Another rain-free day took us out for the next leg of the Copper Trail. When I say rain-free, this does not mean that it did not rain heavily the day before, a fact that worried us as the guidebook was full of helpful remarks such as ‘after heavy rain it may provide you with a wet foot‘, ‘… this takes you into a very muddy field …’ We had a sweepstake on how soon we would have a boot full of water.
It would turn out to be worth the effort.
We left St Breward following one of those paths so typical of Cornwall: one which joined up a series of farmsteads to the local church (see the Coffin Path in W Penwith). These are one of the joys of a formerly celtic landscape in which the church stands at the centre of a parish of distributed farms rather than in a village. This path crossed fields and had a series of (slippery) stone stiles.
Of course the cows and horses had wanted to inspect the stiles and so we waded through mud to get to them.
Our first real challenge was a stile near Mellon Farm where there was a bridge which we were assured ‘… was only noticeable if the stream is running under it.’ It was and we suffered our first wet boot.
The path continued up a small valley and emerged onto Harpur’s Down with the bulks of Rough Tor, Brown Willy and the man-shaped hills of Stannon Clay works looming in the watery sunlight on our right. We were following something shown on the map as the Moorland Walk although there was no sign of any special signage on the ground.
As we joined the road here, some stones were a reminder of just how much archaeology there is remaining on Bodmin Moor. Anywhere else, these stones might have been ‘interesting’ but here they were two-a-penny and unworthy of mention in specialist literature.
Stannon stone circle was a short distance away up on the moor but we left it for another day, as we later left Advent church.
The route took us on an undulating route, down into a series of small valleys, across a bridge over another stream, and then up the other side. Each had their character and delight. Emerging from the first such valley, we passed some mysterious humps and bumps which may have been a medieval or earlier enclosure, past an interesting holed stone, and out onto a road near Furhouse.
This narrow road twisted and turned between bare Cornish walls constructed of granite boulders taking us past some small celtic fields and on, past a delightful and tiny Methodist chapel at Highertown. The way then descended into another valley and across a stream at Watergate (not, as far as we know, any relation). Here the air was so pure that lichen hung from the trees like wool discarded by the sheep who now inhabited the fields.
Following this stream up a short valley, we climbed a grassy field which was water-logged all the way up. This was a reminder of how thin the soil is around here. Beneath, one could feel the occasional solid lump of stone or rock.
By now we were inured to the wet but it was helpful to have small field walls to take one out of the squelchy grass and avoid the problems of energetic tussock-jumping.
On the horizon appeared the next monument: the Longstone or Moorgate stone. At 3m tall this menhir is Bodmin Moor’s tallest. Nearby, buried in the grass was a series of other stones which may well have some connection, now lost.
We were now on something called the Watermill Walk but again, there was no local signage.
The route descended into the Camel valley where we joined a delightful path which wound along the river bank, passing the inevitable water treatment (output) plant with which our walks seem to be blessed, eventually emerging into the middle of the town of Camelford.
This was the formal end of this leg of the Copper Trail, after 6.5 map miles. The author may have chosen this as a natural break but this distance felt too short for a full day’s walk. Perhaps he had taken into account the very slow going through the muddy fields.
We had decided to take a chunk out of the next walk, however, and continued on through the town, admiring the ‘varied assortment of shops‘ and made our way out onto the Rough Tor Road through Tregoodwill. After a steep climb, the route turned sharp left and followed the crest of the downs, heading for Crowdy Reservoir past yet another water treatment (input) plant.
The views of Rough Tor, Brown Willy and Crowdy were now quite splendid and filled the sky to our right. The path itself was … well ‘dull’ would be a good description: a dead straight road leading towards a series of fir tree plantations that have colonised the south side of the former Davidstow airfield.
Enough was enough. We had reached the north east corner of the Copper Trail and would now turn the corner and head south east. We had walked 9 map miles and 10.25 miles on the gps in 4 hours.
Yet again, the author had done us proud: he had guided us with some impeccable instructions through a lovely series of valleys (shame about the mud), some tantalising archaeology, a lovely walk along the Camel and much of it with the sky-filling views of the Moor and its great hills from the north. And all in beautiful winter sunshine. Now we turn south