Padstow, pasties and paddling by Nick Kendell
With granite shops and cafes crowding round the delightful inner harbour, Padstow is a true gem set in an azure sea. The town itself has all that any un-spoilt seaside resort should have with vast, sheltered sandy beaches, pleasure boat rides to suit all, art galleries and an old town to explore if the weather isn’t kind. Parking is ample, but arrive early if you want to secure a place in the lower car park on the quay, otherwise there is plenty of space further up the steep hill descending to the town. Before stating the walk though, give yourself time to look round, when you get back it is a racing certainty that half of the tourist population of Cornwall will have joined you. The rest of the walk needs little introduction to anyone who has ever visited North Cornwall before, with its towering cliffs and vast panoramas the memory will stay with you always.
Start Leave the inner harbour with its colourful mixture of pleasure craft and fishing boats keeping the sea to your right. Pass the gift shops and crazy golf course as the paths rises past the outer harbour and leads in to an area of pasture and picnic benches. Ignore the lower path to the ferry and follow the tarmac path that leads across the field to the granite memorial to the lost of the wars. From here fine views back to Padstow are afforded along with simply stunning views inland to the Camel estuary and Little Petherick creek. If the tide is out then the sand stretches as far as the eye can see - if its in, the memory of the sun glistening on the sea will stay with you forever. Stand a while in silence and give thanks for our freedom to be here.
½ miles Cross the stone stile and leave Padstow behind. The path now drops slightly as thick hedges and low grassy cliffs form a low barrier between you and the sea shimmering temptingly below. From here The Doom Bar, a deadly sandbank for the ill-informed, can be seen at low tide almost cutting Padstow off from the sea. Beyond lies Pentire Point just distinguishable as a long extinct volcano where Black Backed gulls and Puffins can be seen clinging to the bleak cliffs and small islands where seals can be see hauling out. The path follows the cliff line closely before dropping down into St. George’s Well, a small inlet where you drop again into a cool and sheltered magical place where giant ferns and mosses grow in the shade, and weathered oaks drip with lichens. The path rises again now to join the estuary and provides excellent easy walking with far reaching views past Gun Point and over Harbour and Hawkers Coves. Arable crops tumble down to the left and provide a foil against the dramatic sea views always to the right. In the spring and summer skylarks can be seen rising vertically from the fields, singing their hearts out against a pure blue sky as yellowhammers flit along the gorse hedges singing their familiar ‘little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese’ call.
1 ½ miles Passing behind the old lifeboat station and the glorious holiday cottages opposite Trebetherick, the path now starts to climb to Stepper Point. A stout wooden fence marks the way clearly and provides a good guide to how steep this section is. Before you reach the top a small track leads down to the right to a solar powered beacon. Take a while to explore this before retracing your steps to the main track. The path itself, now climbing steadily, leads up to the first view of the North Atlantic - and what a treat you are in for!
2 ½ miles As you turn left the wind will rise to greet you. Whether it is this or the view that takes your breath away is a moot point. Which ever it is you will undoubtedly stop and admire the beauty and remoteness of the wave ravaged North Cornish coast. When at last you do re-start your walk the steep slopes down to the sea should be treated with care and respect. Continue now heading to the fenced-off tower on the horizon and stop here for a little refreshment - the shelter and cover provided by the rocky outcrop will be welcomed if you are battling with a picnic.
3 miles With the simple instruction of keep the sea on your right, now head toward Trevone. The sea sculpted inlets and coves often undercut the line of the crumbling cliff along this stretch so keeping a respectful distance from the edge is strongly advised. Leave the close inspection of the cliffs to the Peregrine falcons, Kestrels and Buzzards that make this hunting ground their own. The close cropped grass of the cliff tops along this stretch makes for easy and rapid walking so time must be put aside to admire the views that Butter Hole, Gunver head and the distant Trevose head with its lighthouse offer; also make sure you look back at the way you have come and see what it is like to have the sea on your left. If you are carrying binoculars take a moment to scan the sore line and cliffs for the seals and kestrels that frequent this area.
4 miles As you round Gunver head the coast changes from grassy slopes to rocky promontories reaching into the sea like giant fingers. If it is rough, the sea striking the rocks will rise white from the swelling blue mass and fall down on the rocks like a brilliant confetti honouring the marriage of the sea and shore. With a mixture of arable and pasture behind a Cornish hedge to your left, follow the well trodden path round toward Trevone. The bulk of the Head leads you through stiles and past dramatic coastal scenery before dropping you down a steep track to cross a small stream where you almost reach sea level. Climbing back up through the open countryside nothing prepares you for the approach to Trevone. The noise on a busy day can be heard as you make your way across the open fields long before you can see the small resort. As you cut across the Round Hole and start your descent the smell and sounds of a true British Seaside resort bombard your senses from all directions. Sun tan cream, ice lollies, shouting children and the ever present gaudily coloured wind breaks all vie for your attention as you follow the path in to the small town. Stop here a while and take a look round and enjoy a cup of tea and a bite to eat. After all the solitude of the walk Trevone makes a interesting contrast.
4 ½ miles Follow the main road up from the bustling beach and take the path between two churches on the left. A clearly signposted path takes you diagonally down the field to a gate and stile at the bottom. A newly erected post now points along the line of the hedge. Be careful - the stile across the brook is easily missed, lying as it does half way along. After crossing the stream and pushing through the hedge, follow the path across clearly marked fields towards the farm house and old stone barns up to the left. Once past the barns and just before the house take the track to the left and follow up to the small road where you need to go right. Follow this road along to the cross-road and go straight ahead. Carry on past the Bird Garden and Prideaux Place and down into Padstow. The sight and sounds of the bustling harbour, and all the delights of the Pasty shops will be there to greet the weary traveller as they take their sack off, and believe me there is nothing quite like eating a real Cornish pasty with your bootless feet hanging over the edge of the harbour.
Padstow, Paddling Pasties & Planning
Distance 6 miles/9.7km
Start Padstow harbour car park grid ref 919754
Parking Ample in town.
Terrain Easy walking on well trodden and marked paths
Nearest Town Padstow/Newquay
Refreshments Padstow and Trevone - tea shops, cafes and pubs.
Public Transport No. 55 Bodmin Parkway to Padstow. No. 56 Newquay to Wadebridge. First Western National (01208) 79898. Nearest BR Station - Bodmin Parkway
Suitable for All on foot - not suitable for push chairs or wheelchairs
Map OS Landranger 200
© Nick Kendell 2000