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Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte

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Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte
Author: Claire, Published: 17 Jul 2018 Walk Rating:star1 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall star1 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall star1 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall star1 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall star1 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall
Cornwall, Porthtowan
Walk Type: Coastal
Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall boot Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall boot Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall
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A 5 mile circular walk from the village of Porthtowan, on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall. The walk follows a stunning stretch of the Coast Path, with fine sea views, to reach the iconic remains of Great Wheal Charlotte, an old copper mine. Turning inland at Chapel Porth, the route follows a pretty stream-side bridleway to reach the villages of Mingoose and Banns Vale, from where it joins another woodland bridleway with a magical spring and clear-running stream. Emerging from the trees, the walk leads you through the remains of Tywarnhayle Mine on route back to Porthtowan. You will enjoy fine views, industrial heritage and wildlife in abundance.

The walk has several climbs and descents throughout, including a couple of quite steep sections. The paths are narrow in a few parts and also very rocky underfoot, so take care of the loose stones. One short narrow stretch can be a little overgrown in summer – it is normally passable, but shorts are not recommended. There are no stiles, gates or livestock on route, with just one stone footbridge to negotiate (made of two stone beams). There are a couple of stretches along roads that need care. The route makes a good dog walk – apart from the cliff path and road stretches, there are plenty of opportunities for dogs being off-lead and lots of streams for cooling off in the summer. Allow 2.5 hours.

Porthtowan is located on the north coast of Cornwall, about 1 mile west of St Agnes and 6 miles west of Truro. The walk starts and finishes at the long-stay pay-and-display car park in the village, alongside the beach. The car park is free in winter and charges apply per hour in the summer, with 3 hours costing £3.80 (correct Summer 2018). Approximate post code TR4 8UD.

Walk Sections

Start to Wheal Charlotte Boundary
Start to Wheal Charlotte Boundary

Start point: 50.287 lat, -5.2402 long
End point: 50.2909 lat, -5.2407 long

Leave the car park via the vehicle entrance and turn right along the access lane, heading towards the sea. The lane leads you past a couple of cafes on your right and ends at a vehicle barrier. Pass alongside this barrier and go straight ahead on the stone track which soon narrows to become a stone path, leading you steeply up the cliff (ignoring the smaller path to the left). Take care of any loose stones underfoot.

As you climb, you will have lovely views of Porthtowan Bay down to your left which is often filled with surfers. Towards the top of the climb you will reach a fork. Keep straight ahead (the right-hand branch) still climbing steeply between the heathland banks. In the summer and early autumn, the heathland is a brilliant yellow-and-purple patchwork of low gorse and heather.

At the top, you will pass a waymarker post with a carved acorn, which denotes the Coast Path as a National Trail. Continue ahead on the main stone path, which stays close to the cliff edge on your left. Take care with children and dogs as the drops become very steep from this point. Keep an eye out for peregrine falcons, which nest on the cliff-edges and hunt smaller birds. You may also see buzzards that hunt for rabbits and other small mammals in the low scrub and nearby valleys. Rock pipits breed along the rocky coast here, feeding on insects and seaweed. You stand a good chance of seeing skylarks and meadow pipits flitting above the meadows and moor. At dusk, greater horseshoe bats emerge from their mineshaft lairs.

A little further along, you will pass a National Trust sign, marking the boundary of the Wheal Charlotte site which is managed by the Trust (more about that later…).

Wheal Charlotte Boundary to Great Wheel Charlotte Arch
Wheal Charlotte Boundary to Great Wheel Charlotte Arch

Start point: 50.2909 lat, -5.2407 long
End point: 50.2961 lat, -5.2356 long

Keep ahead on the stone coast path, which now levels off, passing a bench on your right. This is the perfect spot to pause and enjoy the superb coastal views. Behind you are beautiful views down the coast towards St Ives and the radar station at RAF Portreath. Stay ahead on the Coast Path, passing through a small dip and up the other side, and staying with the stone path which runs close to the cliffs on your left.

