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6 Wonderful walks in Cornwall that are even better in the winter

Walk off some of that festive food and drink with a bracing walk. Here are some highly recommended winter walks to explore in Cornwall.

1. Boscastle and the coast path
Boscastle is a great starting point for a variety of walks. A stroll along the north side of the harbour and along to Penally Point is packed with interest and wonderful coastal views. The only safe haven on the long and dangerous stretch of coast from Port Isaac to Bude, Boscastle’s tightly sheltered harbour once bustled with ketches and schooners. Navigation into the harbour’s narrow winding channel was (and remains) tricky, as can readily be appreciated from Penally Point or Penally Hill above. Larger vessels were ‘hobbled’ in by eight oared boats.
Nonetheless, cargoes from local ports, Bristol, South Wales and even North America were offloaded on the Elizabethan quay in considerable quantities – 200 vessels were recorded here in one year alone. Trade declined after the railway reached North Cornwall in 1893. Today, small fishing boats and pleasure craft predominate and safety is much improved with Willapark Lookout Station. Originally built as a summer house in the early 19th century, the building later served as a Coastguard lookout and then a folly, before it was leased to the National Coastwatch in 2002.

Returning to the harbour, there is much of interest, including the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Not to be missed, the National Trust’s Visitor Centre, has a fascinating video of the terrible 2004 Boscastle Flood. You may like to extend your walk by following the easy and scenic riverside path from the car park. Under normal conditions, the river Valency appears benign and keeps well within its banks. However… look up and see how the steep sided river valley could funnel huge quantities of water rapidly into Boscastle after heavy rain.

2. Padstow Harbour and Coast Path
Padstow’s lively, colourful harbour is packed with fishing boats and leisure craft and surrounded by a medley of historic warehouses, pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops. The walk can easily be extended along the Coast Path, with lovely views across the Camel estuary to Rock, Brea Hill and Doom Bar’s golden sands. Source of an estimated ten million tonnes of agricultural sand, the Bar has well earned its name, being the cause of 600 beachings, capsizes and shipwrecks over the past 200 years. Thus, there is ample justification for the RNLI’s lifeboat stations at Rock and Trevose Head, which liaise closely with the Coastguard station at Hawker Cove and the Coastwatch station at Stepper Point. 

3. Minions
A short walk from Minions to Stowe Hill is rewarded with a rich slice of Cornwall’s prehistoric past and recent industrial history. It could be accomplished in well under two hours, but is worth taking time over. Head north past the Hurlers, three Bronze Age stone circles. According to legend, these are men turned to stone as a punishment for hurling on the Sabbath.

Continue across the trackbed of the Liskeard and Caradon Railway (1844–1917) to the iconic 6m tall Cheesewring on Stowe Hill. So-called from its resemblance to a cheese press, the Cheesewring is a superb granite pile sculpted by nature. Nearby is Gumb’s Cave, where self-taught astronomer Daniel Gumb (1703–73) lived with his wife and nine children – though room must have been tight! Although Cheesewring Quarry, which supplied stone for London’s Westminster and Tower Bridges as well as many local buildings, took a massive chunk out of Stowe Hill the Neolithic enclosures (c4000–3,500 BC) on the summit survive and are worth exploring.
Follow the track south from Cheesewring Quarry for fine views to Phoenix United Mine, with the patchwork fields beyond stretching to the Tamar Valley, and Dartmoor on the horizon. Finally, call at Houseman’s Engine House (the Minions Heritage Centre), with its fascinating historical and geological displays and finds.

4. Upper Tamar Lake
This easy walk on the Devon border offers views of the beautiful Upper Tamar Lake and the pleasant rolling green fields beyond from all angles. It follows a broad, well surfaced and mainly level path, which is suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs and bikes. Bring binoculars – it is a great place to watch a variety of waterfowl and woodland birds too. Allow at least 1 ¾ hours for the full circuit of the lake, 5.2km/3 ¼ miles.

The Tamar Lakes are signed from Kilkhampton on the A39. Start at the Upper Lake car park, with its helpful map and information plaques. Turn left and then right across the dam, signed ‘Lakeside Walk’. Turn left again ‘Lakeside Walk’ at the far side of the dam.

Navigation from this point could not be easier: simply follow the path around the lake for nearly 5km (3 miles). Just before reaching the boathouse, the path divides. Keep right as signed and follow the path behind the boathouse to the start.

