XLIX – Newquay to Padstow

Hasteful MammalTHE last day of February saw me continue with my walking, such that I had achieved three day’s worth of planned walks in two.  Even though it was the twenty-ninth, and therefore a leap day in a leap year, I didn’t do any leaping from any of the cliffs.

Newquay Bay


The only leaping I engaged in was of the out of bed variety at just after seven, which was approximately sunrise.  I forewent breakfast in favour of getting out as quickly as possible. This was out of keenness rather than any dissatisfaction with my hotel; the hotel was fine. I even had a sea view.

Sea view from Great Western Hotel, Newquay
And this was it.
Newquay’s Eastern Beaches

I set off in high spirits along a road overlooking the sea front, calling in at a shop to buy water and snacks.  I also intended to buy some sandwiches but failed to find any I fancied. This would become a bit of an issue later but for now I bounced along, full of happy thoughts while the path made its way past Newquay’s eastern beaches.

One in particular had a name that I couldn’t help but love:

Sign for Lusty Glaze car park, Newquay
Danger. Slippery when wet.

A quick burst of research suggests that the name is derived from the Cornish for ‘a place to view blue boats’ but my minimal grasp of Cornish isn’t good enough to confirm that and the internet seems to be doing that thing where one person makes an unsubstantiated claim and a million other websites just quote them word for word. 

Last time I encountered that phenomenon, it was perpetuating a load of erroneous twaddle about the Mew Stone in Devon. However ‘glas’ does mean ‘blue’, so this explanation is possible although why the boats would be blue remains unexplained.

Trevelgue Head

A little bit further east than Lusty Glaze is Trevelgue Head, which is actually an island with a narrow footbridge linking it to the rest of Newquay. 

Trevelgue Head is basically a park and the site of an Iron Age promontory fort and I rather enjoyed wandering around it.  Joy turned to absolute delight when I heard a strangely high-pitched cry and noticed that three of the dozen or so crows that I could see had red beaks and feet.  They were not crows; they were choughs.

Cornish Choughs

I’ve said before that the Cornish chough is emblematic of Cornwall and forms the crest of Cornwall Council’s coat of arms.  Even so, they became rare and then died out in Cornwall and had to be reintroduced from Wales.

All the information I’ve seen suggests they’re still limited to the wilder areas around the Lizard so to see three of them hopping about on Trevelgue Head, some way from the Lizard and within an urban area, was very pleasing indeed.

I was grinning from ear to ear as I passed out of Newquay and into the countryside.

Watergate Bay

The Coast Path

The path now ran alongside Watergate Bay, a two mile long embayment with dramatic cliffs overlooking sandy beaches. On my right, rolling fields covered Cornwall’s hills. 

The going was pretty level and the ground was damp but not too muddy and I fairly raced along towards the middle of the bay, where a valley required a gentle descent and ascent. 

Watergate Bay Hotel

In the valley, just above the beach, lay the Watergate Bay Hotel. This was a refurbished Victorian affair and close by it lay Fifteen Cornwall, a restaurant that was part of Jamie Oliver’s scheme to give troubled youths the chance to straighten out their lives with a chef apprenticeship. 

About a mile inland from the hotel and restaurant was the tiny village of Tregurrian and Watergate Bay used to be known as Tregurrian Beach before the Victorian hoteliers moved in.

Watergate Bay Hotel
Lovely place, we’ll build the hotel here.  The name will have to go, though.
Griffin’s Point

Towards the far end of Watergate Bay the path decided I’d been having it too easy and started to throw in a few ups and downs as it approached Griffin’s Point, the site of another promontory fort.

Approaching Griffin's Point
The first bit of up. It wasn’t too steep but if you did slip, the edge had come close to the path in order to catch you.

Once I was past a short section of up-and-downiness around Griffin’s Point and Beacon Cove I found myself rounding Berryl’s Point where I was frankly amazed by a dry stone wall beside the path. Why was I amazed? Well it was a bit mossy.

A very mossy wall
Many of the clumps of moss were bigger than my head.  And I can be pretty big-headed at times.

Mawgan Porth

Vale of Mawgan

Having rounded Berryl’s Point, the path took me down to the beautiful sandy bay of Mawgan Porth.  There the River Menalhyl (Dowr Melynheyl) reaches the sea with the hamlet of Mawgan Porth on one side, running into Trenance on the other. 

The river takes its name from melyn heyl, Cornish for ‘estuary mills’ (although suitably garbled in its anglicised form) while the valley is called the Vale of Lanherne or Vale of Mawgan.

St Mawgan

Lanherne is also the Cornish name of the village of St Mawgan, which lies a mile inland and is the home of an RAF base. In the late eighteenth century, it welcomed a community of Belgian nuns, who must have found their new environs strange.

