Tregardock Beach and Backways Cove Circular Walk
- Distance:7 miles/11 km
- Walk grade:Moderate-Strenuous
- Start from:Trewarmett
- Recommended footwear:walking boots
- Views over Trebarwith Valley from Trewarmett Hill
- Stream along Trebarwith Valley floor
- Views back across Trebarwith Valley from Fentafriddle
- Tregardock Beach
- Views over Port Isaac Bay from the coast path
- Backways Cove
- Trebarwith Nature Reserve
- From Park Farm turn left on the road and walk up to the crossroads. Take the lane going left to Treknow.
- Not more than a few metres down, take the public footpath over a stile next to the gateway on the left. As you walk down the field, head towards the right hedge.
It may be an urban myth that Eskimos have a large number of words for "snow" but it's cast iron fact that there are at least this many words for "hill" in Cornish:
- Meneth was often used to refer to Cornwall's higher peaks, or (outside of Cornwall) to mountains.
- Tor was used for hills with rock outcrops protruding (and for the rock outcrops themselves)
- Brea was used to refer to the most prominent hill in a district.
- Ryn refers to a 'hill' in the sense of projecting ground, or a steep hill-side or slope.
- Garth was used to refer to a long narrow hilltop.
- Ambel refers to the side of a hill.
- Mulvra refers to a round-topped hill.
- Godolgh is a very small hill.
- Bron means 'breast' as well as hill.
- Follow the footpath down along the right-hand hedge of the field and through a gate into the lower field.
- Half-way down the lower field, there is a stile on the right. Cross over this and follow the left hedge to a path to the valley floor.
- Cross over the stream then climb the steps on the other side up to the road.
The acidic soil in the Tintagel area was fertilised with lime-rich beach sand from nearby Trebarwith Strand, where the golden sand is largely composed of sea shells which are mostly calcium carbonate (chemically identical to chalk and limestone).
The sand at Trebarwith Strand was also put to another use: to avoid several tonnes of slate in a wagon going down the steep road through Trebarwith Valley resulting in horse paté, the slate wagons would be loaded with sand from Trebarwith Strand and this would be scattered on the road on the way back up, to act as a braking system.
The trade in sand and slate quarrying led to road improvements in the early 19th century and for one reason, or the other, or possibly both, the Trebarwith Strand to Condolden road is known as "Sanding Road".
- Walk left up the road a short distance until you reach a public footpath sign to the right
- Take the footpath to the right crossing the stiles and climbing upwards until you reach a field.
- Cross the stile and walk along the right hedge, passing the gate and track, to a stile in the top-right corner next to Fentafriddle.
Fentafriddle is a group of farm buildings half-way up southern side of Trebarwith Valley. Fentafriddle was once a mill, fed by the spring and, later, powered by a donkey. In Cornish, Fenter means "spring" and friddle is thought to be a corruption of frosyel meaning "gushing". The settlement dates back to mediaeval times, mentioned in records of 1437. Until the early 20th Century, it was part of the estate of the Earl of Wharncliffe. Many of the farm buildings have been converted into luxury holiday accommodation, though the land around them is still farmed.
- Cross the stile onto the track and turn left. Follow the track uphill along the left hedge until you reach the second gate on your left.
- Cross the stile next to the gate on the left and walk diagonally across the field to a gate in the opposite corner.
- Cross the stile next to the gate and walk along the left hedge until you reach a gate.
- Go through the gate and cross the final field to a gate opposite.
- Go through the gate and turn right past Downhouse cottage to a public footpath sign to the left. Cross the stile by the public footpath sign and follow the left hedge of the field to a stile.
- Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to another stile in the bottom right corner.
- Cross the stile and follow the right hedge a short distance to another stile next to the gateway.
- Cross the stile and walk all the way along the right hedge, passing the buildings, to the corner where there is a waymark leading to a gate.
As you descend the field, you can see the remains of the Upton slate quarry.
Even in Victorian times, slate was blasted with black powder (aka gunpowder), rather than high explosives such as dynamite. This is because high explosives combust with a supersonic shockwave known as a detonation wave, travelling at a speed of more than a mile per second. This causes very high pressure and resulting high temperature in the explosive, setting off neighbouring parts. This would shatter the brittle slate into tiny pieces, rather than breaking off large chunks.
As fuse technology improved, holes were drilled at regular intervals along a quarry face, filled with black powder. These pockets were all blasted simultaneously using a linked fuse (electrically triggered in the latter years of quarrying), to break off a very large chunk of slate. You can sometimes see the blasting holes in waste pieces of slate on the slate tips.
- Go through the gate and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane past Upton Farm to a public footpath sign by a gateway, just past the next house on the left.
