Walk - Porthscatho & Gerrans Bay
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.
- From the entrance to the car park at Gerrans turn right on the road, turning right again to walk down Gerrans Hill. At The Square turn right again, to drop down The Lugger.
Like Portloe, to the north of it, Porthscatho is a picturesque fishing village that has remained unspoilt. The whitewashed cottages are clustered together in the shelter of the steep-sided valley, and beyond the harbour the sand is golden and the water turquoise.
The large octagonal spire of the church at Gerrans, on the hillside above, has for centuries been used by sailors as a navigation aid. The church was built in the thirteenth century, but the tower and spire were added a couple of centuries later, when it was extended. In 1849 it was rebuilt, but the buttressed tower was left as it was. Long before the thirteenth century the village was known as 'Eglosgeren' ('St Geran's Church'), suggesting that there was a chapel of some kind here even before the one first recorded in 1201. There is a medieval cross in the churchyard. These were often used to indicate a holy site.
St Geran, or St Gerent or St Geraint, was said to be the grandson of the legendary King Mark of Cornwall, a Celtic chieftain of the Dumnonii tribe. Geraint was converted to Christianity by St Teilo, an Irish saint who travelled through Cornwall on his way to Brittany. Geraint was killed during the Battle of Catterick in 598 and was buried at nearby Carne Beacon (see the Nare Head Walk).
According to legend, 'King Geran of Dumnonia', or Geraint, lived at Dingerein Castle, a hillfort just a few miles north of Gerrans. (The Cornish word 'din' or 'dun' means 'castle'). Archaeologists believe that this bivallate (two-ditched) fort dates from somewhere between 800 BC and AD 400. The sixteenth-century antiquarian John Leland wrote that there was a fogou nearby. 'Fogou' comes from the Cornish word meaning 'cave', and these were underground chambers or vaults unique to Cornwall. The Picts also built similar structures at around the same time in Northern Scotland, known as 'souterrains'. The purpose of either is unknown, but it is thought that they may have been refuges, storage chambers or ritual shrines.
Just north of Porthscatho, on the beach at Porthcurnick, there are the remains of an ancient submerged forest. This was flooded as sea levels rose when the ice melted after the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago. At low tide in certain conditions it is possible to see the fossilised roots and stumps, and acorns and hazel nuts have been found in its clay surface. Fragments of Iron Age pottery have also been uncovered, dated at sometime around the second century BC.
Archaeologists have found evidence, throughout the Roseland peninsula, showing that the district was heavily populated in prehistoric times. The earliest remains date from Neolithic (late Stone Age) times, sometime between 4000 and 2500 BC, including some very worn pottery found near Gerrans. There are many barrows and cists from the later Bronze Age (2500 – 800 BC), and all around the area there are the remains of settlements from the Iron Age and the Romano-British period that followed it.
- Between the last two houses on The Lugger turn right to pick up the South West Coast Path as it heads south towards Towan Beach and St Anthony. Follow it along above the rocky shoreline for about a mile and a half, pulling out around Greeb Point, until you come to a footpath heading inland on the right at Towan Beach.
- Follow the footpath up to the road, turning right and then immediately right again, to follow the bridleway along the lane and through the field beyond to the house at the end. Carry on along the lane past Rosteague, continuing ahead when it turns into a road, to walk past the campsite at Treloan and back to Gerrans.
Rosteague Manor was first owned in 1363 by Ralph de Restak, but little else is known of early history until 1401, when John and Mary Petit were granted a licence to celebrate Mass in their private chapel. A century later it passed into the hands of the Mohun family of Dunster (see the Greenaleigh Farm Walk at Minehead). It became a fashionable place to visit during Elizabethan times, when owner Sir Reginald Mohun was one of Sir Walter Raleigh's naval captains.
Today the manor is best known for its French gardens, created in 1670 by the Kempe family, who owned it at the time. Eighteenth-century squire John Harris added a deer park and a dovecot in the woods in 1768. In the nineteenth century a thatched summerhouse was built in a corner of the gardens. Its floors were made of black and white pebbles and its walls decorated with cockle and mussel shells, and today it is a popular venue for weddings. 'Mad Mary' Hartley lived here with her son, and the house was neglected for some time before being fully restored by its subsequent owners.
There is said to be a smugglers' tunnel running from the house to the beach, and another one into the woods, and a hidden staircase has been discovered.