Walk - Dizzard Point
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 Millook cross the road-bridge to walk uphill towards Crackington Haven. Turn left through the gate just before the sharp right-hand bend, to follow the footpath along the valley track towards The Den.
The bungalows on either side of the gate were built at the turn of the twentieth century, using pit props originally destined for coal mines in South Wales, part of a cargo purchased as salvage following the sinking of the Italian barque 'Concezione'. Built in San Mauro in 1879, this 420-ton vessel was driven ashore at Widemouth Bay by northwesterly gales in November 1900. The Bude Brigade rescued 10 of the 11-man crew, but when the tide turned the ship broke up on the rocks and her cargo was spread across the beach. Parts of the Concezione's hull were used for fence posts along the road, and some are still in place today.
- Turn right after the footbridge and follow the path beside the river.
People have lived and worked in this sheltered valley since prehistoric times. On the hillside to your left there are the remains of Trebarfoote Camp, an Iron Age settlement some 2000 years old. There is another above Trengayor, ahead. These circular enclosures, known as 'rounds', were usually sited on high ground, giving the residents a good view of potential threats approaching. Parts of Trebarfoote Wood are designated 'ancient woodland'. It is thought to be the remnants of the ancient forest covering Britain before the large-scale clearance carried out by hunter gatherers as they settled and started to exploit the landscape around them. Elsewhere, the valley is described as 'ancient semi-natural woodland', meaning that it has been preserved over the centuries through the process of coppicing, which prolongs a tree's life as the smaller branches are repeatedly cut from it to be used for firewood and building. The paths and tracks on this walk are also very old, dating back to medieval times and even earlier in some cases.
- At the end of the meadow take the left-hand fork towards Trengayor. Cross the bridge and bear left up the grassy path, beside the cottage, turning right to the woods after the meadow.
In summer the meadows in this valley are lush with wildflowers. The rare plants seen in the area include broadleaved helleborine, whose drooping trumpet-shaped flowers are fringed with purple-veined white petals, and bird's nest orchid, whose tiny round bell-shaped flowers grow thickly on a tall spike.
As you carry on along the stream, you head into Millook Valley Wood, formed of several local woods: Trebarfoote, Tamps and Landy, Trengayor Copse, Crannow Coombe and Lundy Woods. This woodland, managed by the Woodland Trust, consists mostly of oak, with sycamore and ash as well. On the more exposed slopes higher up, hardier species such as sycamore and thorn predominate, and above them bracken, bramble and gorse bear the brunt of the worst weather. The woodland is particularly noted for its lichens, which only survive in the purest of atmospheres. Rare species found here include lobaria, with flat tongued leaves shaped rather like oak leaves, and the wonderfully-named string of sausages lichen, which hangs from the branches in clumps of thick matted silver-green fronds.
Local lad John Trebarfoote fell in love with neighbour Kate Penfound in the seventeenth century, but the families were bitter enemies and the two were compelled to elope. Tragically, Kate's father, Arthur, caught them red-handed as they crept through the woods, and in the scuffle that ensued as they resisted his attempts to stop them, both were killed. Arthur, too, died of his injuries shortly afterwards. Avoid nearby Penfound Manor on 26th April, the anniversary of their death, when the lovers' restless spirits haunt the grounds!
Another Penfound said to haunt the area was fourteenth-century William, curate of the parish, who - like many another man of the cloth - lent practical support to the local smugglers. Unfortunately, in 1357 the reverend gentleman fell out with the gang, and one day they burst into his church at Poundstock and brutally murdered him.
- Crossing the footbridge, turn left into Tamp’s and Landy Woods. Turn left at the next junction to follow the stream, crossing a tributary and then the main riverbed at the sharp double bend in the stream to climb the steps to the waymarker.
- Walk uphill on the ancient track, with the stream below on your right, to go through the gate at the top. At Trengayor turn right along the track between the houses.
- On the road turn right past Old Dizzard.
- Just before Dizzard Farm, turn left through the gate and cross the yard to the gap by the barn. Carry on along the lane, dropping through fields to the stream. Crossing it, continue uphill through the trees and the fields beyond, to join the South West Coast Path.
- On the Coast Path turn right and follow over the hill above Dizzard Point, descending around Bynorth Cliff, heading into the trees to follow the stream some distance inland around the foot of the hill.
The ancient woodland at Dizzard Point has been dated to between 6500 and 4000 BC, and is especially noted for its dwarf Oak Quercus. This forms a dense canopy as much as eight metres high, and flourishes here despite its exposed position on unstable cliffs. Other hardy trees surviving this hostile environment include the rowan, or mountain ash, and the rare wild service tree, once prized for its fruit, which was used to make sweets and alcoholic beverages. It has white blossom in spring and spectacular red leaves in autumn. This wood, too, has a valuable community of rare lichens.
- At the junction continue ahead along the Coast Path as it climbs gently above the valley to Cancleave.
Detour down the path to the beach if you are feeling both adventurous and agile, but take note of the sign warning that access to the shoreline is 'via roped descent on eroding cliff face'. Here, as at Millook and elsewhere along this stunning coastline, the rock strata have been compressed and folded into dramatic chevrons during Earth movements in an ancient mountain-building period. (Detour to the beach at Millook for a much more accessible view of the same phenomenon!)
- At Cancleave to carry on ahead along the Coast Path around the edge of fields, above the rocky coastline, back to the road above Millook. Turn left to walk downhill back to the bridge at the start of the walk.