Category Archives: The Copper Trail

Trevague to Minions

Close to Trevague

We started the sixth and last leg of the Copper Trail on one of those May days when one is not sure whether it is going to shower with rain or burn you to a frazzle. It turned out to be a lovely day for a walk: no rain and with enough cloud to prevent over-heating or burning.

There had been copious rain after a long dry spell and the hedges and fields were filled with lush green growth. The last of the bluebells, campion, three-cornered leek (wild garlic) and cow parsley providing a charming red, white and blue accompaniment to the green of the hedgerows.

A boundary stone (North Hill side)

We picked up where we had left off, close to Trevague, following a familiar path through a wood and out onto the moor in search of the Nine Stones stone circle. On our previous walk we had been unable to find this stone circle, as though the piskies had spirited it away. We had searched random stones in search of the boundary stones which led to the circle, but without success. This time, we soon found the line of boundary stones with their comforting letters ‘A’ (for Altarnun) and ‘N’ (for North Hill) carved on them.

The stones themselves were easily spotted, alone on a wide sweep of moor which seemed to contain no vestige of the C21, the distance hills being shrouded in morning mist.

The Nine stones stone circle

The small Bronze Age circle consists of eight stones around a single central stone. It has been restored over time but retains its lonely charm. Sadly, cattle seem to have used the stones as rubbing posts and they are all surrounded by deep muddy patches which are no doubt pools in winter.

It would be splendid to meet the men who built this stone circle, even for a moment, or to watch them working or carrying out rituals within it. Just for a moment our various guesses would be confirmed or denied and our understanding would be extended.

A serpent in Clitters wood

We returned to the lonely house of Clitters which bordered a small virgin wood. In amongst the trees were boulders covered in moss and the relics of previous trees, seemingly twisted into the shapes of great serpents, their mouths gaping, awaiting unsuspecting humans. As night falls this would become a magical and fearful place.

Much of this walk was on roads but quiet roads with almost no traffic which made the going easy. Many of the settlements reminded us of the contrast between West Carne and South Carne on our previous walk: some houses set in manicured gardens, others very much rough working farms apparently collecting scrap metal and the occasional dead car. Stonaford contained both.

The entrance to Trebartha

We were soon approaching the once-great estate of Trebartha, the former home of the Rodd family. The house has gone but there is evidence of careful planting and some lovely buildings clustered around the Home Farm.

By now we were in the valley of the Lynher and a very fine valley it is too. The moor reaches up one side but the valley itself is lush and well cared-for.

A straight stretch brought us into the village of North Hill in time for a cup of coffee. We sat in the churchyard, admiring the wildflowers that survived in God’s acre. Inconveniently, the church was in use for a service and we could not visit, but returned later in the day.

North Hill church from afar

Our way took us out of the village and across a field: the book excelling with its directions as usual ‘… a stile into the woods, just left of the tall trees’ (it was).

A steep climb through some ancient woodland took us back to the edge of the moor on the west bank. Again, we speculated whether one of our ancestors would recognise the virgin forest through which we were walking, for the C21 seemed to have changed little.

From here our way was dominated by the rugged outline of Sharp Tor while off to our right were apparently the hidden remains of various mine workings and quarries.

Henwood lending library

Crossing the Lynher once again at Berrowbridge, we walked up and over a ridge, descending to Henwood which almost boasted a village green. Sitting on the granite seat in the middle of a traffic island, we could admire views of the rolling countryside, across the Lynher and Tamar valleys towards the tors of distant Dartmoor.

The evidence of mining activity increased as we made our way on the last leg of our journey, mostly the remains of the Phoenix United Mine whose engine house still stands amidst a decayed landscape.

The Cheesering was evident on a hill above us with people clustered around it. We resisted the temptation to divert from the approved route  (why does it not go that way, we wondered) and headed along the road, avoiding various feral sheep, until we were within the village of Minions and close to a welcoming cafe. We had circumnavigated Bodmin Moor.

