The Rashleigh bath at Polridmouth

We have been seeking out a series of early rock-cut baths mentioned in an article by Michael Tangye . The third beach he mentions is Polridmouth on the Menabilly estate. This, he says, is later than the earlier ones at Stackhouse and Portreath, and was constructed for Jonathan Rashleigh (1820-1905) ‘for health reasons’.

A fine, almost spring-like October day took us in search of the bath. Having scoured the rocks around the beach and asked other visitors who all denied any knowledge of a bath, our morale was dropping. We felt like those natural history photographers who capture ‘the shot’ in the last ten minutes of a one-week shoot. Then we found it. Tangye’s directions were spot on. It is indeed ‘at the edge of a slate rock foreshore on the north side of the cove’. In fact it is so obvious that we had walked past it several times before seeing the four steps leading down into it. It is here.

The location of the Rashleigh bath at Polridmouth cove

Tangye says that the bath is similar to the sea water bath at Stackhouse cove. Although it is basically the same design, it is smaller and, thanks to erosion at the south-west corner, there is no water in it at all at low tide.

The Rashleigh bath showing the steps down into it on the north side . The dark shadow disguises the eroded south-west corner

Tangye draws attention to the remains of a lead-lined drain whose exit is invisible – possibly lost under the sand – which would have ensured that the bath was kept at a constant depth of 0.15m (6ins). This seems very curious. The drain is there but is at the lowest point of the bath and would not have kept any water in the bath at all. And why would you go to the length of digging out a waist-deep bath only to have a dribble of water in the bottom or was it used as the tide came in?

The Rashleigh bath showing the depth

We sat down to drink coffee and ponder the mysteries of this bath. It just did not seem quite right, but we were pleased to have found it and completed Michael Tangye’s trail. It has set us off on a new direction which will follow in later posts.

Sadly, the people we had asked for directions had left the beach and we could not pass on the news of the discovery.

Yes, we know that this is known as ‘Rebecca’s beach’ in reference to Daphne du Maurier’s great book but there is no mention of a rock-cut bath in the book and so we will not mention it here.