- At the public footpath sign, go through the gate and follow the left hedge to a gateway.
- Go through the gateway into the field on the left and head for the footbridge at the bottom of the field.
- Cross the footbridge and head straight up the field to a waymark; then bear right slightly to reach a kissing gate.
- Go through the kissing gate and bear right slightly across the field to another kissing gate.
- Go through the gate and bear left across the next field to a kissing gate in far left corner near the barn.
- Go through the gate and head to a waymark next to a gateway in the top left corner of the next field.
- Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge to a gate in the far corner.
- Go through the gate and walk straight ahead to the slate kissing gate in the corner of the field.
- Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a stile in the right corner of the field.
- Cross the stile and continue along the right hedge to a gate.
- Go through the gate on the right of a derelict farm and turn left, passing in front of the farm buildings.
In farms around Cornwall, harvest was celebrated with traditions such as "crying the neck".
Neck - a miniature sheaf of wheat with four plaited arms, intertwined with everlastings and the more durable of flowers. The stalks of wheat brought down by the last sweep of the scythe are brought home in thankful triumph, and woven as described. In the evening, the sheaf or zang is taken into the mowhay, where are assembled all the harvest party.
A stout-lunged reaper proclaims: "I hav'en! I hav'en! I hav'en!"
Another loud voice questions: "What hav'ee? What hav'ee? What hav'ee?"
"A neck! A neck! A neck!" is the reply;
and the crowd take up, in their lustiest tones, a chorus of "Wurrah".
General merriment follows and the draughts of ale and cider are often deep. The neck may be seen hanging to the beam of many of our farm-houses between harvest and Christmas eve, on which night it is given to the master bullock in the chall. "Hollaing the neck" is still heard in East Cornwall, and is one of the cheerfullest of rural sounds.
Since the 20th century, the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies has been reviving this tradition; the ale part sounds good.
- Go through the (right) gate opposite the buildings and follow the track until it joins the road in Treligga.
- At the junction, turn right and follow the road to a fork.
- Stay right at the fork, passing the chapel and follow the bend to the left, to a junction.
In the early 18th Century, a rift developed between the Cornish people and their Anglican clergy. Meanwhile in Oxford, the Wesley brothers began practising their rigorous holy lifestyle which was mockingly referred to as Methodism by their peers. The Wesley brothers arrived in Cornwall in 1743 and began preaching, bringing with them charismatic lay preachers who spoke in the dialect of the locals. Services were held in the cottages which was attractive to women who needed to look after young children, and in the many villages where the parish church was more than a mile away or at the top of a steep hill. A combination of these factors made Methodism very popular in Cornwall and through the late 18th and the 19th Century many chapels were built (in the centre of the villages).
- Turn right at the junction and follow the sign, marked "to the Coastpath", to a track. Follow the track to a gate.
- Go through the kissing gate next to the gate and follow the left hedge to a slate stile.
- Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to another similar stile.
- Cross the stile and follow the left hedge until you reach a kissing gate in a fence.
- Go through the gate and follow the left hedge until you reach a waymark in the far corner of the field where you meet the path to the beach.
- Turn right and follow the path down the valley towards the sea, passing through a kissing gate until you reach a waymark.
From the waymark you can walk down to the beach, have an explore, and then return to the waymark to continue on the walk.
Tregardock beach is about a mile along the coast from Trebarwith Strand, in the direction of Port Isaac and is reached via a public footpath that crosses the coast path to reach the farm at Tregardock. There is no beach at high tide at Tregardock. As the tide goes out, several small beaches merge into a long stretch of sand. A waterfall plummets from the cliffs at the back of the beach and there are some caves within the cliffs. The largest part of the beach is on the left and this gets cut off as the tide rises, so check the tide times carefully and don't get stranded when the tide comes in!
- At the waymark, take the coast path towards Trebarwith Strand. Follow the path over a slate footbridge and up the side of the valley to a gate.
- Go through the gate and follow the coast path across Treligga Common, passing over the headlands of Tregonnick Tail and Start Point, until you reach a slate bridge at the bottom of the deep valley at Backways Cove.
Between Tregardock and Backways Cove lie the remains of Treligga Aerodrome (HMS Vulture II). Both the observation/control tower and the reinforced hut near the sea (towards Backways Cove) are still standing, as are the accommodation and service huts near Treligga village. The control tower has quite recently been repaired and converted into accomodation.
Before the Second World War, HMS Vulture II was used as a glider site. However the Admiralty requisitioned 260 acres of land in late 1939 for the purposes of constructing an aerial bombing and gunnery range. Unusually, the entire operation at HMS Vulture II was staffed by the Women's Royal Naval Service.
