Why cliff-top walk will leave television viewers of a certain age experiencing a sense of déjà vu
Martin Hesp goes in search of some of the scenes from a hit TV show of the past...
Watching television is just about as far as you can get from the altogether more strenuous act of country walking, and yet the goggle-box can sometimes be a good source of inspiration for hikers.
Here's an example: for some reason I have only just come across the old Wycliffe series about a Cornish detective, based on the novels of WJ Burley – a fact which may surprise many readers of this newspaper because the ITV programmes were immensely popular back in the 1990s when they were made. Anyway, apart from its quaint old-fashioned-style, delightfully slow delivery and many other idiosyncrasies, the series offers a rich seam of possibility for those who love spotting and guessing the whereabouts of real-life Cornish locations...
In fact, I'm not the first to say that the rich, sometimes stark and sometimes scenic, backdrops were the real star of the show – even if the camera sometimes focuses on, for example, one bay only to turn around and reveal what's supposed to be a neighbouring one, which you know is really 25 miles away on the other coast.
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Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, I say. I also say that one such bay – that I spotted in an episode I was watching one rainy night recently – lured me from my direct A39 route home the last time I was in Cornwall and inspired me to drive up the lanes which run across the hills north of the Camel estuary.
It was a detour that resulted in a quick there-and-back linear walk – rare for this column, which always prefers to find a circular route if possible. But the coastal glories to be found between Lundy Bay and Port Quin on the North Cornish littoral are too good to miss.
Entering the secret domain high above Port Quin Bay is more reminiscent of one of those Famous Five-type adventures kids used to read some time in the last century than some sordid detective story. But I am certain this is where Charlie Wycliffe and his female sidekick were standing here in the rain in the programme I watched recently.
In "real life" the path that descends from the Pentireglaze lane, in the north of the parish of St Minver Highlands, seems to offer more of a promise of excitement and adventure than it does murder and mayhem.
You'll see the path across the lane from the National Trust car park, which offers an excellent base from which to explore the handsome stretch of coast that is centred around Lundy Bay. If you look for this bay on the OS map you won't find it, however the chart does mention Lundy Hole, which is a massive sea cave just to the west of the cove. It's one of the first things you will see once you've walked down the leafy lane and passed the vertiginous walls of Markham's Quay – and it is exactly the sort of spectacular and adventuresome place you somehow expect to see down this magical lane.
Markham's Quay by the way, is nothing more than a cleave in the cliff-face. Legend has it booty used to be smuggled here, but whoever did such a deed would have required a good head for heights. It is known, however, that sand from the beach used to be hauled up the cliff face by horse-powered pulleys.
Lundy Hole is next door, and an awesome pit it is. Locals used to believe it was made by the Devil while he was pursuing St Minver. They might still believe it, for all I know: "Take care when visiting the site," warns a local National Trust leaflet, and quite rightly so.
Lundy Beach and neighbouring Epphaven Cove offer splendid sandy strands when the tide is out. When the tide is in beach-goers have to find a comfy space in the rocks.
The coast path links the two coves and then climbs the heights of Trevan Point. The summit offers fine views on the entire sweep of Port Quin Bay – from The Rumps and the island known as The Mouls in the west, to Kellan Head in the east.
The coast path now follows an old stone wall on its way east, and this is crowned by the finest swathe of sea pinks (or thrift) I have ever seen. It is the thrift equivalent of the Great Wall of China – I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that you could see it from the moon.
Throughout this section of the walk you will be able to spy one of Britain's smallest castles. Wealthy Wadebridge businessman Samuel Symons built Doyden Castle in the late 1820s so that he and his friends could party in the privacy of this wild and scenic bit of coast. The trust now runs the place as a holiday cottage and asks walkers to respect the privacy of its lucky occupants.
And, while I am talking about famous Cornish based TV series – readers of a certain age might recognise the castle from the old Poldark programmes in which it appeared as the home of Dwight Enys.
There was no evidence of occupancy the day I was there, Poldarkian or otherwise, so I wandered around the peninsula upon which it stands to enjoy the viewpoint of the deep rocky "fjord" that is Port Quin. This is our final port of call before we turn on our heels and return from whence we have come. Port Quin is as comely a corner as you'll find anywhere along the north coast. Now it houses a handful of trust holiday cottages, but it was once a busy fishing port boasting a population of 94 living in 23 homes.
Minerals were exported from the little harbour and the sheltered valley played host to several market gardens, though the annual pilchard season (August to December) is believed to have provided the lion's share of employment.
"The desertion of the village is curiously undocumented," says the trust information leaflet, though I have heard a legend that claims the entire male population was wiped out in a terrible storm. Indeed, a maelstrom in the winter of 1697 did completely destroy the village's herring fleet, though it's not clear how many lives were lost.
You can pretend you're Charlie Wycliffe and mull over the riddle of Port Quin on the way back along the coast. But unlike him (for he comes across as a melancholy sort of bloke) you will be happy in the knowledge that all the views you see walking in this direction are completely different to the ones you enjoyed on your way out.
Basic walk: From the first National Trust car park on the lane that leads out to Pentireglaze near Pentire Point, follow path to coast path then east past Lundy Hole to Doyden Point and Port Quin – returning via same route.
Distance and going: Four miles, good going, a few moderate ascents.
Recommended map: OS Explorer 106 Newquay and Padstow.