Bere Peninsula Loop
The weather in Cornwall can be atrocious, especially in winter when the storms roll across the Atlantic Ocean to batter the coastline and cover the county in torrential downpours. Which is why it is valuable local knowledge to know where you can go for a sunny walk when the weather looks bad everywhere else. The Tamar Valley is known to be more sheltered and Bere Alston in particular benefits from vastly better weather. This has even led to a vineyard recently opening on the south side of the Bere Peninsula – Tamar Valley Vineyard.
The route I’ve provided below is a loop which starts and ends at a free carpark at Bere Alston, though you could also park near Weir Quay if you would rather have a shorter stroll along the Tamar estuary.
It is a good idea to wear walking boots on any footpath walk in Cornwall and parts of this walk are no exception. Immediately out of Bere Alston (going towards Hole’s Hole) you have a brief stretch of tranquil lane walking before joining a muddy footpath and climbing up a large hill to overlook the Tamar Estuary.
The stretch from Hole’s Hole to Bere Ferrers is my favourite of the walk. At Hole’s Hole you can find the Merganser, an old cutter rigged (boat with multiple smaller sails) yacht built originally for Hugh Popham of Hungerford in 1887… At least according to Heritage Gateway. It was later converted to a fishing boat and now lies abandoned on the beach. It’s a striking derelict that was recorded in a 2000 Tamar Hulk Survey as “basically being held together by the paint”. The interior has now completely rotted away and I doubt it will be upright for much longer.
You can also walk along the estuary beaches between Hole’s Hole and Weir Quay and find curious rocks littering the shoreline. Silver mining started in the Tamar Valley as early as 1292 when farm workers dug up silver stones and then continued into the 1860’s. A lot of the mined ore was refined in Bere Ferrers and the surrounding area (Calstock – Okel Tor, Tavistock – Devon Great Consuls Mine, Greenhill – Arsenic Works, and some others). Tin was also mined and slag created as part of the refining process, lumps of black glass-like rocks now litter the beach around where the old tin smelter used to be at Weir Quay.
The best (and pretty much only) description I can find online is on the Open University Geology site from 2007 and describes: “A substantial lump of slag material was also found. The surface on one side is textured with a rope like flow. The main bulk is black and glassy with a hint of iridescence and exhibits a conchoidal fracture. When broken tiny white quartz or fluorite fragments can be seen embedded in the mass. Small bubbles have also formed, most of which are about ¼ full of a material that is reddish in places and in other places resembles pyrite in colour and lustre.”
The footpath then closely follows the river past Liphill Lake and Thorn Point. Then up to the top of the hill to give stunning views of the estuary and surrounding countryside.
The final section of the walk goes through Bere Ferrers, where you have great views of the River Tavy estuary. We had lunch near the slipway and briefly saw the flash of blue from a kingfisher sweeping over the water. St Andrew’s Church is also well worth popping into if it is open. The most interesting aspects include carved heraldic bench ends, a recess with the statue and tomb of a knight, and the oldest church stained glass windows in Devon at roughly 600 years old (excluding Exeter Cathedral).
If you fancy making the walk even longer you can go back via Collytown or follow the footpath through the woods.
Other walks along the Tamar valley
- 1. Walking the Bere Peninsula
- 2. Cotehele and the Tamar
- 3. Arsenic mines of the Tamar Valley
- 4. Horsebridge to Gunnislake Loop