Walk - Round and About Padstow
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 Meadow take the Coast Path northwards, following the Tarmac path through the park to the memorial, ignoring the steps up to the left.
- At the memorial, enjoy the views out over the Camel Estuary. Take advantage of the seats if you wish. Return to the town of Padstow along the same tarmac path.
- This path (the South West Coast Path) continues past some seats overlooking the harbour down a slope.
Padstow grew up within a creek on the Western bank of the River Camel, near to where the Parish church of St Petroc now stands. The settlement was originally named Petroc-stow or 'Petrock's Place', after the Welsh missionary Saint Petroc, who, around 500AD, landed nearby.
As the port grew, the town was built on raised reclaimed land. In 1538, the Inner Quays and Strand were built. Padstow used to flood come the equinoctial spring tides. In 1988 a flood-defence scheme was built - extending the Inner Basin pier, raising some of the Quay walls and building a tidal gate. Since the gate was put in the town has not flooded.
The harbour is home to fishing boats bringing in their catches to be served in the many local restaurants. These include, of course, Rick Stein's who has raised the profile and popularity of the town. Tourists travel from long distances to eat at his restaurant or cafés.
Padstow's annual Christmas Festival in early December promises celebrity chefs, culinary delights and festive fun. Cooking demonstrations, fireworks, Santa's Grotto and a traditional Christmas market are fast making this an essential event to visit. The weekend ends with a Christmas service in St Petroc's church.
- At the bottom of the slope follow North Quay around the harbour. There is a short cut through the car park on your left which leads across the harbour bridge.
May Day (or 'Obby 'Oss Day as it is known outside of Padstow) is one of the biggest days in Padstow's calendar. There may be up to 30,000 people crammed into the town. Padstonians from all over the world return to their roots.
The origins of the Obby Oss produce many conflicting theories. Some say it comes from pagan times, others that it's a rain maker, a fertility symbol, a deterrent to a possible landing some centuries ago by the French or even a welcome to summer. These days the Obby Oss wearer carries on their shoulders a costume built around a six feet wide circular wooden hoop. This is covered in sailcloth draped down to the ground. Internal shoulder straps support the heavy weight and help ease the considerable strain.
The wearer proceeds through Padstow's streets, swirling and dancing and accompanied by a Teazer, who leads the dance with theatrical movements. The Teazer carries the Teazer's club which is a leather brightly painted pad mounted on the end of a wooden rod. The Teazer's leads a group dressed in white costumes which are decorated with ribbons and sprays of cowlips and bluebells. As the procession moves around the town, musicians, drummers and dancers perform a traditional gyrating dance. At the back of the procession are the young and old followers, who every year join in the singing of the traditional May Song.
- Keep the harbour on your left as the road becomes The Strand and then South Quay. Meeting up with the short cut, follow Riverside keeping on the pavement, past the car park and around the bend until you reach the large mass of buildings containing the National Lobster Hatchery.
The railway came to Padstow in 1899, reclaiming land at the southern end of the harbour, using one of Padstow's shipbuilding yard walls as a retaining wall. Fish was then able to be transported quickly via the railway to London's Billingsgate Fish Market. More trawlers started using the port and the present-day dock was built in 1910. In its heyday, the station was served by the famous Atlantic Coast Express bringing holidaymakers and daytrippers to the coast. The line closed in 1967. The station building now houses the offices of Padstow Town Council. The railway line to Wadebridge is now used as part of the popular Camel Trial, a flat recreational route that leads from Padstow to Bodmin. It is over 17 miles long and is used by about 400,000 walkers, cyclists or horse riders each year.
- The National Lobster Hatchery is in the buildings on the landward side of the large car park.
In Padstow situated on the water's edge in the South Quay car park the visitor centre (wheelchair accessible) of the National Lobster Hatchery is worth a browse. Local fishermen bring “pregnant” female lobsters in to the hatchery, to give them a chance to release their delicate offspring in captivity, where there are no predators. The young lobsters are then raised to a size where they can be released back into the sea and look after themselves.
- On the return journey either follow the route previously taken (but in reverse!) OR take the first turning on your left left, St Edmund's Lane. At the top turn right into New Street. Follow this down around the corner and then right into Broad Street.
- At the end of Broad Street turn right into Market Place. Keep going straight on into Mill Square and then follow the road around back to the harbour at the end of The Strand.
The local museum is located in Market Square and has exhibits related to the 'Obby Oss' custom, the Padstow lifeboat, and Padstow's railway as well as artefacts,and photographs of shipping and shipwrecks. It is also a good point of contact if you are tracing your family history in the Padstow area.
Follow North Quay parade back to the slope and up to the start of the walk.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Padstow.