Bodmin and Bodiniel - the two manors

A figure-of-8 walk through Bodmin's historic centre to the beacon nature reserve and through the woods at Dunmere to Scarlett's Well
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The walk starts in the centre of Bodmin and climbs to the local nature reserve at the top of Beacon Hill passing the Bodmin-Wenford railway station and the barracks where the Regimental Museum is now located. The route then crosses through the town to reach the jail and then leaves Bodmin to the hamlet of Bodiniel, once a neighbouring manor. The walk descends through bluebell woods to the Camel Trail and then returns to Bodmin past some of its historic wells.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.4 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Back of main Priory car park
  • Parking: Priory car park (cheaper in the back one by Football Club for this duration) PL312AE. Head into the centre of Bodmin to the roundabout by the church and then follow the road uphill from the roundabout. The car park is signposted.
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes in summer, boots in winter

OS maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Cornwall's historic County Town
  • Town Museum (free entry)
  • Cornwall's Regimental Museum
  • Bodmin's historic jail
  • Courtroom Experience in the Shire Hall
  • Bodmin & Wenford heritage railway
  • Bodmin Beacon Nature Reserve
  • Scarlett's Well
  • Snowdrops, bluebells and woodland wildlife at Bodiniel

Directions

  1. Make your way to the back of the car park and then follow the track leading uphill to the right. Continue past the entrance to the Football Club and on the pavement along the track past one sign for the railway and museum to reach a second (smaller) sign for these where the a path departs uphill.

    Bodmin is one of the oldest towns in Cornwall, with a religious foundation in the 6th Century by St Petroc. It was the largest town and main religious centre in Cornwall in 1086 when it was documented in the Domesday Book:

    The Church of St Petroc holds Bodmin. There is 1 hide of land, and land for 4 ploughs. There are 30 acres of pasture and 6 acres of scrubland. St Petroc has 68 houses and 1 market. The whole is worth 25s.

    Bodmin received its first Royal Charter in 1563 from Elizabeth I which established it as a self-governing town. However, it wasn't until early Victorian times that it took over from Launceston as the County Town of Cornwall. In late Victorian times, the administrative functions began to move to Truro once the Great Western Railway arrived and the cathedral was built. Despite Truro being the cathedral city and administrative centre, Bodmin is still the County Town of Cornwall.

  2. Bear left onto the path indicated for the train and museum and follow it until it ends on the road.

    "The Keep", which today houses Cornwall’s Regimental Museum, was originally built in 1859 to provide stores and a parade ground for the Royal Cornwall Rangers Militia Regiment. This was later extended into Victoria Barracks in 1881 with the addition of many other buildings, including separate soldiers' quarters for the newly formed Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry (DCLI). The barracks played a major role in the life of the town and the county for over 100 years. During the Cold War, the barracks housed a Russian language school, the "School for Spies".

  3. When you reach the road, turn left and follow the pavement until you reach a crossing at a junction to the right.

    The Museum is housed in the original home of Cornwall’s Regiment. The Victorian Keep was built in the style of a French Chateau, and many original features of this Grade II listed building still exist, including the great granite staircase which visitors climb to reach the museum’s collections, and the military Police cells which are dressed to the Cold War era. The museum also holds the DCLI and LI archives, and a reference library where a team of research volunteers help over 300 families a year to discover their military past.

  4. If you wish to visit the Regimental Museum, continue ahead and return here afterwards. Cross the road to Harleigh Road and follow this past the Bodmin and Wenford Railway to a junction with Marks Drive.

    When the London to Penzance line was built in the 1800s, the initial intention was to run this through Bodmin to link with the Padstow line, running on what is now the Camel Trail. However, to cut cost, the line was never built through Bodmin and instead a station was built at Glynn Bridge (now Bodmin Parkway).

    In 1887, a branch line was built into Bodmin from the mainline station now known as Bodmin Parkway to a station known as Bodmin General. A year later it was also connected to the Bodmin and Wadebridge railway via Boscarne junction, providing a link between the main line and the railway running from Wenfordbridge to Padstow.

