Walk - Pencarrow Head & Pont Pill

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

If you are starting the walk at Frogmore, begin the walk at 6, continuing from 1 once you reach the Lantic Bay car park.

  1. From the entrance to the National Trust Lantic Bay car park turn left and walk up the road to the junction. Cross the road above to pick up the footpath through the field heading towards the coast at Pencarrow Head and Lantic Bay.
  2. Reaching the South West Coast Path, carry on ahead to follow it southwards and then eastwards around Pencarrow Head. Alternatively, turn right and then fork left shortly afterwards to visit the beach, carrying on along this lower path afterwards to climb steadily back to the main path at 3.

The steep climb up to the car park from the beach ensures that it never gets too busy; but dedicated Lantic Bay fans travel many miles to sunbathe and swim here despite the strenuous haul back up to their cars! At low tide there is a long stretch of sand, and the turquoise water is clear and clean (but beware of rip currents if you go for a swim). Behind the beach the salt air encourages unusual plants to flourish: sea bindweed with pink-and-white trumpet flowers, sea spurge with round leaves and tiny yellow flowers, low clusters of sea knotgrass dotted with delicate white flowers. Fulmars nest on the cliffs in the summer, and occasionally roe deer are glimpsed in the fields above.

On a clear day, looking out from Pencarrow Head you can see from Bolt Head, in the east, 70 miles westwards to the Lizard. The National Trust owns much of this part of the coast. They work with tenant farmers and use traditional conservation strategies to improve and maintain the cliffs and farmland to provide a habitat for a wide diversity of species. Clumps of pink thrift, blue sheep's-bit scabious, speckled sea campion and big bold ox-eye daisies flourish on the headland's rocky ledges. Dartmoor ponies and traditional breeds of cattle, such as Dexters, are used to graze the cliffs, controlling the scrub so that more delicate species can thrive.

  1. From either path carry on around Pencarrow Head, descending to the top of the cliffs at Watch House Cove and then Palace Cove.

The nineteenth-century Watch House is privately owned, so please respect the occupiers' privacy as you pass behind it. It was built in 1835, with a flight of steep steps cut heading down to a slipway at Watch House Cove, after the 'Lantic Hill Affair'. This was when two Polruan coastguards accosted a party of smugglers. In the rumpus that followed, one of the customs men was beaten unconscious. Nonetheless they managed to take five prisoners, and a revenue cutter found a hoard of 484 gallons of brandy. Often the whole community was involved in smuggling, including the landowners and magistrates. In the trial that followed, all five men were found not guilty. Afterwards, a permanent detachment of officers was kept in the Watch House to ensure that it did not happen again.

  1. After about a mile, as you approach Sandheap Point, the Coast Path ahead starts to climb above Palace Cove and a small path heads diagonally away to the left, also climbing, to the corner of the field. Turning onto this path, carry on along the lane up to the road.

Known as Sandingway, the lane was a packhorse track used by local farmers with donkey carts to carry sand and seaweed up to Frogmore to fertilise the fields. At Palace Cove, just beyond, there was a pilchard cellar, or palace (from the Cornish 'plas', meaning 'enclosed place'). Here pilchards were packed into barrels between layers of salt and pressed, using wooden beams weighted with heavy boulders, and the juices extracted were used as 'train oil' to light lamps.

  1. Cross the road to carry on along the road ahead, leading past the car park at Frogmore.
  2. At the junction turn left to walk past Pendower House and on to Pont.
  3. At the first junction bear left, turning left at the next, towards Pont. Ignoring the track on your right a little further on, carry on through the trees alongside the River Fowey, past the old mill, bearing left towards Churchtown.

Named from the Cornish 'pons', meaning 'bridge', the tiny picturesque hamlet of Pont sits beside the disused sawmill at the head of the creek, by St Wyllow's Bridge (hence its name). The fifteenth-century chronicler and antiquary William of Worcester mentioned a bridge here as early as 1478, when Pont was an important quay serving many scattered farms and hamlets. On a rising tide sailing barges would bring in coal and limestone. These would be burned in the limekilns on either side of the water at Pont to make lime. This was used as a fertiliser and for mortar. They also brought timber and roadstone, carrying out fresh local produce from the area's farms on their return journeys.

  1. After the cottages the road turns sharply right, while ahead of you is a drive, with a gate to the right of it.

St Wyllow Church at Lanteglos is best known as the church where novelist Daphne du Maurier was married, and she used it in her first novel, 'The Loving Spirit', renaming it 'Lanoc Church'.

Dating back to the fourteenth century, the church has a medieval lantern cross just outside the porch. Local legend says that St Wyllow was an Irish hermit who had a chapel near the head of the creek. He was murdered by a kinsman, but before he died he managed to walk up the hill to the site of the church with his severed head under his arm, his blood staining all the hedgerow flowers scarlet. Today the flowers include red campion, but there in spring and summer there are flowers of many other hues, including bluebells, primroses, stitchwort and herb robert.

  1. Coming out of the churchyard onto the road, turn left to walk back uphill to the car park.

Nearby refreshments

In Polruan or Lansallos

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