Walk - Pengersick & St Germoe

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From Praa Sands Car Park, take the track that leads to the main road and turn right onto Castle Drive. Carry on round to the left where it becomes Pengersick Lane and walk about half a mile, to the A394 at the top.

On your left as you walk up Pengersick Lane, the building with the Tudor tower in the gardens to your left is Pengersick Castle. There is evidence that Pengersick's history goes back to the Bronze Age, but the Pengersicks themselves arrived in the 13th century, taking their name from the place, (Pengersick means 'head of the marsh'), and establishing a settlement here. They were one of the most notorious families of Cornwall, and their exploits gave rise to many a legend.

The most famous of these was the political wrangle between King John of Portugal and Henry VIII of England caused by events on the coast nearby one stormy night. With the two kings already at loggerheads over Henry's plans to divorce Catherine of Aragon, as well as his attempts to break up John's monopoly of the spice trade on the high seas, relations became even more strained after the flagship of John's fleet was wrecked on the rocks off the coast at nearby Gunwalloe.

Almost half the crew was drowned, and its remaining members found themselves unable to defend the particularly valuable cargo, which the ship had been carrying to Lisbon, as opportunistic locals helped themselves. They complained to the local magistrates; but by the time these arrived, much of the cargo had vanished, and the Portuguese accounts suggest that the assistance they finally brought to the scene was to the cause of the raiders and not the sailors. The incumbent of Pengersick at the time was one of the three prominent landowners named in the lawsuits which followed as John attempted to reclaim his treasure.

Other former lords of the Pengersick manor were more murderous in their evil deeds, giving rise to many tales of ghostly inhabitants. There is the monk who haunts the mediaeval gardens, the pale lady who gazes wistfully from the window but seconds later is writhing in agony on the Jacobean four-poster bed, the maidservant who tends her in her illness, the demon dog with the fiery eyes, the spectral cat chasing ghostly rats, the eerie white mist that waylays unsuspecting visitors...

  1. On the main road, turn right and after passing the houses cross over and pick up the footpath opposite, following this along the right-hand boundaries of two fields, to come out on the road to Germoe.
  2. Turn right here, and in Germoe fork left to the church.

Building on the Norman Church of St Germoe began in the 12th century and was remodelled and extended in the 15th century. It was constructed from Breaca granite, quarried at nearby Tregonning Hill, which was easier to work than most granites, being softer. In the 15th century the tower and the north aisle were added to the church, and the Germoe Monkeys, carved on either side of the door. These were said to depict the spirits of mischief and evil which were driven from the church door.

If you go through the graveyard at the back of the church, you will come to St Germoe's Chair: a small pillared structure with twin arches and a stone bench, and faces carved in the stone. Sixteenth century antiquarian John Leland is quoted as saying it was a shrine containing the bones of St Germoe, but subsequent investigations found that there were no bones there at all. This is a sedilia building, used as seating for clergy during services, and is very rare.

St Germoe was a missionary who arrived on Cornish soil from Ireland in 460AD. He and his sister Brecca landed at Hayle, but were set upon by a local warlord and fled up the River Hayle, fetching up in Tregonning and establishing a Celtic settlement here at Germoe.

  1. Returning to the road in front of the church, turn right to continue along it in the same direction as before, forking left to the track on your left, just a short distance beyond.

As you leave the church, you come across St Germoe's Holy Well, just over the road. This is a reconstruction of the original well which existed circa 1538, and it was designed and built by Germoe parishioners to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee.

  1. Carry on along the track, and after about 200 yards turn left with the footpath and follow the waymarkers through the fields, to come out between the houses at Newtown.
  2. Turn left on the road here and go back down to the A394.
  3. Almost immediately, turn right onto the lane running along behind the main road and follow it between houses for a little over a quarter of a mile, until you come to another lane to your left, which leads between houses and back down to the main road.
  4. Follow this lane to the A394 again, and cross over to carry on in the same direction along the track on the other side of the road to a small road beyond.On the road turn right and walk southwards, towards the coast, past Lower Kenneggy.
  5. On the far side of the farm, just after the track to the left, a path to the right leads between farm buildings, turning south between them to branch into two footpaths. Ignoring the path heading west on your right, carry on southwards along the other, and follow it down to where it joins the South West Coast Path above the sea.
  6. On the Coast Path turn left and walk with it around Hoe Point and above Sydney Cove.

At the base of the cliffs here is a red-brown ridge of rock protruding into the sea, formed 270 million years ago, when molten rock deep in the earth's crust pushed its way through a vertical crack to form an elvan dyke. If you take a closer look, you'll see that the feldspar crystals in it are all lined up in the same direction.

  1. Crossing the beach at Praa Sands and going up the steps by the café, walk through the bottom of the car park to the start of the walk.

Nearby refreshments

In Praa Sands and in various places throughout the surrounding area.

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