    Although the station closed to passengers in 1967, it remained in use for freight trains until 1983. Although many of the buildings and structures were demolished by British Rail, the station building remained and the Bodmin-Wenford railway is now run from here.

  5. Cross the road to the pavement opposite and continue following Harleigh Road until it ends in a junction.

    The Bodmin and Wenford heritage steam railway runs for 6.5 miles between Bodmin Parkway station and Boscarne Junction on the two sections of branch line built to link Bodmin General station to the main line and to the Padstow - Wenfordbridge line. This is Cornwall's only full-size (standard gauge) railway still operated by steam locomotives (the Launceston Steam Railway uses smaller gauge locomotives and tracks originally used in the Welsh quarries).

  6. Turn right at the junction and follow Beacon Road uphill until you reach a track on the left marked "Except for Access" just as you reach the top of the hill.

    Red valerian grows in the wall along Beacon Road.

    Red valerian is also known as kiss-me-quick, fox's brush and Devil's or Jupiter's beard and can be seen flowering in early summer in hedgerows near the coast. The plant is originally from the Mediterranean and is thought to have been introduced as a garden plant roughly around the Tudor period. It has since become naturalised and the brightly-coloured flowers provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths. Over time the base of the stems can get as thick as a small tree trunk which can lever apart the walls in which it can often be seen growing.

  7. Cross the road to the track opposite and follow this to a gate. Pass around the left of the gate and continue along the track until you reach a small gap in the wall on the right, just before a granite gatepost on the left.
  8. Go through the gap on the right and follow the left hedge to reach a gate on the far side.
  9. Turn right before the gate to stay in the field and continue past the benches to join a gravel path. Follow this through the gap in the wall to reach the base of the monument.

    Near the monument on Beacon Hill is a circular earthwork known locally as the Wrestling Ring as Cornish Wrestling took place here. Previous to this, it is thought to have been a fire beacon, hence the name of the hill. It's possible that the beacon may have itself used a prehistoric barrow as its basis (barrows are often found on the top of prominent hills such as this and several were recorded here in 1813).

  10. Continue ahead on the gravel path from the monument to reach a gate with a parking area behind.

    The 44-metre tall monument was built in 1857 by the townspeople of Bodmin to honour the life and work in India of Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert who was born in Bodmin in 1785. At the age of fifteen he joined the Bengal Infantry as a cadet and eventually rose to the rank of major-general. He became a national hero following his conquests in Northern India and (apart from the Duke of Wellington) was the only army officer whose portrait appeared on an army medal.

  11. Pass around the gate and keep right to follow the tarmac ahead. Continue to the junction with the road, joining the pavement on the left to reach a crossing on the speed hump.

    The Bodmin Beacon Local Nature Reserve was designated in 1994 on what was formerly known as Bodmin Downs and covers 87 acres surrounding the Gilbert Monument on Beacon Hill. The meadows and community woodland provide a range of habitats for birds and insects.

  12. Cross the road and follow Robartes Road downhill. Continue downhill past the school until you reach a junction with Beacon Hill on the right.

    Robert Robartes was the son of the Earl of Radnor and had the title "Viscount Bodmin" during the Stuart times of the Civil War. He purchased Lanhydrock House where his family have lived since then.

    Viscount ranks above a Baron (the lowest peerage title) but below an Earl (with Marquess and Duke forming the highest two peerage ranks). When intermarriage resulted in the inheritance of multiple titles, the oldest son was often given the father's lower-rank title whilst he was still alive and then the higher rank one was inherited on his death.

    Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Robert Robartes sat in the House of Commons for 19 years before becoming ambassador to Denmark. He died whilst in the Danish court at only 48 and whilst his father was still alive. He therefore never inherited the title of Earl which passed to his eldest son on the death of his father.

  13. Bear right down Beacon Hill and follow this until it ends in a T-junction.

    Tucked behind the houses towards the bottom of the hill, there is a large chapel (now Wetherspoons) on the right which dates from Victorian times when Methodism was popular in Cornwall. The organ, built in 1886, is still present.

