Crantock and the Gannel

A classic view from the dunes overlooking Crantock beach © Mike Simmonds

A classic view from the dunes overlooking Crantock beach

The Gannel estuary in North Cornwall separates Crantock from Pentire Point East and the town of Newquay. Crantock Beach is a popular spot for those wishing to escape the commercialism of the town but is still supreme for surfing or simply relaxing on the sand (there are strong, dangerous currents in the Gannel and so only enter the sea away from the estuary.)

The Gannel

The estuary known as the Gannel passes Trerice a few miles further inland, and the presence of the river was responsible for the name of the place – Tre-res, the farm by the ford.

Until late in the last century the mouth of the Gannel was much used by shipping. Its trading demise was caused partly by the development of Newquay harbour and perhaps more importantly, by the silting up of the narrow channel by banks of sand.

Sea-going vessels brought their cargoes only as far as Fern Pit, which was a busy little trans-shipment port. Here the cargoes of coal, fertiliser, limestone and earthenware were off-loaded into shallow-draught barges. They were then taken for a three-mile journey on the flood tide up to Trevemper, then an important commercial centre.

Limestone and coal were also barged up Penpol Creek where a ruined lime kiln can be seen. A walk along the western foreshore of the wooded creek at low tide will reveal small quays, flights of steps, mooring rings and chains. Ships were built on the northern shore just below Tregunnel.

About 20 yards east of the slip at Fern Pit the slatey rock is scored with several dozen holes, each the size of a dinner plate. No plausible reason has ever been decided on for this phenomenon which may be natural or man made.

Crantock Beach

Crantock Beach is a broad sand-dune backed strand between the twin headlands of Pentire Point East and Pentire Point West; Pentire meaning headland.

The Gannel reaches the sea along its northern shore, and it is difficult to say where Crantock Beach ends and the Gannel begins.

The dunes rise steeply to the gentle undulating grassy plateau of Rushy Green, and are dynamic. They constantly change their shape on the side facing the sea, but gradually achieve stability further inland.

On the west side of the beach the deep cleft of Pipers Hole is a sanctuary for fulmars, jackdaws and pigeons which can best be seen nesting from the coast path. 

At low tide the first cave on the right can be entered, where you can see a flat slab with the outline of a female figure and a few lines of verse carved into it.  A small incised horse can also be seen cut into the slab. These carvings are the work of a local man, Joseph Prater, and are thought to have been completed in the early 1900s.