If you want a coastal path route with lots of short ascents on muddy trails why not try running or walking the South West Coast Path between the river Fal and the Helford River.
Despite only reaching a maximum height of 51 metres (168 ft) the 17.5 mile route manages to clock up 734 metres (2408 ft) of ascent and descent.
The cliffs on this section of the south Cornish coast are gently sloping and regularly intersected by small river valleys and beaches. There are many highlights along the route such as the bustling port of Falmouth with it’s lively bars and streets. The beaches of Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth, and the picturesque Helford River estuary. For this walk you will need OS Explorer Map 103 The Lizard.
Today my run started at the viewing area above Falmouth Docks. There is ample parking here or on the seafront (although it can get busy in the peak of summer).
The docks are always interesting with ships arriving from around the world.
Cresting the hill past the docks you can turn left onto a nice wooded trail to Pendennis Point. Here you get the occasional tantalising glimpse of the sea around Carrick Roads and Falmouth Bay.
The view of the bay opens up to almost 360 degrees at Pendennis Point. Always popular with sightseers; several ice cream vans jostle for trade on the point in the summer.
Once around the point you can look out over the coast path you will soon be running. On the water ships wait at anchor in Falmouth Bay to be refuelled before continuing their long voyages.
Once out of Falmouth the coast path becomes quieter except for the occasional dog walker. The path also gets a lot muddier and undulating.
In the winter you can have the beach to yourself. But in the summer the beach is full and the smell of barbecues lingers long into the evening.
Some sections of the path are steep, keeping the route varied and interesting.
The path near Rosemullion Head turns green as recent rain following a dry month allows grass to regrow where feet have worn the grass away.
The dog walkers become less frequent as you reach Rosemullion Head the site of a small hill fort/settlement. Here the coast feels more wild. There always seems to be a breeze here whatever the weather. Falmouth is now a distant collection of white painted buildings far in the distance.
After Rosemullion Head the coast path runs through several fields. This is the flattest part of the route. The path remains flat for a whopping three and a half small fields before it is back to ‘undulating’.
Near Mawnan the path goes through a collection of gnarled stunted trees. The twisted trees clinging to the hillside look like they have stood there for millennia. If fairies or pixies existed they would be found in these woods.
Once you leave the ‘enchanted forest’ you are at once treated to a view of the Helford River snaking its way inland towards Gweek.
Unlike the mouth of the River Fal the Helford River is undeveloped. Fields gently slope to dip their toes in the tranquil waters. While the sun casts golden light and shadows across the creek.
The tranquillity of the creek is juxtaposed with reminders of its role in World War II. Machine gun pillboxes are dotted at strategic points along the waterway. The whole creek was one of the staging posts for the invasion force which took part in the D-day landings. For many of those men this would be their last view of England.
Outside of the pillbox the light and colour of the creek is intoxicating.
Small sailing boats play along the water of this sheltered creek.
The village of Durgan once had its own school. Now it is a collection of National Trust holiday cottages.
Helford passage and the Ferry Boat Inn signify the end of the outward leg of the run. The path ends here unless you take the passenger ferry across the creek to pick up the South West Coast Path again on the other side of the river bank.
Running back the sun starts to set below the cliffs.
Once you get back to Rosemullion Head it is possible to make out the white faced hotels on Falmouths seafront in the distance.
As the path rises and falls you get further glimpses of Falmouth getting larger as you return to the dog walkers and civilisation.
If you liked this route you might also like Spotlight on the Lizard: Running Kynance Cove to Cadgwith.