• Start: In Pentewan free car park (OS grid ref SX020473)
  • End: In Pentewan free car park (OS grid ref SX020473)
  • Country: England
  • County: Cornwall
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub: Ship Inn, Pentewan
  • Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 105 or Landranger 204
  • Difficulty: Medium
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From Pentewan take the coastpath over Black Head and Gerrans Point and enjoy open countryside before returning beside the river

From Pentewan take the coastpath over Black Head and Gerrans Point and enjoy open countryside before returning beside the river

In medieval times the attractive village of Pentewan was mainly a fishing community. The first harbour was built in 1744 but between 1818 and 1826 it was rebuilt to advance pilchard fishing and help turn the village into a major china-clay port. Lock gates and breakwater were created five years later when limestone, coal and cement were imported.

At its peak, Pentewan shipped a third of Cornwalls china clay, but tin and clay mining led to silting problems and in 1940 the port was closed to trading ships. Small pleasure boats, however, continued to use the harbour for another 20 years until it became separated from the sea. From the cove of Hallane the Coast Path climbs to the fine viewpoint at Black Head, possibly an abandoned military blockhouse, connected to the coast by a narrow isthmus. Beside the coastpath is a memorial to AL Rowse, 1903-1997, a prolific Cornish historian best known for his poetry about Cornwall and his work on Elizabethan England.
Past Gerrans Point the path descends and swings to the north-west, and from here there is a superb view of the sweep of St Austell Bay round to Gribbin Head and on a clear day you can even see to Rame Head, just west of Plymouth. From the car park beyond a ribbon of woodland above Ropehaven Cliffs, a wildlife reserve purchased in 1986 with the help of a grant from the World Wildlife Fund, our route moves inland across fields to Higher Porthpean. Should you prefer to take the scenic, but exhausting, coastpath route follow the switchback section of cliffs and coves to Lower Porthpean before climbing to Higher Porthpean. From here our route crosses gentle farmland to Peckhill Wood and the Pentewan Valley Cycle Trail and beside the St Austell River.
This little river drains the central southern section of the St Austell moorland and runs for 12 kilometres (7 miles) down to Pentewan. Originally known as the Red River, when tin streaming and mining activity upstream turned it red, it has now become known locally as the White River due to the emptying of waste from china clay tips north of St Austell.


From the car park continue up the road to the small harbour and turn past the white houses. At their right-hand end climb the public footpath behind them and up steps. Turn right at the Coast Path sign between hedges along the steeply undulating path.


Descend through woods and turn right over a footbridge past carved statues. Turn left at the cottage in Hallane Cove and right over a stile before the field to climb Drennick. Stay on the high path past the stone commemorating AL Rowse and cross the isthmus to Black Head before returning to the stone plaque and continuing along the path to the right over Gerrans Point.


Enter Ropehaven Nature Reserve and fork left at the coastpath signs to join the road at the car park. When it turns left follow the footpath in the direction of the arrow. Turn right across a second field and right again to head round the next field, turning right through a gate to cross the track. Follow the sign diagonally across this field to a grass field above the sea and turn left along the hedge past a stone post. Enter the field before descending right and climbing the driveway to Higher Porthpean and St Levens Church.


Follow the road to the main road and turn left to take the first turning right up a bridleway through Park Matthews Wood. Turn left at the bottom and follow the lane through Roseweek farmland before turning left at gates and climb the hill to follow signs to the right through Menagwins Farm. Turn left before the barn and head diagonally across the field to a swing gate through the hedge. Cut off the bottom of the field, cross the wall and climb beside the hedge up to Towan, staying left of the house and turning right on the roadway.


Follow the path through the farmyard and descend right along the track through Peckhill Wood into the valley. Below the car park turn left on the Pentewan Valley Trail, cross a bridge over the stream and follow it to the White River. Continue past bridge and car park, staying beside the river and turning left at the road to return to the car.


Start/parking: In Pentewan free car park (OS grid ref SX020473)
Distance: 8 miles (12.8km)
Time: 4 hours
Maps: OS Explorer 105 or Landranger 204
Terrain: Coast Path, followed by paths and tracks through countryside
Refreshments: Ship Inn, Pentewan
Public transport: Regular bus service from St Austell to Mevagissey stops at Pentewan (Traveline: 0871 200 22 33)
Toilets: On left of Pentewan harbour

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