Walk - Treago Farm - St Pirans
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2022. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From Treago Farm drop downhill and onto the track heading south, to pick up the footpath up the hillside ahead.
- Follow the footpath over Cubert Common and descend to cross the track and continue to the junction of paths at the bottom.
- Continue straight ahead on the footpath heading south west up the hillside and follow it over the brow, crossing the track beyond to walk along the edge of the golf course towards the edge of the village of Holywell.
The whole area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the richness of the wildlife is a feature of any walk around Perran Sands (see the Kelsey Head Walk).
- Reaching the village, turn left and walk to the road, turning right here to pick up the South West Coast Path heading to the right again. Follow it around Penhale Point and on past the military camp, the masts and the mine workings, to Hoblyn's Cove.
Here, as elsewhere around the entire area, traces of human habitation have been found dating as far back as the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) period, 6000 years ago or more (again, see the Kelsey Head Walk).
A striking feature of this part of coastline is the extent of the mine workings on and around the cliffs. The earliest records of Penhale Mine show it as producing some 41 tons of lead ore in 1777, but undoubtedly the area's mineral resources were exploited for many centuries before this. The low price of lead forced the mine to close in 1831, but in 1848 it was amalgamated with Wheal Golden and East Wheal Golden and a period of prosperity followed. Between about 1867 and 1870 its recorded output was 100 tons of copper ore, 1475 tons of lead ore, 7150 oz of silver (from the lead ore), and 7100 tons of iron ore.
Ligger House, on Penhale Point, is the former count house for the Mine. Auctions were conducted in the building, and miners would bid for underground leases (or pitches). Designated as a listed building, it is now owned and maintained by the MOD, who use it for non-operational purposes.
There is also an Iron Age cliff castle on Penhale Point (see the Kelsey Head Walk), and a number of important Bronze Age barrows on Ligger Point.
- From Hoblyn's Cove stay with the Coast Path as it pulls out around Ligger Point and then drops into the dunes behind the beach.
- The path passes a disused quarry with an old cave nearby and then carries on along the edge of the dunes. It is important to take heed of the notices along here requesting that you stay on the Coast Path. There is no right of way in the dunes behind, which are used by the MoD for firing practice, and the Coast Path travels along a permissive path to the natural valley running through the dunes about a mile from the quarry at 6.
- Bear left with the Coast Path and then turn left to head inland along the edge of the MoD territory. Staying on the footpath ahead you will reach the interpretation board and steps up into a dune where St Piran's Oratory is buried beneath the sand.
St Piran, Cornwall's national saint, is said to have built his first small chapel on a rocky outcrop on Perranporth Beach which still bears the name Chapel Rock. Although some of the building was still visible in the seventeenth century, little remains of it now, thanks to the sea's erosion.
He built the Oratory in its present position some time later, and began to preach from here. His sermons were very popular, and at 29ft by 12ft the chapel was too small to accommodate them all. Over the years the chapel was enlarged and improved, with stone walls added, and a rounded doorway decorated with three small heads. A priest's door was put in by the altar, as well as a wide ledge, and a tiny window was made to let in some light.
There were other structures around the Oratory, and a sizeable graveyard, as well as a small lake nearby which prevented the building from being buried in sand. However, this drained away in time, and the Oratory duly disappeared in wind-blown sand, although it kept a place in local legend. Nineteenth century archaeologist William Mitchell carried out excavations and found three skeletons under the floor, including a very large one minus its head. According to the legends, St Piran was a very large man, and after his death, at the age of 200, his head was kept in a sacred box, bound with iron and locked, and carried around the county, along with various other holy relics.
After repeated problems with flooding and vandalism, however, the Oratory was deliberately buried once more in 1980, to protect it.
- Carry on ahead along the footpath away from the Oratory. You will see a modern cross high on a sand dune ahead of you.
- From the modern cross a path leads through the dunes to your left to the remains of St Piran's Church, and the medieval cross in the dunes beside it.
Around the ninth century, after the Oratory first disappeared beneath the sand, its congregation crossed the stream and built a new church a little further inland, thinking the water would protect it from being similarly swamped. By the fourteenth century the church was much enlarged, and visited by a stream of pilgrims, and it wasn't until the middle of the eighteenth century that mining operations drained the stream and once more the church was in danger of being overwhelmed by sand. The windows, pillars and tower were removed to a new church, which still stands in Perranzabuloe, and again the old church was left to its fate.
The early medieval cross in the dunes beside the ruined church was first mentioned in the tenth century, when it was referred to as the 'Cristel Mael'.
Elsewhere around Perranporth are St Piran's Well, to the north of Perranzabuloe, and Perran Round, at Rose – a medieval 'plen an gwarry' or amphitheatre, unique to Cornwall, where miracle plays were staged. This is one of only two remaining in the county, and it is well worth a visit.
- Leaving the ruins of the church, head back to where the inland branch of the South West Coast Path heads off to your left, travelling slightly to the east of south, and follow it to Tollgate Road, ahead.
- Turn left on the road and follow it past higher Mount Farm and gently downhill through Mount, to where it takes a sharp turn to the right.
- Turn left at the bend, onto the footpath beside the MoD drive. Follow the path as it bears gently right to lead into the trees beyond about half a mile ahead.
- Reaching the path which crosses yours as you pull uphill out of the trees, turn left and follow this footpath along the bottom of the hill to Ellenglaze, ahead, where you bear left and then turn right onto the footpath which heads along the edge of fields, uphill to the road.
- Cross the road and carry on ahead through the Fun Park and on through the golf course beyond.
To your left here in the Fun Park is the medieval holy well, dedicated to St Cubert, which is thought to have given Holywell its name. Built in the fourteenth century, it was discovered in ruins at the start of the twentieth century and later restored by the Newquay Old Cornwall Society (see the Kelsey Head Walk).
- At the far end of the golf course bear left to skirt the fields ahead and drop to the valley at 3. From here retrace your steps over Cubert Common to Treago.
In Holywell and Cubert