57 The view towards Bolt Head from Bolberry Down

near Plymouth and well into Cornwall. The spoil heaps from the China Clay works around St Austell - the ‘Cornish Alps’ - can often be made out. Locals report that lights on the Lizard peninsula can even be made out on clear evenings. The rock along the coast from Bolt Tail is mainly schist. This is a metamorphic rock, altered by heat and pressure, which splits readily along parallel lines. In this area, large slabs of the rock were placed in rows, on end, to form the earliest field walls.

Heritage In the summer of 1588, thousands of people gathered at Hope Cove and Bolt Tail to watch the 140 ships of the Spanish Armada as they moved in a great crescent formation up the Channel.


In October of that year, one of those ships was back at Hope Cove. The defeated Armada had fled around the top of Britain via the North Sea. As they headed back down the west of the country, storms scattered the fleet. The San Pedro el Mayor, a transport ship fitted out as a hospital, was blown back up the Channel, and her exhausted crew could not prevent the ship being driven onto the Shippen Rock between Inner and Outer Hope. The 140 survivors were initially sentenced to death but were eventually ransomed back to Spain. In the 1800s dozens of ships at a time might take

shelter from South-Easterly gales in the cove at Hope. The village was a centre of both fishing and smuggling. Kegs of brandy and rum were weighted with stones and dropped to the sea floor by ships plying from France. Local fishermen would then recover them at the same time as they hauled in their crab pots, and bring them ashore. At Bolt Tail can still be seen the remains of the

ramparts of an Iron Age fort, probably built around 600 BC. The rocks along this stretch of the coast have been the scene of several shipwrecks. Perhaps most famous and tragic was the HMS Ramillies. In 1760 this ageing and leaky 90-gun warship was caught in a severe gale in the Channel and attempted to make it back to land. Mistaking it for Rame Head near Plymouth, the crew tried to round Bolt Tail into what they thought would be the safety of Plymouth Sound. Instead the already battered ship smashed into the cliffs. Over 700 men died and the loss of the ship was a national disaster.

Landscape From Bolt Tail, the view extends beyond Rame Head

Wildlife The rough grassland around Bolt Tail is a good hunting ground for the Kestrel. This small bird of prey can often be seen hovering on reddish brown wings, its tail feathers fanned out. These cliffs are also home to the Peregrine Falcon. A sleek figure with dark grey plumage, the Peregrine hunts other birds and is one of the fastest of all animals. When stooping to dive after prey it can reach speeds of up to 200 km/hr. The clifftops around Bolberry Down support breeding pairs of

Yellowhammers - named for their vivid plumage - along with Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Cirl Buntings. The area is also home to the Dartford Warbler, a rare and shy bird with a deep red-brown breast. Along the coast path grow

Hartstongue Fern

clusters of Yarrow, with feathery leaves on a dark green-blue stem, and flat umbrellas of white florets.

There are drifts of pink Thrift, the spinach-like leaves of Sea Beet, and the

low, bright red and yellow flowers of Bird’s Foot Trefoil. Toadflax also grows here, its yellow lipped flowers massed on straight stem-spikes. Heading inland, the hedgerows are threaded

through with the blooms and red berries of Honeysuckle. In the shady lanes the green straps of the Hartstongue Fern thrive, as does the delicately mottled brown speckled Wood Butterfly and the boldly coloured black, red and white Red Admiral.

St Clements Church at Hope.

Heartstongue fern photo © Derek Harper (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Yellowhammer photo © Walter Baxter (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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