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Bedruthan Steps

About Bedruthan Steps  |  Weather  |  Tide Times

Bedruthan became a popular destination when Newquay developed as a holiday resort 100 years ago. Victorian visitors in their carriages found it a convenient attraction, and the local farmer responded to this interest by providing stalls for the horses on payment of the following tolls: 1s for a one-horse, 2s for a two-horse, and 4s for a four-horse vehicle. Pedestrians had nothing to pay.

There is an awesome nobility about the view across the famous wave -swept stacks. The low, unspoilt plateau of Park Head beyond the dramatic foreground effectively closes the panorama to the north. Man seems to have had little influence on this scene, but along 2 miles of this exciting coastline are six Bronze Age barrows, two Iron Age cliff castles and a nineteenth century iron mine.

The power of earth's natural forces is uppermost in the onlooker's mind. The outline of the stacks has changed in living memory, and the cliffs are constantly slipping into the sea so that to walk too near the edge is a hazardous undertaking.

The legend of a giant called Bedruthan using the beach stacks as stepping stones or 'steps' to achieve a not very obvious short cut across the bay seems to be a late nineteenth century invention trotted out to gullible tourists. No early reference to the story has been found and the truth is probably more prosaic. The first record of the name 'Bedruthan Steps' is in the 1851 edition of Murray's Handbook, and is likely to refer to the actual steps, or cliff staircase as it now is. Just north of Diggory's Island there was a beach access path called Pentire Steps. This was a zigzag route to the beach, but the bottom section has been carried away by a landslip.

We suggest that the place name 'Bedruthan Steps' was originally given to the actual steps, but has since been applied to the whole beach, and especially to the distinctive stacks. This is not an original idea. J. R. A. Hockin in his respected book Walking in Cornwall (1936) was unsure of the derivation of the name. He wrote:- '... there is no general agreement as to what Bedruthan Steps actually are, whether the name refers to the great stacks of detached cliff - the giant's stepping stones - or to the older and damper of the two rock stairways down to the beach.'

'Rude flights of steps, cut in the profile of the cliffs, and fortified here and there by a crazy iron or timber hand-rail, lead to the shore ... The steps ... are ancient beyond knowledge, and have given a name to the place.'

Over the years, the steps have suffered from landslips and rock falls, and in the 1960's and early 1970's the beach was closed as no safe route was possible because of the crumbling rock. This lack of access was a danger in itself as foolhardy spirits were tempted to make their own way down.

Then civil engineers developed a netting for securing broken rock beside motorways. This material, secured by rock bolts, was used at Bedruthan, and the new cliff staircase was opened in 1975. It is closed in the winter, and any loose stone cleared away by the Trust's warden before the summer season.






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