Walk - Mount Edgcumbe - Rame
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.
If you reach the start of this walk by ferry from Stonehouse you will be using a service that was first introduced in the early years of the thirteenth century.
- From the Cremyl ferry landing stage, follow the Coast Path through the historic grounds and gardens of Mount Edgcumbe.
Children will love to ramble through the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe, with its many fascinating features, and will enjoy the beach at Kingsand. An especially inspiring walk in early spring, when the National Camellia Collection is in full bloom, and in autumn, when the leaves in the woodland start to turn. The formal gardens were laid out by the Mount Edgcumbe family in the eighteenth century and include many specimen trees as well as the national camellia collection. Passing into the grounds, features you can look out for include the amphitheatre, Milton’s Temple, the Folly and the deer park – home to a herd of fallow deer which roam the peninsula.
Within the woodland cloaking Redding Point the Path passes Lady Emma’s Cottage and the Arch – another scenic feature that was installed to create views and atmosphere. On the rocks below and to the left as you join the Coast Path, Fort Picklecombe is part of the extensive ring of defences built around Plymouth Sound in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Tudor adventurer Sir Richard Grenville built the 'Picklecombe New Bulwark' on the site in 1545 with 'three pair of ordnance now placed to defend the landings in Cawsand Bay'. It was demolished and replaced by the Fort Picklecombe battery in 1851. This was owned by the Edgcumbe family and leased by the Royal Navy until the end of the Second World War. Fort Picklecombe (one of Palmerston’s Follies) was designed with the more practical purpose of defending Plymouth Sound, but was never needed for this purpose and has now been converted into luxury apartments.
- Follow the Coast Path through scrubby trees above the rocky shoreline.
- After a while, a smaller path heads off to the left towards the shoreline, and another path below it follows the shoreline itself. Both rejoin the main South West Coast Path up ahead, so the choice is yours.
This open area is known as Minadew Brakes. There was another battery here - the Minadew Battery, completed in 1779, armed with eight 18-pounder guns. Along with two other nearby batteries, Cawsand Battery B and Sandway Battery, it was intended to cover the beaches in the event of an enemy landing. By 1783 it was redundant and nothing can be seen of it today.
On the shoreline below are the ruined remains of a number of fish cellars, some of them dating back to the sixteenth century. Here pilchards brought in by the fishing fleet were packed into barrels in layers of salt and the oil was squeezed out of them by means of wooden beams laid over the top of the barrels.
The shoreline itself is part of the Kingsand to Sandway Point Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is the only geological site in south-west England to provide visible evidence of 'suprabatholithic volcanic activity after the emplacement of the Cornubian' - that is, rocks that were brought up from below the Earth's surface by volcanic activity, after the granite backbone of Cornwall had been formed.
- If you've kept on the top path, you enter Kingsand along Devonport Hill. either follow The Green or the path marked Unsuitable for Motors down to Market Street (The lower path enters the village along The Cleave, meeting up in Market Street). Turn left and follow Garrett Street along to Cawsand.
- Go through The Square and turn left along Pier Lane and out of the village along the coastline towards Penlee Point.
On the shoreline at Pier Cove is the Pier Cellars Brennan Station, a torpedo station built in 1888/9 as part of Plymouth's southwestern defences, constructed after new developments in armaments meant that they could engage the enemy long before it neared the channel to Plymouth. Designed primarily to protect Cawsand Bay, as well as the Plymouth Sound Breakwater, Pier Cellars was constructed of shuttered concrete and brick but camouflaged with earth, which also helped to protect it from shell-fire. The buildings and their underground chambers include an engine room, dynamo room, wire-winding store, and a torpedo room with the associated slipway. The Brennan torpedo was propelled and steered by means of wires unwound from two drums within its body. A searchlight (Brennan Light) was added in 1896 and an iron pier two years later. The station was in use until 1903, and in the Second World War, it was one of the Sound's Harbour Defence Stations. It is still used by the Royal Navy for its HMS Raleigh adventure training and there is no public access.
- Above Pier Cove carry on ahead as a path joins from the right, but fork right after the house to carry on along the Coast Path to the grotto on Penlee Point, with a detour left to Penlee Battery.
In the eighteenth century, the cave that today houses Queen Adelaide's Grotto, high above the sea at Penlee Point, was used as a watch-house. The stone archways were constructed within its walls and dedicated to Princess Adelaide after she visited in 1827, four years before she was crowned Queen Consort.
