Camelford to Watergate

The walk starts at the old market town of Camelford and follows the river Camel through woodland and climbs through fields to Advent Church on the edge of Bodmin Moor. The route then circles through Watergate, with its Neolithic hut circles, and Moorgate where there is a large standing stone. The route joins Roughtor Road at Tregoodwell, with excellent views of Roughtor, before returning to Camelford.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5 miles/8.1 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Camelford car park
  • Parking: Camelford car park. If you are travelling North on the A39 the car park is just past the bridge on your left. Travelling South it's just after Trefrew road on your right. Satnav: PL329PB
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pubs and shops in the old market town of Camelford
  • Pretty riverside scenery along the River Camel
  • Ancient bluebell woodland near Fenteroon
  • Advent church and its ancient Celtic churchyard
  • Prehistoric cairns and Long Stone at Moorgate
  • Nice views of Roughtor from the footpaths to Tregoodwell

Alternative walks in same location

Directions

  1. From the car park, turn right onto Market Place, towards the main village. Cross the road at the traffic lights so that you are on the same side of the road as the Mason's Arms. Continue up the street until you reach the alleyway marked "Riverside walk" before the Needle and Thread shop.

    Camelford is a market town on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Camelford gained its status as a town in 1259 after being granted its first Charter by King Henry III. In the town centre, the library was once the Town Hall; the cobbled area that it stands in used to be the market square. Camelford Town hall was erected in 1806 over the Market House, where in the early 1800s, a wife could be bought for 2-3 shillings!

  2. Turn left down an alleyway marked "Riverside walk". Follow the footpath along the river, for approximately half a mile, until the river goes under the road at Fenteroon Bridge.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay. The name Cam-El is from the Cornish meaning "crooked one". It is documented that only the upper reaches of the river, above Boscarne, were originally known as the "Camel". The section from Boscarne to Egloshayle was known as the "Allen" and below this, it was known as "Heyl".

    The River Camel is classed as a SSSI and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EC Habitats Directive. Bullhead, Atlantic Salmon and Otters breed in the river.

    Just before you reach the iron kissing gate, the stream joining the river from the left collects water from the moor and the route crosses its tributaries on the return to Camelford.

  3. Cross onto the lane and turn right, following the lane uphill for 100 metres and around the bend to a footpath in the second gateway on the left, opposite Fenteroon Farm.

    In spring, the woods either side of the lane are carpeted in Wild Garlic.

    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.

  4. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left of the farm gate and follow the path along the fence to reach a waymarked stile.

    The Latin name of the buttercup, Ranunculus, means "little frog" and said to be because the plants like wet conditions. It is thought it may have come via a derogatory name for people who lived near marshes!

    The plant produces a toxin called protoanemonin, which is at its highest concentration when flowering. It is thought that buttercups may be partly responsible for Equine Grass Sickness. A man in France who drank a glass of juice made from buttercups suffered severe colic after four hours and was dead the next day! Fortunately the toxin is quite unstable and drying of the plant in haymaking leads to polymerisation into non-toxic anemonin.

  5. Cross the stile and continue along the fence, to a stile into the woods.

    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!

  6. Cross the stile and follow the path through the woods until the path forks.

    In early spring, the ancient woodland here has an impressive display of bluebells.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells.

  7. Keep right at the fork and follow it past a stone stile until the path descends from a wall onto a track, next to a large tree, and opposite a granite gate post.
  8. Turn left past the granite gatepost and follow the path, in a gentle arc to the left across the meadow, to a footbridge crossing the river.

    The River Camel has been fished for salmon and sea trout for centuries and the first royal charter was granted in 1199. In 1750, there are records of rights available on payment of a fee to the Duke of Cornwall to take salmon by use of barbed spears. Needless to say, these rights have now been revoked although even as recently as the 1980s, there are stories of salmon poachers with barbed pitchforks beneath bridges along the Camel.

    Salmon fishing is still popular and there is a salmon hatchery, where locally-caught salmon are bred, and the resulting eggs are hatched and grown for a year, in a protected environment, before being released to boost the wild salmon population in the River Camel and Fowey.