5. Lerryn
This lovely riverbank and woodland walk from the pretty village of Lerryn offers fine views of the rivers Lerryn and Fowey. If your children are energetic, the walk may be extended by following the yellow arrows and blue circles to St Winnow, with its riverside church and farm museum and thence back to Lerryn by field paths – a total of 8km/5 miles.
Lerryn’s scenery helped inspire Kenneth Grahame write Wind in the Willows. His children’s classic began as letters to his son when Grahame was staying in Fowey, close to his friend, Sir Arthur Quiller Couch (aka ‘Q’), the model for the talkative Ratty in the book. Both Q and Ratty loved messing about in boats.

Begin at Lerryn’s riverside car park. If the tide is out, cross the river Lerryn by stepping stones. Otherwise, use the medieval bridge. After crossing the river, turn left and follow the lane and later track parallel to the bank and into Ethy Woods – possibly the model for Grahame’s Wild Wood. Stay on the path as it bends right. Bear left at a waymark. Cross the creek by a footbridge. Continue on the signed path and forest tracks, keeping close to the river at any junctions. At St Winnow Point the Lerryn joins the river Fowey and the path turns north-west towards St Winnow.

6. Godrevy: to the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf spent much of her childhood in St Ives, from where the house her family rented offered a wonderful view to Godrevy lighthouse, the focal point of this easy and pleasant coastal walk. She visited Godrevy in 1892 and was later inspired her novel To the Lighthouse (1927) – though she set the story in the Hebrides. Start from one of the two National Trust car parks (free to members) signed for Godrevy, 1km north of Gwithian on the B3301. If you use the lower car park, there is a 1km (¾ mile) walk to Godrevy Point with fine views, whilst the upper car park brings you much closer to the Point and the 26m (86ft) tall lighthouse. This marks the Stones Reef, where many ships came to grief before the lighthouse was built in 1859. Trinity House maintain the lighthouse as a daymark for shipping, although Godrevy’s light was discontinued in 2012 and replaced by an LED light mounted on the rocks nearby.

Single-use plastics ban approved by European Parliament

The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.

MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.  The proposal also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.

The European Commission proposed a ban in May, following a surge in public support attributed to documentaries such as David Attenborough's BBC Blue Planet series.  The measure still has to clear some procedural hurdles, but is expected to go through. The EU hopes it will go into effect across the bloc by 2021.

The UK will also have to incorporate the rules into national law if the ban becomes a fully-fledged directive before the end of a Brexit transition period.

After the Parliament vote was backed by 571-53, the MEP responsible for the bill, Frédérique Ries, said it was "a victory for our oceans, for the environment and for future generations."

Several countries are already considering proposals to target disposable plastic products - including the UK.

What's being banned?
The directive targets some of the most common ocean-polluting plastics.
The list of banned items such as cutlery and cotton buds was chosen because there are readily available alternatives, such as paper straws and cardboard containers.

Other items, "where no alternative exists" will still have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025. Examples given include burger boxes and sandwich wrappers.

What’s causing the problem and how long does it take to biodegrade?
Marine litter on EU beaches is made up of 49% single use plastics, fishing gear plastics 27%, other plastics 6% and non-plastics 18%.

The estimated time to biodegrade a Styrofoam cup is 50 years, a plastic bottle or nappy 450 years, and fishing line 600 years.

MEPs also tacked on amendments to the plans for cigarette filters, a plastic pollutant that is common litter on beaches. Cigarette makers will have to reduce the plastic by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.

Another ambitious target is to ensure 90% of all plastic drinks bottles are collected for recycling by 2025. Currently, bottles and their lids account for about 20% of all the sea plastic, the European Parliament report said.

Manufacturers will also have to take more responsibility for what happens to their plastic products and packaging.

How big is the problem?
The EU's research on the topic says about 150,000 tonnes of plastic are tossed into European waters every year.

That is only a small contributor to the global problem, with an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic entering the world's oceans annually. And once there, plastic can travel great distances on ocean currents.

When plastic debris breaks down from wear and tear, it does not decompose the way other products like wood do - but instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, becoming "microplastic".  These tiny fragments often end up in fish and can then be passed on to humans.

Large volumes of plastic waste wash up on beaches, where they can be eaten by sea birds and other animals and kill them.

Rare catbird spotted in Cornwall

Hundreds of twitchers have flocked to Treeve Moor near Land's End in Cornwall to catch a glimpse of a rare bird from America.  The grey catbird, which is about 20cm (7.8in) long and grey in colour, is so named because of its distinctive "meowing" sound.

It is only the second time it has been seen here - the first sighting in Britain was in Anglesey in 2001, according to the British Birds Rarities Committee.

Mark Grantham, chairman of the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society, said he thought the bird, which was first seen on Monday, had been brought across the Atlantic on low pressure systems following the recent US storms.  He said: "Birds heading south get carried out to sea on weather systems and then can follow the Gulf Stream before making landfall at the first opportunity."