Work also began on Penlee Battery in 1889, another part of the southwestern defences, and by 1894 it was armed with three 6-inch BL guns and two 13.5-inch. There were underground magazines and stores, and quarters for the Master Gunner and the gun crews. Over the next few years, the guns were dismounted and replaced, and married quarters and workshops had been added by 1911. The battery was finally disarmed in 1956 and the site was filled in the 1970s.
The site of the battery is now a nature reserve. It achieved national fame in 1998 as the place for the first British sighting of the Green Darner dragonfly, brought across the Atlantic by hurricane conditions. A grand total of seven Green Darner dragonflies were counted in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles that September, but they have not been spotted in Britain since. Today Penlee Point is a fine place for wildflowers and the butterflies they attract. Above the battery, the grass is bright with the tiny aromatic purple flowers of wild thyme, yellow-flowered creeping bird's-foot trefoil, the spiky blue and purple heads of sheep's bit scabious and the tiny daisies of wild chamomile. In summer lizards can be seen basking on the rocks, and in autumn the blossom on the brambles produces a fine crop of blackberries and the butterflies dancing in pairs along the path in the sun include the red admiral, painted lady and speckled wood.
After you have forked right above Pier Cove you join the Earls Drive for a short distance. This was originally a carriageway leading from the house at Mount Edgcumbe to its church at Maker.
- From the grotto follow the Coast Path sharply to the right and carry on above the high cliffs on the southern coastline of the Penlee/Rame Head headland towards the headland chapel.
In the waters below lie the two wreck sites of the Coronation, a 660-man warship which broke up offshore in 1691 after its captain decided to anchor off Penlee Point and wait for the storm to die away, rather than seeking shelter in Plymouth Sound. The ship capsized a mile and a half offshore, where it lost its deck armament, bell and fittings, before drifting to Lady Island and Cove and breaking up in the shallows. The two sites are designated wreck sites, managed by English Heritage under the 1973 Protection of Vessels Act.
- Carry on past the path by the bench near the mast to continue along the Coast Path to the end of the headland, climbing the steps on the mound to reach the chapel at its summit.
In the reign of the Emperor Valentinian in the fourth century AD - according to a legend retold by Robert Hunt at the start of the twentieth century - the people along the shores of the Tamar had been taught by the local monks that all men were doomed from birth to a life of sin and misery. St German was sent to preach to them about free will and the value of good works. He built a church here and a poor house, and he performed a number of miracles. He had many followers, but he also had his enemies, and one day a rowdy rabble burst in on his Sunday service and drove him out.
According to the text, 'St German went, a sad man, to the cliffs at the Rame Head, and there alone he wept in agony at the failure of his labours. So intense was the soul-suffering of this holy man that the rocks wept with him. From that day the tears of the cliffs have continued to fall, and the Well of St German attests to this day of the saint's agony.'
Today's Church of Saint Germanus in Rame was first consecrated in 1259, being built on the site of an earlier Norman church, possibly from around AD 981, when Earl Ordulf, owner of vast estates in the West Country and uncle of King Ethelred, gave Rame to Tavistock Abbey (which he had founded). The tower, spire and chancel date from the thirteenth century, but the nave and aisles were added later, and the whole church was restored in 1848 and again in 1886.
People have lived here since prehistoric times, and there is a Neolithic (Late Stone Age) chambered tomb on the hillside to the northwest of Rame. A greenstone axe from the same period was found on the beach at Cawsand, and other flint tools have been found elsewhere on the peninsula. In the Iron Age, around 2000 years ago, there was a cliff castle, or promontory fort, on the mound ahead, and the remains of the rampart protecting its landward flank can still be seen across the neck of the headland.
The chapel on the mound was licensed for Mass in 1397 and is probably built on the site of St German's original hermitage, although it was later dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, patron of high places. In its earliest days, a lamp was probably kept alight in the chapel to warn sailors of the rocks below. In 1588 the first sighting of the Spanish Armada was from this chapel. In the Second World War, there were various buildings around the chapel, including a small military camp, gun platforms, and Chain Home Low radar installations with a Ground Controlled Interception hut and a bunker thought to have been part of an anti-submarine acoustic listening network.
- Returning down the long flight of steps from the chapel, this time take the left fork to follow the Coast Path up the opposite hillside. When the Coast Path bears left towards Polhawn and Whitsand Bay, bear right to carry on uphill, back to the car park.
