Category: Wildlife

Newquay Wild Activities

“The minibus is buzzing with conversation as we drive the family group back to their hotel. As the youngest son gets out, he hugs the guide and says, ‘I want to be a marine biologist just like you.’”

We recently caught up with our friends from Newquay Wild Activities, who gave us a run down on their latest Rockpool Ramble on Fistral beach….

Image credit: David Kirwan

The day started when Liz picked them up three hours earlier from Watergate Bay. A lovely group down on holiday and booked with Newquay Wild Activities to experience a rockpool ramble. The van pick up means they can leave their cars in the car park and not worry about navigating the busy Newquay streets. They arrive at Esplanade Green overlooking the world famous South Fistral Beach.

Image credit: Neil Wilkinson

Here they meet their guides, two passionate locals who are as excited as the group to share and explore the rocky shore.

There are some amazing pools on South Fistral that contain a wondrous number of species – each with their own story to tell. Even the seaweed has some secrets to share, if you look close enough. A multitude of shells cling to them for security such as the iridescent blue ray limpet as does the beautiful Stalk Jellyfish.

Stalk Jellyfish by Ivan Underwood

Blue Rayed Limpet by Zeni Hayton

The group wander their way down towards the surf to look at the deeper pools and rocks covered in thousands of mussels and barnacles, always keeping an eye out for wildlife passing by in the bay. Crabs are discovered, fish swim by and shrimps come and play on their toes. Starfish of all types are found – they are incredible creatures that eat algae while clambering over rocks. Did you know they can lose a limb for an easy getaway if they are ever in danger?

Spiny Starfish and Cushion Star by Gwynnie Griffiths

As the tide exposes more rock, anemones begin to close to protect themselves while they wait for the protection of the water.

Anemone by Josh Symes

The group are enthusiastically hunting for more animals as Liz returns with their pasty and drink. A perfect spot to enjoy some sustenance before the slow meander back to the steps.

Amazingly, as they clamber their way off their beach, more wildlife is spotted – a Stone Chat just hanging out on the brambles!

Stone Chat by Josh Howells

There is so much to explore on Newquay’s shores. Liz and the group spend the drive back talking about everything they saw. The guides log all the wildlife information ready to send to the record centre which the group helped to collect (they are now citizen scientists!) and the guides get ready for their next group – this time… a Wildlife Walk around the headlands of Newquay to spot some of the bigger, more elusive wildlife.

Grey Seal by Adrian Langdon

Newquay Wild Activities is a brand-new Social Enterprise set up by Liz and Laura in 2022 – it stemmed from a decade in the marine conservation sector in Cornwall, a fabulous network of friends and colleagues and a yearning to show tourists and locals that Newquay has so much to offer.

Discover what lies beneath our rockpools and the wildlife that shares our shores. Book onto a Rockpool Ramble or a Wildlife Walk with mini-bus pickup included. Learn how to collect valuable scientific data that can help to inform conservation research and national policy. Explore the north Cornwall coastline with experts on hand to guide you.

For more information visit Newquay Wild Activities for the summer dates and activities. Including the spectacular night-time rambles – see what happens in the cover of darkness!

Anemone at nightAnemone by night, Josh Symes

Fascinating finds and foraging

Seeking samphire beside the estuary and seaweed in rocky pools. Julia Bird of seaweed pressers Molesworth & Bird and Caroline Davey of Fat Hen reveal stories of coastal discovery…

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The oldest fossilised seaweed, discovered in 2020, was found in one-billion-year-old rocks in northern China, making seaweed millions of years older than the distant ancestors of our land plants. Today there are over 650 different species of seaweed around Britain’s coasts which have for centuries been a source of fascination for artists.

Anna Atkins’ British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, published as a serial between 1843 and 1853 is a collection of cyanotype prints of seaweed. This early form of photography using paper treated with a light-sensitive solution that turns blue on exposure to light is thought to be the first published book illustrated with photography.

For Julia Bird, a Victorian collection of pressed seaweeds discovered by her business partner Melanie Molesworth in an antique shop over 20 years ago was the beginning of her journey to start foraging for seaweed along the Cornish coast, aiming to capture its ephemeral beauty through pressing.

Image credit: Matt Austin

I’m a lifelong collector of nature really,” says Julia. “I’ve always collected whether it’s flowers or lichen or stones. And my whole life has been sort of sea orientated; I’ve always been a sea swimmer.”

“The fine beautiful samples that we choose to press need water to support their form, so you only notice them if you’re in the water. I’m fascinated by the beauty and variety.”

