Thursday, 27 March 2014

Fowey to Lower Porthpean (South West Coast Path 45)


Our first view of Fowey was from the main car park. On the right is the church of St Fimbarrus, which dates back to 1336. To its left is the strangely named Place. This is the seat of the Treffrey family. According to Pevsner, the house was originally built some time after 1457. Parts date from the 19th century. In the background the waterway on the right is the Pont Pill, while the River Fowey is on the left. 

This is the view across the river to Polruan where we finished our walk last night.

We followed the Esplanade out of town and soon reached a vantage point with a view of St Catherine's Castle. 

Fowey was a major point in medieval times and after a celebrated French attack in 1465, blockhouses were built on either side of the river with a chain suspended between them.  The castle was added by Henry VIII as part of his comprehensive strengthening of south coast defences. (We have seen lots of other examples e.g. at Dartmouth, Hurst Castle near Bournemouth and on Portland).

After passing the bizarrely named Readymoney (this may be a Cornish tradition: the equally odd London Apprentice is near St Austell), there was a good view of the river. The Polruan blockhouse can still be seen on the right.

We headed out along a grassy cliff to path and soon began to enjoy views of the major natural feature of this section of coast: Gribbin Head.

On many of the path sides, especially when the path was climbing there were numerous primroses. This was a particularly good couple of clumps.

At Poldridmouth we were surprised to see a large isolated house right on the path, with this inviting lake beside it. The swan was certainly very well set.

As we approached Gribbin Head, you could look back on yesterday's section to see the houses of Polruan with Pencarrow Head behind.

A steady climb took us to the top of Gribbin Head, where the red and white striped tower could finally be seen for what it was. We thought it was maybe a lighthouse that had lost its light, but it turns out that it was purpose built as a beacon in 1832 by Trinity House.

The path became increasingly muddy as we walked up the west side of the peninsular which ends with Gribbin Head and we were glad to finally make the steep descent into Polkerris. A village with a lovely little beach, a pub where we enjoyed a refreshing drink, and not much else. This is the view back as you climb up out of the village.

Quiet soon we reached the start of Par Sands. This is the view from the far end looking back: the view which immediately confronted us was less inviting, as the west end of this large sandy beach is dominated by the China Clay works.

We walked along the back of the beach and were then forced to head inland through a Holiday Park and along the main road to skirt the works. Eventually we rejoined the coast again to walk beside Carlyon golf course and then what seemed to be a former quarry. Another grassy stretch then brought is to Charlestown.

This is known principally for its port, established in the 18th century by Charles Rashleigh, the major local landowner - and the village, then called West Polmear, was later renamed in his honour. It was originally built to facilitate the transport of copper from nearby mines, but its main function became the export of china clay from the region's quarries.

There was a dramatic view back in the evening sunshine as we climbed up to the former gun battery.

Less than a mile later we arrived at Lower Porthpean, tired but feeling a good sense of accomplishment from a long walk.

Conditions: grey at first, becoming sunny.

Grading: Moderate.
Distance: 11 miles. Distance now covered 263.1 miles.
Map: Explorer 107 (St Austell and Liskeard).
Rating: four stars. The section around Par was a bit grim, but this was otherwise varied and interesting.

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