Walk - Tresmorn & St Gennys

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. Turn right out of the entrance to the Crackington Haven car park, following the road uphill to the right to where the South West Coast Path leaves on the left. Turn onto this path and follow it uphill to Penkenna (Pencannow) Point. Detour left for fine views from the headland.
  2. Ignore the path inland to St Gennys, forking left to stay on the Coast Path as it zigzags through the valley at Hallett's Shute and climbs again to Castle Point.

Some 2000 years ago, in the Iron Age, there was a cliff castle, or promontory fort on Castle Point. There were ramparts and ditches across the headland to defend it on the landward side while the steep cliffs protected the other approaches. There were many of these along the Devon and Cornwall coastline, where the high promontories gave a good view across land and sea and were easy to defend because of their shape.

  1. Heading abruptly east with the Coast Path, stay with it as it heads north again to carry on along the cliff-top above Thorn’s Beach and Cleave Strand, ignoring the footpaths heading inland. The path drops into two more deep valleys before climbing out of the second to Chipman Point.

Many ships came to grief on the rocky reefs along this slate coastline, and in the Middle Ages the people of St Gennys gained a reputation as 'wreckers and wrestlers' who would take advantage of a floundering ship. This followed an incident in the 1340s, when Marhamchurch merchant Nicholas de Beer complained to Edward III that his ship, 'La Trinite' of Fowey, had been cut loose from its anchorage in Widemouth by a gang led by a certain William of St Gennys. As a result the ship was driven onto rocks and broke up, and its £300 cargo was 'lost'.

In 1632 an unnamed cargo ship, carrying 'fustick wood and tobacco', was wrecked offshore with the loss of all lives, and in 1819 the Exeter ship Endeavor was wrecked on 'the cliffs of St Ginnis' with the loss of the three crew. Hundreds of people on the cliff watched the Endeavour go down but were unable to help.

  1. At Chipman Point the path heads east again around the top of the hill. A short distance beyond there is a path on the right, leading inland to Dizzard.
  2. Turn right onto this path, turning left briefly on the lane but turning right a moment later to follow the left-hand hedge through the field. Carry on ahead to descend through the woods to the stream, crossing it to continue uphill along the left-hand hedge, picking up the track in the second field and following it to the left as it makes its way to Dizzard Farm. Carry straight on ahead to walk to the road.
  3. On the road turn right and walk past Old Dizzard, ignoring the footpath on the left a moment later to stay on the road to the Tresmorn turning on the right, just before the postbox and the bench.
  4. Turn right here and follow the road to Higher Tresmorn. Fork left to carry on down the lane to Lower Tresmorn, bearing left here to carry on to Cleave, following it to the left as you approach the hamlet and carrying on down the path to the road beyond.

On either side of the track between Higher and Lower Tresmorn are the remains of a 'shrunken medieval village', no longer visible except as an assortment of lumps and bumps. The settlement of Tresmorn is first recorded in 1428, but archaeologists have found evidence that shows the site was inhabited for several centuries before this. Although little remains of the earliest buildings on the site, traces of hearths, post-holes and gullies from this period were found within the later dwellings. It is thought that they were built of timber and might even date back to the ninth century.

In the second phase of construction, sometime between the tenth and twelfth centuries, 15 crofts were built on both sides of the track. These were thought to have had turf walls, indicated by the lines of stake holes of the wattle work (a wooden lattice) that was on the inner sides of the walls. By the beginning of the thirteenth century the houses were being built of cob, and shortly after this the people started using stone for their buildings.

Some of the crofts were partitioned, with people in one half of the building and animals in the other. In one house, thousands of limpet shells were spread over the floor in both compartments. The houses had stone ovens, and drains to remove effluent, and pottery was found dating from the twelfth to the fourteenth century. There was also a blacksmith's forge, with a 9ft pit with fire-reddened sides and wood ash in the bottom.

Both Lower and Higher Tresmorn date from medieval times. Lower Tresmorn, thought to be the most important in the settlement, was built in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century around the shell of the earlier house. Two buildings at Higher Tresmorn were built into the hillside, suggesting that they were originally medieval 'platform houses'.

  1. Turn right onto the footpath past the house on the corner, taking the path on the left a moment later, heading into the trees. Bear left to descend to the stream and bear right to walk alongside a short distance before following the path across it. Bear right in the bottom field to climb the hill ahead, aiming for the very top right-hand corner, where a lane leads past the farm and on towards St Gennys. Just after the farm a footpath leaves on the right. Take this footpath to walk to the church.

The church at St Gennys is Norman, with a font dated to around 1170, although the rest of the church standing today was built in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. There was a church here even before the 1086 Domesday Book. This belonged to the St Kew monastery, which was founded in the sixth century. It is thought that there was a chapel at St Gennys itself in the sixth century, when an Irish bishop established a cell where his holy well still stands. He was named Canice, and is thought to have given his name to Kilkenny in Ireland, as well as the Guinness family. When he later left Cornwall, he went on to carry out his missionary work in Scotland, where he was known as St Kenneth. He was a learned man, and he wrote a famous commentary on the Gospels, entitled 'Glas-Chainnigh'.

  1. Coming out of the main entrance from the churchyard, cross the road to pick up the footpath almost immediately opposite, beside the National Trust sign. Turn right on the track to carry on ahead, turning right in the field to follow the path alongside the hedge. Cross the heathland beyond to continue ahead along the Coast Path, bearing left with it to descend to Crackington Haven. Turn right on the road at the bottom to return to the car park.

Nearby refreshments

In Crackington Haven

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