East Moor to Newton

A circular walk in one of the less well-known areas of Bodmin Moor to the summit of Fox Tor and through the prehistoric remains which date from the Bronze Age and Neolithic times.

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The walk starts on the lane from Tregrenna, where it heads onto the moor to Fox Tor. After climbing to the summit, the route descends to a series of ring cairns to Graymare rock and Carey Tor. The walk then follows an ancient right of way leading down from the moor into the Lynher valley. The walk then follows the valley upriver, crossing the river via an ancient clapper bridge to Trevague to complete the circle.

Reviews

One of my favourites. Didn't meet a soul. Great walk across Bodmin Moor with just the ponies for company. Then through Clitters Plantation where goblins and fairies live beneath the magical old trees. Just wonderful.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.2 miles/10 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: the lane from Tregrenna to Fox Tor
  • Parking: Side of lane PL157SB. From the Kings Head pub in Five Lanes, turn left and follow the lane to the end. Turn right and follow the road for about 100 metres then turn left, passing under the A30, to a roundabout. Take the first exit at the roundabout signposted to "Trevague" and follow the lane, turning right at the junction down the lane marked as a no-through road. Continue over a bridge and up the lane until you see a gate on your left. Park on the grass verge opposite the gateway.
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)

Highlights

  • Panoramic views across Bodmin Moor from the summit of Fox Tor
  • Pretty woodland around Tolcarne and Treburland
  • Hut circles, boundary stones, cairns and other ancient remnants of a Bronze Age civilisation

Directions

  1. Facing the gateway, turn right along the lane and follow it to a sharp right corner, after which the road goes through a gate.

    In May and June, the hedges are a mass of wild flowers. The pink ones are campions.

    The red campion produces a blaze of pink flowers along hedgerows in the spring with the main flowering period occurring between May to October. In the mild Cornish climate, a few plants can often be seen flowering throughout the year. The plant is known by a few local names including Johnny Woods, Ragged Jack, Scalded Apples, and particularly in the southwest as Red Riding Hood. Another name - Batchelors’ buttons - suggests it was once worn as a buttonhole by young men.

    The roots contain saponins (soapy compounds) which protect the plants against microbes and fungi. These compounds make it easier for large molecules such as proteins to enter cell membranes. This has the potential to increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy against cancer by allowing immunotoxins to enter the cancer cells more easily.

  2. At the bend, bear left onto the track that continues straight ahead and follow it to an iron gate.

    Due to the plentiful supply of water draining off the moor, damselflies are common here in spring.

    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.

  3. Go through the gate and bear left to follow the sunken track. Cross over a small spring and continue on the main sunken track around a bend to left for about 30 metres to where a stony incline on the right leads up onto the moor.

    The ponies on Bodmin Moor are semi-feral: they are all owned by farmers, but allowed to roam free on the moor. Many are not microchipped and look similar to others, so for people other than their owners, it can be difficult to tell to whom they actually belong. During the winter, natural food is scarce so the farmers supplement the ponies' diets; this prevents the ponies wandering off altogether.

  4. Bear right off the track and head up the hillside to the triangulation point at the summit of Fox Tor.
  5. From the summit of Fox Tor, continue ahead in the same direction towards the summit of a small grassy hill in line with the depression in the hills along the skyline ahead. As you climb the hill, head for a ring cairn on the summit which looks similar to a lunar crater, now that the stones have fallen over.

    From the summit of Fox Tor, look left from the direction you climbed to see the peaks of Dartmoor on a clear day, and right to see Buttern Hill and Brown Willy. The wooded valley to the right is the source of the River Lynher and the tributaries are fed by water draining off East Moor.

    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 of Brown Willy is the highest point in Cornwall, at 420m above sea level, but only 20m taller than Rough Tor.

  6. From the ring cairns, bear left slightly towards the right-hand side of the valley to the right of the aerial on the skyline. As you cross the brow of the hill, slightly further to the right a massive boulder will come into view - head for this.

    The piles or rings of stones known as cairns, were built for a variety of purposes: some ceremonial including burials, some practical such as markers in a calendric sundial. Although much speculation has taken place, the reason for the construction of each is now unknown. When radiocarbon dating was done on nine of the cairns on Bodmin Moor, eight gave average date ranges between 2162 to 1746 BC, suggesting the early Bronze Age was the main building period. The remnants you see today are in many cases a small fragment of the original structure as the rocks from many cairns have since been "re-purposed" for use in drystone walls, buildings, roads etc. The Cornish word for cairn is karn or carn (from karnow, meaning "rock piles") and Cornwall (Kernow) itself may actually be named after the cairns that dot its landscape.

  7. At the boulder, turn left and head for the stack of rocks on the next hill (Carey Tor).

    The large boulder is called Graymare Rock.

    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.

  8. From the summit of the hill, continue ahead towards the gateway in the wall and turn left to keep the wall on your right. Keep following along the wall until you reach a track.

    Tors are the result of millions of years of weathering. They started out as a molten blob of rock beneath the surface, which cooled and crystallised into granite, cracking (mostly vertically) as it cooled. Hot water circulated through the cracks, reacting chemically with the rocks and depositing minerals. As the softer rocks above were worn away fairly quickly, the reduction in pressure from the weight of the rock above caused the granite to crack (this time more horizontally). Water, acidic from carbon dioxide in the air, circulated in the cracks, causing weathering. Repeated freezing and thawing during Ice Ages caused blocks of varying sizes to break off. The "basins" on the tops of some of the tors are also the result of repeated freezing and thawing of water which has collected on the surface.