    In the early 18th Century, a rift developed between the Cornish people and their Anglican clergy. Meanwhile in Oxford, the Wesley brothers began practising their rigorous holy lifestyle which was mockingly referred to as Methodism by their peers. The Wesley brothers arrived in Cornwall in 1743 and began preaching, bringing with them charismatic lay preachers who spoke in the dialect of the locals. Services were held in the cottages which was attractive to women who needed to look after young children, and in the many villages where the parish church was more than a mile away or at the top of a steep hill. A combination of these factors made Methodism very popular in Cornwall and through the late 18th and the 19th Century, many chapels were built (in the centre of the villages).

  14. Turn left and follow the pavement to Robartes Road. Cross over this and continue along the pavement to the pedestrian crossing just past the Give Way signs.

    The cross was made in 2002 of granite from De Lank quarries.

    The De Lank quarries are on Bodmin Moor between Blisland and St Breward. The quarries lie along the bed of the De Lank river, which runs through a culvert beneath the quarry workings. Buildings and monuments that have incorporated silver-grey granite include Tower Bridge, The Royal Opera House and monuments to Churchill and Marx. At the Eden Project, "The Seed" in "The Core" was quarried from here.

  15. Cross via the island to the pavement opposite. Turn right and follow the pavement past the Mason's Arms and downhill to a junction on the left signposted for Bodmin Jail.

    The Mason's Arms was originally located on Fore Street next to Bell Lane but was relocated twice in the first half of the 19th Century before settling in its present position.

    As you go down the hill, the large building opposite was built as a Bible Christian chapel.

    In the first half of the 19th Century, the methodist movement fragmented into several different factions, often each with its own chapel in the same town. The Bible Christian movement was one of these, founded in 1815 by William O'Bryan from Luxulyan and his followers are also known as the Bryonites, although after falling out with most of his ministers, O'Bryan emigrated to America.

  16. Bear left down Cardell Road and follow the road downhill using the right-hand pavement until the road ends in a T-junction.
  17. Turn right at the junction and follow the road a short distance to a junction with a lane on the opposite side of the road, marked with a stone cross.

    The cross was found lying on a heap of stones near the jail in the 1800s and re-erected. In 1968 it was hit by a lorry and broke into 3 pieces which have subsequently been stuck back together. The cross may have marked the pilgrim route to Scarlett's Well.

    Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross (a crucifix with a circular ring) developed from the sun cross (a cross inside a circle), a common symbol in artefacts of Prehistoric Europe, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. When Christianity came to the celtic regions, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol, to remind them of the cross on which their new Saviour was crucified.

  18. Cross the road to the lane and follow this past the jail and Armchair Corner. Continue following the lane until you reach another junction on the left, with a barely readable signpost to Middle and Lower Bodiniel.

    Bodmin Jail is a historic former prison situated in the town of Bodmin, on the south-west edge of Bodmin Moor. Bodmin Jail was built in 1779 by prisoners of war and was a milestone in prison design and progressiveness. It was light and airy and it was the first British prison where inmates had individual sleeping cells. There was hot water and an infirmary for sick prisoners. It was separated into three isolated areas for felons, misdemeanants and debtors. Males and females were also segregated. Prisoners worked to make products which the governor sold and paid them from the profits.

    In 1861, the jail was rebuilt as even despite being extended, the original building was not large enough to accommodate all those "doing time". Towards the end of the First World War, national treasures including the Domesday Book, Coronation Rolls and all State Papers were stored in the Jail. The Jail finally closed in 1927 and, since then, there has been no prison in the county.

  19. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane for just over a quarter of a mile to Lower Bodiniel Cottage.

    Swallows have evolved a long slender body and pointed wings that makes their flight more than twice as efficient as other birds of a similar size. Swallows forage for insects on the wing, typically around 7-8 metres above the ground. They can sometimes be seen skimming the surface of water either to drink or to bathe which they also do in flight.

