Walk - Basset's Cove & Tehidy
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From Portreath's beach car park cross the road and turn right, crossing the stream to turn left at the entrance to the Basset Arms car park. Bear left along the riverside footpath and follow it along Tregea Terrace, carrying on ahead at the junction to go under the bridge and along Glenfeadon Terrace.
This bridge carried one of the inclined planes of the Portreath branch of the Hayle Railway.
The Camborne and Redruth area was a major mining centre in the nineteenth century and produced half of Cornwall's total metal output. The ports at Hayle and Portreath were linked to a network of railways and tramroads which ran throughout the district. At first dozens of pack mules were used to carry the ore and coal, but in 1809 a tramroad, or 'plateway' was built along the valley between Portreath and Poldice.
In 1837, the Portreath branch of the new Hayle Railway connected the town's engineering works and quays to the copper mines around Redruth and Camborne, taking coal to the mines and bringing back the ore. On the four steep sections of the route there were cable-operated inclined planes, using stationary steam winders to raise and lower trucks on the slopes. One of these ran from the hillside above Portreath Harbour, sending the wagons to the coalyards and turntables below.
- At Primrose Terrace take a sharp turn to the right and bear right along the footpath to climb steadily through the wooded valley, zigzagging around the farm buildings of the Duchy Agricultural College. Turn left below the holiday lodges and then right on the track, staying to the left of the lodges.
The footpath from Primrose Terrace was one of the old tramways and has been renovated as part of the Minerals Tramway Heritage Project, a £6 million Cornwall County Council regeneration initiative. 60 kilometres of paths have been created for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders along the routes of the old railway and tramway, giving access to some of the key sites of this unique mining area. Some innovative engineering techniques were devised for the construction of the Heritage Tramway, including the use of recycled materials.
- Towards the top of the hill the route of the Hayle Railway crosses your track. Carry straight on along the path ahead to the road.
- Cross the road, carrying on by the car park to go into the Tehidy Country Park. Follow the path into woodland, continuing along the Pine Walk beside the golf course. At the junction of paths bear left and follow the pink trail along the edge of the woods to another junction.
- Detour left for the café and toilets and a view of Tehidy House; but otherwise keep following the pink waymarkers straight ahead. Turn right on the track opposite a gate to continue along the pink trail and then the blue trail, heading for North Cliffs car park. From the car park go on out to the road.
Tehidy was first recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book, when it was called Tedintone. It was the biggest manor in the area, and its lands extended past Illogan and through Redruth and Camborne. From the twelfth century it was owned by the Basset family, some of the earliest Norman settlers in England. They became enormously wealthy in the eighteenth century through the leases they granted for the mines exploiting the tin and copper reserves on their land. They owned two of Cornwall's most profitable mines - Cooks Kitchen Mine, built on their land in Pool during the 1740s, and the neighbouring Dolcoath, known as 'The Queen of Cornish Mines' - and revenue from these and their other mines totalled £10,000 per annum - an enormous sum at the time. In 1873 they were Cornwall's largest fourth largest landowner.
The original manor house was sacked in the fifteenth century and rebuilt in 1493. In 1736-40, as the profits began to roll in from the mines, it was demolished again and a Georgian gentleman's residence was built in its place, with extensive landscaped grounds, including a deer park where the golf course is today.
In 1779, an enormous joint French and Spanish fleet anchored in Cawsand Bay, to the west of Plymouth Sound, with field guns and 30,000 infantry in 66 vessels. Their intention was to take Rame Head, from where they could mount a very effective campaign against Plymouth's Citadel and its dockyards. The city's defences were woefully inadequate, and it was only thanks to easterly gales that it was spared certain capture. The storms drove the invading force back to the Scilly Isles, where the English Fleet was waiting for it. After a stand-off both forces retreated; but Tehidy's Francis Basset decided that action was needed in case it should happen again. The following year he marched his miners to Plymouth and set them to work on strengthening the fortifications around the Tamar and Plymouth Sound. He was rewarded with a peerage, becoming Baron de Dunstanville.
He put his money and influence to good use in other ways too. During his lifetime, the miners working his copper mines were given 400 acres of Tehidy land to cultivate as smallholdings. He was also responsible for the financing of the plateway from Poldice to Portreath. When he died, in 1835, 20,000 people gathered at Tehidy for the funeral procession, and the de Dunstanville monument was erected on Carn Brea in his honour.
He was succeeded by his nephew, John Francis Basset, who set about lavishly refurbishing the mansion to make it one of Cornwall's finest buildings, with 40 bedrooms and a sumptuous drawing room with a gold ceiling.
Tehidy was sold in 1916, and in 1919 the house opened as a sanitorium for the treatment of tuberculosis. Two weeks after the hospital opened it was gutted in a fire rumoured to be the handiwork of Tehidy ghosts; but it was rebuilt and remained in use as a hospital until 1988.
In 1983 Cornwall County Council purchased the grounds and developed the Country Park.
- On the road at North Cliffs, turn right and then take the track on the left to join the South West Coast Path above Basset's Cove.
Like the other remote coves along this stretch of coastline, the beach at Basset's Cove is a boulder field, where rocky outcrops of all shapes and sizes are lashed by the waves. Some of the larger islands and islets are grass-topped and their ledges are home to nesting seabirds, while the smaller rocks and boulders are matted with seaweed and pitted with rockpools.
- Turn right on the Coast Path, heading back towards Portreath.
- Reaching Carvannel Downs, ignore the path to the right to descend steeply to the valley and climb out of it again on the far side. Ignoring another path inland to the right, at the top of the hill, carry on above the cliffs and then the beach to the headland at Western Hill.
Just offshore at Carvannel, Samphire and Asparagus Islands are named for the plants that flourish there in the salt air. The rubbery leaves of the samphire plant are sometimes used in salads, and wild asparagus is similar to the cultivated variety, but more slender and with a more subtle taste.
Flint tools have been found in the area, dating from Neolithic (Late Stone Age) times, and historians believe that the name Carvannel suggests that there was some kind of prehistoric settlement here. Above Basset's Cove are the last remnants of an Iron Age promontory fort, Crane Castle (see the Reskajeage & Tehidy Walk).
The next cove is known as Ralph's Cupboard. There are a number of different legends about how it got its name. Some say that a giant lurked in the cave that was here before it collapsed, and he plucked unwary sailors from the sea in order to eat them. Others say that the 'cupboard' was really a smuggler's store for his contraband. The outcrop dividing the cove is known as The Horse.
- Approaching Western Hill, (also known as Treaga Hill), take the path to the right for a shortcut across the back of the hill or carry on ahead around the headland, with an optional detour to the top of the hill for breathtaking coastal views.
- At the bottom of the hill turn left and then either take the slipway down to the beach to walk back across the sand to the car park, or bear right onto Battery Hill, turning left at the end.
Portreath cafes (seasonal) and pubs; just off the route of the walk Tehidy Country Park Cafe (grid ref: SW 649 434).