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Walks from Polperro

This page features two walks from Landfall Walks No. 14 (Around Looe, Polperro and Liskeard) compiled by Bob Acton of Landfall Publications, by kind permission of the author and publishers. Both walks start and finish in Polperro - Walk no. 1 is a circular walk to the east side of the village and passes through Talland. Walk no. 2 is a similar but somewhat longer circular walk to the west of Polperro, passing through Lansallos. Both walks utilise part of the coastal path. It is hoped to have other interesting walks in due course - any suggestions?

Click on walk in index or scroll down to see details - and don't forget to print out this page to take with you!

Walks 1 & 2 © Bob Acton, Landfall Publications, Landfall, Penpol, Devoran, Truro, Cornwall, TR3 6NR Tel:01872 862581 Publishers of Bob Acton's Landfall Walks books featuring local history in Cornwall. Please contact us for full list


Index

WALK 1 - An inland walk from Polperro to Talland, returning by the coast
WALK 2 - An inland walk from Polperro to Lansallos, returning by the coast

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Want more information on walks in Cornwall? Contact Bob Acton, Landfall Publications, telephone 01872 862581


WALK 1 - AN INLAND WALK FROM POLPERRO TO TALLAND, returning by the coast

Distance: nearly five miles. small map of walk

For large map (98KB) in new window click on small map to left

Lots of visitors to Polperro walk the coast path to Talland and back, but I wonder how many discover the delightful valley walk to Longcoombe Mill and West Watergate. That's another world altogether: it's amazing how soon you can feel a million miles from any tourist trap! The road from Sclerder Abbey to Porthallow is less idyllic but still pleasant, with flowery banks (at the right times of year) and coastal views ahead. The route includes a short stretch - about 250 yards - on a main road. Visibility is good and there is a grass verge, so there should be no problem. Refreshments are - at least during the season - available at Porthallow and Talland as well as Polperro.
If you can get hold of a copy of the leaflet detailing a guided walk around Polperro (issued in 1994 by Project Explore and available at the Discovery Centre and Tourist Information Centre in Looe), it would be very useful to have it with you as you come through the village at the end of this walk.

The walk starts and ends at the Crumplehorn car park, which is as close to Polperro (*) as cars are allowed (unless they have special authorisation).

POLPERRO

"The poore harbour and village of Polpera coucheth betweene 2. steepe hils, where plenty of fish is vented to the fish drivers, whom we call Jowters." That is all the space Richard Carew devoted to Polperro in his Survey of Cornwall, written towards the end of the 16th century. Fifty years or so earlier it had struck John Leland the Antiquary similarly: "... a smawle Creke cawled Poul Pier, and a simple and poore Village (a litle fischar Toun) apon the Est Syde of the same...."

Turn to Murray's Handbook for Devon and Cornwall (1859), however, and the tone is altogether different: "Polperro (Inn: the Ship), a fishing village in a situation eminently romantic, nestling, as it were, on the rocky shore and ledges of an inlet...."

At about the same time, one of the earliest examples of a local history dealing with a Cornish community, as distinct from accounts of the local gentry and clergy, was being written by the doctor and naturalist Jonathan Couch (say "Cooch"). It was published in 1871, a year after his death, and a shortened version of it, with added illustrations, was brought out by Dyllansow Truran in 1965. The only other book I have come across which is currently in print and could be regarded as essential reading on the village is "Polperro's Smuggling Story" by J.R.Johns, which features the only man who rivals Couch as Polperro's most famous inhabitant (though not in fact born here), Zephaniah Job, a schoolteacher who late in the 18th century became deeply involved in the contraband trade by handling the bank accounts for it. Two other books worth looking out for in the secondhand shops and libraries are "The Rooks of Trelawne" by Andrew Lanyon (1976) and Sheila de Burlet's "Portrait of Polperro" (1977). Both include excellent archive photographs of village and villagers. A useful brief outline of the village's features and history is in the Cornwall Heritage Project's "Looe & Polperro Driveabout". Finally, of course, there is the Fishing & Smuggling Museum, which is on the walk route.

A. From the car park entrance turn sharp right up Longcoombe Lane, which runs beside the stream at first. For about a quarter of a mile there are bungalows on the right, each of which would have a beautiful valley view if not for the vast car park and busy road below. Once beyond the bungalows, the road levels off and becomes a roughish lane, and now the deep valley is a lush green. Soon you start to descend; the surroundings grow even prettier and the sound of the stream grows louder as the road comes close to it again.

