The walk across the fields from the Gurnards Head to Gurnards Head is not a long one. In fact it could better be described as the sort of walk you might, take to be bathed in the glow of self satisfaction, when indulging in rather a nice lunch in front of a roaring fire in the local pub.
Alternatively pack a picnic or buy a pasty en-route then set out to explore the great promontory of Gurnards Head, site of an Iron Age fort redolent with the power of the Cornish landscape. We tried both options for this blog that explores a wild and wonderful stretch of Cornish coastline for an autumn adventure.
Walking from Gurnards Head to Gurnards Head
Just beside the pub the narrow lane leads to Treen – a tiny agricultural hamlet that’s home to quite a few very active cows. The lane peters into a footpath – enclosed for a moment before a stile opens onto open farmland. (Alternatively a private lane leads straight down to Leon Point)
The last of the silage had just been cut on the beautiful autumn day that we set out over the fields towards the sea.
As the swathes of grassland dipped steeply to the sea, so the ocean became the broad horizon framed by Gurnards Head and the spectacular coastline.
The enclosures here are flanked by the characteristic stone faced banks and I noticed the distinctive shapes of (what appeared to me) to be fallen Quoits. Were they from ancient tombs that might have been cleared from the fields? An Intriguing puzzle to ponder as we walked down to the imposing spine of Gurnards Head.
Every now and then, no matter how well you think the Cornish landscape, something will catch you by surprise. Well on this walk, the twin coves golden sands low tide below Gurnards Head was breath-taking.
What will I see as I explore Gurnards Head?
- Gurnards Head
- Chapel Jane and Holy Well
- Treen Cove and Rose-an-Hale Cove
- Treen Copper Mine
Gurnards Head Iron Age promontory hill fort: – Trereen Dinas
The powerful spine of land that forms Gurnards Head, topped by cairns of granite, juts far into the sea.
A view from Gurnards Head
To explore the length of Gurnards Head, is to walk out into the ocean itself, with wonderful views across the coastline beyond its heights. It is said to resemble the head of a Gurnard fish after all!
Bedecked by wild flowers, with dizzying drops to the sea yet with a sheltered beach beyond. Gurnards head must have felt unassailable to the ancient population.
Iron age Promontory Fort
Its earliest human habitation was as an Iron Age promontory fort, with two distinctive stone banks and ditches across the narrowest part to guard the inhabitants of a cluster of up to 18 hut circles on the leeward side of the promontory.
Archaeologist point to similarities between the defences used at Gurnards Head to promontory Forts in North West France. The Veneti – an Amorican Tribe were recorded by Caesar as operating a fleet between Brittany and Britain. Add to this the similarities within two of the Brittonic group of languages between Breton and Cornish and well . . Read archaeological source
Chapel Jane is just beyond Gurnards head with three scheduled monument entries
- Holy Well Pre Christian – 1539
- Chapel Medieval – mid 16th century 1100 – 1539
- Alter stone Mid 16th century 1100 A.D. – 1539
Finding Chapel Jane
Look to the seaward side of the coastal footpath upon leaving Gurnard’s Head. There’s a flight of stone steps leading down into the Chapel with an alter stone framed by the sea.
The chapel was thought to have been in regular use until the 16th-century along with the Holy Well. Although Fisherman particularly, would still return on Feast days well into the 19th-century . Drowned fisherman were rumoured to be buried beneath the alter here.
“ The remains of the foundations of the wall and the chapel, exterior measurements 28ft by 13ft. The wall 2 1/2ft thick. In the NW angle, there an altar stone lies measuring 4ft 4ins by 2ft 4ins. The well is about 20ft distant under the edge of the cliff.” Crozier 1840 – 1850National Trust Info
Madron or Boswarthen Well is a good example of a holy well later adopted by a Christian Chapel with customs that continue to cross over for several generations.
Treen Cove and Rose-an-Hale cove
The twin coves here are separated by Lean Point: – Rose-an-Hale to the left and Treen Cove to the right. At low tide a swathe of sand is revealed but swimming is not thought to be safe here.
Rose-an-Hale has been used for fishing over the centuries and there are the remains of a hewers hut on the eastern flank of Gurnards Head.
In 1870 the Gurnards Head Seine fishery was worth £800 employed twenty four men with ten boats and two seines. The Western Fishing company was dissolved in 1880 with the assets sold at auction. Included in the lots were fourteen boats, the Account House furniture, Cellars, lofts and building used in the pilchard fishery as well as the launching platform in the cove itself etc. Life must have started to feel very bleak for the population at that time. (Wikipedia)
Treen Copper mine later (North United)
The first view of the ruined engine house of Treen mine was walking across the fields from Treen
Treen copper mine later became known as the Gurnards head mine.
Follow the coastal footpath from Gurnards Head towards Zennor across a well defined bridge to find the ruined building. Beware though the shaft, although fenced off, has not be capped.
A very short history of Treen Mine
The initial work started in 1821 on unstable ground close to the waters edge. The mine was improved by the later addition of a deeper north shaft which went to 90 Fathoms (or 165 M) and the south shaft reaching 80 Fathoms (or 146 m. )
The height of production between 1834 – 1842 produced 24 tons of copper
By 1853 output was listed as 25 tons with 12% copper.
The south shaft Engine House
The remaining engine house that can be seen today is on the South shaft and held a 30” Harvey Engine. This engine was sold to the Spanish Guadalcanal Mining Company in 1848
Recently, a relative of a Mine Captain who’d lived here at Ednovean visited. She described how Capt. Francis followed the hard rock mining work around the world until he died in Spanish mine when a he returned to a spoilt fuse. I wonder if he saw the engine in Spain?
Where to eat near Gurnards Head?
Well I had a birthday recently and as I leafed through some old photos I found an old Photo of the then Gurnard’s Head Hotel. I believe this snap was taken in the 1980’s when the word hotel was still proudly painted on the roof.
Perfect for a nostalgic walk and spoiling lunch all in one!
Scrubbed topped tales, fresh country colours and glittering candles, all attentively attended by designer clad staff, were just the sort of spoiling needed on yet another milestone. The wine was well chilled and my Plaice topped by brown shrimp, caper and lemon butter delicious. Finally, as I felt no need to be too grown up – the crispy chips were exquisite! Charles’s Beef and Venison Casserole was hearty enough to be a just reward for being dragged across the Cornish countryside!
Good to know: – A 12.5% discretionary service charge is automatically added to the bill
For our second visit – as it was clear my blog would need a few more snaps if not my waistline expanded! So we politely eschewed the pub car park in favour of the verge opposite to the pub and then carried a picnic out to the coast. We found an eerie amongst the rocks, for a traditional pasty and hot sweet thermos flask tea, as the sea birds dived and the Cornish Choughs wheeled below us!
As a friend remarked – “Ah that lovely moment of anticipation, when you finally take the weight of your feet and rummage in a picnic bag!”
As we returned to the car around 2.30p.m. the door of the Gurnards Head opened and a small party emerged “Splendid lunch” said the gentleman in satisfied tones. Yes I though, indeed it was very splendid– either way!
Are you planning an autumn break in west Cornwall?
We’re offering cosy three day breaks at Ednovean Farm this autumn. Ednovean Farm is perfectly placed between countryside and sea to explore the soul of Cornwall.
Or why not check out our diary for a summer holiday in Cornwall? We check out your holiday destinations very carefully!