  20. At Lower Bodiniel Cottage, turn right up the track just before the cottage and follow it to a gate.

    Wild garlic grows along the track and is visible in spring.

    Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are the useful bit rather than the bulb, so cut/pull off the leaves (don't pull up the plants). The leaves are quite delicate, so you can use quite large quantities in cooking; therefore, harvest it in the kind of quantities that you'd buy salad leaves from the supermarket. There are some lillies that look fairly similar (and some are poisonous) but the smell is the giveaway: if it doesn't smell of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic.

  21. Go through the gate and bear left across the track to a wooden slatted fence. Climb this then follow along the fence on your right to reach a gate and stile at the far side of the field.

    Electric fences are powered with a car battery which charges a capacitor to release a periodic pulse of electricity; this is often audible as a quiet "crack" which is a good indicator that a fence is powered. The power is not high enough to cause serious injury but touching an electric fence is nevertheless unpleasant in a similar way to stinging nettles. If you are answering the call of nature in the vicinity of an electric fence, be mindful of the conductivity of electrolyte solutions!

  22. Carefully unclip the springy section of fence (it's quite a strong spring!) to pass through and re-clip. Then cross the stile and the track and follow the path opposite down into the woods to reach a fork in the path.

    There are some nice displays of bluebells in the woods in April and early May.

    In folklore, the bluebell is a symbol of constancy, presumably based on the fact that they flower in the same place every year. It was said that anyone who wears a bluebell is compelled to tell the truth. This is probably the origin of the '…something blue…' that a bride should wear on her wedding day.

  23. At the fork, take the right-hand path and when you reach a second fork, keep left so the bank stays on your right. Keep following the path downhill when the paths merge and continue until the path ends in a T-junction with a stony track.

    The wall along the left side of the woodland contains a large rabbit warren; you may encounter a few startled rabbits on your way through the woods if no-one has been down here for a few hours.

    Rabbits were originally from the Iberian peninsula and were brought to Britain by the Normans and kept in captivity as a source of meat and fur. Rabbits are able to survive on virtually any vegetable matter and with relatively few predators, those that escaped multiplied into a sizeable wild population. Given that most farmers' crops met the "virtually any vegetable matter" criterion, in the 1950s, the disease myxomatosis was deliberately introduced to the UK to curb rabbit numbers and they almost became extinct. The few survivors resistant to the disease have since multiplied and the peak population is now estimated at around half the size of the UK human population. Rabbits provide food for foxes, stoats, weasels and birds of prey such as the buzzard.

  24. When you reach the track, turn left and follow it a short distance to reach the Camel Trail. Immediately after the gate, turn left onto the trail and follow this to where it crosses over a lane.

    The Camel Trail is a recreational walking and cycling track along the track bed of an old railway running from Wenfordbridge to Padstow. The railway, where the Camel Trail now runs, was originally built in 1831 by local landowner, Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, with a branch to Bodmin, was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. Later, the railway was used to ship slate and china clay from inland quarries to ships in Padstow and also transport fish, landed in Padstow, to London and other cities. The last passenger train was in 1967 and freight finally ceased in 1983, when a need to invest in new track forced closure of the line.

  25. Cross over the lane to the trail opposite and follow it to where it meets the lane again. Keep left to continue a little further on the trail to where a path departs to the left, just before St Anne's Cottage B&B.

    Yellow celandine flowers also can be seen along the trail in early spring.

    The name Celandine is thought to come from the Latin word for swallow. It is said that the flowers bloom when the birds return in Spring and fade when they leave in Autumn. Celandine flowers close each night and open each morning. This is controlled by a circadian rhythm, so they really are 'going to sleep' at night and 'waking up in the morning'. It is likely that this has arisen to protect the internals of the flowers from any frost during the night as they begin flowering in March when frosts are still common.

  26. Turn left onto the path leading uphill. Keep following the path between the hedges until eventually the cycle track passes alongside and you reach a path leading down to a footbridge over a stream. Follow the path over the bridge until it ends on a lane.