A plaque on Longcoombe Mill announces that it was rebuilt in 1970; if that reduces its historical interest, no doubt it greatly enhances it as a place to live. Its delightful garden stretches for what seemed like several hundred yards beside the stream.

Longcoombe Mill was established as early as the 13th century by the monks from Newenham in Devon who took possession of Pelynt manor in 1248. It did not grind corn - the monks had another mill a little way downstream for that purpose - but cleaned and thickened wool by pounding and washing it; in other words it was a fulling or tucking mill. The pair of mills here bore various names at various times, including Kelliou/Kelliow/Kellow Mills and Badcocke's Mills.

(A brief item on Cornish Tucking Mills is included in Charles Henderson's Essays in Cornish History, and Geoffrey Grigson gives an interesting explanation of the processes involved in Freedom of the Parish, as well as telling in some detail about his explorations and deductions related to the mills at Longcoombe.)

B. At the road junction turn sharply to the right. The road crosses the main stream, surrounded here by a marshy patch, but then runs beside a fast-flowing tributary. This little valley road - grass grows in the centre for much of its length - goes gently uphill for about half a mile. There is an apiary on the right (the constant humming ensures you can't fail to notice), and just beyond that a marshy area on the other side of the stream which seemed to hold great appeal for a herd of cattle.

C. Don't cross the ford or the footbridge beside it, but take the left turning immediately beyond them - another pretty little road with flowery banks. At the main road, cross with care and continue ahead.

D. Take the first right turning, signposted to Sclerder Abbey Catholic Church and Talland.

Early in 1995 the Carmelite Monastery buildings were being greatly extended or rebuilt: evidently the monastic life is attracting plenty of adherents still. If you take the right turning you will come to the older buildings, dating from the 1840s, when Roman Catholic members of the Trelawny family set up the mission here and dedicated it to "Our Lady of Light". ("Sclerder" derives from a Breton word for "light".) At various times Sclerder has been home to Belgian Franciscan friars, Carmelite nuns from Lanherne (St Mawgan-in-Pydar) and Poor Clares.

(Incidentally, you could greatly shorten the walk by continuing along this road. After about half a mile of pleasant walking with good coastal views you would come to the main road; turn left there. The car park is nearly a mile away at that point, but there is a pavement the whole way.)

For Talland, continue south along the road, passing Sclerder Abbey on your right. Eventually the road grows narrower and begins to descend more steeply. A little way above Porthallow (*), Allhays was advertising cream teas in May 1995, and at Porthallow itself is the Talland Bay Hotel.

PORTHALLOW

The Domesday manor of Portatlant is thought to have been here. The version of the name in "Lake's Parochial History", "Portalla", perhaps indicates how it is still said locally. James Derriman in "Killigarth" (of which I give details later) mentions a holy well at Porthallow; it was called the Brydewell - hence the names of the nearby Bridals Farm and Bridals Lane, the latter often explained as being a "bridle way" or else the route brides took to Talland church.

Talland Church

E. Below Porthallow the road curves right, and here you could use the public footpath ahead instead of continuing down the road. This would be the better route to take if you want to go to the beach or visit the Smugglers' Rest or the church, and it also gives you a fine view of Talland Bay. For the path, go through the farm gate or the narrow gap on the right side of it. Please heed the requests to keep dogs on leads and to close the gate behind you; the danger of being attacked by cattle can be ignored with more likelihood of impunity.

The path runs down the left side of the field to a stile at the bottom.

F. For the church, turn left on the road. It's a stiff climb, be warned! For a note about it, see the walk on the Looe website - www.looe.org or visit the Talland website - www.talland.org. Otherwise, turn right. Instead of keeping to the road you could walk through a grassy field beside the low cliff where cars park. Continue along the road after that, turn left for the toilets, then right for the beach caf‚ and the coast path.

G. The path goes steeply uphill at first. At the time of writing it has been diverted for a short way because of cliff falls (but I understand that a route closer to the cliff should be restored fairly soon). As things are at present, you have to turn sharp left, following a white acorn sign, along the drive to Westcliff Old Court Hotel; the path goes to the seaward side of the hotel. After quite a long uphill stretch, rather rough and rocky underfoot, you reach Downend Point, where there is a memorial to those from both Talland and Polperro who fell in World War One.