I briefly pondered what may lie in St Mawgan and the nature of paths untrodden as I looked at a signpost pointing inland to the village before heading off in the other direction.

Mawgan Porth Village

Mawgan Porth is very small but it did have a handy shop in which I could buy more water and snacks before wandering down on to the beautiful and almost deserted beach to pick up the footpath again.

As I ambled beachwards, I spotted a little girl’s sugar pink sock on the path and concluded that the offended piskies are now openly mocking me.

Mawgan Porth
Mawgan Porth: Lovely weather, beautiful beach, good walk and Fair Folk. Apparently.

Park Head & Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps

I paused for a rest overlooking the beach and then pressed on, with the path conveying me past Carnewas Island and Bedruthan Steps.  The very name ‘Bedruthan Steps’ filled me with apprehension but I needn’t have worried; it referred not to any feature of the path but to a series of rocky stacks said to have been used as stepping stones by a giant named Bedruthan.

Park Head

I was now heading for a headland named Park Head and there I passed an elderly couple who engaged me in a brief conversation about the lovely weather, how far we had each walked and were planning to walk and so on.  Our superficial pleasantries exchanged, we then responded to some unseen signal, with the couple saying ‘well, we mustn’t keep you’ and me saying ‘well, I must press on,’ almost simultaneously. 

And press on I did, driven in part by a desire for food. I was starting to regret not having bought a sandwich that morning.

Towards Trevose Head


The path dropped into a coombe at Porth Mear — which is an undeveloped stream mouth — and then, having climbed out again took me round to the village of Porthcothan.  On my original three day plan, Porthcothan was to be the end of my second day of walking although that plan had long since been abandoned.

Another thing that had had to be abandoned was the hope of buying some lunch as Porthcothan’s shop appeared to be closed and so, disappointed, I kept going.


The coast was becomingly increasingly crinkly, with dozens of rocky coves along the way although the path remained fairly easy going.  The next hamlet I reached was Treyarnon which had a rocky islet just offshore called Trethias Island

Trethias Island

Trethias Island had a cave that ran right through it and could be accessed at low tide although that still involved some wading that I was not prepared to do.

Constantine Bay

A little further on, rocks and cliffs gave way to dunes as the path edged past Constantine Bay, once one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite holiday locations.  I knew at this point that, if I nipped inland to the village of Constantine Bay, I could probably find something to eat but I decided to stay on the path.

Constantine Bay is named for St Constantine, who is in turn identified with King Constantine, a sixth century post-Roman British king of Dumnonia (modern Devon and Cornwall).

Trevose Head

A Headland and Several Islets

After Constantine Bay the path took me to Trevose Head, a headland which I had been able to see from miles back, along with a small group of rocky islands about a mile offshore known as the Quies.  There is also a small island much closer in called the Bull.

Dinas Head
Dinas Head
This is Dinas Head, a lumpy outcrop from Trevose Head with a tumulus atop it. Beyond it lie the Quies.  More or less behind me, as I took this picture, was something called ‘Round Hole’.
Round Hole (1)
Round Hole, Trevose Head
It’s a hole in the ground and it’s round. Round Hole: Does exactly what it says on the map.
Trevose Head Lighthouse
Trevose Head Lighthouse
Trevose Head lighthouse is 27m in height and dates to 1847, when it was the higher of a set of two lights. It has gone through many upgrades and was automated in 1995.
Mother Ivey’s Bay

Having rounded Trevose Head, I now skirted around Mother Ivey’s Bay, named for a sixteenth century witch. 

As folklore has it, Mother Ivy approached the Hellyer family, who were wealthy from the pilchard industry, and asked them to donate to the people of Padstow a batch of pilchards that had been returned unsold; Padstow’s inhabitants were experiencing shortages at the time. 

The Hellyers refused and ploughed the pilchards into their land as fertiliser upon which Mother Ivy cursed that land, decreeing that if the soil was broken death would follow.  When the Hellyer’s eldest son was thrown from his horse and killed this was attributed to the curse and the field has lain fallow ever since.

Harlyn Bay

The next bay after Mother Ivey’s was Harlyn Bay, wherein lies the tiny village of Harlyn.  It had some houses, a pub and a bridge.

Harlyn Bay Bridge
This is Harlyn Bay Bridge. Its size and shape determine, amongst other things, which make and model of bus Western Greyhound can use on its 556 bus route; if they are too low they get grounded on the apex.

The path crossed the beach and left me with the choice of continuing on my way or heading into the village to find the Harlyn Inn.  I was extremely tempted towards the latter but eventually decided it might make more sense to hunt down food in Trevone, the next village over, which was larger.


Well Parc Hotel

A short while later I found myself in a pub/hotel in Trevone where I sat and devoured a sandwich, washed down with gin and tonic.  I hadn’t realised how hungry I was, which was ravenous. 

