Walk - Hendra & Praa Sands
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 the entrance to Praa Sands Car Park, turn right and take the lane to Castle Drive. Turn right and follow it round as it becomes Pengersick Lane, past Praa Sands Holiday Park, for about 250 yards, to Pengersick Parc.
Parc is the Cornish word for 'field'. Like the other Celtic tongues, the Cornish language is undergoing a revival, and many of the signs around this part of the county, in particular, display the Cornish names as well as the English.
On your left a short way uphill from the holiday park you'll see Pengersick Castle. There may have been a fortified house here as early as the 13th Century, but the surviving tower that you see today dates from the 16th Century. The castle has a colourful history and is reputed to be Britain's most haunted building (see the Pengersick Walk).
- At Pengersick Parc turn right, and go through the gate at the end to pick up the winding green footpath beyond. Follow the path to where it comes out on Trevurvas Lane.
- Bear left on the road and walk along it, past Trevurvas Farm, to the footpath sign on the right at the left-hand bend.
- Take the footpath along the right-hand boundary of the field ahead, continuing in the same direction over the stiles and steps to the track beyond, which will lead you past Hendra Farm to Hendra Lane.
- Turning right on the road to walk a few yards along it, pick up the footpath opposite and follow the waymarkers through fields towards Rinsey Farm.
- Coming out on Rinsey Lane, carry on along the lane as it curves around (or take the footpath opposite on a short detour, curving right around the field to rejoin the road a moment later).
- Ignoring the lane on your right leading down to the National Trust car park, take the right turn between the cottages beyond it, which heads towards the coast. Pick up the footpath at the end and follow it sharply left around this first field before carrying on alongside the wall above the engine house at Wheal Prosper.
Wheal Prosper was built in 1860, using slate from a nearby quarry, and the other structure on your right as you approach it is a bat castle, built over a shaft to prevent the unwary from falling in (see the Rinsey Walk).
Cross the stile at the end of the wall, beyond the engine house, and head straight across the field to the gate opposite.
- Going through the gate, follow the path straight ahead, with Trewavas Farm to your left, and go over the stile ahead, to turn right onto the South West Coast Path as it heads around Trewavas Cliff and beyond to Rinsey East Cliff.
At Trewavas the old engine houses perch perilously on the edge of the cliff, a dramatic reminder of the days when this area was intensively worked for the richness of its mineral resources. (See the Rinsey Walk for more information about Trewavas, and the Kenneggy Walk for more about the mining in this area). Recently a project led and funded by The National Trust to restore the mine buildings was completed.
- Above Rinsey Cove the path splits into two. Leave the Coast Path and take the lower path, to your left and below Wheal Prosper, as it makes it way around Rinsey Head, crossing Rinsey Lane halfway over the headland, below the car park.
- On the far side of the headland the two paths rejoin. Turn left onto the Coast Path again and walk with it above Lesceave Rocks and the beach at Hendra.
Like much of the Cornish coastline, the rocks here were responsible for many a shipwreck; and here as elsewhere, too, sometimes the locals saw this as an opportunity to supplement the meagre livelihood which they scratched from farming or fishing with a spot of plunder. One particularly lucrative episode of this caused a diplomatic incident between Henry VIII and King John III of Portugal (see the Pengersick Walk).
Another shipwreck a few centuries later, however, was responsible for measures taken to save lives or at least to give those lost at sea a decent burial.
After the frigate HMS Anson went down off the Loe Bar in 1807, with about 100 men being drowned as they tried to swim to shore, an Act of Parliament was passed permitting the construction of the Prince of Wales harbour at Porthleven, providing a safe haven for ships caught in storms here. Helston cabinetmaker Henry Trengrouse, too, was prompted by the tragedy to design ship-to-shore lifesaving equipment such as rocket launchers, rocket lines, life-jackets and the bosun's chair (see the Loe Tide at Porthleven Walk). Modern versions of these continued to save lives right up to 1988, when helicopters took over the role.
Another local man, Davis Gilbert, played an active part in securing the 1808 Act allowing bodies cast up by the sea to have a Christian burial. He was encouraged in his efforts by Helston MP Mr Grylls.
- Returning to the Coast Path as it heads back towards Praa Sands, walk with it to the drive at Sea Meads and walk along the tarmac until you come to the path on the left leading down to the dunes above the beach.
- Turning onto this path, make your way down to the beach.
Praa Sands saw its share of smuggling. Contraband was dropped overboard from a ship at anchor, to be collected later under cover of darkness and brought ashore, when land parties signalled that the coast was clear, using lanterns or the pan of a flintlock pistol. The going rate for a night's labour in the smuggling business was 1 shilling, with a 5 shilling bonus if the run was successful.
Praa Sands is an important area for its geological features. These include the granite at Rinsey Head, and the Elvan Dyke at Sydney Cove (see the Pengersick Walk), as well as the fossilised peat bed which is visible as a black platform beneath the dunes near the café. Analysis of pollen samples from the peat have shown that alders grew nearby: evidence that this was once a forest before it was submerged by rising sea levels after the last Ice Age.
During the Ice Age, the climate here would have been similar to that of Siberia today. In the winter the temperatures were so low that the soil cracked as it froze, and the cracks filled with loose material, visible today as fossil ice wedges: pale vertical structures in the cliffs. In the summer the surface thawed out a little, and pieces of frost-shattered rock slid down and accumulated in layers known as periglacial head.
The headland at Rinsey Head is a noted exposure of the 280-million-year-old Tregonning-Godolphin Granite, with pronounced folds and cleavages and large crystals of quartz and feldspar in the rock, and many of the boulders on Hendra Beach are granite.
- Pick up the path through the dunes until you arrive back at the Car Park and the start of the walk.
In Praa Sands and in various places throughout the surrounding area.