This walk links the historic Hayle Estuary with the wide open spaces of the Towans sand dunes with spectacular views of St Ives Bay.
Distance 3 miles.
Our walk begins at the Swimming Pool end of King George V Memorial Walk. The walk follows the edge of Copperhouse Pool – a tidal area abundant in wildlife. Wild fennel grows along its banks and during our walk the incoming water was alive with fish, namely thick-lipped mullet taking advantage of rich pickings from the pool’s muddy floor. Birds flock to this area to feed on the plentiful supplies – the whole of the Hayle Estuary is protected by the RSPB.
As you reach the end of the Memorial walk turn left up the steep Phillack Hill to Phillack Church. The church is a Victorian restoration but there is evidence of much earlier use as a sacred site – look out for the memorial stone to Clotualis, son of Mogratti, from around 600 AD and high up in the gable over the south porch on the doorway arch are the letters P and X combined (Chio-Rho Symbol). These were the Greek capital letters of the sounds ‘ch’ and ‘r’, the first two letters of Christos, Christ dating from the early 4th century A.D. The present tower is a 13th century structure. The wall surrounding the church-yard is made of Copperhouse slag blocks, a reminder of the area’s industrial past. Opposite Phillack Church can be found a Holy Well.
Walk through the churchyard cemetery in a seawards direction to cross a stile onto the Towans.
The sand dunes that make up Hayle Towans have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the amazing diversity of plants and animals – one fifth of all plants that can be found in Cornwall live here, creating a haven for insects, butterflies and birds. Deep rooting Marram Grass traps the windblown sand and in late spring Pyramidal Orchids and Cowslips fill the dunes with colour, attracting insects such as the Six-Spot Burnet Moth and the rare Silver-Studded Blue Butterfly. On warm summer evenings you may be lucky enough to see a Glow Worm lighting your way as Skylarks finish their daily singing and Sand Martins retreat to their nest holes in the cliffs.
Wend your way across the dunes (Mexico Towans) in a seawards direction until you meet the Coast Path identified by an acorn signpost. The glorious three miles of Hayle Sands can now be seen stretching before you with Godrevy Point and lighthouse to the east and St Ives to the west. Hayle Sands, with its lifeguards during the summer months, provides opportunities for a myriad of activities whether it be beachcombing, sunbathing or for the more energetic: surfing, swimming, paragliding, etc. Now follow the coast path that takes you past caravan sites and summer chalets until you reach the estuary. At high tide you can follow the path back to the swimming pool or at low tide take the slipway down to the beach to walk back along the estuary.
The area is also of significant historical interest. Upton Towans known locally as Dynamite Towans further to the east, are so named after the National Explosives Company that once used the area to produce dynamite. Over 1,800 men and women worked here during WW1. There are still some remnants of this industry to be seen in the dunes, now a peaceful haven for wildlife.
You too can help protect the dunes by following this code:
- Walk, don’t ride – no vehicles or bicycles
- Take your litter home – no fires or overnight camping
- In restored areas – please use the paths
- Be a responsible dog owner – dog fouling is killing rare plants. Clear up after your dog