After moving to Cornwall in the early 2000s, Julia started experimenting with pressing seaweed she had foraged when out swimming. I started looking for seaweed and bringing it home and learning how to press, which of course back then there was nothing out there, you know, in those days. My first press was probably in 2004.”

Pressing ahead

After running a children’s shop in Fowey for 15 years, Melanie’s encouragement to start publishing her seaweed pressings finally came to fruition after Melanie moved, along with her collection of Victorian seaweed pressings, to Dorset. Discovering that the nine framed seaweeds in the collection were from the Dorset coast, the two long-term friends decided to team-up and created a calendar of prints from pressed seaweed for 2018.

And they haven’t looked back since. Molesworth and Bird can be found in Lyme Regis and online year round, and between April and the end of September in Fowey. Inside their shops hang limited edition prints and an ever-changing collection of unique pressed seaweed, gathered along the south west coastline.

Fascinating finds

“We can’t really see what’s beneath the sea surface. There’s a whole diverse and amazing world down there that we should all respect. Just walking along the beach you don’t see the beauty of seaweed because everything dries up really quickly,” says Julia.

Image credit: Matt Austin

“The fine beautiful samples that we choose to press need water to support their form, so you only notice them if you’re in the water. I’m fascinated by the beauty and variety,” says Julia. “And learning about what a superfood they are, how each species has its own combination of vitamins, minerals and proteins.”

For Julia, revealing the beauty of this “garden under the sea” has an important role to play in restoring and protecting it. “For me, it’s partly if you know there’s a beautiful world under there you can foster that respect and love we need to maintain it and look after it.”

Image credit: Matt Austin

Other water worlds

For Caroline Davey of Fat Hen, the wild cookery school, summer is all about the estuary and salt marshes. “This time of year is when marsh samphire is coming into season, that’s June to September. There’s also sea purslane, sea blight and sea arrowgrass, which is like coriander; these are all species that grow in estuaries and salt marshes.”

Image credit: The Fat Hen Cookery School

Caroline is running a number of coastal Fat Hen foraging courses this year, including a recent foraging walk along the coast path followed by a four-course lunch at the Gurnards Head near Zennor in west Cornwall, and a foraging walk, wild picnic and wild spa day near the Helford river on dates in June, July, September and October. All revealing hidden tastes and produce growing wild around the coastline.

She says it’s a time of abundance across the countryside beyond the sea: the plant fat hen – the vernacular name for chenopodium album – found across the country is in season, including its coastal relative spear-leaved orache, which can be used as a spinach alternative.

“I’ve just been picking hawthorn flowers and blossom for tea; they’ve been massively in bloom recently.”

In bloom

Caroline says wild cabbage – which grows on clifftops around the coast – is coming into flower now with the leaves and flowers able to be picked.

“And of course there’s plenty of flowers through the summer. The flowers of rosa rugosa or Japanese rose are absolutely fantastic. It’s not strictly wild: it’s planted as a coastal hedging plant and it escapes into the wild. You can also find black mustard flowers, sea radish flowers, sea cabbage flowers and elderflowers.

“I’ve just been picking hawthorn flowers and blossom for tea; they’ve been massively in bloom recently.”

And as the flowers fade, there are seeds to be scavenged. “Sea radish at some point soon will be forming seed pods and if you catch them early enough they’re like three or four bobbles in a row with the taste of a crunchy radish, perfect for scattering on salads.”

From estuary banks to clear blue pools, reveal fascinating finds along the coast.

Find your place by the sea, a walk from door to shore

Uncover the enchanting allure of Fowey’s no-drive delights, where every corner offers a new adventure and relaxation awaits just a stone’s throw away.

Wild Cornwall – 5 places to spot wildlife

Summer is in the air and Cornwall’s coastline is teeming with birds and marine life…

Dolphins frolic in the bays, the call of seabirds echoes from the cliff ledges and seals hunt fish in the shallows, making it the perfect season for a wildlife walk.

Check out some of our favourite places to spot some of Cornwall’s eye-catching indigenous wildlife:

Dolphins

Dolphins are resident year-round in Cornwall and – despite December’s stormy weather – as soon as the sun popped it’s head out in early January, a pod of dolphins were spotted playing in the waters of Mount’s Bay. A stroll along the coastline from Marazion to Mousehole is magical in any season, and if you cross the causeway to St Michael’s Mount, the turrets of this sea-bound fortress make a fantastic vantage point to spot dolphins in the bay.

