1.25 miles southwest of the entrance to Fowey Harbour and located within the Par Sand to Looe Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is Gribbin Head (sometimes spelt Gribben Head and named after the Cornish for ‘little ridge’), a spectacular promontory whose sheer cliffs rise 250 feet above sea level and which provides stunning views of the English Channel and the coastal landscape to the east and west. The land has been owned by the National Trust since 1957 and is managed as part of Britain’s Heritage Coast.
From the sea, the headland looks similar to others on the south west coast and in bad weather mariners were known to mistake it for St Anthony’s Head near Falmouth, with potentially fatal consequences. One near-miss by the schooner Poulteray was reported in the Royal Cornwall Gazette on 11 December 1830, the same month in which three ships were wrecked at nearby Dodman Point. Two years later, at the request of the Borough of Fowey, Trinity House erected a conspicuous tower to serve as a daymark, enabling ships to distinguish the headland from others in the area. Although damaged in a thunderstorm in 1837, the red and white painted Greco-Gothic style tower still stands 84 feet high and a total of 330 feet above mean high water. It is occasionally opened to the public.
The Gribbin daymark is not only easy to spot, it is also easily accessible to the public as it lies on the South West Coast Path, approached from the east by a short steep incline from Polridmouth Bay and from the west by a path which follows the coast from the hamlet of Polkerris.
Research Alex Lewis
Sources: Cornwall Record Office: R/5088 Notice of meeting to discuss the best means of identifying certain headlands 1830; Peter Bray, Around and about Fowey (Corran Publications, 1997) pp. 40 and 49; Isabel Pickering, Some Goings On (Fowey: Author, 1995) pp.77, 81 and 91; www.cornwall-aonb.gov.uk/documents/10_par_looe_character; www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/designatedareas/heritagecoasts/default.aspx;