News of the grey catbird spread on Twitter, and birdwatchers started arriving, with a local farmer opening a field for parking, taking charity donations in return.

Mr Grantham added: "Cornwall is used to seeing its fair share of rare birds, but American birds certainly provide extra excitement.  "To see [the grey catbird] flitting along a Cornish hedge is always going to be extra special."
 

Health benefits of the sea recognised

Many of us associate the sea with feeling happy, relaxed and switching off from life's stress.  But there's growing belief that being near, on, in, or under water has a far more powerful impact on our mental, and physical health than we might realise.

The "Blue Mind" ethos, which is the subject of growing European research, is being championed by Californian biologist and researcher Wallace J Nichols, who believes "the idea that water is medicine will be quite mainstream" within 10 years.

What is Blue Mind?
Although some humans have always instinctively embraced the ideas central to Blue Mind, the movement has in recent years been documented and championed by Californian biologist and researcher Wallace J Nichols who published a book on the subject in 2014.  Nichols believes we should all channel the putative blue in our heads, using water to detox our digital enslavement... even taking a shower, or glimpsing a photograph of a river will do the job.

There are believed to be only a handful of recognised health services embracing the healing power of water in the UK - although Dr Nichols says this actually puts Britain ahead of the US - but the scientist thinks that in 10 years the idea that water is medicine will be quite mainstream.  Just as in the early 1990s the notion that eating fresh whole foods, exercising and reducing stress was considered 'Californian' but is now standard advice backed by science.

2018 saw the fifth annual "100 Days of Blue Mind Challenge", as part of which people shared their water-based experiences every day for 100 days on social media.

Lizzi Larbalestier, a UK Blue Mind ambassador, has built her career around the concept that water is medicine, and is passionate about the benefits.  She is a Blue Health practitioner, having run professional coaching for nearly ten years, based in the Cornish seaside resort of Perranporth.  Her clients include many city-based people who are very successful but have lost their connection with nature and they need a bit of heart space and slowing down.

Ms Larbalestier refers to the "scientific evidence" found by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health research on the benefits of the Blue Mind ethos and believes that clean, healthy water is a fundamental and free health resource to us that is underutilised and undervalued.

If you ever needed an extra excuse to get into Cornish waters, this is it!

New footbridge for Tintagel Castle

The Cornish world-famous medieval site, Tintagel Castle, is set to close for months as a spectacular new footbridge is to be built.

The bridge is a £4 million project launched by English Heritage, which will link the mainland to Tintagel island where Kind Arthur was allegedly born. 

Although the site will remain fully open all summer 2018, it will close in October for the bridge to be built and reopen for summer 2019.

The spectacular modern steel and oak construction has been designed to last for the next 120 years and according to the English Heritage, the footbridge has been designed to recreate the historic route into the castle, which was connected to the island by a bridge until at least the 16th century.

Some detractors think that this is further ‘disneyfication’ of Cornwall, however, not only will the bridge help make the castle more accessible to visitors, but it will also provide an enticing new experience which is sure to bring more visitors to this spectacular stretch of the north Cornwall coast.

Pebble pocketers beware!

A holidaymaker who took pebbles from a Cornish beach was forced to travel hundreds of miles to return the souvenirs to avoid a hefty fine.

The man was traced to his home after taking a carrier bag full of stones from a beach at Crackington Haven near Bude.  He was told that he faced a fine of up to £1,000 so he decided to return to Cornwall’s Atlantic coast and put the round grey stones back where he found them.

The problem of pebble plundering at Crackington Haven hit the headlines in the late nineties when the issue was blamed on television garden re-design programmes and magazine articles.

It has become such a problem again that St Gennys parish council felt it had no choice other than to take action and warn people that taking pebbles was prohibited under the 1949 Coastal Protection Act.

Crackington Haven has the most beautiful rounded grey stones that in the wintertime create a beautifully eerie steel grey look to the beach and in summer are a lovely contrast to the sunny blue skies.  It’s no wonder that people innocently want to take a little momento home with them.  

The parish council says that removing the pebbles can lead to erosion and flooding and that taking away the pebbles, the haven would be damaged during every storm.   

Educating visitors was the way forward to encourage “pebble pocketers” not to take stones away.

Record summer temperatures announced

2018 was the joint hottest summer on record for the UK as a whole, and the hottest ever for England, the Met Office has announced.

It said highs for summer 2018 were tied with those of 1976, 2003 and 2006 for being the highest since records began in 1910.  England's average temperatures narrowly beat those seen in 1976, they added.

The heatwave saw soaring temperatures across much of the UK throughout June and July.  Dry, sweltering conditions for weeks on end gave way to a more average August, said the Met Office.

