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Polkerris

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Overview





Polkerris is a small drying harbour on the south coast of England, situated close west of Fowey and about midway between Falmouth and Plymouth. The tiny harbour area dries beyond its pier but it has a very good anchorage outside.

Polkerris is open to the prevailing wind but offers a very good anchorage in northeast round to southeast winds. Daylight access is straightforward in all conditions that the anchorage is serviceable, as there are no local unmarked outlying dangers.



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Keyfacts for Polkerris
Facilities
Hot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
February 7th 2019

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Hot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periods



Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 20.245' N, 004° 40.942' W

This the head of the drying Polkerris Pier.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location

  • Gribbin Head daymark clearly defines the eastern extremity of St. Austell Bay.

  • A ½ mile northwest of the daymark is Little Gribbin Point, the southeast extremity of Tywardreath Bay, is foul out to 200 metres and should be given a safe distance.

  • Standing 400 metres off the shoreline from Gribbin Head to Polkerris clears all dangers.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Polkerris for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Par - 0.5 miles WNW
  2. Fowey - 1.2 miles E
  3. Charlestown - 1.8 miles W
  4. Lantic Bay - 1.9 miles ESE
  5. Mevagissey - 3.5 miles SW
  6. Portmellon - 3.7 miles SW
  7. Polperro Harbour - 4 miles E
  8. Gorran Haven - 4.4 miles SW
  9. Looe Harbour - 5.5 miles E
  10. Portscatho - 9 miles SW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Par - 0.5 miles WNW
  2. Fowey - 1.2 miles E
  3. Charlestown - 1.8 miles W
  4. Lantic Bay - 1.9 miles ESE
  5. Mevagissey - 3.5 miles SW
  6. Portmellon - 3.7 miles SW
  7. Polperro Harbour - 4 miles E
  8. Gorran Haven - 4.4 miles SW
  9. Looe Harbour - 5.5 miles E
  10. Portscatho - 9 miles SW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Polkerris Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Polkerris is a small village on the eastern side of Tywardreath Bay which lies in the northeast corner of St. Austell Bay. The village essentially consists of a single road that drops down into the harbour area at the bottom of a steeply sloping valley. The harbour consists of a single pier about 100 metres long, that curves around from the southern shore and the former cellars, boathouses, and slipways behind it, that date from the 18th-century. The village consists of a small cluster of houses fronted by a beach that is constrained by the area of level ground at the foot of the valley, and more houses that follow the road out of the valley.

The pier provides some shelter to the southwest but the harbour area remains open to the west. It dries inside to 2.7 metres and is dry out to 60 metres from the head of the pier at the lowest tides. Depths of about 4.2 metres can be had alongside at high-water springs and 3 metres at neaps but its wall space is limited.

There is excellent anchoring outside the harbour in any easterly winds. It shelves gradually to the harbour with the 2-metre contour being about 600 metres from the pier head.


How to get in?
Yacht anchored off Polkerris with Black Head seen in the distance
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Start Point to Lizard Point Route location for seaward approaches. The prominent Gribbin Head, the eastern extremity of St. Austell Bay, makes the best seamark for Tywardreath Bay. It may be easily recognised by a conspicuous square beacon tower 26 metres high, with red and white horizontal stripes, which stands 104 metres above high water.


Little Gribbin Point as seen from above Polkerris
Image: Michael Harpur


Rocks extend nearly 200 metres off Little Gribbin Point, ½ a mile northwest of the daymark, that is the southeast extremity of Tywardreath Bay. North of Little Gribbin Point there are no further outlying dangers beyond 300 meters from the shore and ample water. It is simply a matter of following the shoreline of the rural headland a few hundred meters off until Polkerris pier with its houses come into view.


Polkerris as seen from the southwest
Image: Michael Harpur


Don't overshoot as the drying flat of Par Sands lies at the head of Tywardreath Bay. At the lowest tides the sand dries out to the Killyvarder Rocks, which lie a ⅓ of a mile southeast. About 300 metres in extent, and covered at one-third flood, the Killyvarder Rocks dry to 2.4 metres and are marked by an unlit starboard beacon on their western extremity.


Local boats in Polkerris
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor according to draft a few hundred metres or more out to the southwest of the pier. Excellent holding will be found in fine sand. Vessels that are able to take to the ground can anchor inside the harbour or lie alongside the pier if space can be found.


Why visit here?
Polkerris was first recorded as ‘Polkeryes’ in 1584. Its name is derived from Pol, a popular old Cornish word for ‘a pool’, conjoined with the ‘cherit’ the old Cornish for heron. The second element of the name later gradually became ‘kerris’, an old Cornish word for a wall, fortified enclosure or fenced area, most likely after it received its pier.

Rashleigh Inn commemorating the family who most shaped the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur
The wider surrounding landscape has ample evidence of a dispersed prehistoric settlement. It is likely that Polkerris developed around the convenient natural cove which provided fishing and shelter. From there it would have developed as a settlement with a mixed economy of fishing and agriculture. As early as the 16th-century fishing had become its mainstay and it was noted in 1583 that Polkerris was the principal fishing station for St. Austell Bay. It was also recorded that it had ‘three little pilchard houses under one roof on the northeast side of Polkerris Green’. In the following year, it was observed that Polkerris was a place ‘wher great store of Pilchardes are taken at the time of the yeare’.

