Bowithick to Buttern Hill

From Bowithick, the walk follows a track to the base of Buttern Hill, which it ascends to the prehistoric burial chamber on the summit. The route continues down into a valley on the other side of the hill, crossing between the marshes that form the source of the the River Fowey. The walk then turns along the valley side towards Oldpark and follows a series of tracks to reach a winding country lane leading back to Bowithick.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.5 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: the ford near Bowithick
  • Parking: Grassy area next to the ford near Bowithick. Cross the ford and park on the grassy area to the right, next to the track. Satnav: PL157SH
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots in dry weather / wellies in wet weather

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Neolithic cairns and burial chambers on Buttern Hill
  • Pretty hamlet of Bowithick
  • Panoramic views of Bodmin Moor including Davidstow Moor, Rough Tor and Brown Willy

Directions

  1. Take the track that starts next to the ford. Follow it over a bridge, past the remains of a concrete platform and down a dip to reach a line of fence posts at the bottom of the hill ahead. If the track is flooded in the dip, there are some stepping stones on the left.

    The concrete platform on the right of the track is the remains of a WWII anti-aircraft gun emplacement, which was part of "RAF Davidstow Moor"

    The paved areas on Davidstow Moor that the road runs alongside and form an intriguing pattern on satellite maps are the remains of RAF Davidstow Moor, and the main control tower is still clearly visible. Constructed during World War 2, RAF Davidstow Moor was used as an airbase from late 1942 until December 1945. The air base was used mainly by the Americans and Canadians for training in the run up to D-Day and were visited by General Eisenhower during 1944. However, the frequent moorland mist rendered the base unusable for much of the time which is why it was closed after the war.

    After the airfield closed, it became a motor racing circuit, known as Davidstow Circuit. In the early 1950s, three Formula One races were held there (the Cornwall MRC Formula 1 Races), including the first success for the Lotus marque.

    Today, part of the airfield is still used by the Davidstow Flying Club (on the less misty days), and the Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall At War Museum has been set up to commemorate the work and people of RAF Davidstow Moor.

  2. At the fence posts, head straight up the hill, alongside of the rocky gorge to cross a ditch via some stones. After the ditch, bear left slightly and head to the very summit of the hill. As you approach the summit, make your way to a circular grassy embankment on the top which contains a burial chamber.

    Dolmens, also known as quoits, are a type of megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone. These were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone "skeleton" of the burial mound remaining.

  3. From the summit, head down the hill towards rightmost of the rocky peaks on the skyline (Showery Tor). As you near the valley floor, head to a small upright granite stone. Once you reach this, continue in the line of Showery Tor to reach another small standing stone on the valley floor.

    From the summit of the hill, you can see the peaks of Brown Willy on your left.

    Brown Willy is a tor on the north-west area of Bodmin Moor.The name "Brown Willy" is actually a distortion of the Cornish Bronn Wennili which means "hill of swallows". The summit is the highest point in Cornwall, at 420m above sea level, but only 20m taller than Rough Tor.

    Behind this, to the right, are the peaks of Roughtor, and Showery Tor on the far right.

  4. Cross the marsh then bear right slightly up the hill ahead, but to the left of the dip in the skyline where the two hills meet. Once you reach the ridge and can see Roughtor again, then head for some earthworks on the ridge. As you approach these, head to a stone wall damming a small stream.

    The marsh on the left is the source of the River Fowey.

    The River Fowey rises close to Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and is fed by 7 tributaries along its 25 mile course, many of which also start on Bodmin Moor. The upper reaches run through 2 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the Fowey valley is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is also used as a conduit for the public water system to feed water from the Siblyback and Colliford reservoirs on Bodmin Moor down to Restormel where it enters the water mains. The increased demand for water from summer visitors has the effect of buffering the river levels in the drier months from the reservoirs. The river has populations of Sea Trout and Salmon as well as Brown Trout which make it popular with fly fishermen.

  5. From the stone wall, cross the watercourse to the earth bank then follow along the watercourse by keeping the line of reeds on your right. Where it bends to drop down the valley then continue ahead towards the copse of trees in the distance on the valley floor. As you approach the trees, you'll see a metal gate in the hedge ahead. Head to this.

    The industrial building in the distance is Davidstow Creamery.

    The large building with the tall chimney close to the A39 at Davidstow is the cheese factory, more formally known as Davidstow Creamery. Davidstow Creamery is famous for producing both Davidstow Cheddar (using water from Davidstow holy well) and the ironically named Cathedral City cheeses (Davidstow Moor having neither a cathedral nor anything resembling a city).

  6. Go through the gateway and follow the fence along the right hedge and around a bend to the right to reach a stile beside a gate.

    The earthworks and a small lake on the left are the remains of the Great Rough Tor Consols mine. This was a tin mine with two shafts worked using a steam engine. A system of flat rods (horizontal wooden beams) were used to transport power from the engine over a distance of a quarter of a mile. The mine turned out not to be that productive and closed in the 1850s.

  7. Cross the stile and continue to follow the grassy track until it ends at a fence.

    One of the reasons that little remains of the mine is that during the late 1850s, materials such as timber and stone were salvaged and sold off to reduce the losses. Recorded in the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser. 21st August, 1857:

    FATAL ACCIDENT - On the 11th instant, Mr. RICHARD PIKE, of Davidstow, was in the act of removing some of the timber from Great Roughtor Consols mine, when the sollar on which he was standing, gave way, and he was instantly precipitated into the shaft. His friends and some men from Bray Down Mine, have used ever exertion to recover the body, but the shaft being nearly full of water, they have not yet succeeded. His father was quite close to him at the time of the accident, but could render no assistance.
  8. At the fence, turn left between two wooden gateposts, then turn immediately right and follow the fence on the right to reach a gate.

    Despite the salvage of materials, this didn't turn out to be a good investment for the venture capitalists (known at the time as "adventurers"). A solicitor's letter in 1860 to a Mr Bodenham states that he is instructed on behalf of the Adventurers to apply for arrears of calls, and that unless he pays within the week proceedings will be taken. Attached was a letter on blue paper from W. Thomas, Purser, asking for payment 'being your proportion of the loss incurred in winding up the Great Rough Tor Consols Mine', and saying he will put the matter with his Solicitor.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the fence on the left. Continue along the grassy track until it reaches another gate.
  10. Go through the gate and follow parallel to the right hedge until you reach a gate on the right.
  11. Join the track ahead and follow this until you reach another gate across the track.
  12. Go through the gate to reach a lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to complete the circular route.

    The streams here all feed the Penpont Water (which is technically the first of the two streams that you cross over on the way back). These join a little way downstream and the river passes through Altarnun before joining the River Inny at Two Bridges.

    The River Inny is a tributary of the Tamar and is approximately 20 miles long, supporting populations of trout, salmon and sea trout as well as otters and kingfishers. The name of the river was recorded in the 1600s as Heanye and may be from the Cornish word enys - for island. Penpont Water is its main tributary and has a status of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Area of Great Scientific Value and Area of Great Historical Value. The source of the Inny is very close to the Davidstow Cheese factory, from a spring in the field opposite Pendragon House.

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 also very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • If you have a large dog, let us know if you find problems with the stiles on this walk (e.g. require the dog to be lifted over). A rough idea of how many problematic stiles there are is useful as some single women can just about manage one or two but not a dozen.

email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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