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Patrick Bradley takes us along his favourite section of the South West Coast Path, through Pentire & The Rumps.
This section of the South West Coast Path (or SWCP, as it’s known) is my favourite walk and is arguably the best section of the path, certainly in North Cornwall. It’s on National Trust land, and therefore has ample car parking and easy access. One of the great benefits is that being a peninsula type walk you can shorten it by taking one of the several footpaths back to the car park, or you can extend it for as long as you like. Being near to Polzeath, there are several good restaurants, pubs and places where you can get good eat in or takeaway lunches.
The Rumps (so called because they resemble the backbone of a dinosaur in shape), jut out seawards more or less due North. Technically this is part of the Bristol Channel, but to all intents and purposes we might be as well to regard this as part of the Atlantic Ocean. Certainly there is a predominant ocean swell, and Polzeath is a well known surfing beach. This area can be treacherous for mariners, the Maria Assumpta went down just off the Rumps, another shipwreck occurred near Port Quin at Carnweather Point, whilst legend has it that pretty much the entire pilchard fleet of Port Quin foundered in one night because of a gale, or so I was told by the fishermen of Port Isaac, and they know a thing or two of legends.
This is not to mention any number of shipwrecks that happened off the entrance to Padstow estuary to the west, known as the Doom bar, and celebrated as a local beer. At anything less than high tide you may see breaking surf, caused by the abrupt change in depth as the swell enters the estuary platform. Stepper point reaches out beyond the bar, watched over by the white Coastguard station,and way marked at the end for sailors by a cylindrical day mark. The Headland beyond is Trevose Head, marked by a white lighthouse, the island to seawards is Gulland, and nearest to is Newland.
We start at Lead mines Car park which is about 200 metres along the drive to Pentire farm on the right. On the way, it’s worthwhile pausing at the Ranger’s house as they have a notice board detailing bird and flower identification. (You may also wish to check on seal and dolphins as you may well see them). Binoculars are certainly worthwhile.
The seaward view from here is westward toward Polzeath. Walking past the information board there is an obvious path which leads to the coast. There’s a trail leaflet provided by the NT here. The humps at the start of the path are spoil heaps from lead and tin mining, but the mine itself is reached from an adit half way down the cliff which we shall walk along shortly. Bats roosting in the mines exit the cliff at Twilight, which provides an interesting summer spectacle. Adit is half way down this cliff. Bats can be seen emerging at the right times.
After passing though a wicket gate, the walk itself is to the left, but it may be worth while to venture eastwards first for a few metres into the next field where recent excavations have revealed a cold war nuclear bunker, within a small fenced in area. Backtracking North westwards now, we walk along the coast path towards the Rumps which can be clearly seen about 2km away.
Behind us, Easterly the furthest point is Hartland,(although Lundy Island can sometimes be seen), the radar domes of the listening station can be seen below Bude, Tintagel Head is obvious with St Matriana’s church , there is a rock marking Trebarwith strand, and closer to is Doyden, a very small folly type castle which , I understand is the most expensive NT holiday cottage on their list!
Port Quin bay is below us, and we can watch out for seals, possibly whales, basking sharks, dolphins, cormorants, kestrels etc. Along the path in summer is a profusion of butterflies, whilst in spring are primroses and bluebells. After ascending some steps we gain a viewpoint before a longish straight section beyond a wicket gate. Looking back at the cliff edge you may see a peregrine nesting there.
The path then goes round a small bay, before heading out towards Rumps point, past another viewpoint with a bench. The Rumps are an iron age promontory fort and the path passes through an obvious gap in the dykes into this area. It’s possible to walk pathways around the entire perimeter here with care. Seals are usually to be seen here, and the small island called the Mouls shelters interesting bird life including razorbills and puffins. From the Rumps we continue along the path to Pentire Point. About half way along is a small plaque datailing Lawrence Binyon’s epitaph to soldiers lost in the first world war.
After rounding the point, the footpath is obvious towards Polzeath, but we are looking out for a junction about 2 km from a small inlet known by the locals as stinky bay. It’s almost to the side of the beach, just after where the footpath has been diverted, and crosses a stream, and signposted to Pentire farm. The farmhouse at the end of the valley footpath is a notable Georgian building. A track on the right takes us back to the lead mines car park.
As a postscript, some of you (especially with binoculars) may have noticed a canon sticking out of a mound in a field near the farmhouse(s).