Walk - Predannack Downs

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

  1. From the National Trust car park at Predannack Wollas go through the gate, past Windyridge Farm, and take the path to the right, leading to the coast. When the path splits, fork left to join the South West Coast Path above Parc Bean ('Little Field') Cove and Ogo Dour ('Water Cave') Cove.
  2. On the Coast Path turn left, towards Kynance Cove, Caerthillian and Lizard Point.

Like the valley inland from Mullion Cove, Predannack Head is formed of schist and hornblende, both metamorphic rocks formed between 251 and 542 million years (see the Predannack Wollas & Mullion Cove Walk). There is a still thin sliver of these rocks at Lower Predannack Cliff; but beyond here the bedrock changes to what's known as the Lizard Complex, composed of peridotite and serpentinite. These are both igneous rocks, formed through volcanic processes between 359 and 416 million years ago (see the Kynance Cove Walk).

At first the high cliff-tops are thatched with heathland and coastal grassland. The mild climate and the exposed southerly location provide an ideal habitat for wildflowers. The path is bright with pink thrift, yellow kidney vetch, the fried-egg flowers of low-growing ox-eye daisy, the pyramid heads of delicate green-winged orchid, and the tiny blue and pink stars of spring and autumn squills. Stonechats call from the gorse bushes and skylark trill from high overhead among the ravens and seabirds.

  1. The Coast Path heads out around Vellan Head, while the bridleway forking off to the left at the start of the headland takes a shortcut across it. The two paths rejoin after a couple of hundred metres.

As the rock changes beneath your feet, so the vegetation changes too. Water streams through the long grass, and tall rushes push through dense and windblown thorn bushes that are furry with lichen. Inland, the Lizard National Nature Reserve is 35 hectares (87 acres) of Cornish heath with pools and wet willow woodland. On mainland Britain Cornish heath is unique to The Lizard. Its narrow leaves are a dark green, growing in groups of four or five, and the bell-shaped flowers are pink or lilac, sometimes white.

As you descend the steep path to Gew-graze ('central hollow' in Cornish), so the rock changes again, and there are some fascinating stones spread across the ground. The deep-cut valley is formed of a very thin seam of Kennack granite and gneiss - igneous and metamorphic rocks dating from the same time as the serpentine around them.

Gew-graze is also known as Soapy Cove, named after the soapstone that used to be quarried here. Related to serpentine, but softer, the soapstone occurs here as a vein of talc in the serpentine, forming an irregular scar heading inland. One of its uses was for early porcelain production.

There are caves in the cliffs above the tiny sandy beach - Ogo Pons('Bridge Cave') and Pigeon Ogo. Listen out for the eerie echoes of the pigeons cooing in the cave and you will understand the origin of the Cornish legends of ghosts in caves (see the Nare Head Walk).

  1. Cross the stream at the bottom of the valley at Gew-graze and climb steeply to the cliff-top again. Carry on along the Coast Path towards Kynance Cove, ahead.

You will sometimes see Merlin and Sea King helicopters circling overhead along here. Predannack Airfield, built during the Second World War to help defend the important dockyards and ports at Falmouth, is now a satellite station of RNAS Culdrose, at Helston. It is used primarily for helicopter training, but also for firefighting training. As you reach the top of the cliffs, you can see the rusted fuselage of old planes which are used for this. At weekends, air cadets learn to fly here with the 626 Volunteer Gliding Squadron. Look out for their small aircraft swishing softly above you.

  1. At Kynance Cliff the path travels around some rocky outcrops crusted with yellow and green lichens and then drops steeply downhill to the cove.

The trio of islands below you as you descend are aptly named Gull Rock (the one covered in seabirds' nest in summer), Asparagus Island (where wild asparagus grown) and The Bishop (whose pointed mitre is visible between the other two). Like the other rocks in the cove, these are serpentine and resemble highly polished carvings more often found in buildings, furniture and galleries (see the Kynance Cove Walk). On the eastern side of The Lizard, the wares from the serpentine factory at Poltesco were enormously popular in nineteenth-century Britain after Queen Victoria bought many items for her official residence on the Isle of Wight (see the Cadgwith & Poltesco Walk).

  1. After exploring Kynance (be careful not to get cut off by the tide if you visit Asparagus Island), take the path heading off to the right between the buildings, turning right on the track beyond to climb uphill above the cove. At the right-hand bend take the bridleway on your left and follow it up to the top of Lizard Downs, travelling northeast to where it approaches the patchwork fields on your left.
  2. Leave the bridleway to take another on your left which goes through the gap in the hedge by the corner of the last field and then sets off ahead.
  3. After passing Die's Pool turn left to follow the path around the perimeter of the airfield, turning right to stay on the path between the airfield on your right and the fields on your left. Towards the end of the airfield the bridleway doglegs to the right and back again while a small footpath cuts between the fields to join it at the far side. Carry straight on ahead along the track to walk back to Predannack Wollas car park.

Nearby refreshments

In Kynance Cove (seasonal).

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