North Helford Second World War history walk

Old Church Road, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth. TR11 5HY

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Toll point looking upriver on the Helford River near Falmouth in Cornwall  © NT / Mary Cobill

Toll point looking upriver on the Helford River near Falmouth in Cornwall

Discover the history of the North Helford during the Second World War © NT/Sylvia King

Discover the history of the North Helford during the Second World War

This beautiful coastline has had an interesting military past © National Trust/ Mary Cobill

This beautiful coastline has had an interesting military past

Route overview

Running along the North Helford coastline lays remnants of the Second World War. On this circular walk you will see gun emplacements, pill boxes and a glimpse into what the Helford River was like during this time.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

North Helford Second World War map
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Old Mawnan Church car park, grid ref; SW777287

  1. Leave Old Mawnan Church car park via the stile or gate. Follow the footpath past the cemetery and climb down the steps, walking through the Holne Oak woodland (with the sea on your left) until you reach a kissing gate. Walk out onto the field, and take the left hand path through a kissing gate. Keep walking until you reach a promontory with pine trees here is where you will find the gun emplacements. This is also a good vantage point to look across to Nare Point where the decoy site was created by Ealing Film studios to protect Falmouth from aerial invasion.

    Show/HideToll Point and Porth Saxon

    At the beginning of the Second World War the Army decided to put gun emplacements on Toll Point. This enabled them to cover an area at the mouth of the Helford River that was out of the range of protective guns at Pendennis Castle. They were all under the command of the colonel based at Pendennis. Pill boxes were built in 1940, you can see examples of these at Porth Saxon beach. The development of Pill Boxes was the biggest building programme is British Military history, involving defence works around 500 miles of coastline.

    Toll point looking upriver on the Helford River near Falmouth in Cornwall  © NT / Mary Cobill
  2. Follow the path around until it takes you out onto the steep field and down onto the small beach, Porthallack. Walk up and over the hill here, it will lead down onto Porth Saxon beach. When on Porth Saxon turn left onto the beach and look behind you, you will see a Pill Box; this is also accessible from the coast path.

    Show/HideTrebah Pier

    Looking towards Trebah beach from Toll Point you can see where the Dolphin Pier was positioned. This is where the American troops left for Omaha beach in Normandy on 6th June 1944, D-Day

    Discover the history of the North Helford during the Second World War © NT/Sylvia King
  3. Walk along the shore of the beach, this is where a Mulberry harbour was anchored. At the end of the beach turn back and walk back along Porth Saxon beach and back along the coast path until you reach the boathouse at Porthallack. To the left there is a small path leading up the valley, with the sea behind you, keep walking up the valley through the gates and back to the Old Mawan Church and the car park.

    Show/HideNare Point

    From the beach look across the river to Nare Head. It played a vital part in the protection of Falmouth from air invasion. It was set up as a decoy site by Ealing Film studios. From the air at night it resembled a railway system much like the Falmouth Docks railway station. When bombers were detected at night the lights at the decoy site would be switched on. If bombs were dropped on the site 'bomb sites' were activated, filled with tar, flash bags and electrical detonators it would look like a bomb strike had be successful

    This beautiful coastline has had an interesting military past © National Trust/ Mary Cobill

End: Old Mawnan Church car park, grid ref; SW777287

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 1.5 miles (2.4km)
  • Time: 1 hour 30mins
  • OS Map: Landranger 204, Explorer 103
  • Terrain:

    Allow about 2 hours for this walk, including stopping to admire the views of the Helford River, and look at buildings, gun emplacements and other second world war remnants, as well as imagining what the river looked like at this time. Paths are uneven in places, mainly gravel and grass. There are some steep climbs. Dogs welcome. Please keep on lead where livestock are present. No dog bins, so please take litter home.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: From Mawnan Smith, take the road to the left of the Red Lion Pub named Carnwinnion Road, turn right onto Old Church Road, signposted 'Old Mawan Church' on a white fingerpost sign

    By bike: Roads hazardous for cyclists due to narrow width and poor visibility

    By bus: First 35 or 400 from Falmouth to Helston, stops in Mawan Smith

    By train: First Great Western service stopping at Penmere station 4 miles (6.4km); First 35 or 400 from Falmouth is the connecting bus service to Mawnan Smith

    By boat/ferry: Visitor moorings and some anchorage for visiting boats, no facilites for leaving boats on beach at Durgan or Porth Saxon. Helford River boats provide a seasonal ferry that operates from Helford Village (on Lizard south side of Helford River) to Helford Passage on the north side.

    By car: 4 miles (6.4km) south west of Falmouth. From Mawnan Smith take road to the left of the Red Lion Pub named Carwinnion Road, turn right onto Old Church Road.

  • Facilities:

    At nearby National Trust Glendurgan Garden (closed November 3rd 2013-February 8th 2014 and Mondays excluding August and bank holidays)

    • Toilets
    • Tea house
    • Shop

    In Mawan Smith village

     

  • Contact us