    The association of holly with winter celebrations pre-dates Christianity: druids were known to use holly wreaths which, it is likely with some discomfort, they wore on their heads.

  27. Join the lane ahead and follow it until it ends in a junction.

    Scarletts Well is named after a family prominent in the 14th Century. It is known to have been in use in this period from a 14th Century Papal bulla (an official lead seal attached to a pardon from Purgatory in return for payment) found beside the well. Rumours spread that it could cure all sort of ailments and consequently it attracted huge numbers of visitors in mediaeval times which eventually caused so much annoyance that access to it was forbidden for a time. It was suggested in 1600 that its "miraculous" powers were due to the water percolating through a mineral vein.

  28. Keep left at the junction and follow the road until you reach a car park on the right just before the lane ends in a T-junction.
  29. Go through the car park gate on the right or the pedestrian gap just after it. Follow along the wall to reach a tarmac track (watch out for cyclists). Turn left onto this and follow it until it ends on a pavement.

    The Coast and Clay Trails is a 45 mile public access network of tracks and roads running from Bodmin to Truro via St Austell. The trails were first opened as "The Clay Trails" around St Austell in 2005 as part of a restoration programme to provide new habitats for flora and fauna. The trails are described as "multi-use" although are principally aimed at cyclists, with many sections of the routes being on Public Highways (quiet lanes where possible). For walking, the offroad sections don't offer that much on their own but do create a few useful links.

  30. Turn right onto the pavement and follow alongside the road to a junction with Cardell Road.

    The town of Bodmin is thought to have grown from a location originally settled in the late 5th or early 6th Century by a hermit known as St Guron. In AD518, St Petroc travelled inland from his original settlement at Padstow and was invited to stay by Guron. Petroc remained and founded a monastery in Bodmin whilst Guron moved "about a day's journey to the south" to Gorran Churchtown near Gorran Haven.

  31. Cross Cardell road to the path leading from pavement on the opposite side. Follow the path between the metal fences to emerge onto a road beside Sainsbury's.

    After St Petroc died, he was buried at the monastery in Padstow. After lots of Viking raids, the monks fled to Bodmin carrying the bones of St Petroc. In 1177, a disenfranchised monk stole the remains and took them to Britany but Henry II intervened. They were returned in an ivory casket to Bodmin church where they remained until 1997 when they were stolen again, although this time not by a monk. They were eventually traced and recovered and are now back in the church.

  32. Join the road and follow it until it ends in a junction.

    Sainsbury's car park is on the site of Bodmin North station.

    The Bodmin and Wadebridge railway (now the Camel Trail) included a branch line that ran from Dunmere to a small station in Bodmin known as Bodmin Wharf but later renamed Bodmin North. Towards the end of the 19th Century, the station was rebuilt by the London and South Western Railway. The station was in use until the 1960s and was closed in 1967.

  33. Turn right at the junction and follow the wall on the right to another junction and around the corner to a pedestrian crossing on the main road.

    St Guron's wellhouse, located beside the church, is thought to date from the mid 16th century and was the town's main water supply until quite recent times. Records from the early 16th century refer to aqueducts created to carry water through the church to a location outside the churchyard so it is thought that the spring is located somewhere underneath the church. In earlier times, this was known as St Petroc's well and St Petroc's well near the football ground was known as St Guron's.

  34. Cross the main road beside the roundabout and turn left to pass Chapel Lane and Market Street and reach Hamley Court with a pedestrian sign for the town centre.

    Cock's Well, located on the corner of Chapel Lane, supplied water for the houses nearby and a blacksmith opposite. The present well is dated 1849 but the spring here may have been in use before this date. In 1881, the water became contaminated with a typhoid-like infection which resulted in 60 cases of fever and 13 deaths. Two of the fatalities were the blacksmiths who drank a lot of water due to their hot work.

  35. Turn right and follow Bell Lane around a bend to the left to reach an alley just before the well railings on the right signposted to the town centre.
  36. Bear right up the alley to emerge on Fore Street.