  9. Cross the footbridge and follow the path to the right along the fence for a short distance to emerge into a field. Then bear left up steep hill beside the bushes to reach a pedestrian gate in a fence.

    Salmon spawn in winter in the tributary streams of rivers, where the gravel is suitable. The young fish (known as "parr") grow by feeding on aquatic insects for one to three years. They then undergo a physiological pre-adaptation to life in seawater known as "smolting". In spring, large numbers of "smolts" swim downriver and migrate to the rich feeding grounds of the Norwegian Sea where they feed on fish such as herring and sandeels.

    Salmon exhibit remarkable homing instinct, locating their river of origin using the earth's magnetic field and smell which includes pheromones released by other salmon in the river. Some salmon reach maturity after only one year at sea; these are known as "grise" and return in summer, weighing between 1 and 4kg. Larger fish, that take two or more years at sea to mature, usually return considerably earlier in the year.

    Salmon cease to feed on entering freshwater and having spawned, the fish (referred to as "kelts") are susceptible to disease and predators. However some do survive to repeat their epic journey again and there are records of some salmon spawning three times.

  10. Go through the gate beside the waymark and follow the right hedge to the stile.

    If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • If cows approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size.
    • Avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If you must: if cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  11. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow this just past the Trethin entrance, to a stile on the left.

    Trethin was first recorded in 1337 as Treythian. It is thought to be based on a personal name, i.e. "Thian's farm". The farmhouse there now is largely 17th Century with some features added in the Georgian period.

  12. Cross the stile and make for a stile in the opposite corner of the field, passing the ponds on your right.
  13. Cross the stile into the next field. Head uphill towards the church, to a stile slightly left of the church.

    The church ahead is Advent (St Adwenna's) church.

    Advent (St Adwenna's) Church is located in the parish of Advent on the north-west edge of Bodmin Moor, near Camelford.The church is dedicated to Adwen, one of the children of the legendary 5th Century Celtic king Brychan. It is notable for its high, 8-pinnacled tower which houses a ring of six bells. The church building you see today at Advent is mostly mediaeval with some Norman remnants - the greater part of the building dates from the 15th century. The interior was rebuilt when a snowstorm brought the roof down in Victorian times. The circular shape of the graveyard at Advent church suggests it dates back to Celtic times.

  14. Cross the stile and enter the churchyard. Follow the path around the church, then turn left, passing the church entrance, and cross the grass to a gate into a field.

    There is a huge wayside cross in the field on the other side of the road on the right.

    Tresinney Cross is a round-headed wayside cross in the parish of Advent. The cross is over 8ft high and has stood since Norman times beside the ancient path to Advent church.

  15. Go through the gate and cross the stile into the field. Cross the field aiming for a stile 20m to the left of the two buildings on the opposite side of the field.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales. He had a large number of children, and most of these were reported to have evangelised Cornwall and North Devon, with many of the churches dedicated to them. Consequently, many of the place names in North Cornwall (St Teath, St Mabyn, St Endellion, St Minver, St Clether, Egloshale, Egloskerry, Advent, Morwenstow, Lelant etc) are from the names of his children. Brychan is buried on Lundy Island, known in the Celtic language as Ynys Brychan.

  16. Cross the sequence of 3 stiles to enter the next field, and head straight across to another stile in the fence opposite.
  17. Cross the stile and head across the field to a stile in the far right corner.
  18. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge of the next field to a stile, roughly three quarters of the way along the hedge.

    The hawthorn tree is most often found in hedgerows where it was used to create a barrier for livestock, and in fact haw was the Old English word for "hedge". The flowers of the hawthorn are known as "May Blossom" and were traditionally used as decorations in May Day celebrations. Now, however, the hawthorn generally doesn't flower until the middle of May. The reason for this is that May has moved! Until 1752, Britain used the Julian Calendar which had leap years every 4 years but no other corrections. This results in a length of day that is fractionally too long, so the first of May gradually slipped forwards over the centuries. By the 1700s, the first of May was 11 days ahead of where it is today.

