While most of Cornwall does enjoy somewhat better weather than the rest of the UK, it would be ridiculous for us to pretend it doesn’t rain. And since we are not actually in the tropics, the resultant wetness does not always go away in a matter of hours, especially on the dirt trails of the South West Coast Path and the landlocked footpaths of the moors. Seasoned ramblers might stride forth in Gore-Tex hiking boots and gaiters, but for most of us, there is a far simpler and more versatile solution that’s fun for all the family – wellies!
The Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley is credited with the invention (in the 18th century) of the loose-fitting, below-the-knee, fabric reinforced waterproof boot that bears his name. Although they were designed initially for fashion, their hard wearing waterproof versatility soon made them a staple piece of essential outdoor clothing, and they are the go-to footwear for farmers and small children alike. It’s not clear whether “Welly” is a short version of Wellington or the actual way that Wellesley was pronounced. Either could be true. Weirdly, everyone in the English-speaking world outside of Britain calls them gumboots. They don’t have to be made of rubber; the original leather versions are worn by the British Army’s Household Cavalry to this day!
As you can tell, the Wellington has found its way into many diverse walks of life, but its most popular use continues to be for jumping in muddy puddles, as immortalised (but probably not invented) by the cartoon Peppa Pig! Good in mud, good in sand; get your wellies on for these classic Cornish walks.
1. Frenchman’s Creek
The romantic choice. A three mile (5km) walk along and above this remote creek on the Helford River. Lapping water, calling birds and thoughts of Daphne du Maurier stories are the only intrusions on this quiet amble. The Riverside Café at the beginning/end of the loop is a Victorian tearoom with homemade cakes.
2. Brown Willy
The hardcore choice. There’s a National Trust car park at the foot of Rough Tor. Walk up this hill and turn left towards Little Rough Tor with its weathered stone formations, before summiting the main tor and looking south towards Brown Willy, the highest point in Cornwall. This area should be avoided when misty or raining, for reasons of visibility and disorientation – even if you’re a fully fledged member of the SAS you’re not going to enjoy the stroll if you can’t see anything, and if you’re not, you’re going to get lost! And it can be boggy after heavy rain. Hence the wellies!
3. Cardinham Woods
The family choice. There are four routes of varying length and difficulty and it’s not short on streams and puddles. The shortest and easiest is Lady Vale Walk which is level and suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs too, and follows a bubbling brook. The Woods Café is a lovely stop for refreshments. There’s a useful link here…
4. Crantock to Holywell, Polly Joke
The choice for stunning beaches. From the Bowgie Inn car park at beautiful Crantock, past Vugga Cove and West Pentire and descending to Polly Joke beach, one of our favourites and never busy. From here you can head up and onwards to Holywell Bay, around the dunes and back across the common, carpeted with flowers, to Cubert and your starting point. It’s a longish one, this, at six miles (10km) or about two hours.
The historic choice. Down near the western tip, St Just Mining District is one of the oldest tin and copper areas in the county. Botallack is one of many mines in this the narrow belt of land which measures only three miles by one (5km x 1.6). There’s a car park at Cape Cornwall from which to wander. The views are stunning, and the engine houses both impressive and photogenic. The mining scenes in Poldark were filmed here.
6. Daymer Bay, Rock
The versatile choice. For a combination of cliff paths, crashing waves and idyllic sandy beaches, it’s hard to beat the coast path between Polzeath and Rock. Daymer Bay, which also has a car park, is halfway if you want to break up the journey or go back the way you came, and is full of streams, pools and puddles!
7. Tamar Valley and Estuary
The proper muddy choices. The south-east corner of Cornwall has a couple of absolute classics. Calstock to Cotehele or vice versa is a muddy march complete with puddles and a free car park at each end.* From the Cremyll Ferry or Edgcumbe Arms pub around the Mount Edgecumbe Country Park is another.
If you’d like to come and jump in muddy puddles, or just walk in the soft sand of Kernow any time, there are many little and large cottages available to rent through Cornish Traditional Cottages at all times of the year. Click here to see our latest special offers and get splishing and splashing soon!
*The Cotehele car park is free to National Trust members, £3 to others.