Trebarwith Village to Backways Cove
- Distance:1.5 miles
- Walk grade:Easy-Moderate
- Start from:Trebarwith village
- Recommended footwear:walking boots or wellies
- Blackberries and parasol mushrooms in late summer and early autumn
- Sloes in Autumn and early winter
- Backways Cove
- Sea foam tornadoes in Winter
- At the waymark, go through the left-hand gateway and follow the track until it bends to the right and you reach a waymark on top of the hedge.
During the warmer months, you may well see red-brown cattle grazing the fields here.
The cattle breeds known as Devon were also the traditional breeds used in Cornwall until recent years. The South Devon breed, affectionately known as "Orange Elephant" or "Gentle Giant", is the largest of the British native breeds: the largest recorded bull weighed 2 tonnes. They are thought to have descended from the large red cattle of Normandy, which were imported during the Norman invasion of England. The other breed, known as "Devon Ruby" or "Red Ruby" (due to their less orange colouration), is one of the oldest breeds in existence, with origins thought to be from pre-Roman Celtic Britain.
- At the waymark, go through the opening on the left and follow along the hedge to pass an opening and reach a waymarked gate.
Although Devon cattle are now classified as beef cattle, they were originally also used for dairy and would have been the original producers of milk for Clotted Cream.
Cornish clotted cream is described as having a "nutty, cooked milk" flavour and now has a Protected Designation of Origin (it must be made with milk from Cornwall). The unique, slightly yellow colour is due to the high carotene levels in the grass in Cornwall.
Traditionally, clotted cream was created by straining fresh cow's milk and letting it stand in a shallow pan in a cool place for several hours to allow the cream to rise to the surface. It was then heated, either over hot cinders or in a water bath, before a slow cooling. The clots that had formed on the top were then skimmed off with a long-handled cream-skimmer.
Clotted cream is similar to Kaymak (or Kajmak), a delicacy that is made throughout the Middle East, Southeast Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Turkey. It is possible that it was introduced to Cornwall by Phoenician traders who ventured to the area in search of tin.
- Go through the waymarked gate ahead and continue ahead across the field to reach a gateway in the middle of the far hedge.
Between Tregardock and Backways Cove lie the remains of Treligga Aerodrome (HMS Vulture II). Both the observation/control tower and the reinforced hut near the sea (towards Backways Cove) are still standing, as are the accommodation and service huts near Treligga village. The control tower has quite recently been repaired and converted into accomodation.
Before the Second World War, HMS Vulture II was used as a glider site. However the Admiralty requisitioned 260 acres of land in late 1939 for the purposes of constructing an aerial bombing and gunnery range. Unusually, the entire operation at HMS Vulture II was staffed by the Women's Royal Naval Service.
On 16 September 1943, an American B-17 Flying Fortress was forced to make an emergency landing at HMS Vulture II. The pilot, Capt Jack Omohundro, had ignored a red flare warning him to keep clear. The plane was chronically short of fuel and running on three engines after a raid on U-boat pens at Nantes in France. The bomber had left its formation to try and preserve what little fuel it had left. Spotting the tiny Treligga airstrip, he skillfully landed 'wheels-down' just 50 yards short of the Wrens quarters.
- Go through the gateway and follow the path across the field to a gate opposite.
The bottom field is hedged with blackthorn, so if you want to make sloe gin, this is a good place for picking in autumn. Afterwards you can use the gin-infused sloes to make sloe sherry and sloe cider.
- Go through the kissing gate next to the gate and follow the path to a waymark beside the stream.
The river valley to the left is a hanging valley, cut short of sloping into the sea due to erosion of the cliffs by the powerful Atlantic waves.
The valley above Backways Cove is located just below Trebarwith Village, to the south of Trebarwith Strand. It is rich in wildflowers and heathland butterflies. Notably a species of wild Camomile grows here which is rare in the rest of the country. There is a story that a cow once went missing for 3 days at Backways Cove and reappeared staggering drunkenly after gorging on Camomile; a chemical within Camomile is known to be an intoxicant in animals if ingested in large quantities, so there may be some truth in this!
The path, leading uphill to the right, goes to the slate quarries.
Coastal slate quarries are confined to a small area of about five miles either side of Tintagel and relatively little is known about their history. In order to work the vertical cliff face, strong points were built from stone above the working areas. From these, ropes were dropped down the quarry face. Men were lowered down the faces on these ropes to split blocks of slate from the face. The slate was hauled up the cliff face on these cables which were wound using "horse whims" - capstans powered by horses or donkeys walking around a circular platform. The stone was split and shaped on "dressing floors" on the cliff top, originally covered with sheds. The remains can be seen as level terraces and are marked by screes of waste rock on the cliff below. Splitting was (and still is) done with a bettle (hammer) and chisel, hence the name of the pub in Delabole.
- Follow the path along the stream to a waymark beside a footbridge.
To get down to the beach, cross over the stream and make your way carefully over the rocks. They can be slippery when it's wet so it's only advisable in dry weather. The rocky beach of Backways Cove is the result of slate quarrying combined with natural erosion.
Backways Cove is a small rocky inlet and beach at the bottom the the valley below Trebarwith Village, just south of Trebarwith Strand. The location features in "The International Directory of Haunted Places":
"Backways Cove, a North Cornwall inlet just up the coast from Trebarwith Strand, is still haunted by many unidentified presences who are thought to be the spirits of shipwrecked sailors whose bodies washed up there after they drowned. Numerous ships were torn apart on the jagged rocks offshore, and the shadowy spirits of their crew are still trying to make it to shore."
For more information see this page on Backways Cove.