    In Mediaeval times, bringing hawthorn blossom into the house was thought to bring death and it was described as smelling like the Great Plague. The explanation for this is thought to be that the hawthorn blossom contains trimethylamine which is one of the first chemicals formed when animal tissue decays. Young leaves of the plant can be used in salads as the chemical is not present in the leaves so these taste nutty rather than of death.

  19. Cross the sequence of stiles and bear left uphill towards the corner on the opposite side of the field. Continue past the gate to the stile in the far hedge.

    The cluster of wind turbines behind you is Delabole windfarm.

    The Delabole windfarm was the first commercial windfarm in the UK, built in 1991 partly due to local opposition to a proposed nuclear power station which would have been somewhat suboptimal for the tourism on which Cornwall depends. In the 20 years since the Delabole windfarm was first built, the technology improved significantly. In 2011, the 10 original turbines were replaced with just 4 new models which are significantly more powerful and efficient. The cabling for the turbines is all underground and there are no access roads which allows the land beneath the turbines to be farmed.

  20. Cross the stile onto a lane and turn left. Follow the lane for approx half a mile to Watergate, past a white cottage on the left, to a footpath just before the road ends in a junction.

    From the lane, there are excellent views over Roughtor to the right.

    Rough Tor is the second highest peak on Bodmin Moor. It is pronouced "row-tor" because the local dialect word "row" meant "rough". The summit of Rough Tor is encircled by a series of rough Neolithic stone walls which link natural outcrops, to form a tor enclosure. Also on the summit are the foundations of a mediaeval chapel, built into the side of one of the larger cairns.

    Where the lane dips downhill to a farm, if you look over the left hedge you should be able to see a number of hut circles. Just past the farm, there appears to be the remains of a mediaeval field system, consisting of strips surrounded by stony ridges.

  21. Turn left, at the waymark before the bridge, onto a short grassy track and over a stone stile. Follow the path along the granite flagstones through a gap in a wall until you reach a gap in a second wall.

    The low stone walls remaining as hut circles were once the foundations of a round house. The granite foundations were likely to have been set into cob (mud and straw) walls which provided insulation and draft exclusion over bare-stone walls. A conical thatched roof on a timber frame rested on top of the walls. Heating was via a central fire which required some care with the thatched roof - presumably roof fires were not unheard of! These buildings varied in size from a just over a metre in diameter up to 10 metres. Some had walled enclosures attached and a few also had internal partitions.

  22. Go through the gap and continue straight ahead, following the stream towards the bottom right corner of the field.

    The stream collects the overflow water from Crowdy reservoir, more so when the reservoir is full during the wetter months, and joins the streams running off this side of Roughtor.

    In 1988 at the water treatment works at Crowdy Reservoir, aluminium sulphate (which is used in very small quantities to remove suspended particles as part of the water treatment process) was accidentally poured from a tanker into the wrong hatch. Rather than going into a storage tank it went directly into the drinking water for 20,000 - 30,000 people and resulted in Britain's worst mass poisoning incident. One the contamination was discovered, the water supply was flushed into rivers feeding into the River Camel which resulting in the deaths of 60,000 salmon and trout. Fortunately the fish population has recovered since then and the Camel river system now has very good water quality and fish stocks.

  23. As you approach the corner of the field, bear left around the gorse bushes then right until you reach a stile at the bottom of far hedge.

    Gorse, also known as furze, is present as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century). Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads and to make a tea, beer or wine.

  24. Cross the sequence of 3 stiles and head along the right hedge, aiming for a stile in the fence about 50 metres to the left of a clump of trees in the bottom-right corner of the field.
  25. Cross the stile and keep the reeds on your left. As the farm buildings become visible, head for a kissing gate, just to the right of the metal farm gates.

    In the field to the left is an 8ft tall megalith known simply as "Long Stone".

    Large upright standing stones are known as menhirs due to the celtic words men meaning stone and hir meaning long. The reason for their construction is unknown; currently the most popular theories are ceremonial or calendrical. Until recently, menhirs were associated with the Beaker people who inhabited Europe during the late Neolithic and early Bronze age (4-5 thousand years ago) but recent research suggests an older origin (perhaps 6-7 thousand years ago, at the very start of the Neolithic period in Britain).

