A ramble around the cliff-dwelling poppies of Porth Joke

PUBLISHED: 16:08 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 17:03 04 November 2020

Wild flowers at Porth Joke Cornwall. Picture by Ian Wool. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wild flowers at Porth Joke Cornwall. Picture by Ian Wool. Getty Images/iStockphoto

ian woolcock

Join Robert Hesketh as he takes us on a stunning coastal walk taking in the famous cliff-dwelling poppies at Porth Joke

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This short and fairly easy walk around Pentire Point West and Porth Joke (also known as Polly Joke) is ideal for blowing away the winter blues. The stimulating views from breezy Pentire Point reveal a long stretch of the Atlantic coast and Porth Joke's long, sandy beach is pleasantly secluded and unspoilt, even in summer - partly because punters are obliged to walk to it. There are rockpools and caves to explore and dogs are allowed all year, but please be aware that strong currents can make swimming dangerous at times.

It is also perfect for an evening's stroll in summer, when the headland is ablaze with wildflowers. Thrift, otherwise known as sea pink or rock rose, is in its element here from April into high summer, when poppies, corn marigolds and many other increasingly rare meadow flowers grow in profusion.

These wildflowers (154 species according to the South West Coast Path Association) find a haven at West Pentire because the National Trust manages the farmland under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme as a nature reserve for plants and animals associated with arable crops. This management differs from commercial farming practice (which is dedicated to efficient monocultures of food crops or grazing for stock) in several ways.

Wild flowers at Porth Joke. Photo credit: Ian Wool. Getty Images/iStockphotoWild flowers at Porth Joke. Photo credit: Ian Wool. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Half the fields are ploughed in spring or autumn and then left fallow. The other half are ploughed and sown with barley in spring. As well as sheltering rare arable plants, this helps declining bird species such as corn bunting and skylarks and mammals, including hares.

In addition to the cereal crops, there are wildflower plots, which are ploughed and left for dozens for species to germinate, including countless poppies. These flowers are supreme opportunists and forever associated with Remembrance Day. The devastated fields of Flanders and Northern France after the First World War, when massed armies and their artillery unintentionally created similarly favourable conditions.

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The route:

1. Start from the entrance to the signed car park at West Pentire. Follow the tarred track ahead for 50m to a junction. Bear right. Continue ahead at the fingerpost, signed 'footpath to Crantock Beach' - unless you wish to divert left to the Bowgie Inn for refreshment. Continue ahead 'to the coast path' down a narrow path. Reaching the Coastpath, turn left. Ignore the path signed 'West Pentire'. When the coast path divides, keep left, following it around Pentire Point. Continue towards Porth Joke beach.

Reaching a path junction, turn right. At this point, you may wish to divert onto the beach, or extend your walk along the coast path to include Kelsey Head with its Iron Age fort and fine views of Holywell beach. There is also the additional option of cutting back along the field path from Holywell to West Pentire.

2. Otherwise, cross the footbridge at the head of Porth Joke beach and turn immediately left, signed for 'Cubert Common'. Turn left onto a track. Turn left again 50m ahead and follow the fenced path to the right of the campsite.

3. Turn left onto a tarred track. Follow this uphill and continue to the car park where the walk ends.

Fact file:

Distance: 2 miles

Time: 1 hour

Exertion: Easy

Start/parking: signed car park at West Pentire, TR8 5SE (alternative National Trust car park on Cubert Common near Point 3)

Child/dog friendly: Suitable for dogs on leads and children.

Public toilets: None

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