Mills, fishing and serpentine walk
Take a walk down to the sea through the picturesque Poltesco valley, exploring this hidden gem and its fascinating history.
Take a look at fascinating historic remains from a bygone age
Discover medieval mills and the ruins of the once prosperous Victorian polished stoneware factory tucked behind the cove. Grade of walk: Trainer (all rounder); Type of walk: 'Waterside Walks', 'Historical Footsteps'.
Poltesco car park, grid ref: SW725157
Start in the car park at Poltesco.
Originally Poltesco was known for the series of pilchard cellars, dating back to the early 1700s. Today, the only remains of this industry is the large, round, dry stone tower which formerly contained a capstan for hauling fishing boats up the beach. Serpentine, a local mineral, was processed here to make jewellery and other decorations and the factory dates from the 1830s. Although only the warehouse survives, the foundations of the larger factory complex are still visible, including a wheel pit. Near the stream is a large slab of stone scored by saw marks.
Walk out of the yard and up the lane for 55yd (50m). Turn left at the junction and walk over the bridge. Beside the stream stands the 200-year-old Poltesco Mill, which is on the site of an older medieval mill. This manorial corn mill is one of very few mills left in Cornwall that have survived intact. The water wheel was cast in 1901 in Helston.
Lizard Serpentine Company
The Lizard Serpentine Company (notice the initials LSC on the warehouse building) was founded in 1853 and closed 40 years later. In 1883 there were 20 men and three boys working here. For many years Jabez Druitt, owner of the company, lived at Caerleon House overlooking the works. All sorts of ornamental items from mantelpieces to vases were made from this unusual local stone. Queen Victoria ordered some items for her new house at Osborne, and many pieces were shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Return to the car park and walk through the gate at the far end, up the track and through the woods. The slopes here were orchards in previous centuries and until the 1980s were dominated by huge elm trees. The larger elm trees were killed by Dutch elm disease but there are some small surviving elms here today.
Poltesco and pilchards
Poltesco was one of many small Cornish coves and harbours where, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, the fishermen caught the abundant pilchards as they came close to shore in the late summer. The huge shoals could be seen from the cliffs by huers who raised the hue and cry and directed the fishermen to the fish. The fish were normally pressed and preserved for export. Sometimes they were used to make Star Gazy Pie, a West Cornwall speciality where the fishes heads poke through the topping, looking towards the stars.
At the South West Coast Path turn right. Briefly stop to climb the rocky knoll known as the Todden, from where there are good views across Kennack Bay to Black Head.
Keep going down the coast path, bearing left to arrive in Carleon Cove. The round, roofless, building housed a capstan, a man powered winch used for hauling boats up the beach. Pilchard cellars were based here until the 1800s.
Walk down onto the pebbly beach, and take the path inland beside the stream. The ruined buildings here are the remains of the Victorian serpentine factory, which made ornate polished stoneware, including mantelpieces and vases. This was once a bustling and noisy place, employing 20 men, with workshops, showrooms, a forge, boiler house and water wheel. Flat bottomed barges ferried goods out from the quay to waiting ships. Look out for a slab of serpentine scored by massive stone cutting saws more than a century ago.
Walk inland through the ruins and cross the footbridge, walking up steps of serpentine that were cut in the factory. Turn right at the top and pass Carleon House. From there follow the drive to return to the car park.
We hope that you really enjoyed this one-mile walk. We look after some of the most spectacular areas of countryside for the enjoyment of all. We need your support to help us continue our work to cherish the countryside and provide access to our beautiful and refreshing landscapes. To find out more about how you too can help our work as a volunteer, member or donor please visit our homepage.
Poltesco car park, grid ref: SW725157
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