Polperro to Lerryn Cornwall
As with many of these small harbours, Polperro has a rich smuggling history which is thought to have prospered from as early as the twelfth century. It reached its peak in the late eighteenth century when Britain’s wars with America and France drove up the taxes on imported goods, thus making it worthwhile for fisherman to boost their income by the illegal import of goods such as spirits and tobacco. Smuggling continued successfully for many years and was controlled by a local merchant (Zephaniah Job – the smugglers banker), but by the early nineteenth century Customs and excise had implemented a more efficient and organised coastguard along with hefty penalties for those caught smuggling goods, thus meaning that the trade soon dwindled, and fishing once again became the main source of income for villagers.
Just visible here, below Chapel Cliff, is a tidal bathing pool, Chapel Pool, built in the 1940's. It's south-facing aspect means that once the waves have stopped flooding it, the sun warms the water beyond the temperature of the sea. By the 21st century the steps, cut into the cliff reaching down to this pool, had deteriorated, making the route impassable. However in 2001 the National Trust with the help of the Royal Engineers restored the steps to allow access again.
Chapel Cliff derives its name from the Chapel of St Peter of Porthpyre (the old name for Polperro) , which once stood here at the Polperro end of the cliff. St Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, and it is thought that the building may have served as a lighthouse as well, as chapels often did where there were hazardous rocks below. The chapel, was first recorded in 1392.
Pictured is the white obelisk of Udder Rock Daymark. These redundant sea marks (daymarks) used to be of significant importance for coastal navigation, aiding sailors navigating featureless coasts, guiding them into well-hidden harbours or as here, most importantly, underwater hidden obstacles. It has now been replaced by a large more modern buoy with a bell over the submerged Udder Rock a pinnacle reef which breaks the surface at low water, but at high water is fully submerged, making it a hazard to shipping. It was here in December 1911 that the SS White Rose was lost with all hands after going missing when it set sail from France to Liverpool, her anchor being left on the rocks at the spot, the only remnant of her frightful end.
The footpath along this fabulous section of the coast is challenging and probably suits more experienced walkers. Being hilly and hot it's taking its toll, undulating cliff top walking in this heat should not be underestimated. We have already drunk half of our water supply and we now know that we are going to run short. Being a man who prides himself on being prepared for anything, for only the second time in my life, the last being when I was 15, I have messed up and the effects of dehydration have started to show, especially on me. I am experiencing the worst leg cramps I have ever had, every 200 yards I'm having to stop to massage my legs and take a very small sip of water. The hill climbs are horrendous in my condition and only the Cornish pasty and a few donations of water are keeping me going. The heat is unbearable and what probably saved me in the end was Daniel bringing a spare SIS Go electrolyte gel which he kindly gave to me. This whole episode is ironic because I often give lectures to the Wrong Roaders walking club members about carrying plenty of food and water. The irony is not lost on the others and it just goes to show you should always carry enough fluids and food, even when you think you do not need it. It won't happen again.
Away from my plight, looking out over Lantivet Bay, these south-facing cliffs are beautiful and the panoramic views outstanding. Dartmoor ponies can be seen on Lansallos Cliff grazing on the National Trust land between West Coombe and East Coombe and the crystal waters dazzle almost hurting my eyes in this sun.
Lantic Bay is the epitome of the word "hidden gem" once discovered you will never forget this stunning bay and beach, especially if found whilst walking over the brow of a hill on the coast path. With white sands and turquoise waters all set in a bay surrounded by high verdant cliffs. It's one of South East Cornwall's best kept secrets. A steep decent down to the beach below prevents us from visiting the beach today, but as sure as eggs are eggs, I will return to this spot in the future.
Our last look at Lantic Bay, technically there are two beaches in Lantic Bay, Little Lantic and Great Lantic beach. At low tide you can walk between the two but with the rising tide they become separate coves. To the western end of the beach are further secluded coves, which again are easily reachable at low tide, however care must be taken not to get cut off by the returning tide.
At last we reach the entrance to the River Fowey at Polruan, a welcome site for all. The River Fowey starts it's journey to the sea at Fowey Well high up on Bodmin Moor about 1 mile north west of Brown Willy (the highest point in Cornwall at 1,368ft) before eventually flowing all the way to the English Channel at Fowey. Interestingly the name Bodmin Moor is relatively new with the area previously being known at Fowey Moor due to this river rising from it.
Manned by volunteers, the Polruan National Coastwatch and Voluntary Coast Guard lookout station, keeps watch over the sea at the mouth of the river at Fowey. Situated over 240 feet up on St. Saviour’s Hill, Polruan NCI Station overlooks a sea area from Lizard Point in the West to the Eddystone Light in the East, as well as having a commanding view over Fowey harbour.