Soon a couple of old stone mine ruins, with engine houses and chimneys, come into view in the distance ahead (these are on the far side of the Porth Chapel bay). Soon after these come into view, you will reach an obvious fork in your path. Take the right-hand option which leads you inland, heading for an isolated section of stone wall remains. As you approach this, you will see it is a wall and door arch of an old mine, Great Wheal Charlotte.

The solitary wall of Great Wheal Charlotte is the last surface relic of an important copper mine which produced 2,800 tons of copper ore during 1834-6. This pumping engine house worked out of the engine shaft, which runs vertically for 82-fathoms (about 150 metres). All that is left of the mine now is the wall and door arch of the engine house and an adjacent fenced-off mine shaft. During the Second World War, American troops used the wall for target practice. The mine and land were bought by the National Trust in 1956.

Great Wheel Charlotte Arch to Inland Bridleway
Great Wheel Charlotte Arch to Inland Bridleway

Start point: 50.2961 lat, -5.2356 long
End point: 50.299 lat, -5.2317 long

Turn left at the junction of paths immediately in front of the arch remains. Follow this main wide path as it swings right and then left, leading you downhill to reach a T-junction of paths (alongside a spoil heap from the old mines). Turn right, passing the large spoil heap on your right, and stay with the path as it winds ahead along the coast.

The path begins to descend to reach a waymarker post ahead. Go straight ahead, marked with the yellow arrow and acorn for the Coast Path. Follow this rocky track leading you downhill between heather banks. This stone track was built in 1944 by American troops stationed at St Agnes Head and the track is known locally as the American Road.

The track swings right to head inland. Down to your left you will see the beach and bay at Chapel Porth. At the bottom of this slope, you will reach a T-junction with a waymarker post, alongside a low wooden barrier. At this point we leave the Coast Path, so turn right onto the bridleway (marked with a blue arrow), heading inland.

Inland Bridleway to Mingoose
Inland Bridleway to Mingoose

Start point: 50.299 lat, -5.2317 long
End point: 50.2929 lat, -5.2176 long

Follow this bridleway leading you inland, with the steep heathland banks each side. On your left you will be able to hear (but not yet see) the stream that runs down to the bay at Chapel Porth. A little way along you will reach a bench on your right, with access to the stream on your left – an ideal spot for dogs to cool off.

Continue along the bridleway, passing the beautiful silhouetted engine house and chimney ruins of Charlotte United on your right. The engine houses, shafts and waste tips to the south of Chapel Porth were all part of a mining complex which produced around 23,000 tons of copper ore during the 1800s. Production of ore was sporadic and the mines opened and closed, often confusingly changing their names. Charlotte United, for example, was called North Towan and New Wheal Charlotte for most of its working life. It was only during its last brief reincarnation, in 1877, that it became Charlotte United.

The path now enters an area of woodland with the stream to your left. At the next waymarker post, ignore the path signed to the left, instead keep right on the main bridleway which leads you out of the woodland and continues along the valley. Continue ahead for about 1km, the latter stretch leading you on a path (and then a cottage access drive) through trees and between fern-covered stone walls. You will emerge to a junction with a lane at the edge of Mingoose village.

Mingoose to Banns Vale
Mingoose to Banns Vale

Start point: 50.2929 lat, -5.2176 long
End point: 50.2871 lat, -5.2104 long

Taking care of traffic, turn sharp right to join the lane and follow this passing one property on your left. Immediately after this property, look to your left where you will see a short path leading to the property’s garden gate and a stone path just to the right of this. Turn sharp left to take this narrow stone path, passing the property and a second cottage immediately on your left.

Beyond the houses, the path widens out to continue between stone walls, finally emerging to a T-junction with a road. Taking care of traffic, turn left along the road (leaving the village of Towan Cross) and then taking the first right turn (a side road marked with a Weak Bridge sign). Follow this quiet lane leading you past the cricket club on your left and then heading steeply downhill to reach the village of Banns Vale. At the bottom of the descent, the lane leads you over a stream.