WALK: Marazion to Mousehole
VISIT: St Michael’s Mount
STAY: Mousehole Accommodation

Seals

Head to Godrevy’s National Trust car park and strike out to the headland that nudges the iconic lighthouse immortalised by Virginia Woolf. On the far side of the promontory at Navax Point, you can peer down to an inaccessible cove to witness a colony of seals basking on the sand and fishing in the shallows. Or, take a spin along Newquay’s shoreline, stopping to watch the fishing boats puttering in and out of the harbour, often trailed by the whiskered noses of inquisitive seals hoping to share their catch.

WALK: Newquay Bay
VISIT: Blue Reef Aquarium
STAY: Fistral beach Accommodation

Seabirds

buzzard
Photo Credit Adrian Napper.

Park at the National Trust car park by Bedruthan Steps and take the walk from here to Porthcothan, listening out for the call of seabirds from the rugged cliff ledges. Bring a pair of binoculars and you might be able to spot skylarks, kestrels, buzzards and even the rare Cornish chough.

WALK: Bedruthan Steps to Porthcothan
VISIT: Carnewas Tearooms
STAY: Porthcothan Accommodation

Owls

owl pentire headland
Photo credit @djedge77 on Instagram.

First light is the perfect time for a peaceful stroll along Newquay’s wave-lashed Pentire Headland, from where you can see for miles along the coastline in both directions. As well as taking in the scenery, keep an eye out for the short-eared owl, often seen flying low on the hunt for small birds. Finish your walk with coffee at the stylish Lewinnick Lodge, where you might also be lucky enough to spot passing dolphins from your window table.

WALK: Pentire Headland, Newquay
VISIT: Lewnnick Lodge
STAY: Fistral Beach Accommodation

Egrets

Egret
Photo Credit Adrian Napper.

A walk along the banks of The Gannel often provides welcome shelter from the coastal breeze on an early spring day. So it’s little wonder that up to 5,000 species of birds have been spotted here, sheltering from the harsh northern winters. Keep an eye out for the distinctive yellow feet of the Little Egret, a white heron with a long black beak that it uses to forage for worms as it wades along the mudflats at low tide.

WALK: The Gannel
VISIT: Fistral Beach, dubbed the UK’s surfing capital
STAY: Holywell Bay Accommodation

To find out more about Cornwall’s wildlife, bag a seat for the award-winning film, Wild Cornwall – Out on the Edge, showing in cinemas across Cornwall throughout February and March. Shot by wildlife enthusiast, Ian McCarthy, the film features Cornwall’s wildlife from peregrine falcons, dolphins and seals, to bats and otters.

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Cornwall’s most Instagrammable locations

We predict that these Cornish spots will be popping up on our feeds…

Last year it was Pedn Vounder and Kynance Cove that captured the Insta crowds and went viral on social media. So what are the most Instagrammable locations of Cornwall in 2019?

Interested in staying in our most luxurious holiday cottages? Check out our luxury coastal cottages.

Port Isaac

The home of Doc Martin is a picture-postcard Cornish village flaunting cobbled streets, cream tea cafés and sublime sea views. We’re so used to seeing it on our TV screens that we half expect the Doc to come dashing down the winding streets to the harbour, where fishing boats putter in to deliver fresh catch to Nathan Outlaw’s restaurants. With wild Cornish cliffs that yawn in each direction, it’s little wonder that the Doc chose to live here, and less wonder that we’re so fixated by his appearance on our TV screens – who knows if it’s Doc Martin or Port Isaac that’s the real star of the show.

Find a self-catering holiday in Port Isaac.

Bedruthan Steps

Dubbed Britain’s equivalent of Australia’s Twelve Apostles, us mere mortals are dwarfed by the towering rock stacks rising from the sands of this craggy cove north of Newquay. Stand atop the cliffs and you can watch the waves carving the granite turrets, said to be the stepping-stones of a legendary giant. Or wait for low tide and descend the cliff steps to pad along the white sands, peering down into the rock pools and up to the peaks of these barnacle-clad skyscrapers. Don’t be content with taking in the view from the coast path with the rest of the camera-wielding visitors, plug on along the coast path to Park Head, passing ancient burial mounds and the ruins of a cliff fort, while keeping an eye out for seals and seabirds.

Find a self-catering holiday near Bedruthan.

