DISCOVERING RAME HEAD
PUBLISHED: 17:07 23 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:35 30 August 2017
The Rame Head Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty overlooks the mouth of the River Tamar, Plymouth Sound and the English Channel. Inland is the 800-acre Edgcumbe Country Park as well as the 18th century fortifications and the villages of Kingsand and Cawsand.
Our travels around the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) take us to the extreme north-east of the area to Rame Head Peninsula. This is the second smallest section at just 7.8 square kilometres Rame Head forms just one per cent of the overall area of the Cornwall AONB.
Rame Head is situated in a strategic position overlooking the mouth of the River Tamar, Plymouth Sound and the open sea of the English Channel. The Rame Head section of the Cornwall AONB contains the 800-acre Edgcumbe Country Park as well as the 18th century fortifications at Maker Heights, Penlee Point and the picturesque villages of Kingsand and Cawsand.
The contrast between the urban sprawl of Plymouth stretching eastwards across Plymouth Sound could not be more different from this quiet corner of the Cornwall. Geologically, this is an area of significant interest; the beach at Cawsand is formed of Rhyolite, the only surviving remnants of the volcanic material that erupted above Cornwall’s intruded granites some 270 to 290 million years ago with the red sandstone further north as the only evidence in Cornwall of ensuing desert conditions. The rock you will see if you walk between Rame Head and Penlee Point is slate from a sequence known as the Dartmouth Group’ dating back to lower Devonian and at 400 million years are some of the oldest rocks in Cornwall.
There can be no doubt that this area is steeped in history, much of it surrounding the Edgcumbe family seat. It appears the Peninsula was so named in the 14th century as a result of its resemblance to a rams head and archaeological finds of flint tools indicate that this area was occupied as far back as the Mesolithic period. Evidence also exists of 10th century Viking longships anchoring off Cawsand and of the Spanish Armada sailing past the militia again at Cawsand before being forced back out to sea due to inclement weather conditions.
The 18th, 19th and 20th century fortifications on Maker Heights and at Picklecombe and Penlee Point were all established as a result of the strategic position of the coast and high ground overlooking Devonport Naval Dockyard and the Plymouth Sound anchorage.
Mount Edgcumbe parkland as seen today is the result of hundreds of years of stewardship by the Edgcumbe family and is the earliest landscaped park in Cornwall. It all began in 1479 when the Rame Peninsula came into the ownership of the Edgcumbe family through marriage and 60 years later Piers Edgcumbe was granted a royal licence to empark part of the Peninsula to form a Deer Park. Subsequently in 1553 the Edgcumbe family moved from their home in Cotehele (10 miles north of Plymouth on the River Tamar and now owned by the National Trust) to the newly built and much larger Mount Edgcumbe. The garden around the house is thought to have been planted immediately, along with the avenue of trees which lead down to the River Tamar and the Cremyll Ferry which provided the main route into Cornwall for hundreds of years.
It goes without saying that the historical and natural landscape of this small section of the Cornwall AONB should not be under-estimated and a visit to the Rame Head Peninsula will provide an appreciation of why this small section is worthy of its designation as part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
GETTING OUT AND ABOUT
The Rame Peninsula () can be accessed by road on the B3247, by car ferry via Torpoint, or by passenger ferry direct from Plymouth to Cremyll () . Also linking Plymouth Barbican with Rame Head is the Cawsand Ferry () enabling you to visit Kingsand and Cawsand.
Cycling and walking
GPS Cycle and walking routes National Cycle route 2 runs through Edgcumbe Country Park as does the Plymouth to Looe cycle route ().
i-walk provide a circular walk around Rame Head to Cawsand (). The route follows the coast path around Whitesand Bay to Queener Point and then on to Rame Head. You can also pick up the South West Coast Path () which provides details of a walk along a section of the Coast Path through Kingsand, Cawsand and Penlee Point.
Bus Routes link Cremyll and Cawsand with Plymouth via Torpoint. Routes also link Cawsand with Liskeard ().
If you would like to find out more about the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty head to their website for further information about the AONB unit and what they do.
There are is also information about how you can get involved in various parts of the 12 designated Cornwall AONB areas. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
WILDLIFE: WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Rame Head with its diversity of sea coast, riverbanks, open grassland and wooded valleys provides perfect habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna with more than 900 species recorded in just one 24-hour period during a Mount Edgcumbe Bio Blitz (an intense period of biological surveying to record all the living species within a designated area).
A herd of some 600 wild fallow deer can be seen grazing in the Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, who are direct descendants of the original herd introduced by the Edgcumbe family in the early 16th century. There is also a wide variety of bird, insect and animal life on the Rame Head peninsula including, gulls, terns, gannets and oyster catchers, with raptors such as peregrine falcons, kestrels and buzzards frequently seen.
Look out for ladybirds, butterflies, moths and dragonflies regularly seen around the headland, you may also catch sight of the occasional fox, stoat, weasel, badger and bat. You will no doubt see plenty of grey squirrels within the heavily wooded peninsula and looking out to sea you may spot seals and dolphins.
This area really is a haven for nature and it is the range of habitats suited to a wide variety of wildlife that contribute to the special qualities.