To the nearest 0.1C, all four years - 2018 as well as 1976, 2003 and 2006 - had an average temperature of 15.8C (60.4F).  That is 1.5C above the long-term average, the Met Office said. The margins between the years are so small it's impossible to separate them, they added.

In England, the mean temperature was 17.2C (63F). The 1976 record had been 17C.  No records were set for other parts of the UK.

The hottest day of 2018 so far was Thursday, 26 July, when temperatures reached 35.3C in Faversham, Kent.  But it still did not top the UK's highest-ever recorded temperature of 38.5C (101F), also in Faversham, in August 2003.

Having record average temperatures is consistent with the general picture of the climate warming in the UK and globally, the Met Office said. "It's generally accepted that the risk of heatwaves is increasing due to global warming.
"The temperature has risen, since industrial times, by one degree overall, so we're starting from a degree higher. So the peaks in these heatwaves are going to be a little bit higher as well."

The immediate cause of this year's extended warm weather was the meandering jet stream taking a more northerly track over the UK, creating an area of high pressure over Britain which did not shift for weeks.
But many scientists are also asking about the role of climate change in "loading the dice" and making a heatwave more likely, when an event like the wandering jet stream occurs.

An early analysis by researchers from the World Weather Attribution group found that human activities including the burning of fossil fuels made this year's European heatwave twice as likely to occur.

Met Office researchers say that while there are many natural factors at play in our weather, it is also likely that warming will make our future summers hotter.

The scorching summer could now give way to an autumn of above-average temperatures, the Met Office said.  They said the three-month outlook, which covers August, September and October, shows "an increased chance of high-pressure patterns close to the UK".

Meteorologists say above-average temperatures are more likely because sea surface temperatures are at "near-record" levels.

St Nectan's Glen

At the sacred site of Saint Nectan’s Glen, the Trevillett river has carved its way through Late Devonian slate, created a magnificent 60 foot waterfall and punched a hole through the original kieve (basin). The water cascades down a beautiful valley and onto the sea, just a couple of miles away.

The sixth-century Saint Nectan is believed to have sited his hermitage above the waterfall. According to legend, Saint Nectan rang a silver bell in times of stormy weather to warn shipping of the perils of the rocks at the mouth of the Rocky Valley.

Saint Nectan’s Kieve is to some a sacred place, and numerous ribbons, crystals, photographs, inscriptions, prayers and other devotions now adorn the foliage and rock walls near the waterfall. Some visitors add small piles of flat stones obtained from the stream, known locally as faery stacks.

A building reputed to be the site of Saint Nectan’s cell is situated at the top of the waterfall; the date of the building is uncertain. It is understood that the ruins of a Christian chapel provide the lower part of the walls of a cottage erected in the 1860s, and extended around 1900.

Many myths and legends, from King Arthur and his knights to ghostly sightings, surround this place: but one undeniable fact is that it is a place of outstanding natural beauty.

The walk to the waterfall & Hermitage is through an ancient woodland with ivy clad trees.  It follows the banks of the Trevillett river as it sparkles and gurgles busily on it’s journey downstream to Trevillett Mill in Rocky Valley where it meets sea.

It’s a place where animals and birds play amid a mysticism of faeries and piskies, serenaded by the wonderful sound of bird song. The area has been appointed a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to rare specimens of plants.

At the hermitage there is a café in which you can enjoy a well deserved cream tea and a meditation room for a time of self reflection.

If you wander down to the Waterfall you will experience one of Cornwall’s hidden treasures, one of natures beauties unspoilt by man.

The crystal clear water in this deep rock basin overflows and falls 60 feet  through a spectacular hole eroded through the rock. The river then continues over another waterfall, which takes it to the valley’s lower level.

Mosses, ferns and grasses adorn the fall, fringing every rock with a native drapery of the most exquisite beauty. Here is one of the wildest, most unspoilt, and most beautiful places in the UK, poetic, and coloured by legend. These waters are reputed to be healing, and watched over by the spirits of past guardians and friends of the Glen.

Saint Nectan’s Kieve is to some a sacred place, and numerous ribbons, crystals, photographs, inscriptions, prayers and other devotions now adorn the foliage and rock walls near the waterfall in memory of loved ones who have passed away, some for wishes.

Offerings such as these have been part of the heritage of sacred wells since ancient times, and the continuing practice of leaving offerings will always link us to that past.

A brand new walkway allows access to a newly discovered waterfall which was previously not accessible to the public.  The waterfall is approximately 80 feet in length and joins the main stream after waterfall 1 and 2 and can only be seen from the extended walk.

Saint Nectan's Glen can be found near the hamlet of Trethevy, near Tintagel in North Cornwall.

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Updated on January 27th, 2013

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