Rame Head Observatory, a coastguard lookout until it closed in 1988, is now manned by volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institute. The NCI was established on Cornwall's Lizard Point in 1994 when two sailors drowned there within sight of the newly-closed Coastguard lookout at Bass Point. Originally there was a Lloyds register lookout on the site, and part of its octagonal outline can still be seen at the southern corner of the current building.
On a clear day you will be able to see, the most famous lighthouse in the British Isles - the Eddystone, built on a small and very dangerous rock 13 miles south-west of Plymouth. There have been four separate lighthouses built here. The original steel Winstanley’s Tower was completed in 1698, the first lighthouse to be built on a small rock in the open sea.
In June 1697, England was at war with France. Whilst building the tower a French privateer carried Winstanley off to France. When Louis XIV heard he ordered his immediate release saying that "France was at war with England not with humanity". In 1709 the John Rudyerd replaced it with the wooden Rudyerd’s Tower. It burnt down in 1755 poisoning the 94-year-old keeper who swallowed a lump of molten lead as it dripped from the roof.
John Smeaton, a Yorkshireman, built the next tower, out of granite, inventing quick drying cement in the process. 120 years later, in the 1870's, cracks appeared in the rock. The top half of the tower was dismantled and re-erected on Plymouth Hoe as a monument to the builder. The present tower built in 1882 used larger stones, dovetailed on all sides and to the courses above and below. In 1982 the lighthouse was the first to be converted to automatic operation. A helipad was built above the lantern to allow the work to be carried out.
The tower is 49 metres high, 41 metres above the sea at high water. Its white light flashes twice every 10 seconds and can be seen for 17 nautical miles. The fog signal blasts once every 30 seconds.
- From the entrance to the Rame Head car park take the footpath on the opposite side of the car park, heading along the right-hand hedge and following it around the corner to the right. Going through into the right-hand field, cross it diagonally to come out on the road. Turn left on the road and follow it to Rame church.
The Church of Saint Germanus in Rame was first consecrated in 1259, being built on the site of an earlier Norman church, possibly from around AD 981, when Earl Ordulf, owner of vast estates in the West Country and uncle of King Ethelred, gave Rame to Tavistock Abbey (which he had founded). The tower, spire and chancel date from the thirteenth century, but the nave and aisles were added later. The whole church was restored in 1848 and again in 1886. According to legend, St German was a fourth-century saint sent to preach a message of free will and good works to the local population, who were convinced that original sin meant they were all doomed to a life of misery. After the mob drove him from his church, he is said to have sat and sobbed on Rame Head, where the cliffs still weep for him.
There was another battery at Rame Church Battery, part of the same southwestern defences. It was a High Angle Battery, designed to fire its shells at an angle of 70 degrees so that instead of hitting a ship's armoured sides they rained upon its more vulnerable decks from above. In 1893 it was armed with four 9-inch guns and protected by an unclimbable fence, which was replaced with a pillbox during the First World War when the guns were upgraded. It was disarmed in 1929, and in the Second World War, it was used as a radar station. It was demolished in the 1970s.
- Turn left at the church and follow the road as it curves downhill. Reaching the junction just after Rame, fork right to walk along Rame Lane, heading through the valley to Forder.
- Fork left onto Forder Hill, climbing steeply to where a footpath leaves on the right-hand side.
On Forder Hill, there are more fortifications, including two musketry lines and a roadblock, this time built as part of the earlier ring of defences known as the Palmerston Follies. This was a chain of more than 20 forts and batteries ringing Plymouth Sound, built in response to Napoleon III's 1859 launch of the first armour-plated battleship.
- Turn right onto this footpath, heading downhill through the field towards the coast, bearing slightly right to the gap in the far hedge. Ignoring the green lane on the right, take the path to the left of it and follow it through the field to another green lane ahead. Carry straight on along the footpath running past Cawsand Fort to the road.
Cawsand Fort was originally a Palmerston fort and was remodelled as part of the late nineteenth-century defences that included the batteries at Pier Cellars and Penlee Point. Today it is a complex of luxury apartments.
The 97 granite steps connecting New Street and Garrett Street are known as 'Duck Steps', and from the top, there are fine views over Kingsand, to the left, and Cawsand, to the right.
