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St Neot to Callywith

Autumn was doing its very best and the countryside was covered with the rich browns of fallen beech leaves, the trees bare against the pale sky illuminated by a bright low sun. It was a fresh November day which threatened an occasional light shower.

We were back on the Copper Trail again, at last.

We rejoined the route at St Neot, where we left of, heading north towards Hilltown Farm before dropping down to the lovely Loveny river.

Colliford residents

The way took us on a cart track up over Penkestle Moor. The path here was muddy despite the lack of recent rain and we were soon jumping from tussock to tussock to ensure dry boots. A short sharp hail shower was the only actual rain we saw all day and not enough to slow us up.

Emerging at the bottom of Colliford Lake dam, we met some of the local residents before turning west towards Carburrow tor which was prominent for some time.

Although part of the Trail covers quite a bit of road, much of the stretches are short and very empty of traffic. This gives it a degree of variety and, in wet weather, the hard roads are almost welcome.

Above Treveddoe valley

Although all part of Bodmin Moor, the area consists of very green fields, wooded valleys and large patches of rough open moorland. much of it covered in scattered stones and remains of former settlements.

Carburrow tor is an archaeologist’s jigsaw puzzle of settlements with long house, cairns, and the remains of many round huts.

We drank a welcome cup of coffee at the foot of the tor before crossing Warleggan down and descending a road to to Treveddoe, a beautifully-situated house at the head of a wooded valley.

Wheal whisper – the ‘dry’

The path dropped down the field and past the remains of Wheal Whisper tin mine. Some small buildings, a landscaped quarry and some well-dressed walls are all that remain of a once-flourishing concern. There was more jumping over tussocks here.

We emerged onto a road and into the village of Mount.

Just outside Mount there was a wonderful signpost, very typical of the ones around Warleggan (‘twinned with Narnia’): great white slabs of wood on elegant posts. This one was held in place by an iron bracket and helpfully offered Bodmin as a destination on two of its three arms.

The inscribed crosses

The road passed the small Treslea Down cross and then two inscribed stones above Welltown. The latter were high up on the top of a Cornish wall at a crossroads and had surely been moved there in the past. Ancient stones continue to provide their usual purpose as waymarkers.

Crossing the unusually tidy greens at Little Downs, we headed towards the remains of Cardinham castle. Sadly, there is very little to be seen from the road. The route squeezes down a muddy track – a narrow ‘bridle path’ – past the old mill before rising up towards the village of Cardinham, the church tower very visible on the hill ahead. This must have been the main route from castle to church.

Cardinham church has some wonderful churchyard crosses and is well worth a detour.

After a bite of lunch, we set off for Cardinham woods. The excellent Copper Trail guide does like the word ‘eventually’ as in ‘follow the track which eventually comes out …’ It encourages confidence that the future will come true.

We ‘eventually’ reached a sign which confirmed that we were entering the woods themselves. We were warned to expect joggers, walkers, dogs and horses. We were not warned to expect a bunch of men wrapped up in leather jackets and goggles, driving open cars on a treasure hunt and beaming from ear to ear. There was no sign of any horses.

The neglected Callywith crosses

The final stretch up through Deviock wood was a long haul. By now the sun had lost its strength and we were walking in shadow. ‘Eventually’ we emerged onto a track said to be much frequented by rabbits – we saw none – the sound of the A30 a dull roar in the distance. A short way across a field, one of those really muddy gateways and a soggy track and we were back onto a tarmac  road past Callybarrett Farm and a waiting car.

A final joy was hidden under a hedge at the edge of a bramble patch, below a modern embanked road: two of the saddest-looking wheel-headed crosses we have yet come across. They stand side by side, apparently neglected. Leaving crosses in situ is clearly a preferred strategy but it seems sad that these two have not been given a more decent prospect than looking out at brambles and listening to the road of the A30 fifty metres away.

After 5 hours we had walked 11 miles (Google), 16.5 miles (our gps) and returned for a well-deserved hot bath. The Copper Trail is proving to be a well-thought out and enjoyable route.

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Restormel to Lanhydrock

P1090397Walking the Saints’ Way, as we were last weekend, makes one think more about the geography of the Bodmin-Lostwithiel corridor.

We are so influenced by modern communications that the two towns seem to live in their own bubbles. Bodmin hugs the A30 and is generally approached along it. Lostwithiel hugs the other major road in the area, the A390, which distributes traffic east and west.

There are significant Iron Age settlements outside both towns demonstrating that earlier generations appreciated the importance of their locations. The Normans got the message and Bodmin was an important centre for them, while Lostwithiel became the seat of the Duke of Cornwall and the de facto capital of the duchy once the unruly Cornish had been pacified.

P1090417What is strange is that there is no obvious historic road between the two towns. It is almost as though their C21 separateness has always been the case.

We thought we would walk between the two to understand more of the landscape. We found a suggested route in a guidebook which took us from Restormel castle to Lanhydrock and back.

P1090399Restormel is managed by English Heritage and a quite lovely place. An unusual ring keep, it has the feel of a place that was used as a folly in the C18 and for once the carefully mown grass seems entirely in keeping.

But it is something of an enigma in its own right. It commands a view of the river crossing and yet is well outside the town of Lostwithiel and there is no sign of any settlement anywhere near it.

P1090396It was originally painted white and must have been a very assertive statement of Norman power when it was first built. However, it would have quickly fallen out of use when the Palace was built in town and a bridge was thrown over the river. This perhaps accounts for the lack of buildings around it.

