Walk - Lankelly & Menabilly
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 National Trust car park at Coombe take the footpath heading south west from the bottom right-hand corner, following it down to the cove at Polridmouth.
The beach at Polridmouth (pronounced 'Pridmouth') was used as a decoy station during the Second World War, when the lake was used to simulate Fowey harbour (see the St Catherine's Castle Walk).
- Turn right on the South West Coast Path to follow it around Gribbin Head, past the daymark tower, turning west and then north to walk about a mile and a half from the tower to Polkerris.
Gribbin Head's 84-foot red and white striped daymark tower was built in 1832 to warn ships of the dangerous rocks below. Named from the Cornish word 'cribyn', meaning 'ridge, the tower was intended to enable sailors to distinguish Gribbin Head from Dodman Point and St Anthony's Head. It belongs to the National Trust and is occasionally open on a Sunday in the summer. There are spectacular views from the top of the tower.
- When the Coast Path reaches Polkerris Beach, turn right onto the path heading inland and follow it to the road. Turn right here and then left shortly afterwards, beside Tregaminion Church. From here follow the waymarkers for the Saints' Way. Direction signs through the farmyard guide you through the farm and into the fields beyond.
The Saints Way ('Forth an Syns' in Cornish) is a 28-mile walking route along the River Camel, linking ancient trade routes between Fowey and Padstow. It was devised between 1984 and 1986, when two local walkers, noticing that a series of granite stiles criss-crossed the county, started to investigate the old paths and holloways marked by the stiles.
Also known as the Drovers Way and the Mariners Way, many of the paths on the Saints Way have been in use since Neolithic (Stone Age) times. The sea crossing between the two harbours was a dangerous one, passing through the turbulent waters around Land's End and The Lizard, and over the millennia drovers, traders and pilgrims took a safer (and much shorter) route across the land.
In the churchyard at Tregaminion there are two very old stone crosses. Many of the junctions along the ancient paths are marked by these crosses. Sometimes these linked holy sites from medieval times, such as shrines, wells, chapels and churches, and they may have been erected by the early Celtic saints and missionaries flooding into Cornwall to help their fellow Celts resist the rising tide of Anglo-Saxon paganism after the Romans went home. Others marked routes used by merchants carrying gold and tin between Ireland and the Mediterranean via Cornwall and Brittany, and it is thought that even in the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago, the locals were trading with visitors from Egypt, Greece and Phoenicia. Some of the paths link standing stones dating from this time and Neolithic settlements from even earlier.
- The footpath crosses a stream and heads uphill, dropping to another stream and climbing a long flight of steps before passing through Trenant. From here it travels around the edge of fields before a stone stile takes you onto a holloway leading downhill through the woods and under a bridge.
Hidden in the private woodland to the south of you here (and the site of two more stone crosses) is Menabilly, an Elizabethan mansion that was the family seat of the Rashleigh family, who were powerful merchants in Tudor times. After the Second World War Menabilly became the home of novelist Daphne du Maurier, and it was the inspiration for 'Manderley', made famous by her bestselling novel 'Rebecca'.
Born in London in 1907, Daphne de Maurier was the daughter of an actress and a prominent actor-manager, and the niece of the author and Punch cartoonist George du Maurier, creator of the character Svengali in his 1894 novel 'Trilby'. She wrote her first novel, 'The Loving Spirit' when she was in her early twenties. It was brought out by a major publishing house and was an instant success, as were her subsequent novels. Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film of 'Rebecca' won the best Picture Oscar in 1941 and gave the novelist the funds to buy her beloved Menabilly.
Du Maurier's parents bought Ferryside in 1926 at Bodinnick, and she fell in love with the Fowey estuary during childhood holidays here. In 1943, when her husband was away at war, she rented the coach house at Readymoney Cove for herself and her children (see the St Catherine's Castle Walk). Two years later she moved to Menabilly with her husband, Major (later Lieutenant-General Sir) Frederick Browning, leasing it from the Rashleighs. She moved to another Rashleigh house, Kilmarth, after her husband died in 1965, and this became the setting for her novel 'A House on the Strand'.
One of her novels was 'Castle Dor', centred on nearby Castle Dore (see the Black Head & Castle Gotha Walk). The basis of her novel was an incomplete manuscript of the tragic Tristan and Iseult legend, started by her friend, local author Arthur Quiller-Couch (see the Wind in the Wyllows Walk), who died before he was able to complete it.
- After passing beneath the bridge, the footpath climbs to the houses ahead. Turn right onto Combe Lane, at the top, and walk about half a mile back to the car park.
A short distance away is the Tristan Stone, erected in AD 550 but possibly moved here from Castle Dore (see the Black Head & Castle Gotha Walk). It is thought to mark the grave of Tristan, who was the son of King Mark of Cornwall.