The area around the twin villages is designated an Area of Great Historic Value (apart from the beach, which from the Institute northward is a Local Nature Reserve), and there are no fewer than 85 listed buildings in this tiny valley.
The settlement of Cawsand was first recorded in 1404 when the area was known as The Square. Early spellings of the name Cawsand included Cawsham, Cousham and Causon, and it is thought to mean 'Cowsand'. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Rame peninsula was dotted with farmsteads, although the primary livelihood was through pilchard fishing. Historians believe that Kingsand may have been named in 1483 after Henry VII landed here briefly during his abortive attempt to overthrow Richard III.
In 705 King Geraint of Cornwall granted 500 acres of land on the Rame peninsula to Sherbourne Abbey in Dorset. The border of the land in question followed a stream (now culverted) between the two villages, handing Kingsand over to Devon, while Cawsand remained in Cornwall. It was not until boundary changes in 1844 that Kingsand returned to Cornwall. A cottage opposite the 'Halfway House' pub still bears the 'Devon Corn' marker showing the border. The settlements expanded in Tudor times when Plymouth merchants built fish cellars along the beach to cash in on the thriving pilchard industry. These cellars were built of the local red 'rhyolite', a volcanic rock found along the shoreline to the east of Cawsand.
Boatbuilding was another local enterprise, as was smuggling. The twin villages were the headquarters of the West Country Free Trade movement, which flourished along this part of the coastline in the eighteenth century under the leadership of Zephaniah Job of Polperro.
The twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand share a history of fishing and smuggling, and their links outside the district were traditionally by sea rather than by land. A ferry still runs today between Cawsand and Plymouth. Although Cawsand has always been in Cornwall, Kingsand was part of Devon until boundary changes in 1844, and one of the houses still displays a marker showing the county boundaries.
Originally known as 'The Terrace', Earls Drive was created in 1788 as a carriage drive to Maker Church, travelling around the coast. By 1823 it had been extended as far as Penlee Point.
- Turn left on New Road and follow it past Green Park. Immediately after the corner of Jackman's Meadow turn left into Earl's Drive.
There are more remnants of the Georgian and Victorian defences on either side of Earls Drive as you walk uphill. To the right is the Grenville battery, once flanked by the Maker Hospital, while uphill to the left are the Maker Barracks, built early in the programme of military fortifications to accommodate the garrison. Today the barracks are the HQ of the Rame Conservation Trust, a group of local people dedicated to keeping the site in the hands of the public and out of the clutches of developers. The community includes artists, craftsmen and musicians, as well as other mainstream enterprises ranging from sustainable energy consultants to wedding services.
- Ignoring the footpaths leading off to either side, carry on along Earls Drive to Maker Farm, bearing left in front of the barns to walk to the junction just beyond. At the junction turn right, turning left onto the footpath to signed to Maker Church a little way ahead. Pass to the left of the buildings at the top of the first field, bearing right around them to follow the path alongside the hedge and into the next field on the left to go through the churchyard.
- At the churchyard, cross the drive to pick up the path. Crossing the B3247 to go into the woods, carry on along the footpath ahead down to Lower Anderton, continuing straight ahead when another path crosses yours on the way down.
The name 'Maker' is derived from the Cornish 'magor', meaning 'ruin'. It is thought that the church was built using stone from the ruins of West Stonehouse, at Cremyll, which was burnt down by French invaders in 1350.
Maker Church was built around the start of the sixteenth century, possibly incorporating the nave and chancel of an earlier church. It houses the family vault of the Edgcumbes, who have owned Mount Edgcumbe estate since 1493, when Sir Piers Edgcumbe of Cotehele acquired it through marriage. His descendant, Richard, was created Baron of Edgcumbe in 1742, and the third Baron was made the first Earl of Edgcumbe in 1789.
In the trees to the northeast of the church, just off the road, St Julian's well-chapel pre-dates the church and is thought to date from the fourteenth century. It was restored in 1882 by the fourth Earl, William Henry, who restored St Michael's chapel the same year.
- Turn left onto the track at the bottom of the field, crossing the Lower Anderton Road to carry straight on ahead along the waterside footpath around Palmer Point.
The settlement of Anderton was first documented in 1314, named from the Old English meaning 'under the down'. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, there was a ropewalk alongside the river in Anderton, where strands of hemp would have been laid to twist them into rope.
- Stay by the water as you come to the quay at Empacombe, following the footpath signs around the buildings to continue above the shoreline to Cremyll.