This is a good place to pause and admire the view, extending over 30 miles east past Rame Head to Bolt Head south of Salcombe, and westwards about 35 miles past Dodman Point to Black Head, not far from the Lizard. The big dishes at the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station were visible as I sat here having my well-earned picnic. On the sea horizon is the Eddystone lighthouse, some nine miles out.

From the memorial the path continues upwards a little further, but then starts a gradual descent. Notice the almost vertical strata in the rocks ahead, down by the sea, and the wonderful variety of shades of green in the luxuriant vegetation on the cliff slopes above them. The greens were diversified in May by a small apple tree in full blossom! On the headland this side of Polperro harbour is a small white lighthouse, now operated automatically.

Finally the path descends more steeply and you are among the higgledy-piggledy cottages of Polperro. There is a fine view of harbour and village from this side. The substantial building on the rocks on the far side of the inlet is a net loft, owned by the National Trust but let to fishermen. Reuben's Walk, the path on your left, leads to the coastguard lookout and lighthouse; it is named after one Reuben Oliver, a local magistrate and parish council official who as an old man, though blind, used to walk out to the lighthouse whenever he could. The street you enter after that is The Warren, reflecting the fact that this area was used in medieval times for farming rabbits for meat. The Shell House, on the right, "was decorated by a retired naval man in the 1950s using his lifetime's collection from around the world." I am quoting from the guided walk leaflet I mentioned at the start; if you haven't already got a copy, try the Polperro Fishing & Smuggling Museum, which occupies a former fish-processing factory on the left. The Museum is well worth a visit, whether or not you find the leaflet there, and is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily.

H. The direct way back to the car park is obvious: along Fore Street and up The Coombes, flanked on the right by the notorious stream which has wreaked such havoc after heavy rains over recent years. If you're too exhausted by now to walk up to the top, a horse carriage or a little red bus will take you.

Crumplehorn Mill, near the car park, was originally Killigarth Manor Mill. Killigarth, at one time and another the home of two of Cornwall's famous families, the Bevills and the Grenviles, is on the hill to the east. Killigarth Mills were mentioned in a document of 1593, and much of the 16th-century building probably survived until about 1860, when there was a complete rebuild. The present wheel has been brought here from elsewhere: it is, to quote Anthony Hitchens Unwin, "a typical farmer's type" of wheel, made by Harris of Polmorla, Wadebridge. A photograph showing how different the mill looked early this century is on page 112 of James Derriman's book, Killigarth (published by the author, 1994).


WALK 2 - AN INLAND WALK FROM POLPERRO TO LANSALLOS, returning by the coast

Distance: About six and a half miles.

Two shorter routes are also given. These would reduce the total distance by about two or one-and-a-half miles respectively.

small map of walk

For large map (74KB) in new window click on small map above

If you asked me to name my "top ten" Cornish places of unspoilt, uncommercialised beauty, Lansallos would be well towards the top of the list, and the coast path between there and Polperro scores very highly on the same basis. It is also, however, one of the most exhausting stretches to walk, and when you get to the end of it - whether you have done it in the westerly or the easterly direction - there is no public transport to get you back to where you started. That's all very well if (a) you're very fit, or (b) you have a car at each end, or (c) you're "doing the coast path" and don't want to return. For the rest of us, I think the best solution is to use the minor roads and/or paths inland for one direction: the distance is slightly less, the route is comparatively level (despite a very long hill at the Polperro end; if you start there, at least you get that over with while you're fresh!), and the inland scene has an attraction and interest of its own, making a strong contrast with the coast.

Perhaps I ought to mention that in two or three places the coast path runs close enough to the cliff edge to be disconcerting if you suffer from vertigo. The two shorter routes as described here mean leaving out Lansallos, but they both include the toughest part of the coastal walking; for much easier and shorter walks, they could both be adapted to start and finish at Lansallos, omitting Polperro. The National Trust "Coast of Cornwall" leaflet No. 22 includes very useful descriptions and explanations of features along this stretch of coast; also handy for the first and last parts of this walk would be the Polperro guided walk leaflet recommended in the introduction to Walk 11. Finally, modesty does not forbid me to suggest you take Around the River Fowey with you to consult at the Lansallos end.

Polperro, of course, has all "facilities". At Lansallos there are public toilets (normally open all year round), and between Easter and the end of September you can get morning coffee and excellent teas (preferably of the Cornish Cream variety) at Lansallos Barton.

