Read about the archaeology and wildlife of Park Head

Porth Mear near Park Head, Carnewas

A couple of miles north of Carnewas is Park Head. Here the secluded, wildlife rich Porth Mear valley joins the sea and the coastline is littered with Bronze Age barrows.

The promontory of Park Head is backed by fertile farmland which slopes gently down to Porth Mear valley to the north. The headland, with its well-preserved cliff castle and wonderful feeling of exposure, is worth exploring but please stay on the footpaths as the land is farmed and there is often livestock in the fields.

Fulmar flying over the sea
Fulmar over the sea
Fulmar flying over the sea

May and June are the most rewarding months to enjoy Park Head, when you'll see the most seabirds and spring flowers. Look out for fulmars and the occasional oystercatcher. Galaxies of stonecrop bedeck the Cornish hedges and carpets of thyme and kidney vetch cover the ground near the coast path.  The area is being actively managed to prevent the gorse ousting the herb-rich flora.

 Porth Mear valley

The valley running up from Porth Mear, a rocky cove, offers a contrast to the exposed sea-facing cliffs. Thickets of thorn scrub grow here and those plants needing a waterside habitat thrive beside the small stream.

Porth Mear cove at Park Head
Porth Mear cove
Porth Mear cove at Park Head

Wildlife can be very particular about where they live. We try to encourage a wide variety of habitats within the reedbed to support as many plants and animals as possible. Every autumn we cut the reeds back to stop scrubby bushes taking over. This encourages the reeds to regrow stronger than before, which then maintains pockets of habitat for wildlife to make their home. Look out for toads, lizards and kestrels overhead.

Porth Mear valley in the spring
Porth Mear valley in the spring
Porth Mear valley in the spring

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the Neptune campaign. To celebrate this, we introduced some outdoor artwork to some of our places and you’ll find one such piece in the Porth Mear valley. The coastline of North Cornwall has a long history of shipwrecks with its jagged headlands and dangerous currents. This inspired us to commission a shipwreck sculpture to showcase the wild character of the coast.

Created by chainsaw sculptor Matthew Crabb, the sculpture is made from beech and oak, appearing as a shipwreck cast onto the shore of the reedbed. The shipwreck will fade in and out of the seasons as the vegetation grows and dies back around it. We invite you to look out for it when exploring this tucked away valley.

Intriguing archaeology

Visible from the coast path are six Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds) which probably date from between 1200-2500BC and an Iron Age cliff castle.

The cliff castle, situated across the neck of Park Head, is a good example of its kind. Two defensive banks are separated by a ditch. Cliff castles are common features on the Cornish coast, and archaeologists now think they were not temporary sites but permanently occupied, demonstrating the inter-tribal rivalries of the times. Normally one or two round houses would have stood inside the defences, sometimes against the back of the inner rampart. This site was probably used in the first centuries BC.