    The remains of the 3 ring cairns in this field are possibly related to "Long Stone" and served together in some kind of calendric function.

  26. Go through the kissing gate and cross the lane into the yard of Moorgate Farm. Follow the left hedge to a stile which is to the left of the barn.

    The settlement of Moorgate is relatively recent indicated by its English name reflecting the position next to the open moor and was first recorded in 1748.

  27. Cross the stile and head towards the opposite corner of the field, to a stile.

    The tree-lined valley ahead is that of the River Camel and the hill ahead is Condolden Hill on top of which is a large burial mound.

    The location, overlooking Tintagel, and massive proportions of Condolden Barrow suggests that a figure of considerable importance is buried here. Thomas Hardy presented it as the final resting place of Queen Isolde in his play, The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, about a pair of doomed lovers, Tristan and Isolde, who were much like Lancelot and Guinevere.

    Many scholars believe that the barrow is the burial place of Cador, the sixth century king of Cornwall. In the 12th century poem The Dream of Rhonabwy, Cador is described as one of Arthur's knights and is said to have led the British warriors in their rout of the West Saxon army at the Siege of Mount Badon. Cador is also mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain as Arthur's sword bearer at his coronation and a caretaker of Guinevere.

  28. Cross the stile and walk along the wall to cross a second stile into a field. Head straight across the field to another stile, in the hedge opposite.

    The fields here have been grazed over a long period and a range of "weeds" such as ribwort plaintain and clover grow amongst the grass and provide nectar for bees.

    Bumblebees were originally called "humble bees" and this name was still in use until early 20th century. There is an urban myth that according to aerodynamics, bumblebees should not be able to fly, leading to statements by US presidential candidates such as:

    It's scientifically impossible for the bumblebee to fly; but the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyway.

    You may not be too surprised to discover this assertion was based on flawed calculations in the early 20th Century that neglected to include the bees flapping their wings. In fact, during flight, they beat their wings around 200 times every second. However, the buzzing sound they make is not from the beating wings but from the bee's vibrating flight muscles. On cold days, by using their flight muscles, the bees are able to warm up their bodies to temperatures as high as 30 Celcius. In spring, queen bumblebees need to visit up to 6,000 flowers per day to gather enough nectar and pollen to establish their colony.

  29. Cross the stile and keep to the left hedge of the next field, heading for the gate.

    The bramble is a member of the rose family, and the roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!) and can root to form daughter plants. In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers. The flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen) as well as though pollen being transferred by insects from other plants. The word "bramble" comes from bræmaz - a word of Germanic origin meaning "prickly".

  30. Go through the gate and follow along the left hedge to join a dirt track. Follow the track through a gate until you reach another gate, next to a farm.
  31. Go through the gate and along the track, past the farm, to reach the road. Turn left and follow the road for about 20 metres to reach a footpath sign on your right.

    The field on the right is home to an impressive number of rabbits.

    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.

  32. Take the footpath on the right, up the steps and down a stile into the field. Follow the right hedge, heading for the waymarked gate roughly 20 metres to the left of the corner of the field.

    The bushes along the small stream provide good perches for small birds such as robins.

    Robins are able to hover like kingfishers and hummingbirds and use this skill when feeding from bird feeders, which they are unable to cling to. Robins are also able to see magnetic fields. Receptors in their eyes make magnetic fields appear as patterns of light or colour which allows them to use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation. The tradition of robins on Christmas cards is thought to arise from Victorian postmen wearing red jackets and been nicknamed Robins.

    The Cornish name for the bird is rudhek from rudh = "red" (in Cornish, "dh" is pronounced like the "th" in "with"). Cornish place names like Bedruthan, Ruthern and Redruth are all based on the colour red.

  33. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to a gap about three quarters of the way down.