This walk, like the previous one, starts and ends at the Crumplehorn car park on the edge of Polperro. If you prefer to use Lansallos as the base, you should be able to find suitable roadside parking. The small layby beside the church would be fine provided that a service is not imminent.

A. From Crumplehorn walk down the hill towards the village. (A comment on Crumplehorn Mill and a note on Polperro are included in Walk 11.)

B. Take the right turning, Mill Hill, leading to the Land of Legend model village and the Old Mill House pub. Manor Mill - the Manor probably being Raphael, about which more later - fell out of use as a corn mill during World War One, but about 1929 had a new lease of life generating electricity. The road dwindles to a narrow footpath curving uphill to join Landaviddy Lane. Turn right on that. Now comes the long climb I warned you about. Once you reach Landaviddy - described on its signs as a "Licensed Manor House" - the worst is nearly over, and there follows fairly level walking along minor roads with high, flowery (at least in early summer) banks. There's not usually much traffic, since unauthorised motorised vehicles are not allowed down into Polperro this way. When I walked this, the concerted baa-ing of what sounded like at least a thousand sheep (it was probably a few dozen) announced Raphael well before I came to the big barns and the farmhouse with its massive pillars at the doorway and its walled garden.

RAPHAEL

Raphael was named as Raswale in the Domesday survey, and is also seen in old documents spelt "Rathwell" or "Rafael". In the 15th century the manor belonged to the Colshull family: see the note on Tremadart in Walk 5. The manor lands included the Landaviddy estate and Polperro harbour, and when they were sold off in 1811 the right of the harbour was bought by the famous or infamous Zephaniah Job: see the note on Polperro in Walk 11.

Continuing along the road, you soon reach a lane on the left marked "Farm entrance only". The farm is Great Lizzen, and the lane is shown on the maps as a public right of way. The footpath has in fact been diverted, so go on along the road for a further half mile or so.

C. Eventually you will see a public footpath sign pointing to a farm lane on the left; it comes just a few yards before the right turning along which traffic for Polperro is directed. It was not a public footpath when the Pathfinder map was printed (1980), but must be very useful now to holidaymakers staying in converted farm buildings just along the Polperro road.

So, if you want the shortest of the three routes I am recommending, turn down the lane (no more than a tractor track now, but it must once have been the entrance drive to Little Lizzen Farm). If you look back from the first part of this lane, you will have a view over Polperro to a long line of coast eastwards. The lane does a little flip to right and left, and later turns left to a gate marked with a yellow arrow. Follow the direction of that, passing left of the ruined but wonderfully situated old farmhouse, then straight on downhill beside a short length of wall with another waymark sign fixed to a post on it. Lower down, the path runs just right of the field boundary; more yellow arrows confirm the route. After the gate the path becomes steep and soon brings you to a stile beside the coast path; turn left on that to return to Polperro. Pick up the directions near the top of page 100. For the middle-length and longest routes, still continue along the road. Ignore the right turning, but almost half a mile beyond that turn left. A short way past that turning you will reach Windsor Farm.

D. For the middle-length walk, turn left just past the farm buildings when you come to a stile and gate on the left with a National Trust sign, Footpath to cliffs. This very attractive permissive path is easy to follow, running in a fairly straight line down East Coombe, just to the right of the stream. Immediately beyond a second stile-cum-gate there is a gorse patch which threatens to grow across the path, but after that all is plain sailing. A final stile near the bottom of the valley brings you to the coast path. But despite all the delights of East Coombe, I hope you have decided to press on to Lansallos. The road is mostly level at first. Soon you have a fine view ahead to (I presume) Fowey, and the china-clay country beyond; then, as the road starts to dip, the coast westwards. The farm on the right as you enter the village is Lansallos Barton, where Mrs Talling does those cream teas; or you could really give yourself a treat and book in for a stay! Not far beyond are the toilets, and then the church (*): do try to spare time for a good look inside as well as out.

LANSALLOS CHURCH

"Of all the churches visited on walks in this book, I think Lansallos is my favourite." So I wrote at the start of my note on it in "Around the River Fowey", and I see no reason to modify that opinion as applied to this book. I also see no reason to repeat that note: I'd much rather you bought a copy of "Fowey"! Failing that - or best of all, in addition to that - there's a good church guide leaflet. The only slight quarrels I have with it concern the rather battered slate coffin slab now fixed to the south wall. Firstly, the lady seems to have died in 1579 rather than 1577. More interestingly, according to Alice Bizley's "The Slate Figures of Cornwall" her second (rather than first, as stated in the leaflet) husband was called "Buttoxhead", not the more decorous but equally risible "Buttonhead". The "official" family name was, I'm disappointed to have to tell you, "Budockshide", referring to their native parish of St Budeaux (pronounced "Buddix"), near Plymouth.

