In Cornwall, we’re spoilt for choice with beaches and coastal walk routes, but if you fancy a relaxed, romantic stroll we recommend the Steeple Woodland Nature Reserve. Steeple Woods is a 40 acre open space that occupies the area overlooking St Ives and Carbis Bay.
A Brief history
The Steeple itself was built in 1782 as a mausoleum for the Customs Officer John Knill, though in fact he wasn’t buried here. As well as leaving us the monument itself, Knill has kept his memory alive by instigating a curious community ceremony which takes place there every 5 years.
Most of the area around the monument, or Steeple as it is referred to locally, was until quite recently covered in dense, impenetrable rhododendron. The area was also extensively mined up to the early 19th century and granite block walls around the mineshafts can be seen all around the Nature Reserve.
In 1996 a group of volunteers took over management of the area, clearing rhododendron and planting trees, and the site was designated a Nature Reserve in 2002. It has been awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award three years running from 2006.
The area is criss-crossed with paths, most of them are easily accessible and visitors to the site can walk as far or as little as they wish to explore the Nature Reserve.
The reserve has three different areas to explore. Visitors can explore the mature woods, stroll over heathland and discover areas planted with young trees.
On the top of the hill, around the Steeple, an open area of heathland has emerged after the rhododendron was removed. Plants typical of lowland heath have emerged in a patchwork of heathers, gorse, bracken, grasses, mosses and lichens.
Trelyon Downs, on the south side of Steeple Lane, has been planted with a mix of native tree species. Wildlife and flowers are now thriving among the trees and glades.
Steeple Woods is a mature woodland of mainly beech and oak trees to the north of Steeple Lane. The wood contains many old coppiced and pollarded trees, whose trunks have taken on strange and interesting shapes. In the past these would have been cut at intervals to provide valuable timber for a wide range of uses.
As the rhododendron has been cleared, other evidence of the site’s past has been gradually revealed, including old stone walls, marker stones engraved with lettering or numbers and also granite blocks showing drill holes where they were split during the quarrying activity.
At the top of the reserve is Knill’s Monument, a fantastic point to aim for and to admire your surroundings. View our blog post for a detailed description of a walk through Steeple Woods.
However, if you fancy something a little more trying than a walk around the reserve, why not jump on the St Michaels Way walk?
Stretching from Lelant, near St Ives, all the way to Marazion, near Penzance, St Michaels Way walk is the only footpath in Britain part of a designated European Cultural Route. Of moderate difficulty, the walk passes some quaint churches, Bowl Rock, Trencrom Hill, Ludgvan and of course, St Michaels Mount. You will be able to admire some fantastic views of the Hayle estuary mudflats, St Ives bay and Godrevy lighthouse, as well as having the option to pass a RSPB nature reserve at Marazion Marsh.
To enjoy a more detailed description about St Michaels Walk, click here >
To read more about Steeple Woods Nature Reserve head to steeplewoods.org.