We had walked 8.8 miles (gps) or 8 miles (Google) in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Davidstow to Trevague

Davidstow airfield’s parking problem

Spring had arrived, in a hurry. In a short period of time, leaves had sprung out from branches, fruit trees had burst into blossom, the hedgerows had filled with flowers, and the sun was beating down on a bank holiday weekend. Better still, it had not rained heavily for at least a week and the land was not water-logged.

We picked up where we left off, in a desolate spot somewhere in the middle of Davidstow airfield, possibly the easiest place to find a parking space. That is if you do not mind parking next to a sign which says ‘Aircraft land and take-off from here’. I wonder if the sheep can read.

A wheatear

The first mile was the dullest walk we have done for a long time: one mile straight, on a level road with nothing but sheep and the occasional passing car for company. Eventually we forked right and headed for Old Park. Here we were joined by some brightly-coloured Wheatears which hopped from rock to rock, confused by two walkers on a bright morning. Beside us a positive cavalry of shaggy moorland ponies munched on fresh silage.

Behind us was a wide desolate, flat landscape fringed by Crowdy reservoir and a few stands of trees.

The remains of Roughtor Consuls mine

Close to Old Park is the remains of the Roughtor Consuls mine: a few lumps of masonry and some humps and bumps. In the shallow valley below lay the source of the river Fowey which the guidebook calls ‘a boggy inhospitable area best left to the animals’. Neither the sheep, nor their baa-ing lambs seemed to object.

Rejoining a road, we headed downhill towards Bowithick, a well-cared for hamlet which fringed the rough ground of the moor.

Bowithick ford

Just beyond was a small stream, the infant Penpont water which would wind its way to join the river Inny. A charming bridge beside a ford provided a good place for a coffee stop.

The road then followed a contour, skirting the bottom of Bray and Carne Downs with rough rising ground on our right and increasingly lush well-watered fields in the valley to our left. Sheep to the right and cattle to the left. The going was easy and the roads empty.

The next two hamlets were in stark contrast to each other. West Carne had all the precision of a Cotswold village with the grass well-mowed, the saddle stones in just the right places by the drive, the houses fringed by some lovely granite walls. South Carne was a working farm surrounded by a mass of rusty metal and dead cars.

Lady’s smock

From South Carne we cut across country, following a path, through some lovely lush fields. These were the meadows of our youthful memories with wild flowers in profusion: bluebells, primroses, wood violets, wild garlic in abundance and some lovely bright white Lady’s smock (or cuckoo plant). These were not fields zapped by weed killers.

The path brought us out at Trewint, close to Five Lanes, the official end of this leg of the Trail but we had plenty of energy left and diverted to view Altarnun church, one of Cornwall’s greatest.

Altarnun is a little oasis, a series of well-maintained houses stretching down a short hill towards the tall-towered church where a troll’s bridge spans a bubbling stream. The church is in a league of its own for its magnificent carved bench ends.

Altarnun: the troll bridge

We sat down to eat some lunch amidst bright primroses, daisies, brightly coloured azaleas and flashes of bluebell, watching the stream tumble beneath the bridge.

Returning to the main route, we passed into South Cornwall through a bridge under the A30 and headed south into the unpopulated country along the eastern edge of the south moor. In the distance, the bulk of Dartmoor was a hazy outline while below us lay the familiar rolling country through which the Tamar flows.

Roads and paths led us from farmstead to farmstead until we reached the ford at Trevague where our car was waiting us.

Across the Tamar valley

We could not resist the temptation to see if we could collect a stone circle before the end of the day and headed onwards to the abandoned barn at Clitters, and up onto the moor in search of the Nine Stones. Being only one metre tall, they eluded us but we found some interesting boundary stones which someone had gone to the effort of placing across the moor to delineate the boundary between Altarnun and North Hill parishes. I hope the sheep were grateful.