  9. Follow the track to join a stony track leading from a farmyard gate.
  10. Continue downhill on the track which becomes a lane. Follow the lane to a cattlegrid.

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. As an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

  11. Pass through the gate immediately on the left of the cattlegrid and continue following the lane downhill until you reach a junction to the left with a Give Way sign.

    Whilst it's fairly obvious why cows are reluctant to cross a cattlegrid, you might be surprised to learn that cows will also not cross a "virtual" cattlegrid composed of dark and light lines painted on a completely solid surface. This even works with wild cattle who have never encountered a "real" cattlegrid before and so is unlikely to be learned behaviour. It is thought that the reason is due to the limitations of cows' vision, specifically their limited depth perception means that they cannot discriminate between bars over a pit and a series of light and dark lines.

  12. Turn left and follow the lane until it ends in a parking area.

    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.

  13. Keep left to pass to the left of the cottage and join a grassy path leading past the barns. Keep following the path, which opens out into a stony track to reach a gate.

    Some of the Public Rights of Way originating from mediaeval times appear as sunken paths, also known as holloways from the Old English hola weg, a sunken road. There are different reasons for the lane being lower than the surrounding land. In some cases it was simply erosion caused by horses, carts and rainwater over hundreds of years. There are also examples where ditches formed between banks as a boundary between estates and then later adopted as a convenient location for travel or droving animals.

  14. Go through the gate and follow along the fence on the right. Where the path forks, keep right along the fence to reach a waymarked gate. The path to the left at the fork can be used for an optional diversion to the Nine Stones circle (just over half a mile away), returning here to continue the walk.

    The Nine Stones Circle, near Fox Tor, comprises a ring of 8 stones with the ninth in the centre. It was reconstructed in the nineteeth century from stones of local granite, although some of the stones have since fallen again or are leaning at precarious angles. Alexander Thom proposed the circle is in lunar alignment with the nearby border stone row which leads towards some cairns, although this has been considered doubtful as the row is likely of mediaeval construction.

  15. Go through the gate then follow along the fence on the left around a bend and past an old cottage. Continue to reach a waymarked gate.
  16. Go through the gate and follow the hedge along the bottom of the field to a waymark at the end of the hedge.

    Beard-like lichens (known as Old Man's Beard) are very sensitive to sulphur dioxide in the air. Where the air quality is poor, at best they only manage to grow a few millimetres and may not survive at all. Long beards are therefore an indicator of clean air.

  17. Bear right at the waymark and follow the path along the side of the hill until you reach another waymark.
  18. From the waymark, bear right onto the track and follow the track downhill a short distance to a second waymark. Turn left along the track (which often has a small stream flowing along it) and follow it until you see a stile on the right.
  19. Cross the stile and follow the waymarked path through the woods until you reach an overgrown field, then turn left along the line of the trees to reach a ladder stile next to a gateway.

    The nutritiousness of nettle leaves makes it a preferred food plant for the caterpillars of many common butterfly species including the Red Admiral, Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma.

  20. Go through the gap on the left of the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow the track until it ends on a lane.

    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!

  21. Turn right onto the lane to reach a ford. Cross via the footbridge to the left then continue on the lane to where it ends in a T-junction.

    Clapper bridges are an ancient form of bridge built out of stone slabs spanning piers in the river. Most were built during mediaeval times, often beside a ford where horses and carts would cross. There is disagreement over the origin of the word "clapper". One candidate is an Anglo-Saxon word cleaca meaning "a bridge of stepping stones". Another is a mediaeval Latin word clapus which is is thought to have originated in Celtic Western Europe and mean "pile of stones".

  22. Turn left and follow the lane a few metres to a grassy island with a Public Footpath sign. Turn left onto the drive and follow it to a gate.
  23. Go through the gate into the yard and turn right to pass the buildings and reach a gate in the fence. Go through the gate and bear right across the lawn to a stone stile in the corner.
  24. Cross the stile and turn left into the field. Follow along the left hedge to a gap into the field ahead.

    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:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. 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.
  25. Go through the gap and follow the left hedge to a stile in the far corner.
  26. Cross the stile and head straight across the field to the gateway opposite.
  27. Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge to the left-hand of the two gates ahead (in the very corner).
  28. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach another gate at the far end.
  29. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane over the river and back to the start of the walk.

    The River Lynher (pronounced "liner", as in ocean) is just over 20 miles long, rising on Bodmin Moor and joining the Tamar in its estuary near Saltash. The name dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded as "Lyner" in 1318. It is also known as the St Germans River at the point where it widens into a broad, tidal channel, close to its mouth.

    During Victorian times, the river was polluted by copper mining waste and during the late 20th century, runoff from intensive dairy farming and an increase in arable farming were found to be affecting water quality and silting the gravel beds needed by spawning salmon. In the early 21st century, a number of these issues were addressed under the Cornwall Rivers Project.

    The river is now a haven for wildlife with several stretches being designated as Sites of Special Scientific interest (SSSIs). The river's resident species include otters, brown trout and Atlantic salmon which breed in its major tributary, the Tiddy.

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 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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