All was set to change during the 16th Century when the arrival of the Rashleigh family would start to shape the future of the harbour. Originating from Devon the family became powerful Fowey merchants in the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Opportune land acquisitions at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries saw them established as the dominant family of the area. Menabilly, situated a kilometre to the southeast of Polkerris, was developed as the family’s country seat. It has remained the seat of the Rashleigh family to the present day and the area is still part of the Menabilly Estate.


A clear view of the anchorage from the Rashleigh Inn
Image: Michael Harpur


An ambitious programme of investment in the cove’s infrastructure was undertaken under Rashleigh's patronage to advance Polkerris' fishing potential. The estate built the half-moon quay in 1775 to help the seine netting company. Modest cellars that were in the fishermen's cottages were replaced by a large scale cellar to the east of the pier that was the largest fish curing cellar in Cornwall. Between 1790-91, Philip Rashleigh built a lime kiln to the landward end of the quay, where limestone was burnt to produce lime for the local farmers to 'sweeten' their soil.


Rashleigh Inn overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Pilchard fishing and processing then boomed in Polkerris with exports of its processed pilchards being enjoyed at Mediterranean dining tables for centuries thereafter. The process of seine netting for pilchards was labour intensive and employed huge numbers of fishermen, boys and women. At one time around 200 people were involved in the curing and packing of the pilchards at Polkerris.

Gribbin Headland Daymark
Image: lillyhelene via CC BY-SA 2.0


During this time a Wesleyan chapel was built and a school was housed in a converted fish cellar to service its burgeoning community. To aid local navigation, the Rashleigh family also gave permission for the 1832 day-marker to be built on Gribbin Head, which is set in a part of the ancient grounds of Menabilly. William Rashleigh granted the land for the tower and expressed his hope that they would 'make the Beacon an ornament to my grounds’ and the tenders issued by Trinity House were for the erection of a ‘very handsome Greco Gothic Square Tower’. At the families’ request, the daymark was given its red and white stone colouring. In November 1859 the boathouse was built on land donated by the Rashleigh's and a lifeboat, the Catherine Rashleigh, was stationed in Polkerris.


Polkerris Pier as seen from the north
Image: Nilfanion via CC ASA 4.0


But by the time of the arrival of the lifeboat, the pilchard fishing industry was almost in terminal decline. Polkerris’ seine company closed in the 1870s and only a few local boatmen used the harbour for fishing. This handful of boats, the coastguard, and the lifeboat, were all that remained of maritime importance of the once busy settlement, and the only source of excitement for the village was when the lifeboat was launched. All the villagers would turn out to help with this, or to watch as the boat rumbled down the slip and enter the water with its crew at the ready. The station would be transferred to Fowey in 1922 but in its time it performed 15 rescues and saved 52 lives and a ship's cat. Many gold and silver medals were won for bravery and seamanship by Polkerris lifeboat crews.

Menabilly was the setting for Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca
Image: Michael Harpur
The first half of the 20th century brought little change, just more decline in the fishing industry. During the Second World War, the cove was defended by a pillbox, on the roof of the limekiln, and anti-tank barriers were laid along the beach. The author and playwright Daphne Du Maurier (1907 – 1989) was a tenant and restorer of Menabilly from 1943–1969. Her beloved Cornwall formed the backdrop to many of her stories but none more so than Menabilly. It was the Manderley in her romantic novel 'Rebecca' that appeared in the opening lines… Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me.

Summer tourism started to replace commercial fishing and agriculture as the mainstay of the economy during the latter half of the 20th-century. The historic harbour and cove remain the focal point of its business albeit more for its surrounding landscape and its picturesque qualities than utility. The sheltered sandy cove, at the foot of a steeply sloping AONB valley, provides a secluded, rustic and ‘tucked away’ feeling. The enclosing arm of its robust 18th-century pier, the most significant structure of the settlement, together with the former fishing industry cellars, boathouses, slipways and pretty detached slatestone cottages, cluster around the harbour to provide a unique sense of history.


The village as seen from the root of the pier
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective it is truly a lovely spot to visit should the winds turn to the northeast or east. Hidden from view from the landward side the pretty harbour has historically been more easily accessible from the sea and it has plenty to offer. The history of the Rashleigh estate and family is commemorated to this day in the name of the pub, 'Rashleigh Inn'. A few steps up from the beach, it offers good food and drink and sometimes weekend entertainment in the form of live music. The popular footpaths of the South West Coast Path and the Saint’s Way pass through the settlement for those who want to walk and enjoy the beautiful countryside. It is possible to climb the 109 steps of the Gribbin Headland Daymark every Sunday from July to early September. For a family boat, there is scarcely a better location on which to land for all to enjoy a safe beach.


What facilities are available?
The small harbour largely caters to its visiting tourist trade, in addition to those who stay in its small caravan park and holiday homes. It just has a pub, café and a watersports shop.


With thanks to:
eOceanic


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Polkerris Overview



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