Walk - Dodman 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 the car park at Gorran Haven drop downhill towards the beach, turning right at the bottom to pick up the South West Coast Path as it climbs the steps on Foxhole Lane, heading towards Hemmick via Dodman. Follow the path through the National Trust land at Lamledra, bearing left with it when another path leads away uphill, and carry on above Vault Beach to the impressive prehistoric bulwark across Dodman Point.
Like Lantic Beach some distance to the east (see the Pencarrow Head & Pont Pill Walk), there is a steep descent to Vault Beach (also known as Bow Beach), which means that it is always quiet and often deserted. Although from the Coast Path the mile-long strand looks as though it is composed of sand, it is actually fine shingle, ground from the Devonian slate (or 'killas') laid down in deep seas some 400 million years ago.
Not surprisingly, in view of its tremendously strategic location, throughout history Dodman Point has been an important site to the local inhabitants. Prehistoric remains here include Bronze Age barrows and the massive Iron Age fortifications, as well as medieval field systems and a much later Napoleonic signal station.
Some 2000 years ago, the Dodman's Iron Age residents built an enormous double rampart, stretching from the cliffs on the west coast to those in the east and designed to defend the tip of the peninsula. The outside bank was six metres in places, and even the inside rampart reached two metres at the time. Almost a kilometre long, the bulwark enclosed nearly 50 acres of land, and it was the longest ditch and rampart of any promontory fort anywhere in Cornwall.
- Going through the gate, carry on along the Coast path around Dodman Point.
On a clear day you can see right the way along the south coast, from Bolt Tail in the east to The Lizard in the west. Looking northwards, past the white hills of the china clay country around St Austell, the dark masses of both Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor dominate the horizon, and even Carn Brea and St Agnes Beacon can sometimes be seen on the north coast.
The large cross on Dodman Point was built in 1896 by the Rev George Martin of Caerhayes as a navigation aid for shipping, after two naval destroyers had collided near the point earlier the same year.
The National Trust have introduced Dexter cattle to graze Dodman Point, reducing the coarse scrub so that more delicate species may flourish, as well as to keep the archeological sites from becoming overgrown. In spring and summer the martime grasslands around the point are full of wildflowers as a result.
- If you would like a shortcut, bypassing the descent and then ascent in the next section of the walk, a path beside the stone cross heads inland, running along the top of the ridge and going through another gate on the bulwark to follow a track to the road at Penare. For the longer route, carry on along the Coast Path after the stone cross, descending steeply after the bulwark and then more gently to the road above Hemmick Beach. The long walk to Hemmick from the nearest car park ensures that this beach, too, is never crowded. There are no facilities, but dogs are welcome all year round.
In among the gorse bushes just a few metres behind the cross, Signal House was built in 1794 on an 1588 Armada beacon site. The eighteenth-century watch house was part of a chain of coastal signal stations built during the Napoleonic Wars to keep a lookout for French ships in the Channel.
- At Hemmick turn right onto the footpath above the road, climbing steeply uphill to Penare and descending to the road by Penare Farm. Continue ahead along the road, turning left when the track joins from Dodman Point (or bearing right if you have taken the shortcut and arrived on this track).
- Arriving at the T-junction on the road, carry on ahead along the footpath, walking through the campsite and on to the drive for Treveague Farm.
- Turn right here, picking up the footpath on the left by the buildings to walk down to Gorran Haven.
- Turn right on Rice Lane, bearing left to return to the car park.