Exploring the coast and countryside near Fowey where the novelist Daphne du Maurier found inspiration for her romantic novels.
Distance 7.4 miles (12km)
Minimum time 4hrs
Ascent/gradient 820ft (250m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Field paths, rough lanes and coastal footpath, can be very muddy on inland tracks during wet weather, 12 stiles
Landscape Coastal fields, woodland and open coastal cliffs.
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 107 St Austell & Liskeard
Start/finish SX 118511
Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas. No dogs allowed on Polkerris Beach, Easter to Oct 31
Parking Readymoney Cove car park, reached by continuing on from entrance to Fowey's main car park
Public toilets Readymoney Cove and Polkerris
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1 From the bottom end of the car park walk down St Catherine's Parade, then turn right towards the inlet of Readymoney Cove. Continue to the end of the road, above the beach and follow the initially rocky Love Lane uphill on the Saints Way. Carry on past the first junction, ignoring the options by a National Trust sign for 'Covington Woods'.
2 Turn left at the next junction and climb wooden steps to reach Allday's Fields. Follow the right-hand field edge. At a field gap follow an obvious grassy track ahead to a lane end at Coombe Farm. Follow the lane ahead.
3 At a road, turn right and continue to Lankelly Farm. Pass a junction on the right and follow Prickly Post Lane for a few paces. Turn off left onto a gravel drive, then keep left and along a narrow fenced-in path.
4 Go up a wide, rough track by derelict buildings at Trenant, then go over a stile on the left. Keep ahead alongside the field edge, then follow the path to a stile into a field below Tregaminion Farm. Go up the field to a gate, continue between buildings then turn right, then left, to reach a T-junction with a road by the entrance gate to the little Church of Tregaminion.
5 Turn right and in 100yds (91m) go left into a field. Reach a junction on the edge of some woods. (An enjoyable diversion is to take the right-hand branch leading to the beach and cove at Polkerris.) On the main route, keep left along the field edge and follow the well-defined coast path for 1¼ miles (2km) to Gribbin Head.
6 Enter the wooded National Trust property of the Gribbin. Keep left at a junction. Go through a gate and cross to the Gribbin Daymark. Go left and down a faint grassy track, then follow the coast path to Polridmouth.
7 Follow the coast path, signposted 'Lankelly Cliff'. At open ground, follow the seaward field edge. Go steeply in to, and out of, Coombe Hawne. Enter Covington Wood, keep left at the immediate junction, and pass the Rashleigh Mausoleum.
8 Turn right at a junction to reach St Catherine's Castle. Return along the path then go down steps at the first junction on the right. Go down wooden steps to Readymoney Beach. Return to the car park via St Catherine's Parade.
Fowey and its environs cry out for the romantic novel and it is no surprise that the area inspired the writer Daphne du Maurier, who for many years lived as a favoured tenant at Menabilly House, the ancestral home of the Rashleigh family. The house and its environs became embedded in her work. Menabilly was the shadowy inspiration for the fictional house of 'Manderley' in du Maurier's compelling work Rebecca. The house also inspired the setting for My Cousin Rachel. If you are a fan of du Maurier, you may take special pleasure in this walk. If you are not a fan, then you may soon become one.
The walk starts from the charmingly named Readymoney Cove, a corrupted form of the Cornish redeman, possibly translating as 'stony ford'. From the cove you follow Love Lane, a very old cart way that rises over scarred rock slabs into the shrouding trees of Covington Wood. Soon open fields are reached and the route strikes inland along field paths and enclosed tracks. In the little valley below Lankelly Farm the path passes through a tunnel and beneath what was once a carriageway leading to Menabilly House. Beyond Tregaminion Farm and church the long western flank of the Gribbin Peninsula is reached. Here you can divert down a zig-zag path to Polkerris Cove and beach (PWhile You're There).
The coastal footpath is followed south to Gribbin Head and its crowning 'Daymark', an immense Graeco-Gothic edifice erected in 1832 as a warning mark to sailors who too often had mistaken the shallow waters of St Austell Bay for the secure anchorage of Falmouth Roads further west. The Daymark was erected on land granted by William Rashleigh of Menabilly. The inscription rather neatly defines the mercantile priorities of the day, the 'safety of commerce' first, 'preservation of mariners' second. Now, the Daymark, and its garish red and white stripes, is forgiven for its naked intrusion because of its historical significance. Head north from here to Polridmouth Cove (P'ridmouth to the initiated) and the heart of 'du Maurier Country', from where a minor roller coaster hike takes you to St Catherine's Point and to the ruins of the 16th-century St Catherine's Castle. The castle was part of a chain of defences built on the orders of Henry VIII as a precaution against potential invasion from France. Its lower level housed later 18th-century guns. From the high ground of St Catherine's Point there is a steep descent to Readymoney Cove.
Visit Polkerris, the small cove and beach tucked in the eastern arm of St Austell Bay. It was once a busy fishing village in the days when the great bight of St Austell Bay saw vast shoals of pilchard staining its clear waters purple. Today Polkerris and the green flank of the Gribbin Peninsula stand as a counter image to the industrial landscape of the bay's opposite shore where the work buildings of the china clay industry stumble across the skyline.
Along the vegetated borders of the fields and woods look for the tall pinkish flower spike of rosebay willowherb. This tall plant with its purple flowers, that give way to cottony seeds in autumn, was once rare in Britain. It is thought that it spread rapidly throughout the country with the coming of the railways in the 19th century. The frequent scorching of embankments from stray sparks during the old days of steam trains created ideal growing conditions for the willowherb's windblown seeds. The web of railway lines also served as a disseminator for many other plants. Look for the madly tangled and trailing blooms of great bindweed, with their white flowerheads.
There is usually an ice cream and soft drinks van at Readymoney Cove during the summer months. It is worth making the diversion into the little harbourside village of Polkerris where the Rashleigh Inn overlooks the beach and offers reasonable pub lunches. The Lifeboat House beach shop, opposite the Rashleigh Inn, does Cornish pasties and sandwiches to take away.