Wheal Coates

Climb the rusty-red backs of the cliffs from Chapel Porth beach, to reach this iconic engine house that casts a shadow over the wild Atlantic waves. As you explore the coast path you’re setting foot in some of Cornwall’s richest mining history, while below the pumping surf breaks are known as the legendary ‘Badlands’. While the waves aren’t the territory of beginners, when you descend the pristine cove of Chapel Porth, you’ll discover the perfect spot for rock-pooling as the tide ebbs, and make sure you stop for a famous hedgehog ice cream in the National Trust car park.

Explore further from Chapel Porth & take a look and book our self-catering properties at Porthtowan, or talk to a member of our team on 01637 861 005.

Find a self-catering holiday in St Agnes.

Tintagel

Perched atop a sea-lashed promontory and swathed in Arthurian legend, Tintagel Castle has been a crowd-puller ever since tourism came to Cornwall. With its magnificent ruins and immense bronze statue of King Arthur looking out to sea, we expect the fortress to be high on our social media scrolls when it re-opens this summer, following the construction of a new footbridge. Touted as the birthplace of King Arthur, it’s impossible not to get swept away by local myths as you listen to your echo in the eerie Merlin’s Cave and step foot in the remains of a majestic fortress and a prosperous Dark Age settlement.

Find a self-catering holiday near Tintagel.

Jubilee Pool, Penzance

Cornwall’s art-deco lido has graced the screens of our social media feeds ever since it was renovated after storm damage in 2014. One of the world’s most scenic lidos, its eye-catching design and turquoise waters are hemmed by Mounts Bay. Re-opening again this summer after the development of a geo-thermal project, an area of the pool will be heated to a steaming 35C later in the year – so it’ll no longer be the territory of just hardy cold-water swimmers. In fact, you don’t even have to take a dip to enjoy the lido, simply bask on the terrace or take a seat in the year-round café and soak up the views.

Find a self-catering holiday near Jubilee Pool.

Find out about Sennen, near to Penzance, in our blog all about the area.

Holywell Bay

Having scored a starring role in the BBC’s recent Poldark hit, the breath-taking beauty of Holywell Bay needs little introduction. As soon as you clap eyes on the giant sand dunes and the twin peaks of Gull rock, you can imagine Ross Poldark galloping along the shoreline, searching for Demelza wistfully picking sea pinks on the cliff tops. Despite is fame, Holywell still keeps the crowds at bay, and makes the perfect beach for hitting the surf, collecting shells and exploring the sea caves in search of the ‘holy well’. You can also follow the coast path to Kelsey Head to spot seals and seabirds.

Find a self-catering holiday in Holywell Bay.

Huer’s Hut, Newquay

In the 19th century the town ‘huer’ would stand in this little stone hut on Towan Headland, crying, “Heva, Heva”, to alert the fishermen when shoals of pilchards were spotted in Newquay Bay. Having been restored in recent years to ensure Newquay’s history and heritage is not forgotten, this little whitewashed hut is a great spot to step back in time, gawp at the panoramic coastal views and see if you can spot shoals of dolphins of mackerel coming into the bay.

Find a self-catering holiday near the Huer’s Hut.

 

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Discover South East Cornwall

Once referred to as Cornwall’s forgotten corner, South East Cornwall is a place steeped in beguiling beauty and legends of smugglers…

Far removed from the wild, Atlantic-lashed beaches of the surfy North Coast, here beach life beats to the pace of calmer seas. And whether you go rock pooling on Downderry, fly a kite on Rame Head or hop aboard a boat cruise to Plymouth, you’ll discover that any trip here is truly unforgettable.

Visiting with a large group? Discover our large holiday homes perfect for big families or friend groups.

Here are six things we love doing in South East Cornwall:

Walk from Cawsand to Whitsand Bay

Step straight out of our waterfront Beach Retreat onto Cawsand Beach, dip your toes in the sea, and then strike out along the South West Coast Path. It’s an easy three miles through magical woodland to Penlee Point and onto the ancient chapel on Rame Head, where you’ll often encounter wild ponies. From here soak up coastal views as far as the Lizard Peninsula, some 50 miles away, and then push on another couple of miles around the headland to the golden stretch of Whitsand Bay.

Walk the South West Coast Path.

Hop aboard the Looe Valley Rail Ale Trail

Take a seat aboard one of Devon and Cornwall’s Great Scenic Railways, which hugs the river as it wends through a wooded valley from the market town of Liskeard to the seaside town of Looe. Make the most of the journey – and the scenery – by stopping off to sample some of the region’s finest ales in a series of country inns. If you collect stamps from all nine watering holes on the route, you can claim a free Rail Ale Trail t-shirt.

