This is in the current issue of Cornwall Today. To see the accompanying wonderful pictures, buy the September issue, but also have a look at Cornish Dreamer
A circular walk encompassing woods, fields and coastal footpath; popular with dogwalkers.
CARWINION WALK, MAWNAN SMITH
Summer finally decided to make an entrance on the day I set off with a friend and my Jack Russell, Mollie, to drive along the road from Falmouth through Swanpool and Maenporth towards Mawnan Smith. Passing a sign saying Woodlands on the left, we continued round the corner and parked next to Carwinion Playing Fields, opposite Carwinion Garden, famous for its bamboos and cream teas.
To the right of the garden a public footpath sign marked the start of our walk, and we went down a rocky lane that led into dense woods by the side of Carwinion Garden. The going was rough here and in wet weather can be slippery, but as we walked further the path became well trodden earth and kinder to the feet. Huge ferns towered over us, providing a cool canopy after the overheated car, and sunlight slanted through the trees.
At a fork in the steep path through this wooded valley we took the left hand turning over a small slate bridge, past an unexpected burst of orange montbretia, and further down into the woods where the incline levelled out. A stream splashed beside us and overhead was the cry of a buzzard and the tapping of a woodpecker. We chatted to several passing dogwalkers and marvelled at how different most people are with dogs. They provide an excuse to be friendly.
The path finally levelled and opened into a field of long grass; the day turned sultry under pale blue skies streaked with mare’s tail clouds. We continued through another gate and down to a pebbled cove especially popular with dog walkers, as this private beach is dog friendly all year round. According to the map it is Porth Saxon, but the locals I spoke to call it Porth Sawsen. We were intending to swim here, but the brisk easterly wind dismissed that idea, so we threw sticks into the sea for Mollie who thoroughly enjoyed her swim.
We continued along the path to the left of the beach, steering Mollie away from tempting picnics and barbecues, and headed up the hill, past a boathouse and over a stile into another field, through a kissing gate that is often waterlogged in winter and down to Porthallack Cove – otherwise known as Cow Beach or Church Cove.
Sitting on the beach we relaxed in the unaccustomed sun, sipped water and listened to the steady thrum of a boat engine, waves lapping the shore, and the overexcited bark of a Collie chasing pebbles up and down the beach.
Jumping over a stream edged with wild bamboos, we came to an overgrown gate on the left with a sign saying ‘Mawnan Old Church ½ mile, Mawnan Smith 1 ½ miles’. If you wish to take the slightly shorter, inland route, go through this gate which will take you through several fields to Mawnan Church and then back to Carwinion. But note that there are often cattle in this field so keep dogs on a lead.
We chose to continue along the path through a gate and up an incredibly steep field that led to the coastal footpath. Panting at the top of the field we looked back to stunning views of the Helford river, of Trebah Gardens and Durgan beach. Sailors in small boats were enjoying a good sail, while some moored off coves only approachable by water, Swallows and Amazons style.
We passed through a new gate which led us to the coastal footpath which was steep and hot out of the wind. Around were signs of summer confusingly mixed with autumn: the heady sweet smell of honeysuckle; the first sloes, small and green, and unripe blackberries with a hint of red and black. Far below a sleek black cormorant dived neatly into the sea, surfaced and took flight, wings skimming the surface of the water.
On the opposite shore lay St Anthony’s, Denis Head, and the far peninsula of Nare Point shimmered in the sunshine. The footpath ended in another stile leading to a field where there are often cattle. On this day there were none, and we headed across the field into dense woods with a carpet of crunchy leaves, where the sea glinted through slender trunks dappled with sunlight. Taking the path to the left we scrambled over another stile and reached Mawnan Parish Church, which is well worth a visit.
The church is a navigational aid to boats entering the river and it seems that a cruciform building was erected in the 13th century, though there are 14th century windows and the north and part of the south aisle were added in the 15th century.
It is a beautiful building, popular for weddings, and on our visit the arch above the church door was decorated with garlands of orange and white flowers, white ribbons and white roses.
Whenever I visit Mawnan churchyard I am struck by its historic beauty. The ground was soft and mossy, the grass mown lovingly. Ancient gravestones leaned, smothered in beards of grey lichen, entwined with the occasional bramble. The sea was visible through the trees, and there was a quiet stillness here, a sense of peace. A perfect resting place.
We walked through the car park and took the only road out for a hot walk along the quiet country lane back towards Mawnan Smith. Along the way we passed noisy sparrows darting above a bank of wild pink roses sprawling in and around a tree. Opposite I was particularly struck by an inventive bit of gardening: a red gumboot filled with flowers.
We walked on, past the Catholic church where the road forks, and took the left turning back towards Carwinion and the car. As we passed the playing fields, the tempting smell of barbecue drifted towards us and my nose twitched like Mollie’s and our mouths watered. But we turned our backs and headed for Carwinion Garden and a well earned cream tea.
Length: 2 ¼ miles returning the inland route
2 ½ miles returning via the coastal footpath
Time – Approximately 1 ½ hours
Grade: moderate, steep in places
Maps: OS Landranger 204 (Truro and Falmouth Roseland Peninsula) and OS Explorer 103 The Lizard (Falmouth and Helston)
Refreshments: Carwinion Garden, Open 10-5.30 daily