SOUTH WEST COAST PATH: BLUEBELL WALKS
Discover beautiful bluebell walks along the South West Coastal Path in Cornwall which is perfect for walkers of all abilities
Summer is almost here and with it a mass of people heading to the fantastic South West Coastal Path. ALEX GREEN considers the benefits the path offers in Cornwall and finds that there’s more to it than simply stunning views
The South West Coast Path is considered one of the world’s greatest walks and has been voted the UK’s best walking route - and it’s easy to see why.It boasts 630 miles of stunning coastal scenery where no two days are ever the same and almost half of this is in Cornwall.
While the views speak for themselves, what people don’t always realise is the work that goes on behind the scenes to maintain this world-class walk. This involves a combination of the local authorities, the National Trust and private landowners.
In Cornwall alone, the investments range from a £71,000 project to restore the second world war gun battery at St Anthony’s Head on the Roseland peninsula and around £100,000 was spent in parts of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site around West Penwith to preserve the relics of its revolutionary industrial age.
The National Trust’s Countryside Manager for West Cornwall, Jon Brookes tells me: “Partnerships are the key to achieving good conservation of our landscapes and heritage and the opportunity to work closely with the South West Coast Path’s Unlocking our Coastal Heritage’ project has achieved sensitive restoration to three important sites in West Penwith at Cot Valley, Porthmeor and Kenidjack valley.
Overall, hundreds of projects have been completed that conserve, enhance and interpret the Coast Path, while making it more accessible in parts. This includes walks from the railway and improved access for wheelchair users. These individual projects were delivered by a wide partnership of organisations led by the SWCP team.
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The South West Coast Path has become a multi award-winning route after it was voted Britain’s Best Walk’ by readers of the Ramblers’ Walk’ magazine for the second time in a row, and in January, while storms battered the region’s coastline, it was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award’ at the South West England Tourism Excellence Awards 2013/14.
Boots on, let's go: Rosemullion Head Circular, Cornwall (4 miles)
This circular walk has spectacular views of Rosemullion Head, secluded coves and the beautiful Helford Estuary – and is lovely in springtime, when the bluebells are out under the trees. Make time to visit the gardens at Caerwinion, too, when primroses and blue anemones grow beneath the rhododendrons and camellias.
Start and Finish - Mawnan Church Car Park - TR11 5HY
1 From the car park at the end of Old Church Road, there is a path straight ahead. This leads up to the Church, which is well worth visiting.
Not much is known about St Mawnan or Maunanus but the church tower dates from the 14th century, the main part of the church the 15th with major restoration in the 19th. Built on top of an ancient earthwork its tower has been a focal point for shipping for many centuries and there was talk of painting the tower white to aid navigation but this was eventually rescinded. The churchyard affords some superb views and is well worth sitting in whilst appreciating the well tended landscape and contemplating life.
Descend the steps and turn right towards the Helford. The Coast Path leads out to Toll Point at the mouth of the Helford River. Opposite is Dennis Head the site of an Iron Age castle. It was also the site of a Royalist Civil War fort and was one of the last sites to surrender to Parliamentary forces in 1646. Also in view is the Coastguard Lookout on Nare Point.
The Helford River is an important area of marine conservation. With European designation it has 47kms of shoreline and a variety of habitats. There are seven creeks and the village of Gweek is 9kms from the mouth of the river. Famous for its oysters, it also has rare and protected eelgrass beds, Britain's only marine flowering plant, where sea slugs, anemones, cuttlefish and even seahorses use it as a hotel throughout the year.
2 Descend into Porthallack and Porth Saxon. Behind the boathouse on Porth Saxon beach is a path that leads up into the woods, (Mawnan Smith ¾ mile sign). Head up the path and stop to enjoy the birdsong, the brook and the large ferns of the Carwinion valley.
Carwinion Gardens is approached from the south side with the main entrance on the road that one turns right onto. One can turn left and descend to Mawnan Smith where one can access all local facilities expected from a large village such as the Red Lion Pub and a post office. It’s also worth visiting the local Smithy that is open to the public.
Returning to the walk, take care of the traffic along this mostly quiet road, as there isn’t any proper pavement. It does get busier during summer months.
3 Pass the road on the right leading down to Mawnan Church. The walk continues 100 metres up on the right.
4 From the Mawnan-Maenporth road take the driveway named Woodlands (grid ref 785283) down past Nansidwell Manor (now a private house) and head for the gate that descends down to the coast path.
There are Elm trees on the wall to ones left just after the gate. Notice the small walled garden a bit further on to the left, up some steps, with a variety of different oak trees from around the world.
5 The path descends through woodland to the sea between Bream and Gatamala Coves.Wild garlic and three-cornered leek abound in spring. At low tide some good rock pooling can be achieved down at these coves. Access to Bream Cove is to the left. Gatamala Cove is to the right. Both link up at low tide.
6 Turn right along the coast path heading for Rosemullion Head. It is believed that this was the site for an Iron Age fort and there is a possibility that two bronze age barrows are sited here.
7 One can walk around the base of the Head and on to the top where views stretch eastwards to St Mawes, St Anthony’s Head, Dodman Point and beyond.
Westwards, one can see the southernmost point of the Lizard and the Manacles Rocks (from the Cornish “Maen Eglos” or stones of the church). The long beach directly to the right is Prisk Cove, another superb place for rock pooling. Keep an eye out for oystercatchers and stonechats and even the odd herd of cattle that descend the path and enjoy the vegetation around the back of the beach.
Two shipwrecks are at the base of Rosemullion Head, The Endeavour (1804) and the Alma (1895). Descend to the beach by going over two stiles from Rosemullion Head, hug the seaward hedge and the entrance to the beach becomes apparent.
8 Once back on the coast path, continue up into the woods at Mawnan Church.
9 There is a path to the right half way into the woods. Go back past the church to the car park.
Mawnan Smith and Trebah Gardens and Maenporth Beach.
There are frequent buses between Helston and Falmouth that stop at Mawnan Smith. From here walk up hill for a mile towards Maenporthand the footpath is on the right after the turning for Mawnan Church. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.
Paying car park at Mawnan Church (SW 788 272). There is a suggested donation of £2 or you can park just off the road at SW 785 283 near Nansidwell Farm (nearest Postcode for Sat Navs: TR11 5HY).
For more bluebell walks on the South West Coast Path visitwww.southwestcoastpath.com/bluebellwalks
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