Polruan coast and creek walk
Travelling high above Lantic Bay, with spectacular views over its wide shingle beaches and clear turquoise waters to Gribbin Head, this energetic walk circles the mouth of the Fowey Estuary. It takes in some of Polruan's many historic features before looping around above the tranquil Pont Pill creek to the quay at Pont Pill, returning to the car park via Lanteglos Church.
Pencarrow car park, grid ref: SX149513
From the entrance to the National Trust Pencarrow car park turn left on the lane and walk to the junction. Picking up the footpath through the field on the opposite side of the road at the top, follow it as it turns left and head towards the coast.
Turn right on the South West Coast Path and carry on along it as it roller-coasters high above Great Lantic Beach. A detour on the path downhill will take you to the beach: it is hard work, but well worth the effort.
People travel from all over the country to paddle in the warm clear water at Great Lantic Beach (but beware of rip currents) and sunbathe on its wide beach. Fulmars nest on the cliffs above and, at the back of the beach, unusual plants flourish in the salt air: pink-and-white trumpets of sea bindweed, tall stacks of round sea spurge leaves topped by tiny yellow flowers, crouching clumps of sea knotgrass dotted with florets of delicate white petals. At dawn and at dusk, sometimes a shy roe deer can be seen on the edge of a field.
The path reaches its highest point above Blackbottle Rock. Carry on to Polruan, turning left on St Saviour's Hill to pick up the footpath on your left and walk past the Coastwatch lookout and St Saviour's Chapel.
St Saviour's Chapel and lookout
Beside the old coastguard station, now manned by the National Coastwatch Institution, the single buttress of rubble slate is all that remains of the medieval St Saviour's Chapel. Enlarged by Richard Edgcumbe in 1488, it is thought to date from the 13th century, although some sources claim it to be from the eighth century. Like many coastal chapels of the time, it would have served an additional purpose as a warning to sailors of rocks below. On the rocks themselves is Punche's Cross, an old monument said to be associated with Pontius Pilate.
From the lookout follow South West Coast Path Waymakers and walk downhill to come out on Battery Lane. Follow this to the right, turning right on West Street and continuing along East Street.
Fowey from Polruan
Like many ports along England's southern shores, Fowey harbour thrived as a result of international trade and shipping. In the 13th and 14th centuries, it was one of the country's main maritime centres. In 1346 it sent 47 ships to the siege of Calais, compared with 32 from Dartmouth and only 25 from London, while Fowey's Seynt Saviour carried provisions for Edward II's army in the war against Scotland. Today it is Cornwall's primary china clay port and a popular place for yachting.
Turn right up the steps signed to Hall Walk and then left on the path at the top, to walk through the woods above the river, ignoring the first path uphill to the right but staying high past the paths dropping to the river.
The wooded hillside above Pont Pill is steep, with rocky cliffs among the trees, and it is a secluded, secret place. Beneath the tranquil waters lie the rotting remains of old schooners and barges laid up here and left to decay. Crabs, shrimps and pipefish inhabit the shoreline, and the old oyster beds lie in the mud on the creek's floor. In 1912 there was an isolation hospital on the shore for sailors with infectious diseases. Further up the creek, there is an old army hut, where Yorkshire writer Leo Walmsley stayed in the 1930s and 1950s.
On the road turn left, following the sign to Pont and Bodinnick.
The tiny picturesque waterside hamlet at Pont takes its name from St Wyllow's Bridge, with the Cornish 'pons' meaning bridge. The first mention of a bridge here was by William of Worcester in 1478. Pont was an important quay serving many scattered farms and hamlets, and on a rising tide sailing barges would bring in coal and limestone to burn in the limekilns. They also brought fertiliser, timber and roadstone, on their return journeys carrying out fresh local produce from the area's farms.
Coming to the sign to Lanteglos Church, turn right towards the church, unless you want a detour downhill to Pont. Again, it is steep but is an interesting diversion. Follow the path to the church.
St Wyllow Church at Lanteglos is best known as the church where novelist Daphne du Maurier was married. It dates back to the 14th century and has a medieval lantern cross just outside the porch. St Wyllow was an Irish hermit who had a chapel near the head of the creek. According to the legend, he was murdered by a kinsman; he walked up the hill to the site of the church with his severed head under his arm and the blood stained all the hedgerow flowers scarlet. Today the flowers are of many different hues: bluebells, primroses and stitchwort.
Turn left on the road beyond the church and return to the car park.
Pencarrow car park, grid ref: SX149513
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