Dunmere to Grogley Halt

The walk starts at the Borough Arms and follows the River Camel from Dunmere Halt to Nanstallon. Here the route leaves the Camel and crosses into the Ruthern valley, following the River Ruthern from Ruthernbridge to its confluence with Camel. The route crosses the Camel and joins the Camel Trail at Grogley Halt, returning to Dunmere Halt via the Camel Valley Vineyard and Boscarne Station.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.2 miles/10 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: the Borough Arms
  • Parking: Camel Trail car park. Turn off the A389 just above the railway tracks into the Borough Arms. Drive straight through the pub car park to the Camel Trail car park behind. Satnav: PL312RA
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty riverside scenery along the Camel and Ruthern
  • Bodmin-Wenford steam railway
  • Huge starling colony at Butterwell Lodge
  • 15th century bridge at Ruthernbridge
  • Camel Valley Vineyard - producer of some of the world's best sparkling wine

Directions

  1. Walk down the track to the Camel Trail and turn left at Dunmere Halt. Follow the trail until, just past a small building on the right, you reach a path to the left opposite a milestone.

    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.

  2. Take the footpath to the left; follow it until you pass a flight of steps and a path departs ahead to the river.

    If you're walking here in Spring, look out for the brilliant red and purple flowers of the Rhododendrons which grow along this section of the trail.

    Due to their spectacular flowers, Rhododendrons have been popular ornamental plants for over two centuries and the species that we now call the Common Rhododendron was introduced in 1763. The plants thrive in the UK climate and were once native but were wiped out by the last Ice Age.

    Rhododendrons are so successful in Britain that they have become an invasive species, crowding out other flora in the Atlantic oak woodlands. They are able to spread very quickly both through suckering along the ground and by abundant seed production. Conservation organisations now classify the Rhododendron explosion as a severe problem and various strategies have been explored to attempt to stop the spread. So far, the most effective method seems to be injecting herbicide into individual plants which is both more precise and effective than blanket cutting or spraying.

  3. Take the path ahead, down to the river. Bear left to follow the river bank, beneath the bridge, to a gate.

    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.

  4. Go through (or around) the gate and continue on the path along the edge of the meadow to a footbridge.

    A number of Roman artefacts were found near Boscarne, recorded in the New Monthly Magazine of Sep 1822:

    A few days since was found near Boscarne, in the parish of Bodmin, a gold fish-hook... in the bed of an old river, where some men were working for tin; and not far from the same spot were taken up several Roman coins of the reigns of Vespasian, and some of the later emperors, &c.
  5. From the footbridge, continue along the fence beside the meadow and follow the path until it ends in a stile.

    Anyone who has sat on a holly leaf will know how prickly they can be but the leaves particularly on larger holly bushes often vary considerably with less spiky leaves nearer the top. Holly is able to vary its leaf shape in response to its environment through a chemical process known as DNA methylation which can be used to switch genes on and off. If its leaves are eaten by grazing animals or trampled by walkers, the holly will crank up the methylation level to produce really spiky leaves on these stems. Conversely on the stems where the leaves are able to grow old in peace, the holly will produce versions that are flatter and therefore more efficient at catching the light.

  6. At the stile, bear left to join a concrete track which passes over the bridge ahead. Turn left and follow the track uphill until it ends at a T-junction onto a lane.

    A large amount of wild garlic grows in the wooded area to the left of the path from the stile to the track.

    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.

  7. At the lane, turn right, and immediately right again, signposted to Nanstallon and Grogley. Follow the lane until it ends in a junction.

    In the late 1960s, a first-century Roman fort was excavated in a field in Nanstallon; little now remains apart from some earth banks which are remnants of the ramparts. Based on the coins and pottery found at the site, it is thought to have been constructed around AD 65 late, in Nero's reign (very shortly before the "fiddling whilst Rome burned" incident). Its likely function was as a forward operating base, responsible for lead and silver extraction from the nearby deposits. It was strategically placed near the Fowey-Camel trade and communication routes (aka "The Saint's Way"), for a Roman presence to be felt.

  8. At the junction, bear right and follow the lane downhill, past the church, until you reach a junction where two other lanes lead off to the right in close succession.

    The reference to the River Camel being known as the "Allen as far as Trecarne" seems a little curious. Tre means "farm" or "place" in Cornish whereas the word for "dwelling" is Bos, so its likely this name for the river stretched to Boscarne beside Nanstallon. It's possible the "Allen" here is related to "Nanstallon" (Nans means "valley" in Cornish). The Cornish word for "foreigner" is alyon, so whether these names stem back to the Roman Fort at Nanstallon or whether the origins or are more similar to Talland Bay (from the words tal and lan) is left for you to contemplate.

  9. Continue on the lane to pass both junctions on the right and onwards until it ends at a crossroads.

    Ivy leaves come in two types. Those on creeping stems are the "classic" ivy leaf with 3-5 triangular lobes. However, more mature ivy plants grow aerial shoots with a completely different (teardrop) leaf shape. These are the shoots that bear the flowers and fruits and are typically located in a sunny spot such as on an upright ivy bush or top of a rock face. The larger, multi-lobed leaves are able to catch more light in shady areas whereas the smaller, stouter leaves are more resistant to drying out.

  10. Turn right at the crossroads and follow the lane to the bridge at Ruthernbridge.

    There are some large starling roosts in this area, particularly as you pass a farm on the road to Ruthernbridge.

    Nearly three-quarters of the UK starling population has been wiped out in recent times, and starlings are now on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The cause of this decline is a combination of changes to farming practices and grassland management (such as use of pesticides reducing the insect population), and a lack of nesting sites in urban areas.

  11. Cross the bridge and turn right, following the lane until you eventually see a sign for Grogley Halt.

    Ruthernbridge lies on an old road over the Hustyn Downs from Bodmin to Padstow. The bridge over the river Ruthern dates back to around 1450 and it is recorded in 1494 as Rothyn Brygge.

    A branch line was added from Ruthernbridge to join the Bodmin-Wadebridge railway at Grogley Halt and was opened in 1834. This was used to carry agricultural goods and to transport ore from the nearby mines, including copper, lead and especially tin from Mulberry Mine. The track ran alongside the road from the bridge to Grogley, close to the river Ruthern. The railway lasted almost exactly 100 years, closing in 1933; the track was lifted in the following year.

  12. Turn right down the track to Grogley Halt and follow it to an entry point onto the Camel Trail on the left of the platform

    A little further up the Camel Trail is the Camel Valley vineyard.

    The Camel Valley Vineyard is situated alongside the Camel Trail between Boscarne Junction and Grogley Halt.The vineyard started in 1989 and Camel Valley wine can now be found across the country in Waitrose, Fortnum and Mason, and is even served at Buckingham Palace to visiting royals. The wine continues to win many National and International awards, including best sparkling rosé, two years running, at the World Sparkling Wine Championship. They offer tours and also wine by the glass or half-glass on the terrace, should you fancy a tasting as you pass by on the Trail.

  13. Turn right onto the Camel Trail. Follow the trail back past the vineyard and Boscarne Station to Dunmere Halt.

    Boscarne Station is at one end of the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.

    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).

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