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Newlyn - a village trail

Cornwall Walk

County/Area - Cornwall

Author - West Cornwall Tourism

Length - 1.0 miles / 1.6 km    

Ascent - nominal or unknown

Time - 0 hours 30 minutes    Grade - easy

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Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Newlyn - a village trail
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This absorbing walk through the older streets of Newlyn will add interest to your visit to this fascinating part of Cornwall. Fishing has been the mainstay of Newlyn for hundreds of years and today, despite some retraction in the fleet, the fishing community remains resilient. In contrast to its maritime connections Newlyn holds a special place in the international art world. During the final decades of the 19th century young English painters settled in Newlyn. In the village's picturesque streets they found a home grown equivalent to the villages of Normandy and Brittany where they had been influenced by a vividly realistic form of painting.

The walk starts by the War Memorial outside the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen.

Go diagonally to the right across the main road and continue up the narrow Jack Lane. Reaching the junction with Chywoone Hill, turn by Eddy's Bakery, just past which turn left beneath a low archway. Walk down Orchard Place. This old part of Newlyn is an outstanding grouping of 18th century Cornish cottages. Cul-de-sacs and lanes lead off to left and right, some with cobbled surfaces. Names such as Foundry Lane and Cooper's Court indicate past activities. On a wall to the right, there is a plaque to the Victorian cleric Dr William Kelynack who lived nearby and who worshipped at the imposing Trinity Methodist Chapel, which can be seen rising above the roofline of Orchard Place. Rev. Kelynack emigrated to Australia where he became President of the Australasian Conference of the Methodist Church in 1890.

At the end of Orchard Place, turn right into Fradgan Square. The building on the right, with red brick window dressings, is the old Post Office. A group of distinctive houses and cottages fills the main corner of the Square. The tall, detached warehouse ahead is known as the Island Store. Note the ceramic wall tile depicting a trawler. More of these motifs will be seen later in the walk. Go through a narrow passageway to the right of the Island Store. Ahead lies Fradgan Place, a narrowing cul-de-sac, pleasantly cobbled and with several early 18th century cottages at its far end.

Turn left and walk along the back of the Island Store. Keep ahead, then go down a slope, which was once a slipway known as Gwavas Quay, to reach The Strand. Prior to 1910, The Strand was a tidal beach, a busy section of the harbour where boats were pulled up. The grassed area to the left of Gwavas Quay was once a beach. It is still known as Keel Alley, though the sea no longer sluices through it twice daily.

Follow The Strand past ship's chandlers and a fresh fish shop, then bear left uphill into the area known as Newlyn Town. The slope here was once the Newlyn Town slipway down to The Strand beach. At the top of the slope, turn sharp right into Trewarveneth Street with its cobbled central gutter. Look for more ceramic wall tiles depicting trawlers. A short distance up the street, on the left, is The Old Manor House, a 17th century survival.

Continue uphill. The area to the right is still very much part of Newlyn's 'artist's quarter', first colonised by the late 19th century painters who established the Newlyn School. A number of painters and sculptors still live and work in these higher parts of Newlyn Town. A narrow alleyway leads off left from part way up Trewarveneth Street bears the title 'Rue des Beaux Arts' - go left through this alleyway to reach the steep and narrow Boase Street. Turn right and walk uphill. On the left is the facade of the 1835 Ebenezer Methodist Chapel, now a private dwelling.

Continue to the top of Boase Street and turn left into Gwavas Road. Dominating the scene is the powerful building of the Centenary Methodist Chapel of 1927. Methodism has distinguished Newlyn since the many visits paid by John Wesley between 1747-1789. Bear down left at the junction by the entrance gate to the chapel and after a few yards go left again into Church Street, at first down some steps from which there is a good view of the harbour.

Just below the end of the steps, turn right across an open space to reach the St Peter's Hill car park. It was in this area that many old Newlyn houses were demolished in the 1930s despite a vigorous local campaign against the scheme. From the top end of the car park there is access to the Rosebud Memorial Garden where a panel relates the story of the campaign.

Leave the Memorial Garden and walk down through the car park. Cross the main road and bear right through 'The Narrows'. Reach an open area with seats, overlooking Newlyn Old Harbour, which can be reached by going down the steep slipway to the left. From the top of the Old Harbour Slipway, walk back through The Narrows and then follow Fore Street high above the harbour.

On the wall of the Smugglers Restaurant there is a plaque commemorating the Victorian political reformer William Lovett, who spent his youth in Newlyn and who became a leading member of the Chartist Movement, the work of which led to universal male suffrage. Continue downhill, and follow The Strand on its left-hand side to return to the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen and the end of this exploratory stroll.

The history of Newlyn is fascinating despite its relatively small size and the following notes may help you get more from your walk of discovery.