    The well at Bree Schute is known as the Eye Well as the water was reputed to heal eye complaints. The stone tablet dating from 1700 indicates the well was already in use by the Civil War period. In 1872, a Rivers Commission report found the water to be highly contaminated and a source of possible illnesses.

  37. Turn left and follow the street downhill until you reach a junction.

    The small passage between the shops on the right-hand side of the road is known as Arnold's Passage.

    John Arnold was born in Bodmin in 1736 and worked initially as an apprentice for his father who was a clockmaker before moving to Holland and South East England to work as a watchmaker. He made the smallest watch ever, fitted on a ring, as a gift for George III. He was the first person to design a watch that was both practical and accurate and he introduced the term "chronometer" and largely invented the modern mechanical watch.

  38. Keep right at the junction to pass the Shire Hall where the road ends in a junction.

    St Francis of Assisi began preaching in 1207 and two years later the Franciscan Order was founded, requiring monks to live in austerity to emulate the life of Jesus. A group of Friars reached England in 1224 and the Franciscan movement spread quickly to the principal towns across England. It is known that Bodmin Friary was built before 1253 but not exactly when. It was located on Mount Folly where the Shire Hall and Courthouse now stand, and included a fairly large church which was demolished in the 19th Century to make room for the Courthouse. Remains of the cemetery have been found beneath the Shire Hall.

    Bodmin's Shire Hall was the County Court, completed in 1838 and in use for 150 years until 1988 when it was replaced by new County Courts in Truro. The building included two courtrooms, two judges' dressing rooms and 30 small holding cells with a communal washing trough. One of the courtrooms is still intact and used for a re-enactment of the Charlotte Dymond murder case.

    A museum in Bodmin is documented in 1843 which fell into neglect and was resurrected twice, with the current Town Museum opening in 1983 in the ground floor of the Public Rooms. The Town Museum has stones from Bodmin's Augustinian priory, a bell from the mediaeval Friary, the fire engine that was used to put out the Lanhydrock fire in 1881, and lots more from the Victorian period including Cornish kitchen and blacksmith displays. Entry is free.

  39. Cross the road to the bank opposite then follow the parking signs back into the car park. If you wish to visit the church after the walk, follow one of the paths from the car park through the park below to emerge on the road opposite the church then use the pedestrian crossing towards Lidl.

    In the mediaeval period following the Norman Conquest, the Augustinian Canons established a priory in Bodmin which became the largest religious house in Cornwall. It is thought that the priory was first established in the 12th Century around 1120, before the Franciscan friary was built at Mount Folly in the 13th Century. The priory was located in the area that is now mostly a park on the opposite side of the road from St Thomas Beckett's chapel which would have been several centuries old when the priory was first built. The pond in the park was originally the priory fishpond. Following Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, the mediaeval priory buildings were sold off and gradually demolished and replaced. In the 18th Century, Priory House (at the bottom of the park) was built and the surrounding area landscaped, burying the remains of the priory which still survive below the ground. During garden excavations, the remains of a dovecote and a private chapel were found between Priory House and the pond.

    St Petroc's church, which is the largest parish church in Cornwall, was built largely in the 15th Century after a mediaeval crowdfunding campaign where 460 householders donated money or nails. However, the base of the church tower remains from an early 12th Century stone church and the Norman font is also from this period. The 15th Century tower originally had a spire one hundred feet high until this was destroyed by lightning in 1699. The church underwent a fairly drastic restoration in the 1870s during which many of the mediaeval features were lost including a Norman door.

    The ruin in the churchyard is the remains of a chapel, recorded in 1377, making it the oldest surviving religious building in the town (albeit as a ruin). The chapel is dedicated to St Thomas Becket - the Archbishop of Canturbury who fell out with the King Henry II during Norman times. Beckett was murdered by four knights who quite possibly misinterpreted the King's words of exasperation as an order of execution. The chapel was used as Bodmin's first Grammar School and later as a school for girls before it went out of use in the late 1850s and fell into ruin.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

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