Walk - Wind in the Wyllows
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.
If you are starting the walk at Polruan, begin at 9, continuing from 1 when you reach Bodinnick.
- From Caffa Mill Car Park, make your way to the Bodinnick ferry which is adjacent to the car park. On disembarking walk uphill through Bodinnick until you reach a narrow path on the right, signposted Hall Walk.
The house to the right of the ferry slip at Bodinnick is Ferryside, where novelist Daphne du Maurier lived from 1926 until 1943. It was here that she wrote her bestselling novels 'Jamaica Inn', 'Rebecca' and 'Frenchman’s Creek'.
- Turn right and follow Hall Walk through the woods above the creek. If you detour along the path to the left to visit the crumbling remains of the fourteenth-century chapel, return to the main path to carry on ahead.
Built in the fourteenth century, Hall Chapel was part of Hall Manor, one of the country seats of the Mohun family, Barons of Dunster in Somerset. Constructed of local slate, the mouldings around the chapel's doors and windows were formed of elvan from Pentewan. A bell turret was added in the following century.
Following Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, the chapel was converted for domestic use. By the nineteenth century, it was being used as a farm building. After the roof blew off in a storm in 1976 the building begin to disintegrate and little remains today.
As you pull out of the trees towards Penleath Point there are stunning views down the river and over the harbour. This stretch of the path was where Charles I had a narrow escape in 1644 during the English Civil War. The Fowey peninsula was occupied by a Roundhead troop, led by the Earl of Essex, but most of the Cornish people supported the king, and the Parliamentarian troops were surrounded by a Royalist army. Charles was watching from here when a musket shot whistled past his head, killing a fisherman instead.
The granite monument to 'Q' was erected in honour of Cornish writer Arthur Quiller-Couch, who used the letter as his pseudonym. Best known for his literary criticism and his 'Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900', Q was born in Bodmin and lived in Fowey. His friend Kenneth Grahame frequently visited him here. It is said that Grahame's 'Wind in the Willows' was set in Lerryn, upriver from Fowey. Ratty was allegedly based on Q, who liked nothing better than to mess around on boats.
- At Penleath Point the path turns left to follow Pont Pill (from the Cornish 'pons' and 'pol', meaning 'bridge' and 'inlet').
- Reaching the creek, turn right to follow the track down behind the cottages, emerging on the riverside.
The tiny picturesque hamlet of Pont sits beside the disused sawmill at the head of the creek, by St Wyllow's Bridge (see the Pencarrow Head & Pont Pill Walk). The quay dates back to medieval times when it served many scattered farms and hamlets throughout the area. Over the centuries the pill silted up, and today it is only accessible at high tide.
- Cross the footbridge and carry on ahead, to the left of the buildings. Ignoring the steps, continue up the path to the road, turning left here to take the path on your right. Follow the lane uphill to St Wyllow's church in Lanteglos-by-Fowey.
'Lanteglos' comes from the Cornish 'nant eglos', meaning 'church valley'. Daphne du Maurier featured the church in her first novel, 'The Loving Spirit', renaming it Lanoc Church, and she herself was married here in 1932. St Wyllow was the sixth-century hermit and martyr who founded the first church on this site (see the Pencarrow Head & Pont Pill Walk).
- Coming out of the church turn left on the road to walk to the Lantic Bay National Trust Car Park. Cross the road to take the footpath in the field beyond, coming out on the South West Coast Path high above Lantic Bay.
- Turn right on to the Coast Path to walk to Polruan.
- In Polruan go through the gate and turn left to enter the field by the school.
Granted the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, the National Coastwatch Station in Polruan is one of 50 lookout stations manned by 2000 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles. The NCI was set up in 1994 after two fishermen were drowned at Bass Point on the Lizard within sight of the newly-closed coastguard lookout.
The ivy-covered wall standing beside the lookout station is all that remains of the eighth-century St Saviour’s Chapel. A useful lookout and informal lighthouse itself in its early days, it was also an important place for pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. On the cliffs below, Punche's Cross was built as a further warning to sailors of the hazardous rocks at the mouth of the river. It is said to be associated with Joseph of Arimathea (see the Lammana Chapel Walk). It appears on very early shipping charts, and the monks in Tywardreath were in charge of repairing it when it was damaged by storms.
- Carry on along the Coast Path, leaving the car park at the western corner to head out towards the promontory. Before the point follow the path along the top of the field, carrying on along the rough track, following it to the left to the tarmac lane. Turn right downhill to the T Junction (where you may detour to the left to visit the blockhouse, see below), turning right towards the quay.
One of a pair on either side of the river, the well-preserved blockhouse at Polruan was built at the end of the fourteenth century when Edward III ordered that a chain should be stretched across the mouth of the port as a defence against French ships. A boom defence was added in 1457 when the French did indeed launch a raid on Fowey Harbour. Each blockhouse had a tower, with separate staircases joining the ground floor to the first floor and the first floor to the battlements.
The ferry across to Fowey operates a regular service (CLICK HERE for details) and, depending on the tides, takes you either to Town Quay or in the summer to Whitehouse Pier (between 9.45 am – 5.15 pm).
Climbing to the road from Whitehouse Point, you pass 'The Haven' on the left, where Quiller Couch lived until his death in 1944.
- From Whitehouse pier turn right and follow the Esplanade to the town centre. Turn right again into Lostwithiel Street then left past the church and into Fore Street.
- From Town Quay head along Fore Street back to Caffa Mill car park where you started the walk.
Just before the Ferry car park, you pass on your left Fowey Lifeboat Station. In 1859 Fowey Lifeboat station started its life based at the small beach village of Polkerris. Following a fatal wreck near Gribbin Head, local landowner William Rashleigh donated land, stone and money. The first lifeboat was named after Catherine Rashleigh, his wife. Polkerris closed in 1922 and a new station opened in Fowey with a motorised boat which was used in more than 60 rescues saving almost 50 lives. During the first half of the 20th Century, most rescues were involved commercial shipping. Nowadays, 2 Fowey lifeboats mostly deal with incidents involving pleasure craft.
In Polruan, Bodinnick and Fowey