I know I was really hungry because I actually looked at the salad that came with my ham sandwich and thought to myself ‘tomato, yes, I need some of that in here’ and added it to the sandwich along with raw green pepper.  Normally, I loathe tomato, and much prefer my peppers cooked, but my body was craving the nutrients.

Hopeful Cat

While I ate, a small black cat that had been sleeping on one of the seats woke up and came over to say hello.  Now, cats generally love me anyway, for some reason or other, but I wasn’t fooled. This cat had clearly spotted Someone New With Food and was planning on being as cute as possible in the hope of obtaining some ham.  Hopeful cat got fuss but no ham; I was too hungry to spare it.

About the Village

Trevone is Treavon in Cornish, from tre meaning ‘farmstead or settlement’, and avon meaning ‘river’. 

It has one pub (the Well Parc, which fed me my sandwich), when previously it had several hotels and its Post Office has shut down.

A shop and café were also closed but that may just have been because I was visiting out of season.

Round Hole (2)
Round Hole, Trevone
Another imaginatively-named Round Hole, with Trevone in the background. It is as deep as the cliff is high, which is about 20m at this point.

Padstow Bay & the Camel Estuary

Stepper Point

Sandy bays now gave way to rugged cliffs as I headed towards Stepper Point, the western end of the Camel Estuary.  Ahead I could see the Daymark, a stone tower built on Stepper Point as a navigational aid, while to my left, two miles offshore, was an islet called Gulland Rock.

The path began to undulate again and then found itself on a ridge-like hill not dissimilar to Bindon Hill in Dorset, which previously terrified me on account of the way it dropped on both sides.  This time I was rather less concerned although I did notice as I climbed it some interesting tracks, oddly long and bifurcated. Either the local farmers were breeding mutant cows or the path had recently proven too steep for cows and they’d slipped.

Stepper Point
Stepper Point daymark. The cows are only equipped with dry weather feet.
River Camel

Once I’d passed Stepper Point with its daymark and lookout station, I was traversing the edge of the Camel Estuary.  The River Camel (Dowr Camel) derives its name from the Cornish word for ‘crooked’, also found in ‘Camborne’ (Kammbronn).  It rises on Bodmin Moor.

 View across the Camel to Brea Hill
The view across the Camel to Brea Hill, which is 62m high and has Bronze Age tumuli at its summit.
Padstow War Memorial

I was running out of daylight now, so I hurried past various sandy coves, hoping to catch sight of my destination soon.  Then, as I turned a corner, I saw a memorial cross silhouetted against the sky and, having turned again, Padstow lay before me.

Padstow War Memorial
Lest we forget.


Saints and Stuff

Padstow (Lannwedhenek) derives its English name from Petroc-stow, Anglo-Saxon for ‘the place of St Petroc’; St Petroc being a sixth century Welsh missionary (and also the patron saint of Devon).

A monastery was established in Padstow after Petroc’s death, although this was laid waste by Vikings in 981. 

The town’s Cornish name refers to the church-site of Wethinoc, an earlier missionary to the Britons of Dumnonia.

Padstow Harbour
Padstow harbour
Padstow harbour.  These days Padstow relies more on tourism than fishing.
No Time For Nourishment

Modern Padstow thrives as a tourist town, with Rick Stein’s fish restaurant helping to draw in trade.  I contemplated finding more food upon arrival, or perhaps a pint at the Old Custom House, a St Austell Brewery pub, but quickly realised I only had fifteen minutes to find the bus stop before the last bus back to Newquay.

The bus stop turned out to be at the old station, the railway having arrived 1899 and been snatched away again in 1967 thanks Dr Beeching, whose short-sighted policies removed a third of Britain’s rail network without bringing the savings he predicted.

The Beeching Axe

Tasked with cutting Railway losses, Beeching, a former head of chemical giant ICI, misunderstood the nature of the beast. He thought that if your branch line was closed you’d just drive to the nearest main line and then catch a train, rather than, say, stay in your car for the entire journey.

As a result, his cuts didn’t just drop some unprofitable lines but amputated the entire feeder system for the main railway routes.  In short, where railways were concerned the man was an idiot.  This is perhaps most tragic for lines like the long-vanished Padstow Branch Line, once described by Sir John Betjeman as the most beautiful railway journey he knew.

Back to Newquay

Anyway, deprived of the railway, I caught the bus, which showed the wrong number for almost the entire journey, the driver having forgotten to change it. 

The bus journey took an hour and a half of winding through many little villages, including passing over Harlyn Bay Bridge and taking that untaken path at Mawgan Porth so as to pass through St Mawgan.  Eventually I returned to my hotel where I more or less ate my own bodyweight.

All in all a good day.

Distance Summary

Hasteful MammalThis time: 21½ miles
Total since Gravesend: 768 miles

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