As you leave the church and return through the churchyard, notice the last-but-one tombstone before the main gate, dedicated to "John Perry, Mariner," "unfortunately kill'd by a Cannon Ball by a Person Unknown" at the age of 24 in 1779. As the church leaflet says, he was a smuggler, and he may be buried at Talland, where there is an exact copy of this monument.

E. From the church follow the sign, To the Coastpath, and the National Trust sign to the beach. Beyond the gate you have one of the loveliest of all Cornwall's "green lanes": like many of the others, it was originally cut through soil and rock as a pack-horse road, enabling sand and seaweed (and also in more recent times limestone or burnt lime, if Grigson is correct in saying there was a lime kiln at Lansallos) to be brought up from the beach to sweeten and fertilise the acid soils. Yet another use for it would have been to serve the corn mill, the ruins of which could still be seen just above the beach about thirty years ago. No doubt it had its value for smugglers too. (The side-path on the right gives access to a charming, sheltered valley, well worth exploring; some details are given in the NT leaflet I recommended at the start, and also as part of Walk 2 in Around the River Fowey.)

F. After the gate, turn left on the coast path. "Polperro 3" may sound harmless enough, but.... Perhaps all I need say is that it's the sort of path on which leg-weary walkers gleefully and sadistically inform those coming in the opposite direction how many steps they'll have to climb. Luckily, its beauty is as breathtaking as its gradients, and straight away you have a lovely view west across Lantivet Bay, with a little waterfall below, where the Reed Water stream drops to the beach.

Don't miss the right turning, through a gate, signed Coast Path and Beach. Except perhaps for the last half-mile or so, directions for walking the coast path are unnecessary. Both the paths inland (up East Coombe and through Little Lizzen) have obvious stiles at the start. The first long flight of steps (I counted 119) comes just after the second of those, where a white pillar stands as a navigational aid (to seafarers, not you; the aid you need now may be of another sort!).

At the top of the slope you are rewarded with a seat from which to admire the view westwards, past Gribbin Head with its prominent red-and-white-striped landmark, to the Dodman, and far beyond that if conditions are clear enough.

When I sat here last, a three-masted sailing vessel was dawdling across an utterly placid sea, only two days after the beautiful old sailing ship which used to be such an attraction at Charlestown, the Maria Asumpta, had been turned to matchwood on the rocks east of Padstow, with the loss of three of her crew.

Now the path goes steeply down to a footbridge, from which you are faced with (unless breathlessness impeded my ability to count) 168 steps up - and even then you're not at the top! Just beyond the NT Raphael Cliff sign, look back to see a natural arch down by the sea. After the flight of 150 steps (down, you'll be relieved to hear), notice the spectacularly distorted strata in the rocks ahead.

Another NT sign announces Chapel Cliff; the name is pronounced "chayple" locally, but does refer to a medieval chapel of St Peter which used to be at the eastern end of this stretch of cliff, overlooking Polperro.

After another steep climb and another welcome seat, the path divides at a point where there was a fine show of foxgloves in June; here keep left unless you want to make use of the shelter the lower path leads to. After that it really doesn't matter which path you choose, but the "official" coast path is the lowest one, rather rocky underfoot, which passes an odd little cave that looks like an ideal cache for contraband.

As this path turns inland near Peak Rock it passes near the net loft mentioned towards the end of Walk 11; for details, see page 8 in the NT leaflet. I hardly need to point out the superb view of Polperro harbour: you'll probably have to push your way through the queue of holidaymakers waiting to photograph it.

G. Once you are down among the higgledy houses, to return to the Crumplehorn car park you can either go across the so-called Roman Bridge at the head of the harbour and turn left up Fore Street, or keep more-or-less straight on up Lansallos Street and turn right down Mill Hill, retracing your steps at the start of this walk.
This information transferred from printed version to web page June 2000

Want more information on walks in Cornwall? Contact Bob Acton, Landfall Publications tel: 01872 862581

Do you have a favourite walk in the Polperro area that you would like to share with others? Send full details, including, if possible, a map and photos to webmaster@polperro.org

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