A gentle ride along the banks of the St Austell River, with an optional extension to Heligan Gardens.
Minimum time 2h30
Distance 10 miles (16.1km)
Suggested map OS Explorer 105 Falmouth & Mevagissey
Start/finish Pentewan Valley Cycle Hire; grid ref: SX 017473
Trails/tracks mainly well-surfaced track, some woodland paths, little roadwork
Landscape woodland and fields, riverside, roadwork on extension
Public toilets in centre of Pentewan
Tourist information St Austell, tel 01726 879500
Bike hire Pentewan Valley Cycle Hire, tel 01726 844242
Recommended pub The Ship, Pentewan
Notes Busy roads (in season) and steep ascent/descent on Heligan extension
© Automobile Association 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
Pentewan lies just off the B3273, about 1.5 miles (2.4km) north of Mevagissey. Lane-side parking in Pentewan is limited, but there is a free car park. Start at the cycle hire shop.
1 From the village car park return towards the B3273 and pass through the parking area for Pentewan Valley Cycle Hire, and round a staggered barrier onto the trail, which initially runs levelly through marshy woodland. The trail emerges from woodland onto the banks of the St Austell River, with a caravan site opposite.
2 Turn right and follow the trail along the riverbank. Watch out for pedestrians as this is a popular stretch. Along part of the trail walkers have the option of taking a narrow parallel route on a bank.
3 Note the turn-off left across the river to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Pass round the edge of a small parking area into King's Wood (owned by the Woodland Trust), and follow the trail as signed left back onto the riverbank. Dip into woodland again, then bear right, away from the river onto a lane, with a small parking area a little uphill to the right.
4 Turn left; pass a small parking area to meet a tarmac lane on a bend. Bear right as signed. Turn left opposite 'Brooklea' and continue on a narrow wooded path, with a caravan site left. The track bears left at Molingey - with the London Apprentice on the other side of the river - then right to run along the right bank of the river again. Follow this tarmac way as it bears right through fields, then left along the edge of the water treatment works. Turn left for 50yds (46m) to meet the B3273. Turn right along the pavement.
5 Cross the lane to Tregorrick, and take the second lane on the left (Sawles Road - unsigned). Follow this quiet country lane to its end. For St Austell (and a possible extension to the Eden Project) turn left uphill to cross the A390. For Pentewan either turn around here, or for a more pleasant alternative, turn right and cycle steeply uphill through pleasant countryside. Drop to a T-junction and turn right, steeply downhill, through Tregorrick. On meeting the B3273 turn left to return to Pentewan.
6 Heligan extension: just after passing Point 2 above, turn right to cross the river on the footbridge (you must dismount). On reaching the B3273, turn left. Pass the touring park left, then turn right to cross the road as signed. Turn left with the pavement, then continue on a track. This bears right, away from the road into Tremayne Estate woodland. Climb steadily uphill for 0.75 mile (1.2km), levelling off as the track passes beneath a road. Bear left to a fork; Mevagissey may be found via the right fork. Keep left to meet the road (note that this can be busy); turn left for 0.5 mile (0.8km) to find Heligan on the left.
7 On leaving Heligan, turn right along the road. Cycle gently downhill, with great views over St Austell Bay. Turn left on the first narrow lane, steeply downhill. On meeting the next minor road, turn left, even more steeply, to meet the B3273 opposite Pentewan Sands Holiday Park. Turn left towards the Esso garage, then right into Pentewan village.
Even if you don't get as far as the Lost Gardens of Heligan on your bike, you should somehow include it in your itinerary. Home of the Tremayne family for over 400 years, the story of the 'uncovering' of the gardens during the 1990s by Tim Smit (latterly of Eden Project fame) and his team is well known. But this is so much more than just a 'garden' - for a start it covers 200 acres - there's also a subtropical jungle, farm walks, fabulous vegetable gardens, various wildlife projects, and the romantic 'Lost Valley', as well as a farm shop, attractive restaurant, plants sales and shop.
It's worth taking some time to have a look around Pentewan village, with its narrow streets and attractive square. The glorious sandy beach, popular with holidaymakers, is featured in the Lloyds Bank 'Black Horse' advertisements. The old harbour opposite the Ship Inn is now silted up, a recurring problem during the life of the railway due to clay waste being washed downriver from the mines. This, and the growing importance of the ports at Par and Fowey, contributed to the closure of the Pentewan railway, which never reached the Cornwall Railway's main line, in 1918.
This pleasant route, which opened in 1995, follows the line of the old Pentewan railway along the tranquil St Austell river. A loop through quiet lanes provides a convenient 'turnaround', and an optional, steep extension to the Lost Gardens of Heligan for those seeking more strenuous exercise.