The area surrounding the seaside village of St Agnes and its neighbouring cove of Chapel Porth has a dramatic history of tin and copper mining. Even the car park at Chapel Porth, from where this walk begins, was once crammed full of mine buildings and industrial activity. In the 19th century, Chapel Coombe, the tranquil and deeply vegetated stream valley behind the cove, was wreathed in smoke and rang with the sounds of mine processing. Scarred ground In spite of all this industrial activity it is only on the cliff top, through which the first section of the walk passes, that you see the scarred ground, the spoil heaps and ruined walls of Victorian mining.
Much of the area is now in the care of the National Trust, and perhaps the most surprising aspect of this wrenched and sometimes derelict landscape is that it is of national importance for its wild flowers and plants because of its designation as a classic coastal heath and maritime habitat. Windblown sand carried up from the long swathes of beach below the cliffs enriches the soil with natural lime, providing the perfect environment for a myriad of plants such as low-lying heath bedstraw and thyme. Heath bedstraw is identified by its small spear-shaped leaves and tiny white flowers. Thyme has small dark green leaves and tight clusters of purple-pink flowers.
More flora and fauna
On the heathland behind the cliffs, bell heather, cross-leafed heath and western gorse hold sway; their mix of purple and yellow flowers makes a beautiful mosaic of colour, especially in autumn. In this kind of habitat you should also spot the tiny yellow-headed tormentil and the blue-flowered milkwort. The lovely heath spotted orchid also grows amidst the heather and gorse, as does eyebright, with its small but distinctive purple-veined white flowers. Enjoy the contrast of the peace and quiet amid the sheltering trees of the Chapel Coombe valley. Here you should look out for small songbirds like wren, stonechat, chaffinch and willow warbler among the hawthorn, blackthorn, willow and sycamore trees.
From the back of the car park cross a wooden bridge over a stream and follow a path inland beside the stream. After about 0.25 miles (400m), at a junction, turn sharply right and follow a stony track uphill. At a junction of tracks (acorn signpost) on the cliff top, keep ahead along a broad, stony track, parallel to the coast.
Follow the track through heaps of waste stone below the ruins of Great Wheal Charlotte mine stack. Keep ahead along the coast path. Take particular care of young children and dogs at a short section near the unfenced cliff edge.
The coast path reaches a junction with a path coming in from Wheal Charlotte at a sharp angle from the left. Don't join this but follow a narrow path that runs directly inland then, at a junction, go ahead along a wide track.
Bear right along a wide stony track at the next junction. Reach another junction and bear off left along a subsidiary track. Reach the main road opposite The Victory Inn.
Turn left across a lay-by and a grassy verge, opposite The Victory Inn, and bear left down a surfaced lane. Descend quite steeply (watch for any traffic on narrow sections). Near the valley bottom and just before some houses, turn off left along a shaded, unsurfaced lane, signed 'Public Bridleway'.
At a junction with a path, bear off left and keep to the path along Chapel Combe. Follow this through trees at first, and keep straight ahead to return to the car park at Chapel Porth.
Stony underfoot on cliff top, otherwise good; may be muddy in valley bottom
Dramatic, desolate mining landscape and lush green valley
Off lead but under control. No dogs on Chapel Porth beach
OS Explorer 104 Redruth & St Agnes
Chapel Porth car park (National Trust)
Chapel Porth car park
On one short coastal section, the path is close to the edge of unfenced cliff – take particular care of young children and dogs
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.
In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.