A firm favourite from my childhood, we’re often found biking, walking or running along the Pentewan Valley Trail.
The popular Pentewan Trail can be found just off the main road linking St Austell to Mevagissey. It’s a flat, wide trail, running alongside the St Austell (White) River to the mediaeval village of Pentewan and Pentewan Sands beach.
Pentewan Trail is popular with locals and is ideal for a post roast Sunday walk. It’s also a favourite for cycling, dog walking, horse riding and running. In fact, it’s one of Cornwall’s flat trails, making it ideal for speedwork and easy miles.
It’s not unusual for me and my Henry to cycle the Pentewan Trail. At about 2-3 miles end to end, it’s not too long. Plus, with the summer holidays in full swing, it was good to get the bikes out and venture onto one of Cornwall’s Clay Trails.
Where to Park for the Pentewan Trail
The good news is, the majority of car parks for the Pentewan trail are free. The only one that’s pay and display is in Pentewan village. To be honest, it’s such a small car park and is usually full. However, if you’re hiring bikes from Pentewan Valley Cycle Hire, it makes sense to park here.
Coming from St Austell, there are a number of car parks off the main road to Mevagissey. The first is down a turning opposite The Cornwall Hotel and Spa. After this, there’s parking at London Apprentice. Just take the turning after The Kingswood restaurant (which is consistently good, by the way). The last car park is further along the main road on the left, before the majority of campsites start popping up.
Details about the Pentewan Trail
The Pentewan Trail is actually part of a larger National Cycle Network route, leading all the way to the Cornish fishing town of Mevagissey. There’s also a link cycle path to The Lost Gardens of Heligan but I can’t guarantee that it’ll be as flat as the Pentewan Trail.
This route’s also part of The Cornish Way, a 180 mile cycle route that runs from Lands End to Bude. I can only imagine the inclines on that one! The Pentewan Trail is incorporated in Route 3.
Pentewan Trail’s History
Pentewan Trail is tarmac’d in places but once you head alongside the St Austell White river, you really get a feel for the narrow horse drawn tramway it once was. It first opened in 1829 and is truly embedded Cornwall’s China clay heritage.
The Pentewan Trail’s got a bit of mixed history too. It was developed from a horse and cart exercise into a locomotive railway line to transport China clay to Pentewan Harbour in 1874. Shortly afterwards though, all goods went to Fowey harbour instead (the cheek of it!).
All was not lost; there was an eventual increase in demand for China clay right through until World War I. At its peak, a third of all China clay was shipped from Pentewan. Quite a feat really as Pentewan is a dinky village!
During its time in operation, the China clay waste used to turned the river white, hence the name. Thankfully it’s a lot healthier now, boasting clear waters, bright green fauna and vibrant crocosmia.
Cycling Along The St Austell River
Cycling on the Pentewan trail is easy so it’s a great place for those who are learning to ride a bike or aren’t confident going big distances. I also like how accessible it is for those who use a wheelchair.
Riding along, you forget that a road runs parallel to the trail. Trees and greenery shelter us, reminding me of how good it feels to be in nature. Just 2 hours in nature is all you need for your body and mind to reap the benefits, such a simple remedy and one that most of us can access.
As we make our way along, we pass a wooden bridge leading to a campsite. It’s a slight gradient which means me and Henry forget our brakes and speed our way to the flatter path. All of a sudden I’m a child again, racing my son to the flat trail below (he won 😁).
Into The Woods
The second part of the Pentewan Trail stretches away from the river and enters into a wide woodland path. It’s very pretty, with trees arching overhead and leaves touching, as if holding hands. I like this sheltered section, partly because it offers a different type of scenery, but also because of The Dip.
Now officially, it may have a different name but there’s a slope in the middle of the path, offering a route for water to pass from one side of the trail to the other. Naturally, we have to cycle down The Dip and up again, securing splatters of mud and water up our backs. We have to do this about 3 times each way, sometimes more. Don’t worry if you don’t fancy it, there’s a bridge wide enough to cycle on.
It’s not long after this before we reach Pentewan village. We don’t stop on this occasion but would recommend it.
In fact, here are a few ideas on how to make your cycle or walk on the Pentewan Trail more of a day out.
Meander Around Pentewan Village
Dating back hundred of years, Pentewan is small, but boasts several eateries. For decent Cornish ale and cider there’s The Ship Inn and for cream teas, try The Little Bay Cafe or The Cove Cafe, which is part of Piskey Cove. They’ll even sort a cream tea on the beach for you, just pop the jam on first!
Having been to Piskey Cove many times, I’d recommend their ice-cream. There’s always plenty of flavours on offer, and it’ll revive you for your return journey on the Pentewan Trail.
Aside from the few places to eat and drink, there’s Pentewan harbour. The beach keeps the harbour separate from the sea. The harbour basin now contains fresh water so you may spot a few swans and ducks. Fixtures remain around Pentewan Harbour, and in the village, acknowledging its industrial past. There’s even an old water pump in the village square.
Visit Pentewan Sands
Ahh, one of the beaches of my childhood. Pentewan Beach, or Sands, is a wonderfully long beach offering stacks of room even at low tide. The beach is largely used by those staying on the campsite and caravan park, Pentewan Sands. There’s a small car park on site for non-residents, but it may not be accessible during peak season.
You could always pack up a picnic and have a lazy afternoon on the beach before wandering back to your car.
Head into Kings Wood
Owned and maintained by the Woodland Trust, Kings Wood is the woodland that surrounds the trail. Over recent years more trees have been planted and local wildlife and vegetation has been promoted. Thankfully, designated paths weave through the woodland, ensuring lots of exploratory fun and adventure.
If you wanted more of a woodland walk and amble through Kings Wood, I’d recommend parking at London Apprentice.
Grab a Coffee and Cake at Trevithick and Trays Farm Shop
Locals, Paddy and Ali, have opened up a fab farm shop and tea room at the London Apprentice entrance to the Pentewan Trail. Pick up some delicious Cornish goods in the farm shop and relax with a coffee.
After a walk or a bike ride on the trail, I’d say you’ve earned it!
If you’re on Cornwall’s north coast and fancy a bike ride, you can hop onto the Camel Trail from Wadebridge to Padstow.