Walk: Basset Country


Length: 4.6 miles

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The walk explores some of the industrial history of Portreath, the historic wooded parkland of Tehidy, now a County Council Country Park, and the contrasting high open cliffs of the coast west of Portreath.

Difficulty: Moderate

Terrain: Good surfaces throughout with a couple of steep climbs on the Coast Path section.

The route

Portreath is today a pleasant surfing and beach centre. However, its origins are as an industrial port exporting the local minerals being mined in the area in the 1700s and 1800s. The cove here, in common with virtually all of the local area, was owned by the influential Basset family, and they began its development as a port. The first harbour here was built in 1713 but this was swept away by storms later in the century and the Bassets then built the existing harbour in 1760. By 1827 Portreath was being described as Cornwall’s most important port, exporting vast quantities of tin and copper from the local mines, mostly to South Wales for smelting. Imports of timber and coal for the mines were also substantial.

Portreath was connected to the heart of the mining area by a tramway, built in 1809 along the valley bottom to the Redruth area. In 1838 the Hayle Railway was built, connecting the mining area with the port of Hayle further west. A branch was then built from this railway into Portreath, giving the harbour its second link inland. This railway used “inclined planes” to overcome gradients, whereby trucks were raised and lowered at steep slopes using stationary steam engines rather than locomotives. One such inclined plane took the railway from the plateau behind the port down to the harbour.

In the latter part of the 1800s the mineral trade through the port fell away, but coal-carrying boats continued to use the harbour until the 1920s. Use of the railway and its inclined plane ended in 1932. This walk starts at Portreath, climbing inland to pass through the old Basset estate at Tehidy before returning to the coast to the west and returning to Portreath along the Coast Path.

The walk starts at the entrance to the main car park, by the bus shelters. Cross the road, turn right to cross the stream and at the bottom of the hill turn left at the entrance to the Basset Arms Car Park. Bear left here along the footpath, next to the stream. Continue along the path, now called Tregea Terrace, and at the junction continue ahead under the bridge.

This bridge carried the inclined plane of the Hayle Railway branch to Portreath. At the foot of the incline by the harbour were wagon turntables and coal yards. The wagons were attached to ropes on the incline and hauled up and down by a stationary steam engine at the top. The railway and incline closed in 1932.

Continue ahead along Glenfeadon Terrace and past Glenfeadon House.

Glenfeadon House is said to have been built by the Bassets in the 1830s, though for most of the 19th century it was occupied by the Bain family, who owned a large fleet of ships which imported and exported through Portreath, importing coal until the 1920s.

At Primrose Terrace turn sharp right at the mock castellations of Glenfeadon Castle and bear right up the well-surfaced public footpath.

This excellent path has been renovated as part of the Minerals Tramway Project, an initiative led by Cornwall County Council to use the county’s industrial heritage for recreational and educational purposes.

The well-surfaced path climbs steadily up a wooded side valley. Nearing the top it zig-zags around the Duchy Agricultural College farm buildings. On reaching the junction below the holiday lodges go left then at the next junction turn right, up the track, keeping the lodges to the right.

Up this track notice at the end of the lodges an overgrown track going both left and right. This is the line of the Hayle Railway beyond the top of the incline.

Go ahead on the well-surfaced path. When the path arrives at a road cross this and continue ahead next to the car park and past the information board.

The path is now entering Tehidy Country Park. This Cornwall County Council facility occupies the land once covered by the parkland surrounding the Bassets’ main country house. Some details are shown on the information board at the car park, by the site of the East Lodge of the Basset estate.

The path meanders through woodland and then passes along the straight Pine Walk, next to the golf course.

The golf course occupies the area which was the deer park of the Bassets’ estate.

At the end of the Pine Walk, just after the path has entered woodland, is a junction of paths. Go left and slightly back here, following pink-ringed posts. The path follows the edge of the woodland and then arrives at a junction of paths by a small clearing.

A diversion of a few hundred metres to the left here will lead to the Country Park’s cafe and toilets and the South Drive Car Park. For the cafe and toilets follow the path to the left then the drive to the gate posts and from there fork right through the trees.

This diversion also gives a good view of the modern version of the Bassets’ Tehidy house. Originally built in 1734, the house was largely destroyed by fire in 1919 but was rebuilt and then used as a hospital until 1988. It is now part of a private residential estate, with no public access.

From the path junction by the clearing continue ahead, still following the pink-ringed posts, on the path signed to “Lake via Otter Bridge” (or, if returning from the cafe and toilets, turn left). Keep ahead and look out for a private access gate on the left into the residential area. Turn right here, up the track opposite the gate – a little way up is another pink-ringed post. Keep to this track then take the second turning on the right, again marked by a post with a pink (and blue) ring. This leads to a gate to the Country Park’s North Cliffs car park.

The walk now leaves the Country Park. Go ahead through the car park to the B3301 Hayle-Portreath road. Turn right along the verge here then, after some 50 metres, cross the road and turn down a track leading to the coast. The track arrives at the Coast Path at Basset’s Cove.

The cove was once known as Spratting Cove, taking its current name from the landowning family. The Coast Path here gives good views along the coast to the left to the headland of Navax Point with the lighthouse on Godrevy Island just off the point.

Turn right along the Coast Path, which follows the cliff top then descends into and climbs out of a valley. Almost immediately it enters another, steeper and deeper valley, which is crossed on steep zig-zag flights of steps down and up.

The cove here, Porth-cadjack, can be a wild and remote spot, though sheltered from the sea by the offshore Samphire Island, named from the herb which was collected there. The bottom of the valley ends in a little waterfall which drops to the cove.

Back on the cliff top views soon open up along the coast ahead to the prominent St Agnes Head, backed by St Agnes Beacon. Nearer, the radar ball on the cliff top at RAF Portreath is a conspicuous feature.

The path passes the sheer, narrow inlet of Ralph’s Cupboard, separated from the larger Western Cove by a distinctive outcrop known as the Horse.

Ralph’s Cupboard is said to have got its name because of its use as a storehouse by a local smuggler. It is certainly an almost inaccessible location.

The path then crosses Western Hill, with Portreath coming increasingly into view ahead. A steep descent from Western Hill then leads to Smugglers Cove on the outskirts of Portreath. Cross the driveways and follow the lane right then left to arrive at the bottom of Battery Hill. Turn left to return to Portreath’s main car park and bus stops.

Public transport
Portreath is served by Truronian service T7 from Truro, Redruth and Camborne (hourly Monday-Saturday, every two hours Sunday); in summer Western Greyhound route 501 links Portreath with Newquay, Hayle and St Ives (five buses a day Sunday-Friday, no service in winter or summer Saturdays). For further details contact Devon traveline visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Main car park in the centre of Portreath, immediately behind the beach (grid ref: SW 654 454) (Postcode for Sat Navs: TR16 4PQ); on the route of the walk at Tehidy Country Park East Lodge (grid ref: SW 658 441) and North Cliffs (grid ref: SW 640 438); just off the route of the walk at Tehidy Country Park South Drive (grid ref: SW 650 433) – no disabled bays at any of these.