Cardinham and Bury Castle

The walk starts at the church and descends into the valley, passing below the site of the Norman castle. The walk then turns upriver, criss-crossing the valley on footpaths, tracks and small lanes to reach the Iron Age hillfort of Bury Castle. The return route is a gradual descent from the Downs with views over Cardinham village and woods.
Can get very muddy in winter.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/6.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Cardinham Parish Hall
  • Parking: Cardinham Parish Hall car park. Follow signs to Cardinham to reach a crossroads beside the school. Turn up the hill opposite the school towards the church and the Parish Hall car park is on the left just before the church. Satnav: PL304BQ
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)


  • Bury Castle - remains of a large Iron Age hillfort
  • Panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from the Downs


  1. From the Parish Hall, turn left onto the lane and follow it past the church and down the hill until you reach a gate on the left for "Wayside" with a Bridleway sign.

    The present church at Cardinham dates from the 15th Century, though the churchyard is thought to date back to Celtic times. The church was damaged during the Second World War by a somewhat off-target German bomb which was intended for Bodmin, but has since been repaired.

    Two Celtic crosses containing Latin inscriptions are located in the churchyard. These were found embedded in the walls of the church and were subsequently relocated to the churchyard. One has been dated to the 5-8th Century and the other to the 10-11th Century.

    The church is dedicated to St Meubred who is depicted in nearby St Neot church. St Meubred was an Irish missionary who came to Cornwall to preach to the moorland folk but had the misfortune of being beheaded in Rome. It is said his body was returned to the parish and buried here.

  2. Go through the gate of "Wayside" and continue ahead through a gap in the bushes to an overgrown path. Keep right to follow the stream bed and reach a pedestrian gate. Go through this and follow the path to reach a stream crossing and gate.

    The stream is a tributary of Cardinham Water. The river collects water from a number of streams running off the downs around Cardinham, and then flows through Fletchersbridge (where it was presumably once bridged by someone called Fletcher!) and joins the River Fowey in the Glynn Valley at the road bridge near Bodmin Parkway station. The well-known Cardinham Woods forestry plantation is along the valley of the river and its lower tributaries.

  3. Go through the gate and follow the path ahead, leading along the left hedge to a gate on the far side of the field.

    Further up the hill on the left (on private land) are the remains of Cardinham Castle.

    Cardinham Castle was built in late mediaeval times using the Norman motte and bailey design. Little remains now apart from a pair of earth banks but originally there would have been a stone tower on the mound in the centre.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path around the barn to a track. Follow the track through a gate ahead to reach a lane.

    The barn was once a farm mill powered by an overshot waterwheel. The metal mill wheel is still present although the wooden slats have rotted away.

    Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.

  5. When you reach the lane, turn left and follow the lane until it ends in a junction.
  6. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane until you reach a Public Footpath sign on the left.
  7. Go through the kissing gate on the left, beneath the footpath sign, and follow the left hedge to reach a gate on the opposite side of the field.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  8. Go through the sequence of two gates and follow the path along the hedge to the corner of the field, then turn right to stay in the field and follow the path to reach a gate.
  9. Go through the gate and follow the path to a driveway and follow this to a lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it uphill a short distance to reach a junction.
  10. Turn left at the junction and follow the small lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    Beech trees form the canopy above the lane.

    Compared to many native trees, the beech colonised Great Britain relatively recently, after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Beech trees can live up to 400 years.

    Beechwood aging is used in the production of Budweiser beer but beech is not the source of flavour. In fact beechwood has a fairly neutral flavour and in the brewing process it is pre-treated with baking soda to remove even this. The relatively inert strips of wood are then added to the fermentation vessel where they increase the surface area available for yeast. It is the contact with yeast that produces the flavour in the beer, not the beech itself.

    The fruit of the beech tree is known as "mast" or, less crypically, "beechnuts". The small triangular nuts are encased in spiky husks which split and drop from the trees from late August to early October. The kernels of these are edible and are similar to hazelnuts. They were once used as a source of flour, which was ground after the tannins had been leached out by soaking them in water. If you find them too bitter, you might want to try this trick, although toasting them in a hot pan is also a good option.

    Young beech leaves can be used as a salad vegetable, which are described as being similar to a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture. Older leaves are a bit chewy, as you'd expect.

  11. Turn left at the junction and follow the road over the bridge and cattlegrid and uphill until you reach a Public Bridleway sign beside a driveway on the right.

    The bridge crosses the same stream that you crossed downstream of here near the start of the walk. This is a tributary of the Cardinham Water which it joins near Milltown before entering Cardinham Woods. Cardinham Water then passes through Fletchersbridge before its confluence with the River Fowey near Bodmin Parkway station.

  12. Turn right onto the driveway and then keep left to follow the track alongside the houses. Continue until you reach a fork.

    The settlement of Treslea was first recorded in 1421 as Treslegh and comes from the Cornish word for a stone or slab: legh. It may well refer to the stream crossing here and it has been suggested that the "res" in the name might come from the Cornish word rid, for ford. The settlement is now split into Higher and Lower Treslegh, either side of the road. It isn't known which is the older of the two.