We returned to our two cars and found Davidstow airfield lost in a dense mist, on a day on which the sun had shone with real heat, suggesting why it was a less-than-ideal situation for an airfield.

We had walked 12.8 miles (gps) 11 miles (Google maps) in five and half hours of glorious sunshine.

 

 

St Breward to Davidstow airfield

One of the many stiles

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.

The path lies through the middle of this. Note the ‘hidden’ bridge

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.

Rough Tor, Brown Willy and Stannon Clay Works from Harpur’s Down

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.

Lichen on the trees at Watergate

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.

The Moorgate Long Stone

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 River Camel

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.

Crowdy Reservoir

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

 

Callywith to St Breward

It was good to get out and stretch our legs

We set out on a cold dry, windy January day with the objective of shaking off the effects of Christmas and to find some fresh air after a series of heavy storms and gales had passed through. It was sunny and cold with a stiffish wind blowing.

This stretch of the Copper Trail took us on a wide sweep westwards from Callywith, close to Bodmin, to meet the upper reaches of the Camel Trail before breaking away to head back up to the moor ending at St Breward.

Leaving the road near Racecourse Farm, we followed a series of tracks towards Copshorn. The mud was thick in places and we were grateful for the sharp frost which had stiffened the surface of the surrounding grass.

The trail often passed small settlements at the bottom of valleys, close to bridges. The first of these was at Clerkenwater where there used to be a woollen mill. A charming Old Laundry Cottage gave a hint of its original purpose.

The Camel Trail ensured there was always light at the end of the tunnel

At Copshorn, on the hill above, we encountered a large solar farm which was not mentioned in the guidebook and the paths had been altered. From here, the path descended by forestry roads through a wood where, after a momentary hesitation, we managed to join up with the Camel Trail.

The Trail was one of the two highlights of this walk. This section of the familiar was much less busy than the Padstow to Bodmin section and followed the Camel river at a slight distance, through some lovely woodland. We were glad to be out of the wind and walking on firm level ground for about 4 miles, passing Hellandbridge and eventually reaching Tresarrett.

We saw only a few cyclists, runners and walkers as we chuffed our way along the old railway track. Despite one’s childhood dreams, a career driving a steam train must have been a relatively repetitive process with cold mornings, rain, and constant smoke and coal dust. Yet some lines must have been a joy and this is surely one of them, watching the changing seasons in the trees and river as the line winds upwards between the outpost of Wenford and the busy metropolis of Bodmin.

The granite bridge which only crosses part of the river

From a road junction at Tresarrett a short uphill section led to some more muddy tracks which dropped down into another valley, across a narrow granite bridge, and up a steep slope emerging right beside the lovely Blisland church.  Here we settled down to a lunch which included some warming and welcome soup.

Tearing ourselves away from the delights of the village green, we headed north through Pendrift.

Our next objective was the area around the de Lank quarries, the second highlight of the walk. The evidence of the quarry’s work had been very evident as all the houses and cottages we had seen had been built of solid granite.

Pendrift moor. Spot the ‘solitary hawthorn tree’

We soon found ourselves back on waterlogged and very muddy ground, especially as we emerged onto the wide-open spaces of Pendrift Downs.

Somewhere here, amongst the dead and brown bracken, we were told to turn off at a ‘solitary hawthorn tree’. It is a mistake to use trees as waypoints, certainly in an area which was covered in hawthorns. We chose one and found something of a path which led in much the right direction and continued, hopping from tussock to tussock. ‘In winter this path can get wet underfoot’ said the guidebook. I should say it can.

The de Lank river

It was worth the effort however as we soon found ourselves crossing the de Lank river which gushed and tumbled over the boulders, heading for Wenford. The guidebook likens this to the Golitha falls.

Crossing the old quarry road, the path went through the muddiest possible field inhabited by some cold-looking cows. Thankfully, the hard surface was not far below the surface but our boots were now thoroughly caked with the resulting mud (as were some socks).

