Walk - Porthoustock & St Keverne
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the car park at Porthoustock beach take the road back up to the old lifeboat house, turning left in front of it as directed by the South West Coast Path acorn waymarker. Follow the road around to the right and head steeply uphill, forking left at the junction. Pick up the footpath on your right, following the South West Coast Path acorns. Bear slightly left to cross three fields diagonally, cutting the corner off the road near Giant's Quoits. Returning to the road bear right to carry on in the same direction into Rosenithon.
Although it started life as a fishing hamlet, by the end of the nineteenth century Porthoustock had become an important port for the local stone quarries. The St Keverne Stone Company started quarrying roadstone in 1896.The wharf was built soon afterwards, with the stone being shipped by barge to Tresillian, near Truro.
Over the centuries there were numerous shipwrecks around Porthoustock, as ships were driven aground on the savage offshore rocks known as The Manacles. Since records began, more than 150 vessels and 1000 lives were lost on the reef before the RNLI built the lifeboat station above the beach in 1869. The station closed in 1942, later becoming the Porthoustock village hall.
The stack of rocks known as Giant's Quoits once stood on Manacle Point, but they were moved to their current position on the cliffs in 1967 as the quarries expanded. Like the famous Cheesewring rock formation on Bodmin Moor, the Giant's Quoits outcrop is a single granite tor that has been shaped by weathering into what is now a pile of separate slabs.
- In Rosenithon take the lane on your left in front of the postbox. Follow the Coast Path when it turns left and proceeds alongside the hedge, dropping downhill to the coast. Turn right with it above the sea and follow it around Dean Point.
Dean Point and Quarries are part of the Coverack to Porthoustock Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), designated for its geology and wildlife. The rock is mainly gabbro, an igneous rock formed deep beneath the earth's surface, which makes it ideal for roadstone. The unusual geology and the mild climate have led to the development of a unique range of vegetation which includes four species listed in the Red Data Book - the catalogue of species that are under threat of extinction. The Cornish heath heather found here, Erica vagans, is found only on the Lizard peninsula and in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland.
- Walk through the quarries, and at the far end, turn right to follow the footpath heading inland to Tregolothan. From here follow the lane to Trythance, bearing right when another road leaves on the left, until you come to the crossroads.
- The footpath on the right after Trythance cuts across a field and returns immediately to the road. If you use it as a shortcut, turn right on the road to walk to the crossroads.
- At the crossroads carry straight on, along the road to St Keverne. Reaching the T-junction opposite the newsagents, turn left to walk to the Square and then turn right to walk to the church.
In May 1497 the tiny village of St Keverne achieved national fame as the birthplace of the Cornish Rebellion. In order to raise funds for skirmishes on England's border with Scotland, Henry VII imposed crippling taxes throughout England. The Cornish had some sympathy for Perkin Warbeck, whose claim to the English throne was being supported by James IV of Scotland, and they were unwilling to subsidise a cause they did not believe in.
Much more importantly, they were outraged at this blatant flouting of the long-established rights of Cornish tin miners. In 1201 King John had granted Cornwall a charter confirming their 'just and ancient customs and liberties'. This protected them from any jurisdiction apart from the Cornish Stannary Parliament, other than in exceptional circumstances. The following century, Edward I had made Cornwall exempt from any tax above a certain level, in acknowledgement of the county's general poverty.
Michael Joseph, St Keverne's blacksmith, was so furious that he enlisted the support of a number of locals and with them set off to carry his protest to London. At Bodmin, lawyer Thomas Flamank joined 'An Gof' ('The Smith' in Cornish), and by the time the two men reached Blackheath, in south east London, there were some 40,000 men in their army. The men were poorly armed, however, and were easily overpowered by the English troops. An Gof and Thomas Flamank were executed, and the remaining rebels fined and sent home again.
150 years later, in 1648, the Cornish mounted another rebellion in response to crippling taxes. This time the taxes were imposed to raise funds for military installations after the English Civil War. Most of Cornwall had supported the King against Parliament, and when 70 Royalist rebels were killed in Penzance, 120 men were sent to the town from Mullion. As they marched via Goonhilly Downs to St Keverne and nearby Mawgan, they collected 40 horsemen and a further 300 foot soldiers. After a fierce battle, once again they were defeated, at an Iron Age hillfort overlooking the Helford River, known as Gear Camp. The uprising became known as the Gear Rout.
- Follow the footpath signed up the steps into the churchyard, passing to the left of the church and again to the left of the hedge ahead. Follow the path down the hedge in the field beyond, going through into the next field to carry on along the other side of the hedge. Turn left and then immediately right, crossing the lane to carry on ahead along the path bearing left across the field to the trees in the far left-hand corner. Follow the path through the trees, passing the gardens at Trenoweth and then crossing a stile by the stream to continue along the path to the road.
- On the road bear left to continue in the same direction. Take the footpath on the right a moment later to follow the left-hand hedge through fields. Carry on along the lane ahead, which brings you back to Porthoustock. Bear right downhill to return to the car park.
In Porthoustock and St Keverne