Explore Cornwall by train.

Catch the Ferry from Cawsand to Plymouth

Stay in our stylish Beach Retreat on Cawsand Bay and it’s easy to mix barefoot beach life with the buzz of city living. Step out of your stylish abode onto a quaint smuggler’s cove, from where you can hop on the foot-passenger ferry to Plymouth’s lively waterfont Barbican. Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, sightseeing and dining in this maritime hub, hop back aboard The Western Maid and castaway to the sandy shores of Cawsand.

Enjoy a cruise from Cawsand.

Take a boat cruise from Looe

Walk the banjo pier, go crabbing off the harbour wall or hop on a boat trip from the harbour – you’re spoilt for choice for what to do in the seaside town of Looe. Veritable nature enthusiasts shouldn’t miss out on a trip to Looe Island Nature Reserve with Cornwall Wildlife Trust (Easter–October), during which you’ll learn about the unique wildlife habitats and have time to take a self-guided walk around the island. However, the best way to witness the wonders of the marine world and the wildlife around the island is on a 45-minute ride aboard the Boatzer glass-bottomed boat.

Go rock pooling on Downderry Beach

A long stretch of sand and shingle backed by staggering sea cliffs, Downderry is an excellent spot for rock pooling and also home to the stunning beach house Far Horizon. Stare out to sea from an old sea captain’s house, Far Horizon, while you wait for the tide to ebb, then pad along the shoreline to Downderry, scouring the rock pools for the ocean’s bounty on the way. Keep an eye on the tides if you want to walk back along the sand, and be aware that you might feel a little over-dressed when you reach the secluded eastern end of the beach where naturists like to hang out.

Take a look around Far Horizon.

Go surfing on Whitsand Bay

Although the south coast isn’t as well known as the north coast for its surf, when conditions prevail there are a few decent waves to be found along this more sheltered coastline. Just a stone’s throw from Looe’s flat-water beaches, the surf wraps around the rugged tip of the Rame Peninsula and hits Whitsand Bay’s four miles of golden sands. So when you stay in one of our Beach Retreats overlooking Whitsand Bay, when the surf’s up you can hit the waves under the wing of expert instructors. If the waves aren’t working, you can always take plunge on a thrilling coasteering trip instead.

Find out about surf lessons.

Check out our other locations and other retreats across South Cornwall.

Take a look at our favourite ‘must sea’ retreats and explore our other holiday lets.

Ancient History in the Wilds of Cornwall

If you like your history a little more raw and unstructured, Cornwall has lots to offer. The less well-populated nature of the county means there are still many wild, remote corners where you’ll find evidence of ancient societies, and taking a look at some early Cornish history often combines well with a great walk through wonderful scenery.

Interested in staying in our most luxurious holiday cottages? Check out our luxury coastal cottages.

Chysauster Village is probably the best known example, and this site does have some facilities and a guide book to help you make sense of what you’re seeing. Chysauster is the remains of a 2,000 year old Iron Age village with clearly marked homes set in circular arrangements. This style of architecture is only found here and on the Isles of Scilly, so it’s a unique piece of history. Near the site is a kiosk selling drinks and snack foods, plus toilets. The Iron Age inhabitants of Chysauster chose the spot well – the views are glorious, particularly in late spring when the legendary bluebells cover the site.

Much further north, the wilderness of Bodmin Moor has the remnants of an even more ancient culture in the Bronze Age Hurlers stone circles. Three separate circles compete for your attention with the old mining engine houses that litter the landscape here, creating an eerie atmosphere should the mist descend over the moorland. A short walk from the Hurlers is the Cheesewring, an iconic pile of enormous rocks balanced over a long-abandoned quarry. Local legend insists that the Cheesewring is the result of a rock-throwing contest between a man and a giant; however they got there, the facts surely cannot be any less bizarre than the fiction. It’s worth the scramble up over the rough ground to the base of the Cheesewring for the views; endless miles of open countryside to the coast. This part of Bodmin Moor is perfect for an invigorating hike with some quirky historical interest thrown in. Two cafes and a pub in the adjacent village of Minions mean cream teas and pasties will make a tasty reward for your efforts.

Check out holiday properties in Mousehole to experience everything the area has to offer.

Explore further

Chysauster Ancient Village
Newmill, Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8XA, Tel. 07831 757934

Minions Village (for the Hurlers and the Cheesewring)

Visiting Cornwall at Christmas? Experience the magic of Christmas with the National Trust‘s festive wonders.