    Barbed wire was first used in Victorian times with several different people independently inventing and patenting different designs. Modern barbed wire is made from steel which is then galvanised to prevent it rusting (at least until the zinc coating dissolves away). The barbed wire used for fencing is often made of high-tensile (springy) steel which is suited to being laid in long, continuous lengths. As it is forbidden by the Highways Act of 1980 for barbed wire to block a Public Right of Way, one practical solution used by farmers is to put a plastic sheath over the barbed wire where it passes over a stile. In the rare circumstance that you encounter exposed barbed wire on a stile, the most likely cause for this is mischievous cattle pulling off the plastic sheaths; let the Countryside Team know and they can alert the landowner.

  34. Go through the gap into the adjoining field and then follow the path to a stile at the far-right corner of the field.

    Mosses reproduce with tiny spores rather than seeds. Many mosses use wind to carry their spores but Spagnum (peat) mosses use compressed air to launch theirs. To get an idea of the acceleration that the spores are launched with, an astronaut in a rocket launch experiences an acceleration g-force of about 3-g and the maximum in a fighter jet is about 9-g. Spagnum moss spores are accelerated at 36,000-g! If that caused you to spill your cider, mosses are also able to absorb around 20 times their own weight in liquid.

  35. Cross the stile and footbridge and bear left onto the path alongside the river. Follow the path downriver and over a stile. Continue a little further into the field to reach a waymark.

    The stream runs all the way from Davidstow Woods up on the moor and joins with another moorland stream that you'll cross over on the lane to Tregoodwell. These meet the River Camel at the confluence that you encountered at the start of the walk.

  36. From the waymark, head straight across the field to a stone stile next to a gate.

    The large trees along the stream are sycamore.

    Research suggest that Sycamore was common in Britain up to Roman times but then died out due to the warming climate apart from some mountainous regions such as in Scotland. During the Tudor period it is thought to have been reintroduced by landowners looking for a rapid-growing tree for their estates and was found to be salt-tolerant - essential in Cornwall. It has since spread widely as the seeds are extremely fertile and able to grow just about anywhere. In fact, in some areas it is regarded as an invasive weed. The timber was traditionally used for milk pails as it does not impart any flavour or colour. It is still used today for kitchenware and is recognisable by the light colour and fine grain.

  37. Cross the stile onto a path, which opens out into a track, and follow it until it ends at a gate.

    A well-known country remedy for the stings of nettles is to rub the sore area with the leaf of a dock plant. A common misconception is that dock leaves are alkaline and neutralise the acids in the nettle sting but, in reality, docks contain a mild (oxalic) acid. Also the formic acid in nettle venom is at a concentration that is too low to cause a sting, and it is instead a combination of neurotransmitters (histamine, serotonin and acetlycholine) in the venom which causes skin irritation. Although dock is claimed by some to contain a natural antihistamine, no scientific evidence has been found for this. It is thought that it is simply the rubbing and moisture in the leaf which provides a short-term relief/distraction whilst the sting itself is diminishing over time. The most effective relief is likely to be from an antihistamine cream but only if applied quickly enough. Alternatively, almost any moist leaf should provide a little relief, with the exception of another nettle leaf!

  38. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the farm gate and turn left onto the lane (Roughtor Road). Follow the lane through the village until the road forks at a blue sign which says "No Entry 200 yards ahead".

    A network of small, square fields surround the settlement of Tregoodwell.

    In Celtic times, fields were small and surrounded by banks or stone walls. The fields were used both for growing crops such as oats, wheat or rye, and for keeping livestock. The field shape was round or square, rather than rectangular, so that the stones didn't have to be carried further than necessary. The small size was because they needed to be weeded by hand, in many ways similar to a modern-day allotment.

  39. Go straight ahead, down the lane with the blue sign. Follow this until you reach the main road.

    Tregoodwell was first recorded as Tregothwal in 1298. Other than tre, meaning "farmstead", the origin of the name is not known.

  40. At the main road, cross carefully to the pavement opposite. Then turn left and follow it downhill, to return to the car park.

    As you'd naturally expect from a market town, Camelford has some old pubs:

    • The Darlington is an 800 year old coaching Inn in the market square
    • The Mason's Arms is an 18th century building opposite the library

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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