On 16 September 1943, an American B-17 Flying Fortress was forced to make an emergency landing at HMS Vulture II. The pilot, Capt Jack Omohundro, had ignored a red flare warning him to keep clear. The plane was chronically short of fuel and running on three engines after a raid on U-boat pens at Nantes in France. The bomber had left its formation to try and preserve what little fuel it had left. Spotting the tiny Treligga airstrip, he skillfully landed 'wheels-down' just 50 yards short of the Wrens quarters.
- Cross the bridge and bear left to cross a wooden footbridge over a stream.
From here you can follow the paths to the left to explore the rocky beach of Backways Cove. The path to the left, before you cross the slate bridge, leads down to the cove but is slippery in wet weather. On the other side of the footbridge, paths lead to the remains of the quarry workings.
Backways Cove is a small rocky inlet and beach at the bottom the the valley below Trebarwith Village, just south of Trebarwith Strand. The location features in "The International Directory of Haunted Places":
"Backways Cove, a North Cornwall inlet just up the coast from Trebarwith Strand, is still haunted by many unidentified presences who are thought to be the spirits of shipwrecked sailors whose bodies washed up there after they drowned. Numerous ships were torn apart on the jagged rocks offshore, and the shadowy spirits of their crew are still trying to make it to shore."
- After exploring Backways Cove, walk up the valley keeping the stream on your right until you reach a gate into a field.
The bottom field is hedged with blackthorn, so if you want to make sloe gin this is a good place for picking in autumn.
- Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to a waymarked gateway in the middle of the far hedge.
- Go through the gate and head to a waymarked gateway in the top of the far hedge.
- Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a waymark at a gap in the far hedge.
- At the waymark turn right onto the track and follow it to a waymark at the bottom of a field
- At the waymark bear right along the path through a gate to emerge on a lane in Trebarwith Village.
- Turn right onto the lane opposite Trebarwith Farm and follow it a short distance to a junction.
- Take the lane to the left and follow this a short distance until you see a public footpath sign on your left.
- Take the footpath on the left between trees and straight ahead through some gates, passing a farmyard on your left, to gate ahead into a large field.
- Go through gate into the field and turn right, following the right hedge toward a pair of gateways.
- Go through the gateway on the left and walk along the right hedge to another gateway.
If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:
- Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
- If cows approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size.
- Avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If you must: if cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
- Go through the gateway into the next field and bear left slightly across the field to a stile mid-way down the far hedge.
- Cross the stile and bear left across the field to a stile in the bottom corner of the far hedge,
- Cross the stile which comes out on the track from Fentafriddle Farm and follow the track down to the Trebarwith Strand road.
- Turn right on the road and continue up the road a short distance until you reach the footpath on your left that brought you out onto the road near the start of the walk.
- Opposite the driveway to Fentafriddle Farm, go through the gate and down the steps to the valley floor to where the path forks.
Roe deer live in the valley and you may encounter one, particularly if you are walking early in the morning.
The Roe Deer is unusual among hoofed animals as the egg is fertilised at the time of mating but then goes into suspended animation for several months - a process known as delayed implantation. This mechanism means that instead of being born in late winter, the young are born in early summer when food is more plentiful.
In most species with delayed implantation, the mother sends out a hormonal signal to tell the embryo to wake up. However in the case of the Roe Deer, the embryo has a built-in egg timer which sends a chemical message back to the mother that it's time to resume the pregnancy.
- Bear left at the fork over a stile and a stone bridge. Then follow the path indicated by white posts past a chalet, over a stile and to the top-right corner of the meadow.
- Climb the stone stile at the top-right corner of the meadow and follow the path up through the Trebarwith Nature Reserve to a stile into a field.
The Trebarwith Nature Reserve has a rich diversity of wildflowers and a thriving stream community in its unimproved meadowland. The area of Trebarwith Valley which is now the Nature Reserve was first used as agricultural land in the post-mediaeval period. It is likely that the path that runs through the reserve dates from this time, perhaps linking farmsteads to the parish church.
- Cross the stile into the field and walk parallel to the right hedge, until you see see a the wooden fenced area. The stile is in the right hand corner of the enclosure.
- Cross the stile onto the lane. Turn right on the lane and follow it to a T-junction in Trewarmett.
- Turn right at the junction and follow the road to the telephone box outside Park Farm.
Park Farm was derelict in the 1970s; when it was converted into holiday accommodation, the fields still contained many farming implements of the 19th century including horse-drawn ploughs and carts. Exactly how far the farm here dates back is unknown, though an axe-head from the Bronze Age was found amongst a pile of stones in the garden. The name is from the Cornish word Park which means "field".