Walk - Maenporth to Rosemullion Head
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the car park at Maenporth, with your back to the sea turn left and walk a little way uphill to pick up the South West Coast Path on your left. Follow it around the headland above the beach, dropping down towards Bream Cove as it passes houses and a hotel on your right and private moorings on your left.
The first written reference to Rosemulllion was in 1318, when it was called 'rosemylian'. The name is thought to come from the Cornish word 'melhyonen', meaning 'clover', and as you round the first corner towards the headland there are swathes of pink clover in the summer. The path is a riot of colour at this time of year: purple heather, vetch, wild thyme and thistles, yellow trefoil, buttercups, dandelions and tomentil, blue bugloss and sheep's bit, red campions and speckled white sea campions, white and purple daisies. Carrying on along the path, clumps of monbretia in the gardens bordering the path add to the red of the fuchsias and the pink, white and blue of the hydrangeas, while moths and butterflies flit between them.
When you reach the cove, and Gatamala Cove beyond it, tiny paths lead down to equally miniature beaches, including Woodlands Beach, part of the National Trust's land at Nansidwell. There are elm trees above the path, and a collection of oaks from all over the world in a little walled garden, as well as an abundance of wild garlic and three-cornered leek in the spring for the wild-food gourmet.
- Carry on along the Coast Path towards Durgan, ignoring the footpaths inland to your right until the coastline starts curving around towards Rosemullion Head. Here the left-hand fork will take you around the headland on the Coast Path, while the right-hand fork cuts across the headland and returns to the Coast Path on the other side. (Here either fork will lead you to the Coast Path).
It is thought that there was once an Iron Age cliff castle on Rosemullion Head, defended by a massive rock-cut ditch with a bank some 10 feet higher. Within it were two Bronze Age barrows, although there is no trace of them now.
The headland was similarly used for defence much more recently, when it hosted a gun emplacement for anti-aircraft guns in the Second World War, although all that remains now are the concrete bases of these and the searchlight emplacements which were part of the station.
On the point there is a nineteenth century boundary stone, marking the limits of the Falmouth Borough's area of jurisdiction. This was painted red and renewed every three or four years in a festival known as 'beating the bounds'.
There are two wrecks on the seabed off the headland: the Endeavour, which went down in 1804, and the wooden cargo sloop the Alma, which sank in 1895. Both are below the low water mark and so not visible from the land.
- Continue on the Coast Path around the mouth of the Helford River check, ignoring the footpaths heading inland on your right, for a little over a mile. Dropping downhill past the beach at Porthallack, ('willows cove' in Cornish), carry on ahead to Porth Saxon.
In 1940, the Secret Intelligence Service based its Helford Flotilla at Ridifarne, near Porth Saxon, to maintain clandestine contact with its networks in Brittany. Using traditional Breton fishing boats as well as fast motor launches, the flotilla ran regular night-time missions to remote French beaches, infliltrating agents and collecting airmen. There was a forward base in the Scilly Isles, and operations continued until after D-Day. Many of the troops involved in the D-Day landings left from Trebah, where the concrete jetty remains where once there was a sandy beach.
The Helford River is a voluntary marine conservation area with European designation. As well as the oysters for which it is famous, sea slugs, anemones, cuttlefish and seahorses live in the estuary's beds of the rare eelgrass, Britains only marine flowering plant.
- At Porth Saxon, find the footpath behind the boathouse and follow it uphill through the woods towards Mawnan Smith. There are a number of paths through the woods, but if you keep heading uphill you will reach the lane at the top of Carwinion.
The main footpath up through the woods appears on nineteenth century maps as a trackway leading up to the eighteenth-century stone manor house at Carwinion. Like their neighbours the Foxes at nearby Glendurgan, Carwinion's owners, the Rogers family, were Victorian plant-hunters, and there are many exotic species to be seen in the gardens, which are open to the public.
- At the end of the lane turn left on the road and turn right onto the small path about two hundred yards ahead. This leads through three fields to some farm buildings.
- Before you reach the gate to the road there is another footpath signed through fields to your left. Take this path and follow it downhill to the trees at the bottom, turning right in front of the hedge to follow the path into some woodland. Emerging a short while later, the path starts to climb gently before dropping downhill again to come out on the road at Maenporth. Turn left here to return to the beach car park.