Eventually, we emerged on a road and were able to follow a path into the beginnings of the long string of hamlets that makes up St Breward. A final muddy path past the school and we had reached our destination: the Old Inn next to St Breward church.

The temperature was beginning to drop and we were pleased to be able to visit the church.

We had covered 10 miles (according to the guide), 11 miles (according to the map) or 15 miles according to our gps, in 5 hours. The heating in the car was very welcome.

 

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.

Minions to St Neot

Cornwall Council does have a sense of humour after all!

A bright sunny day after a few days of heavy rain tempted us out to start the Copper Trail which had been on our agenda for some time. We decided to start at the beginning at Minions where we discovered that Cornwall Council does have a sense of humour after all.

On the roadside opposite the road sign stood the tall Long Tom wheel-headed wayside cross which may well be an original menhir.

This section of the trail was full of interest and variety, ranging from ancient monuments churches and holy wells, to C19 mining natural delights. 

The Hurlers

The real start of our walk was at the Hurlers and Pipers. The Hurlers consists of three Bronze Age stone circles close to each other: a rare formation but no help in understanding how and why stone circles were used.

The trail proper starts by following a disused railway/tramway south from Minions. Lumps of granite are marked with holes where the rails were originally connected. A short distance ahead, the track descends the former Gonamena incline, emerging eventually at Crow’s Nest. To the east, the remains of the South Caradon mine bespatter the side of Caradon Hill with its enormous television transmitter.

Trevethy Quoit

Our next monument was Scillonian portal tomb of Trevethy Quoit, possibly Cornwall’s oldest structure: an enormous neolithic dolmen. Sadly a row of houses rather encroaches on its setting but on a fine day, there can be few better sights.

The purpose of the hole in the capstone is unknown.

In the distance, the tower of St Cleer was visible above the trees and we took an overgrown bridleway which would never have accommodated a horse, down the hill to Trecarne (where the houses all seemed to have ‘Carne’ in their names). Here, we left the trail to take a detour to visit St Cleer with its holy well and church.

St Cleer holy well

The holy well, dedicated to St Clare of the order of Poor Clare’s – St Francis’ friend – is an elaborate structure which successive restorations has rather hemmed in with an inelegant wall. Its waters, we are reliably informed, will cure insanity but they are sadly inaccessible, which may explain a lot.

Alongside stands a C15 Latin cross.

We rejoined the main trail near South Trekeive. It would have been a short step to the C8 King Doniert’s Stone – or stones – with its inscription and lovely Celtic knotwork but we had already visited them on the way to Minions.

At South Trekeive we passed our third water treatment works of the day – always a delight – before crossing Bulland Downs and emerging at Draynes Bridge.

Golitha falls on the River Fowey

A short detour through some lovely woodland – a nature reserve – is highly recommended to view Golitha Falls. Here we found various people wandering around asking ‘are these the falls?‘ in the manner of someone expecting Victoria Falls on a charming Cornish river.

We can recommend the reserve for dog walking, adventures and picnics.

Back to the road and a steep climb up to the hamlet of Draynes  before an equally steep decline to the converted Methodist chapel at Lower Trenant. From here, the track took us into the lovely Periock Wood, following a stream up a muddy path towards Lower Bowden. Here the farmer had helpfully cut a track across an unharvested hay field to indicate the ‘right route’.

St Neot holy well

We emerged close to the almost invisible Berry Castle and cut across some open moorland before descending towards St Neot, hidden in the valley below. A quick detour to the hopelessly Victorian holy well brought us eventually to St Neot’s wonderful church with its incredible windows.

Here we ended the first stage of the Copper Trail. Our gps said we had walked over 12 miles in about 4.75 hours although Google Maps stubbornly suggests nearer 9 miles.

If the later sections of the trail are as full of interest as this section then we are in for a treat.