- Park your car in the Cliff Road Car park. Head seawards along Tregundy Lane. The South West Coast Path is on your left just before you reach the Perranporth YHA. Take the coast path as it passes Droskyn Point heading away from Perranporth. You will soon encounter the first relics of the mining industry.
As you walk, take a look back at the cliffs below Droskyn as this area was once famous for smugglers in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The caverns under the cliffs were used to land contraband out of sight of the Customs men.
In 1780, it is said that the Vicar and other leading village men formed a secret smuggling syndicate. They acquired a fast ship called the Cherbourg and then traded direct with Cherbourg, France.
The Cherbourg was met under the cover of darkness by smaller boats for the transfer of goods. The smaller boats would then go to one of two dangerous landing sites near Cligga Head and west of Droskyn Point.
At Droskyn Point there were two very large caverns, large enough to take several rowing boats at a time. It was 80 feet from the roof of the cave to the surface up above. A shaft was made, to enable the contraband to be brought up by rope and pulley. Men would then be standing by with mules to carry the bounty away.
- As you approach Shag Rock, there are fine views of Perranporth's three kilometres of golden sands behind you and the heavily mined Cligga Head in front. Walking towards Cligga, enjoy the feeling of remoteness.
At Cligga Head the cliffs rise to a height of 91 metres. Cligga is derived from the Cornish word “cegar” meaning cliff.
This path was once well used by miners to reach the mine adits that are still visible in the cliff side.
Little information exists about tin mining in this area in ancient times. One author mentions in 1890 that “the exploitation at Cligga goes back to a distant past. Mining may be at least 2000 years old” Another author states that mining was not financially rewarding here in the 19th Century. Tin was mined by hauling the ore-boulders, which fell off the cliff, up in baskets!
As well as tin, the mines at Cligga Head produced tungsten, used in World War II for armour-plating and armour-piercing shells. In1938 the "Cligga Wolfram and Tin Mines Ltd" was founded to exploit the rich ore veins. However, by 1945 the Cligga Mine closed. The War was nearly over and shipments of American tungsten were now arriving regularly in England. The high cost of producing a small quantity of tungsten from Cligga could no longer by justified and therefore, production at Cligga was halted.
The Clwyd Cap (named after their inventor) are the conical mesh caps put over the mine working shafts. Here they are known as 'bat castles'. They are designed to prevent people from falling into the old shafts while still allowing access to the colonies of bats living here, including the rare greater horseshoe bat.
You will see some vertical, black mineral veins in the granite of Cligga Quarry.
From Cligga Head stretching nearly 2km to Trevaunance Cove is a coastal site of maritime heathland and grassland. It is rich in many species. Much of the area around Cligga Head has been disturbed by mining in the past but this is being recolonised by heather, gorse, and wild carrot. Rare plant species such as Hairy Greenweed, (a genista related to the Legume family), Cornish Eyebright and Dorset Heath can be found as well as the generally rare pale Dog-Violet.
The cliffs and adjacent mine workings are of outstanding geological interest exposing greisened ( where the granite is modified to become a quartz-mica rock) granite and rare minerals.
This site, which is of international geological repute, shows a remarkable example of extensive alterations of a Carboniferous granite by a range of secondary processes. You will see flat lying joints, formed as the granite cooled, folded into antiforms (upward closing folds) and synforms (downward closing folds). These deformed joint structures are unique in the granites of south-west England.
- As you exit Cligga Quarry you overlook Hanover Cove.
This was named after the wreck of the “Hanover”, driven onshore with a valuable cargo of gold bullion worth £60,000 in 1763. At very low tide, parts of the wreck are still visible. Any treasure seekers will be disappointed to know that all the gold was salvaged over 200 years ago!
When you have rounded the cove, take a look back for a view of the mine adits and the cliffs below Cligga.
Many of the cliffs along this part of the coastline are dramatically stained by the minerals in the rock.
Local legend relates that the redness of the cliffs was due to a giant called Bolster who fell in love with a young lady by the name of Agnes. She demanded that he fill a small hole at the edge of the cliff with his blood to prove his love. It seemed a small hole and he readily agreed. However, it was a sea cave and his blood drained out to sea until he was so weak that he fell to his death.
Perranporth Airfield, originally built during World War II as an RAF fighter station, is located on the plateau above the cliffs. It is a unique example of the type of WWII temporary airfield that was constructed solely for single engined fighters -Spitfires. The wartime shelters can be seen above the cliffs.
It retains many of the features of its original construction - two different types of dispersal pen and all the defensive structures, pill boxes and slit trenches. There are no modern buildings on the site. The airfield is still in regular and growing use by light aircraft, including gliders, whose pilots' clubhouse is in the buildings at Cligga Head. of the Old British and Colonial Explosives factory (a brief unsuccessful venture from the late 19th century).
- Adventurous walkers can turn this walk from easy to challenging by continuing to St Agnes and catching a bus back to Perranporth (see the St Agnes-Perranporth walk)
The rest of us can simply turn in a half circle and follow the South west Coast Path back the way we came past Perranporth YHA at Droskyn Point to the car park in Cliff Road.
Places of interest
Newquay Tourist Information Centre 01637 854020