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MEVAGISSEY AND HELIGAN GARDENS

We're heading south to Cornwall, for a challenging seven-mile coastal hike.

Get set for a lively stomp up and down steep hills, narrow valleys and cliff top paths. Then finish your day at Heligan Gardens with a well-deserved slice of cake and a refreshing cup of tea.

This walk is longer than most - and it's also one of the most energetic, especially near the start. It's ideal if you have over-indulged in cream teas and need to burn off some calories.

The walk starts with an exhilarating section of coast path. This stretch has dramatic cliff scenery - and several sharp climbs and descents. This exertion is followed by a delightful level stretch along the Pentewan Valley before another climb to Heligan and the famous gardens. Sadly, the gardens generate a lot of traffic and what should be a quiet lane can be uncomfortably busy, but there is no other route.

A brisk ten-minute march and you are there. It takes several hours to see the gardens properly so to combine a visit with this walk would make for a very long day. Suitably refreshed, you will find the last part of the walk sheer delight, as an easy track leads down a woodland valley back to the start with many pleasing views over this landscape of rounded hills and deep combes.

The busy Willows Restaurant at the Heligan Gardens has a vine growing around it. There are some tables outside. They serve cakes, cream teas with delicious scones and excellent shortbread. The Servery offers filled jacket potatoes, sandwiches, salads and a choice of hot meals using fresh produce from the garden, between noon and 2.30pm.

They are open 10am until 6pm in the summer and close at 5pm in winter. Telephone: 01726 845100. There are also several tearooms and restaurants in Mevagissey. 

Distance 7 Miles

STARTING POINT

Start at the Mevagissey harbour (GR 015448)

HOW TO GET THERE

You can reach Mevagissey along the B3273 from the A390 at St Austell. Park in any of the signed car parks and make your way through the narrow streets to the landward side of the harbour. 

ALTERNATIVE STARTING POINT

If you wish to visit the teashop at the beginning or end of your walk, start at Heligan Gardens, where there is ample parking. The teashop is at the entrance to the gardens. You will then start the walk at point 7.

A bit of History..

History's first mention of Mevagissey is in 1313 and the name comes from two Irish missionaries, Meva and Itha. Once famous for fast ships and pilchards, the fishing industry was at its height in the 19thcentury. Thousands of tons were landed here for salting, packing and export to southern Europe and the Royal Navy, who called them Mevagissey ducks.

Towards the end of the 19thcentury, the pilchards deserted Cornish waters for reasons that are not entirely clear - a combination of over-fishing, pollution and climate change perhaps - and though there are fishing boats in the attractive harbour and lobster pots on the quay, the main business today is tourism.

The Walk

1.Facing the sea, walk along the left side of the harbour for a few yards then bear left uphill on a path signed 'To the Coast Path'. Follow this up past cottages and then up some steps into a recreation ground. Cross this to find the coast path just to the right of the last house.

2. Follow the coast path. Immediately after crossing a footbridge, bear left: the right branch leads down to the beach. The path hugs the cliff top along the right-hand side of several fields and eventually leads across a second footbridge. A path leads straight ahead up the field while the right of the way coast path leads round the field to the right. Both lead up to a double stile giving onto a path above a road.

3. Turn right and follow the path until it emerges on the road at the entrance to a caravan site. Continue in the same direction along the road to a junction.

Pentewan, pronounced Pen-tuan, is a former quarrying village and local Pentewan stone was used in many Cornish buildings such as Restormel Castle. A port was created in 1826, which exported stone and china clay until the end of the First World War.

4. Turn right, signed 'Pentewan'. Immediately over a bridge turn left, signed 'Pentewan Valley Trail'. Follow the track for about three quarters of a mile to a riverbank and then bear right up river as far as a bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the track ahead to the main road.

5. Turn left, then cross the road to continue in the same direction, following the cycleway signs. Continue as the track first runs parallel with the road and then turns right to climb through woods. Follow it under a bridge and then left round to a lane.

6. Turn left. Continue round a left-hand corner, passing a road on the right, to the entrance to Heligan Gardens. Turn left on a signed footpath along a track to the right of the entrance. Turn left at a pedestrian crossing to the tearoom at the garden entrance.

Did you know..

The Tremayne family acquired the estate in the 16th century and it remained in their hands until 1970. Down the years succeeding generations nurtured a complex of farmland, woods the earliest brickworks in Cornwall and, of course, gardens. The First World War took most of the gardeners away from the estate and the house was requisitioned as a military hospital.

Then, in 1943, American forces used Pentewan beach as a training ground for the Normandy landings and the officers were billeted here. Slowly the gardens became lost under a confused jungle of ivy and brambles. Largely at the instigation of Tim Smit of Eden Project fame, the garden has been rescued and brought back to its Victorian prime, a process recorded by television cameras in a brilliant publicity coup.

There is a lot to see including an immaculate walled kitchen garden with adjacent orangeries housing passion fruit, bananas and manure-heated pineapple pits. The word Heligan is from the Cornish for willows, hence the name of the restaurant. The garden is open every day and a visit is likely to take at least a couple of hours.

7. Return to the track and turn left. At a metal gate across the track turn left and follow the track down to a few houses. Cross a footbridge and turn right. Walk along the track: the parallel path accessed by a stile on the right is not a right of way. When a track joins on the left, continue ahead to a road.

8. Turn right, back to Mevagissey. 

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