  13. Keep left at the fork and follow the winding track uphill until you reach a stile on the right, just before a rough driveway on the left.
  14. Cross the stile and follow the embankment around the field to reach a stile into the woods.
  15. Cross the stile and turn right as indicated by the waymark to follow the path downhill along the hedge. Continue until the path emerges onto a track.
  16. Turn left onto the track and follow it up the hill until you reach a waymark post with a yellow and blue arrow.

    In the sunny clearings along the track, damselflies can sometimes be seen on the vegetation near the river.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

  17. Turn left at the waymark and cross over the track to the path to the right of the field gate. Follow the path until it ends in a stile.

    During the spring, the path is lined with 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 with a fine up to £5,000 per bulb!

  18. Cross the stile and continue ahead keeping the embankment on your left to reach a wall on the far side, then follow along this to reach a gate.

    Bury Castle was a large Iron Age hilltop camp. A single bank and ditch remains, with the ramparts rising to an impressive 14 feet in places. The fort originally had a second outer rampart around its northern side (in the large field beside it) but much of this has been ploughed away to fill in the ditch that would have been in front of it, so that today it is just visible as a small ridge before the ditch of the inner rampart.

  19. Go through the gate and follow the track towards the church, Once through the line of gorse, bear right to a gate in the bottom hedge, with a stile to its right.

    The purpose of enclosures within ramparts varied quite considerably. Some were built as forts to defend from marauding invaders such as the seafaring Scandanavians. Others were defences built around small villages either as a status symbol/deterrent or for the more practical purpose of preventing domestic crimes such as theft of property by occupants of neighbouring villages. There were even some which were probably just a confined space used to stop livestock escaping!

  20. Cross the stile then turn right and follow the path though the enclosure to a gate.

    Whilst there are two Iron Age settlements in the area in Cardinham, there is very little evidence for any early mediaeval settlement. In most areas of Cornwall, place names starting with Tre- or Bos- indicate dwellings in the post-Roman period sometimes known as the Dark Ages. Based on the evidence of the field systems present, it is thought that the Cardinham area may have been abandoned after the Iron Age and not resettled until the late mediaeval period after the Norman conquest.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the path ahead. Continue along the path until you reach a waymark at a junction of paths where some small granite slabs cross the remains of the ditch.
  22. Turn left and follow the path down the field. As you approach the bottom, head for the pair of gates in the bottom-left corner of the field.

    Boulders of Bodmin Moor granite protrude from the thin soils of the Downs.

    The word granite comes from the Latin granum (a grain), in reference to its coarse-grained structure. Granite forms from a big blob of magma (known as a pluton) which intrudes into the existing rocks. The huge mass of molten rock stores an enormous amount of heat so the magma cools very slowly below the surface of the Earth, allowing plenty of time for large crystals to form.

    Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids arising from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  23. Go through the left-hand gate and follow the track around a bend to the right and continue until it ends on a lane.

    Bracken is one of the acid-tolerant plants that is able to colonise the Downs.

    Bracken releases toxins into the soil which inhibit the growth of other plants, and the shade created by its large leaves and its thick leaf litter also makes it hard for other plants to compete. It is both poisonous and carcinogenic to many grazing animals which therefore avoid it if at all possible. All these things make it quite difficult to control, particularly in steep areas where mechanised cutting or ploughing is difficult. Treading by livestock can reduce bracken's competitive advantage, particularly during winter when frost can attack the plants.

  24. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a grassy path on the right with a Public Footpath sign in the hedge.
  25. Turn right down the grassy path and follow this until it ends in a gate.
  26. Go through the gate and bear left to another gate into a farmyard. Go through this and follow the left side of the yard to the waymarked gate. Go through this and the gate next to the cottage leading onto a driveway then follow the driveway until it ends on a lane.

    The settlement of Penpoll was first recorded in 1430 and means "top of the stream". The Cornish word pol spans a fairly broad range of aquatic features from "stream" to "pool" and even "cove".

  27. Cross the lane to the Public Footpath sign opposite and cross the stile into the field. Bear right across the field to the pedestrian gate in the fence.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. 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 can't avoid it: 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.
  28. Go through the gate and continue in the same direction to a gate in the corner of the field.
  29. Go through the gate and turn right to go through a kissing gate against the hedge. Once through this, bear left slightly across the field to join a track leading to a farm gate, but stop short when you reach a waymarked pedestrian gate on the right.
  30. Go through the pedestrian gate and rejoin the track. Follow this ahead to join a driveway and continue until it ends on a lane.

    The village of Cardinham is thought to have originally been from the Cornish words car and dinas which would mean something along the lines of "enclosed fortress". Given the name, it is thought that some form of fortification has been present here since ancient times. A Norman castle was built here in around 1080 by the half-brother of William the Conqueror, who seized much of the land from the Priory of Bodmin.

  31. Turn right onto the lane and follow this back the church, turning right past the church to reach the Parish Hall.

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

Take a photo and email, 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.

A free way to not kill penguins: discarded ink cartridges float in rainwater, can wash into rivers, be broken up by the sea into reflective shards eaten by dopey fish, and build up in the stomachs of seabbirds, causing them to starve to death. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?