We parked in the castle car park and headed down hill past Restormel Farm which is owned by the Duchy and titivated like a Costwolds estate. We expected Barbour jackets and green wellies to emerge at any point.

P1090407Crossing the railway, we made our way past the Duchy Nurseries and onto the ridge of a hill along which we walked for a mile or more on a small road with the valley of the Fowey river stretching out below us.

Eventually, passing a piece of wild wood filled with bluebells, we arrived at a wayside cross, artfully included in the front garden of what was probably once a toll house.

From here, it was  a short walk to the crinkle-crankle Respryn bridge. Quite why the builders decided to change direction midstream is not clear but they did and the result is amusing, but perhaps less so for car drivers of a nervous disposition. One of the width bollards at the entrance had been knocked over. I see that has gone again said a passing local.

P1090410The tannoy of a horse-riding event came to us over the air as we entered Lanhydrock estate and walked up the long and magnificent double avenue towards the house. This undulates and it is not until the last moment that the gatehouse appears in view.

The gardens were in full bloom, with enormous rhododendrons doing what only that plant can do when in full flower: sparkling with bright reds, whites and yellows.

After a restorative cup of National Trust coffee, we headed back, eventually leaving the gardens and descending in a lovely wood from which there were wide open views over a field towards the Lanhydrock woods.

P1090413The broad-leafed trees provided all the colour one needed, mixing their greens into a child’s picture of a wood with pom-pom parkland trees in the foreground.

Eventually we left the National Trust’s property and joined a rough track past the inevitable water treatment works. By now we were walking parallel to the river on the edge of flood plain. This would have been the natural direct route from Lostwithiel to Bodmin but there was little sign that it had been used as such.

P1090416A little further on and we found ourselves passing through the amazingly trim outbuildings of Restormel Farm before turning back up to the castle again. We had walked 7.6 miles in 2.75 hours.

It was good to feel that we had crossed the corridor between the two towns but the lack of historic symbols such as crosses did not suggest that this ‘instinctive’ route was indeed the historical route used by our ancestors. Two crosses do link Bodmin to St Hydroc’s church next to the house but there is no sign of any south of there.

If we walked this route again we might prefer to cover the same ground twice and stay on the western side of the river, to save walking along the road, even though this would mean missing out on some lovely views of Restormel castle isolated on its hilltop.

Around Launceston

kensey-bridge
Packhorse bridge over the Kensey

Having a few hours spare, we walked around Launceston, visiting three churches: St Mary Magdalene, St Stephen and St Thomas. None was open with only one offering an explanation.

Our walk took us along part of the planned route down the Tamar valley to Polson bridge which is one of the three major waypoints on our route. Just around the corner from this, close to a less-than-salubrious water treatment plant, was a charming little packhorse bridge over the Kensey river which is not marked on the map.

 

Brown Willy and Rough Tor

Brown Willy 0
Brown Willy

A brilliantly hot and sunny July day tempted us out to walk to Brown Willy and Rough Tor. We used the excellent iWalk Cornwall advice.

They promised us 5.2 miles of moderate-strenuous walking ‘marshy even in summer’. The ground was bone dry but we could certainly see that  much of the ground could be marshy with frequent appearance of marsh grasses.

Brown Willy 6
Rough Tor well

It was glorious. Starting from the end of Roughtor road by Charlotte Dymond’s memorial, one is literally tripping over ancient monuments the whole way up the slope to the top.

We headed for the main patch of reeds where some young horses were eating and drinking, and found the ‘holy well’. This was ‘discovered’ in 1970 and then lost again until 1994. One wonders how one loses a well and whether ‘discovered’ is similar to Speke’s ‘discovery’ of the source of the Nile: it was always there and known by local people.

Brown Willy 5
The Piskie bath

For some reason the Wessex Division has decided to plant a memorial on top of Rough Tor. Our ancient ancestors would have understood the respect for the place but it seemed oddly incongruous and faintly invasive in such a landscape.

Our helpful notes did not mention that there was an excellent Piskie bath by the logan rock at the summit. This even has carefully crafted soap dishes.

Crossing to Showery Tor, we met a group of young lads who were doing their DoE Bronze Award, rather slowly, allowing time for the usual youthful banter. We encountered them again on top of Brown Willy where a cry went up ‘There’s a Pokemon up here’. ‘The government has spent £millions trying to get us to take exercise and all it needed was a fun app like this’, as one of them wisely remarked.

Brown Willy 7
View towards Hensbarrow and the Alps

Another couple of walkers turned up thinking they were on Rough Tor, with no map or equipment, having arrived from Bolventor. Happy as anything, they set off for Rough Tor. It was just as well that it was not a ‘typical’ moorland day.

The views around us were magnificent, reaching as far as Hensbarrow, St Breock Down, Dartmoor and was that St Agnes Beacon we could espy?

From Brown Willy we re-crossed the bridge back to the foot of Rough Tor and made our way along the base of the tor towards the settlements, enjoying the remoteness of a small farmhouse with its own field system which must have been in occupation for many centuries.

Brown Willy 2
Fernacre stone circle towards Brown Willy

There was no discernible path here and we could imagine it being pretty boggy in winter.

Fernacre stone circle was a short step away and we paid it a visit. We counted 50 stones either erect or hidden in the grass and walked the obligatory circuit without any ill or beneficial affects.

The way back around the tor was once again littered with meaningful stones which deserve more careful and detailed study: small hut circles, curb stones and alignments. They are probably all Bronze Age.

It had taken us three hours and we had covered 6.4 miles according to our tracker. It had been more moderate than strenuous but that was on a lovely hot day when the ground was rock hard. Boggy or in Winter would be a different matter.