post with a coast path waymark on the corner of the hedge.

    According to Winston Graham, Nampara Cove in the Poldark novels was based on a composite of Porth Joke and a small cove on the west side of Crantock beach (possibly the one just below the Bowgie Inn between Vugga Cove and Piper's Hole).

  15. Follow the path leading past the post and out onto the headland. Continue through a pedestrian gap in a fence. Carry on following the path to reach a bend where the path turns right uphill to cross over the headland.

    On the offchance that you see any black birds with red legs...

    After several decades of extinction, a pair of choughs settled in 2001 on the Lizard Peninsula. Since then, the birds have successfully bred and been joined by a few more incoming birds, and the population has steadily grown and spread further across Cornwall. Each Cornish chough is fitted with one leg ring in the colours of St Piran's flag and two other colours on the opposite leg to identify them.

    Although the principal populations are around Lands End and The Lizard, choughs are now becoming more common on the north coast around the Newquay beaches.

    If you think you've seen a chough, take a photo if possible and email cornishchoughs@rspb.org.uk to report the sighting. This will help the "Chough Watch" team keep track of the growing population.

  16. At the bend, bear right uphill and follow the footpath until you reach a fork in the path at a waymark.

    The headlands either side of Crantock beach are named, somewhat unimaginatively, East and West Pentire (this one being on the west side).

    The name "Pentire" is common on the coast for the simple reason that it means "headland": in Cornish pen means head or top and tir means land. Some Anglicised names such as "Pentire Point" (i.e. Headland Point) are somewhat tautological.

    The central point of reference being Crantock (and not Newquay) stems from when Crantock was the major port and settlement and Newquay was little more than a few thatched fishermens' cottages beside the beach.

  17. At the fork, keep right. Follow the path to a junction of paths and continue directly ahead a little further to cross the brow of the hill and reach a gap in the wall.

    West Pentire headland, between Porth Joke and Crantock beach, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its wildflowers and rare plants. The south-facing (Polly Joke) side of the headland is a particularly good area for sun-loving wildflowers. In spring, tiny blue squill flowers and then pink thrift flowers can be seen here.

  18. Go through the gap and follow the path downhill to a waymarked junction of paths at the corner of a wall.

    There is a nice view across Crantock beach to East Pentire. The larger rocky island off the end of the headland is known as "The Goose" and the smaller one between that and the headland is "Sarvan". On a clear day you can also see Trevose Head in the distance with the white lighthouse.

  19. Turn right to pass the bench and follow the path to a kissing gate.
  20. Go through the kissing gate and turn right onto the path waymarked for West Pentire. Follow the path until it ends in a junction with another path with a gate on the right.

    In August, blackberries start to ripen on brambles.

    Blackberries are high in vitamin C, K and antioxidants. The seeds, despite being a bit crunchy, contain omega-3 and -6 fatty acids and further enhance blackberries' "superfood" status.

  21. If the wildflowers are blooming, you can take an optional diversion through the kissing gate into the fields on the right (there is a gap linking the fields) and return here afterwards. To finish the walk: follow the path currently to the left back to West Pentire, go through the gate and continue ahead along the track and lane to reach the Bowgie Inn on your left.

    The Bowgie Inn is a public house located in the hamlet of West Pentire, slightly west of Crantock and south of Newquay. Bowgie is a Cornish word meaning cow shed. The building that is now the pub was indeed a cowshed for the nearby farm until the 1950s and there are pictures in the pub of the building before it was converted. It was originally built in the 18th Century and the cob walls are nearly a metre thick; they act as a storage heater, keeping the cows (and today's non-bovine occupants) warm during cold nights.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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