You never feel crowded on the Roseland Peninsula – a long narrow promontory of land that seems to replicate a larger Cornwall, where the influence of the sea dominates but never overwhelms. It enjoys a wonderful sense of detachment from the outside world, and its villages and hamlets have not been swamped by too much traffic or by too many visitors.
The Roseland’s harmonious name derives from the rather prosaic Cornish word for heath, an indication that the area’s natural cover was at one time rough uncultivated moorland. Today, the peninsula is a graceful mix of green fields and deep woods, dotted with small farms and villages, seawashed on its eastern shore and lapped by the waters of the estuary of the River Fal and its tidal creeks on its western side.
This walk takes you deep into the tree-shrouded world of the Percuil River, which divides the southern end of Roseland into two, with one arm terminating at St Anthony Head on the east and the other at St Mawes on the west. The Percuil curls lazily between lush green banks, its muddy fingers probing deep inland at Polingey Creek and Trethem Creek, while random inlets create even smaller peninsulas. The walk leads you down from the high ground of the Roseland, at the village of Gerrans, to the peaceful Pelyn Creek and to the tiny riverside hamlet of Percuil, a popular yachting and boating centre.
A tidal mill
From Percuil, the walk skirts the edges of the river. At low water great swathes of mud are exposed between the wooded banks, only to disappear beneath shining water at high tide. Yachts and motor boats swing gently on their moorings or sit like stranded birds on the mudbanks. The path makes a final turn alongside Polingey Creek where you can see the remains of a stone causeway that crossed the head of the creek. This was part of a once busy world of tidal milling, whereby sea water would be impounded at high tide and then used to power mill machinery. There was a mill building here, probably from the medieval period, and milling was reported as being carried out until well into the 19th century. Seagoing vessels once berthed at a small quay at Pelingey and at Percuil, carrying all sorts of goods and materials.
From the head of Pelingey Creek the route leads back to Gerrans along a typical sunken lane that would have been a major thoroughfare in the days before motorised transport.
Leave the car park and turn left down a narrow lane. Just past the entrance to Treloan Caravan Park turn off right, signposted to Percuil. Go over a steep stile, and in a few paces go through a kissing gate. Follow the path across two fields and two stiles to reach a road.
Turn left (watch out for traffic) and after a 0.25 miles (400m), turn off right along a wide track, signed 'Pelyn Creek'. Cross a cattle grid and go down a partly concreted drive (dogs on lead here). Cross another cattle grid, and keep straight ahead past a house and along a muddy track.
Go over a high slate stile by a gate, then turn right and follow a path round the edge of a field. Cross a stile and reach the head of Pelyn Creek. Turn right across the head of the creek and go through a wooden gate onto the National Trust property of Percuil. Turn left at a junction and follow a wide grassy track.
Go through a gate by a bench and follow a field-edge. Go through another gate and follow a woodland track to reach a narrow road. Turn left and follow this with care downhill to Percuil.
Turn right into the lower entrance of the Percuil car park. Go past the toilets and through a gate in the car park’s top left-hand corner. Go through another gate and then, for 1 mile (1.6km), follow a sometimes muddy path through fields and woods, keeping always along the edge of the Percuil River and then of Polingey Creek.
Near to the end of Polingey Creek, go over a wooden stile and down steps to bear right along a sunken lane. Join a driveway by a house, turn left and then right at a junction and reach the road at Gerrans. (A right turn towards Gerrans Church leads a shortcut back to the car park.)
Cross the road diagonally right and go left down a surfaced walkway, signed 'Public Footpath, Portscatho'. Cross 'California Gardens' and continue more steeply downhill to the main road into Portscatho. Turn right and in 100yds(92m), just before the road bends right, go down a railed walkway on the left. Turn left and follow the road through the village to where it ends at the coast path.
Go through two gates, turn right by a bench, and follow field paths uphill. Reach a gate into a tree-shaded lane. At a road turn right to return to the car park.
Excellent throughout, but can be very muddy; many stiles
A coastal peninsula with open sea on one side and tree-lined tidal creeks on the other
Leads required on roads and around livestock
OS Explorer 105 Falmouth & Mevagissey
Gerrans (free) car park
Percuil and Portscatho
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.