Newlyn Harbour - provides shelter to over 200 fishing vessels engaged in several types of fishing. The harbour is privately owned. The quayside and market areas can be extremely busy. Please take great care when close to the edge of the quays. Watch out for rapidly moving lorries and forklift trucks. Dogs are not allowed within the harbour and fish market areas. For the visitor, some clues towards identifying vessels may be helpful.

Beam Trawlers - are the largest vessels. Look for the tall metal poles attached to the mast. These are lowered to the horizontal while fishing and project from either side of the vessel. From the outer ends, heavy metal frames are dragged along the seabed trailing a mat of chains with a bag net behind them. A variety of fish, including Dover Sole, Lemon Sole, Monkfish and Megrim are caught.

Side Trawlers - Side trawling involves heavy metal panels, called 'doors', being dragged behind the trawler. The doors plane out to either side, just off the seabed. They keep open the mouth of a net that is pulled behind. Whiting, cod, ling, John Dory and red mullet are caught by this method.

GW Netters - make up a large part of Newlyn's independently owned fleet. Generally smaller than trawlers, many have enclosed foredecks. Gill netters lay several miles of panel nets that float vertically from the seabed. Hake, dogfish, ling and cod are caught.

Long Liners - carry tubs filled with coiled ropes, which have hooks attached by short lengths of cord. Long Lining is a very traditional method of fishing in which hooks are baited, usually with mackerel, and the lines then stretched across the seabed to catch mature fish such as ray, skate, turbot, cod, ling and conger eel.

Crabbers -use baited 'ink-well' pots to catch lobsters, spider crabs, brown crabs and crawfish. Crawfish are exotic looking, orange-coloured shellfish found in Cornish waters and are not be confused with lobsters, which are blue-black in their natural state.

Hand-line fishing - There are numerous small boats in Newlyn engaged in hand-lining for mackerel. Lines carrying about 2 hooks are used and each hook has coloured feathers attached. Top quality mackerel are landed daily.

The Mabel Alice. The RNLI's modern Arun Class lifeboat is moored in constant readiness at Newlyn Harbour. It can be seen at anchor on the inner side of the Mary Williams Pier.

Newlyn Art Gallery - Newlyn Art Gallery keeps alive the innovative tradition of the late Victorian painters who established the famous 'Newlyn School' of painting. The gallery dates from 1894. It was named originally after its benefactor, John Passmore Edwards, the Victorian philanthropist who did much to foster the social and cultural life of Cornwall. The constrained Victorian exterior of the building encloses a thoroughly modern gallery. The programme of exhibitions reflects current British and international art practice and includes regular shows by locally based artists. Open Monday to saturday 10h00 to 17h00.

The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen - At the entrance to Newlyn's main quay stands the dignified building of the Ship Institute, the local base of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. The 'Mission' looks after the long-term spiritual and material welfare of the fishing community, not least in times of tragedy at sea. A peaceful memorial room at Newlyn Mission reveals, in a stark yet compelling way, the grim price that the sea still exacts from fishermen. Adjacent to the Memorial Room is an excellent exhibition devoted to Newlyn fishing. It is open to visitors from mid-July to the end of August.

The Rosebud Memorial Garden - The Newlyn fishing boat, the Rosebud, symbolised the spirit of Newlyn people of the 1930s who fought to save the heart of their community from being swept away by an official proposal to demolish large numbers of traditional cottages. Local opposition to the plan was vigorous and well-organised and reached a climax in 1937 when the Rosebud, with a crew of Newlyn fishermen, sailed all the way to Westminster Pier to lobby Parliament. The national publicity that was generated and the ill wind of the Second World War - saved some parts of old Newlyn from demolition.

Ordnance Survey Mark - Everywhere in Britain starts from the end of Newlyn's South Pier! Even Ben Nevis and Snowdon, our highest mountains, are measured from the Newlyn Tidal Observatory, the insignificant little building next to the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. In 1915, Newlyn was selected as the Ordnance Survey datum point, the mean sea level from which all heights throughout Britain are calculated.

The Pilchard Works - Cornwall's fishing heritage is portrayed at Newlyn's Pilchard Works, the last traditional pilchard processing factory in the country. Here, past and present are combined in a remarkable museum of Cornish fishing. The museum has won an award from the Society for the Interpretation of Britain's Heritage. Pilchard catching and processing was one of Cornwall's greatest industries. It dominated the life and work of the county's ports and harbours, from medieval times until the decline of the fishery early this century. Today, pilchards are still caught in Cornish waters. At Newlyn's Pilchard Works they are processed using traditional methods, and are packed into wooden boxes and casks for the same Italian family that first started buying in 1905. Open daily from Easter to end of October, 10h00 to 18h00.

This illustrated walk is reproduced courtesy of Penwith District Council who provide tourism information and produce a number of informative publications covering all aspects of your visit to West Cornwall.

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