Banns Vale to Stone Footbridge
Banns Vale to Stone Footbridge

Start point: 50.2871 lat, -5.2104 long
End point: 50.2846 lat, -5.2202 long

Keep ahead, passing Ross and Rill Cottages on your right. Just a few paces later, turn sharp right to join a stone track which leads you between stone walls and trees. You will pass some fenced properties on your right and, just a few metres afterwards, look out on your left for a spring and small cave, heavily decorated with ribbons and charms.

Springs of fresh drinking water were often worshipped by Pagans. They appeared to be magical – especially as the minerals in the water gave health and healing benefits – and were often associated with fairies. The decorations were used as a way of giving thanks for the water supply, a tradition that continues today.

From the spring, continue ahead for about 120 metres further (with the stream running on your right). At this point you will see a fork in the path, with the right-hand path passing through a gap in the low bank. Take this right-hand branch and then keep right to follow the path directly alongside the stream (which is still on your right). This path leads you through a gap in an old stone wall and later merges with the main bridleway once again.

Keep ahead, still with the stream on your right. Continue for about 280 metres, to reach a waymarker post on your right. NOTE: Keep your eyes peeled, as this post sits behind a bush and may be easy to miss. Turn right here to cross the stream via the stone footbridge (which comprises two beautiful old stone beams).

Stone Footbridge to Lane
Stone Footbridge to Lane

Start point: 50.2846 lat, -5.2202 long
End point: 50.2787 lat, -5.2274 long

At the far side, follow the path which swings left and begins to climb. A few paces later, do NOT keep ahead on the path that climbs, instead fork left on a path which leads you downhill and passes under a rope swing (with the stream to your left). Follow this stream-side path and you will reach the ford within the stream (the point at which horse-riders using the bridleway cross the stream). Bear right to continue on the bridleway.

Stay with this pretty woodland bridleway and, as you emerge from the trees, go ahead on the stone track. Up to your right you will see the spoil heaps and stone building remains of Tywarnhayle Mine. The Tywarnhayle mine was opened in 1826 as United Hills Mine but the name was changed in 1848 to Tywarnhayle Mine. It was an important source of copper ore until about 1860. Mining here last took place in 1906.

Simply follow the stone track, meandering ahead and leading you steadily downhill. You will emerge to a junction with the lane.

Lane to End
Lane to End

Start point: 50.2787 lat, -5.2274 long
End point: 50.2872 lat, -5.24 long

Taking care of traffic, turn right along the lane, now with steep heathland slopes each side once again. After about 800 metres, you will reach the road junction at the edge of Porthtowan. Cross over the road to reach the garage opposite and follow the access track passing immediately to the right of this garage (signed as a public footpath).

Follow the access lane past a couple of cottages on your left and keep ahead as it narrows to become a path between garden fences. You will emerge to a residential road, simply keep ahead along this. Follow the residential road as it swings left to reach a junction with the main road in Porthtowan. Cross over to the far pavement and turn right along this. Ignore the side road on the left, instead stay with the main road which bears right and leads you directly to the car park where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by iFootpath and the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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7 gallery images for "Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte"

11172_0Richard1531810053 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 17 Jul 2018
Looking back at Porthtowan on the first stretch of the walk.
11172_1Richard1531810053 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 17 Jul 2018
Porthtowan Bay with St Ives in the distance.
11172_2Richard1531810053 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 17 Jul 2018
The beautiful rocky coastal path
11172_3Richard1531810053 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 17 Jul 2018
The north Cornish coastline at its best
11172_0Richard1531810296 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 17 Jul 2018
Fern-covered stone walls
11172_1Richard1531810296 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 17 Jul 2018
Great Wheal Charlotte Arch
11172_2Richard1531810296 Porthtowan and Great Wheal Charlotte, Cornwall Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 17 Jul 2018
Silhouetted engine house and chimney ruins of Charlotte United

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