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Section 4. Perranporth to Portreath - Cornish Coast Path Route

Distance 12.5 miles - Grade - Moderate - What these grades mean.

Enter mining country today and your first taste of The Cornwall Mining World Heritage Site. A fascinating section of path taking you on an another high level cliff traverse, through a rich vein of tin, copper, zinc, lead and even silver mines that were worked from the middle ages to the mid 1980’s.  Cliffs here sport colourful shades of red, orange, blue and green stained by the traces of copper and iron running through the stacks and crags.

From the headland at Cligga Head today, you find the cliffs punctured by mine adits, tunnels and shafts which were often entered by rope walkways suspended down the sheer cliffs. Today the shafts are covered with strange conical mesh grills preventing walkers tumbling down the gloomy holes whilst allowing colonies of bats access to roost.

Rock Climbers are often spotted scaling the impressive sea cliffs as you pass the remains of the British and Colonial Explosive Company who produced dynamite here. One unplanned explosion in 1902 was so big it made the windows and doors in Truro rattle some 20 miles away. 

The Cornish Coast Path now skirts the historically significant World War 2 Airfield at Trevallas, still with its bunkers, ditches and gun placements, but now a ghostly quiet backdrop to the handful of gliders that take off here to take advantage of the thermals created by the cliffs. A brief turn inland is needed to negotiate the Blue Hills Tin Streams, crossed by the old engine house.

At Trevaunance cove you pass a few remains of the quays and ore bins of what, in its heyday, was one of the area’s busiest harbours, abandoned after being ravaged during the great war by the Atlantic waves. Inland, for those wanting a lunch break, is the welcoming town of St Agnes - don’t miss the Driftwood Spars pub which brews its own beer on site. There is also the excellent and free entry St Agnes Museum with a mindboggling variety of exhibits as well as a handful of well thought of art galleries and shops. Off shore now are the dramatic Bawden Rocks or “Man and his Man” with colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and the odd puffin. Listen quietly and you may hear or spot some of the grey seals that use the caves to breed here in what is now a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area. Along the whole of this section keep an eye out for adders and slow worms as well as the occasional lizard basking in the gorse on the cliff tops.

Overnight stops at St Agnes on the South West Coast Path

After rounding the wild St Agnes Head with its stupendous views in all directions arrive at Wheal Coates mine and its Towanwrath shaft and engine house. Clinging to the cliffs this is one of the most atmospheric and iconic images of Cornwall’s mining past, the trenches and pits around it are even older medieval opencast tin workings following the tin bearing veins to the sea. 

Two more stunning beaches arrive in quick succession at Chapel Porth and Porthtowan climbing back through some fantastic meadowland close to the coast with rarities such as Sea holly, wild geraniums and white bell heather and small pools holding damsel and dragon flies. At Nancekuke Common a bizarre section of the path takes you alongside the perimeter fence of the now decommissioned Chemical warfare Research Centre which developed and processed the nerve agent Sarin as well as CS gas - these days thankfully the strange looking dome is nothing more sinister than part of the Atlantic Early Warning Radar Defence System. Pass a coastal waterfall just before the aptly named Diamonds Rock and you finally arrive at The Pepper Pot an atmospheric white daymark above Portreath harbour and the end of the days walking.

Overnight stops at Portreath on the South West Coast Path

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