Beside the Polruan NCI station is the remains of the 8th century St Saviour's Chapel. This prominent landmark was once a useful daymark, lookout and lighthouse in its early days, warning sailors with a beacon lit in the tower of the hazardous rocks at the river mouth below. It was also an important stopping off point for pilgrims travelling to the Santiago De Compostela in northern Spain.
The Polruan chain tower known as Polruan Blockhouse, is one of only five known to exist in England. Originally one of fourteen built in the East, South and South West of England, the tower housed the mechanism for raising and lowering a defensive chain laid across the river bed to prevent the passage of ships in times of danger. It and the chain tower on the opposite bank of the River Fowey are the earliest chain towers to have been constructed in England. Advances in artillery made the two storey tower obsolete when it was superseded by St Catherine's Castle Fowey in the 1520's. The tower was briefly reused by the Royalists in 1644 during the English Civil War.
Polruan village clinging to the steep hillside of St Saviour's Hill, is bounded on three sides by water and sheltered from the prevailing winds. Protected by its blockhouses and chain barrier across the harbour, it was the base, along with Fowey, for English Privateers acting on behalf of the crown, during the hundred years war.
Today this lovely village is a haven for small boats, day trippers and those looking for a quiet base to explore this stunning area.
Local author Daphne du Maurier who lived at Ferryside, Bodinnick, near Polruan, loved this magical landscape and wrote ecstatically in her diary "The lights of Polruan and Fowey. Ships anchored, looking up through blackness. The jetties, white with clay. Mysterious shrouded trees, owls hooting, the splash of muffled oars in lumpy water... All I want is to be a Fowey. Nothing and no one else. This, Now, is my life" Daphne fell in love with this area when she was 19 and it's easy to understand why.
Pont Pill Quay became important for trade between farms of this area and other coastal communities. Imports were roadstone, bricks, coal, manure and flour while exports were grain and logs. In 1814 a granary, lime kilns, malt houses and a warehouse was recorded here. There was also a corn mill and sawmill, a beer house and blacksmith shop.
Pont Pill Creek is thought to be part of the inspiration for Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger's adventures in "The Wind in the Willows", because author Kenneth Grahame holidayed in nearby Lerryn. Grahame's time spent near the river may have inspired the bedtime stories he told to his son, and later developed into the famous children's book. Post World War I the Pill was the final resting place for many locally built wooden sailing ships.
It was here that Daphne du Maurier discovered the schooner, Jane Slade, which was to inspire her first novel "The Loving Spirit" .
The walking route here is called "The Hall Walk', it starts and finishes at Bodinnick. It is dedicated as a War Memorial to the men of Lanteglos Parish who gave their lives during World War 2. It is named after Hall Barton House, the property of a impassioned Royalist, Lord Mohun, and where it used to stand is now Hall Farm, high above the river Fowey and Bodinnick ferry. It was on this spot that King Charles I and a Polruan fisherman, acting as his guide, made a reconnaissance of the Roundhead troops on 17th August 1644. Whilst viewing the enemy, an attempt was made on the Kings life, a fisherman was killed by a cannon shot and the King was lucky to escape unscathed.
The 15 car Bodinnick Ferry operates all year except for Christmas Day, Boxing day and New Years Day, however a foot passenger service is available on Boxing Day and New Years Day, which is pretty impressive. The service here has been operating since at least the 14th century and is an important one being the main route through southern Cornwall. Equally as impressive is the Old Ferry Inn which has been providing accommodation and refreshment for over 400 years. Stopping for a quick pint, like so many places on our trips it was hard to pull ourselves away being made so welcome by Bob, Karen and their lovely daughter home from Australia. If you are travelling in this neck of the woods, pop in and say high, it's a lovely spot. Better still walk the Hall Walk and stop here for lunch, it's only 4 miles, takes 2 hrs 30 mins and you get to see the highlights of this lovely river valley.
St Cyric's Creek a small tributary of Penpoll Creek. In Norman Times there was a little Priory here called St Cadix and some of the ruins still remain. The Priory was dedicated to St Juliett and St Cyric, founded by William Earl of Moreton. It was considered a cell of the priory of Montacute in Somerset.
This beautiful river is again suggested as another inspiration for Kenneth Grahame's book "The Wind in the Willows" or "Tales of the Riverbank" and although now walking in pitch black with headlights, we do see it the following day and it is beautiful. Even at night I am enjoying it, but alas this soon ends when we discover the footpath heads into the flooded river in several locations. It's not really a problem for me, but with heavy legs climbing up and down banks looking for paths it's not the idea of fun for Dan and Eddie. We do have to keep retracing our steps after getting bogged down in estuary mud and leaves. Some routes are blocked by fallen trees and it's slow going, but eventually we found a good trail closer to Lerryn and can see the twinkling lights of the village ahead.