Golitha Falls to Trethevy Quoit

A circular walk through the Golitha Falls National Nature Reserve, to King Doniert's Stone - a memorial to the last King of Cornwall, and the prehistoric tomb of Trethevy Quoit, returning via St Cleer where the holy well is reputed to cure madness.

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The walk starts from Draynes Bridge and loops through the Golitha Falls nature reserve. The route then crosses the Bulland Downs to the hamlet of South Trekieve. The route passes King Doniert's Stone and continues along footpaths and tracks to reach St Cleer, beside the Holy Well. Some small lanes and a bridleway lead to Trethevy Quoit, from which the route cuts back through the centre of St Cleer past the pub to the church. The return route is on a tiny lane through the farms of Treworrick to Redgate.

Reviews

This app is fantastic. Instructions are clear (didn't get lost once!), map is brilliantly thought out, with useful, knowledgeable & interesting comments on local heritage/landmarks etc along the way & can be used even if no internet signal,except for the GPS which, given the good directions, I didn't need anyway... Can't recommend it enough,& will certainly be buying more from this app!
I've been lucky enough to have a week off work so have been using the app almost daily! Yesterday I went to Golitha Falls. Another great walk with some wonderful history.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 7.3 miles/11.7 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Golitha Falls car park
  • Parking: Golitha Falls car park PL146RX
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • National Nature Reserve at Golitha Falls with beautiful woodland and riverside scenery
  • King Doniert's Stone - a memorial to the last King of Cornwall
  • Trethevy Quoit - massive tomb of a prehistoric chieftan
  • St Cleer Holy Well - reputed to cure madness

Directions

  1. Walk out of the entrance to the car park and bear right a short distance along the road to the end of the white line. Cross to the wooden gate and go through the gap to the left of the gatepost. Follow the gravel path past the welcome sign and continue on the path until you reach a junction of paths at a dog waste bin.

    At the Golitha Falls National Nature Reserve, the River Fowey cascades through a pretty valley covered in a mixture of ancient woodland and a beech avenue. The name is slightly misleading as there are no major waterfalls but rather a series of cascades and rapids. Once expectations are managed that something rivalling Niagara won't be encountered, then it's a pretty spot to unwind and enjoy the riverside scenery and wildlife, and journey back through Cornwall's history from 20th Century china clay and Victorian mining to Celtic times where the last king of Cornwall drowned here in the river.

    In spring, the valley is carpeted with bluebells and in autumn, the trees are vivid colours and there are lots of fungi. In summer, look out for woodland butterflies such as the orange and black silver-washed fritillary; the males are attracted to orange items including car indicators!

  2. Just before the dog bin, take the stony path to the right leading uphill and follow this through the woods until the path ends in a junction with another path with a waymark post on the right.

    Golitha Falls is pronounced by most (even many Cornish) people as "Gol - eye - tha". However it is pronounced "Goleetha" by the local farmers in the immediate area and this considered the correct pronunciation. It was spelt Galetha in the 19th century and Goletha in 1949 so may have originally been pronounced to rhyme with "let" rather than "leet".

    It is thought that name may derive from an old Cornish word for obstruction, similar to the Welsh word gorlifo meaning "to overflow". Another possibility is the name is based around the Cornish word leth meaning "milk" which could have been used to describe white water on the rapids. The go- prefix means "slight" in Cornish so go-leth-a (literally "little milky place" could mean "small rapids").

  3. From the waymark, follow the stony path leading downhill towards the river. When you reach the wooden railings, keep left to continue downhill to the water's edge. Then turn left and wind between the boulders alongside the river to reach a clearing with some fallen tree trunks.

    During Victorian times a mine, appropriately named Wheal Victoria, operated in the woodland here. The wheel pit beside the wooden fences contained a 30ft waterwheel and the sunken path running above it was once a leat that carried water to it. The mineshaft is some distance away from the waterwheel so it is thought that power was transmitted mechanically via a system of rods between the two.

    The simplest design for a waterwheel is known as an undershot wheel where the paddles are simply dipped into flowing water. This works well in large rivers where there is a strong current. However, in hilly areas with smaller streams (such as Cornwall), the overshot design is more common where the water is delivered via a man-made channel (leat) to the top of the wheel where it flows into buckets on the wheel, turning the wheel through the weight of the water.

  4. From the clearing, continue ahead to follow along the brook on your right. As a wooden footbridge on the left comes into view, make for this.
  5. Cross the bridge and turn left. Walk upstream on the island between the brook and main river to reach another footbridge beneath the remains of an elevated pipeline.

    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. It is the third longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar and Camel.

    The name is from Fowydh, based on the Cornish word for tree, gwydh, and more specifically beech, fawen.

  6. Cross the bridge and bear right beneath the pipeline. Follow the rocky path to reach a small brook joining the river then keep this on your right. Keep following along the brook, passing over or around a step formed by tree roots. Continue along the brook to merge onto a wider path and then reach a fork in the path.

    The raised pipeline crossing the Fowey valley is more recent than the mining activity near Golitha Falls. The pipeline was used to transport china clay slurry from the pit north of St Neot at Parsons Park to the Moorswater works on the edge of Liskeard. The old china clay pit is now used as a reservoir for the public water supply, known as Park Lake.

    At Park Lake a floating pump is used to extract water from the surface of the lake without disturbing clay sediment. Due to the relatively flat profile of the lake, dropping the water level by up to 7 metres requires the pump to be on a floating pontoon 100 metres out from the shore. However, the wet surrounding moorland is able to replenish the water in the pit at several million litres per day.

  7. At the fork, follow the path uphill to the left through the gap in the bank. Bear right to reach a junction of paths with the dog waste bin on your left and a granite block and footbridge to your right.

    It is thought that the path running between the raised banks was once part of the leat that channelled water all the way down to the waterwheels encountered earlier on the walk.

  8. Turn right and cross the bridge to reach the main river. Bear left to head upriver and follow the path to return to the lane.
  9. Turn right onto the lane and follow it over the bridge to a junction. Turn left in the direction signposted to Bolventor. Follow the lane uphill past one old public footpath sign on the right opposite the cottages on the left. Continue uphill to a second (newer) public footpath sign on the left behind a braced telegraph pole pointing at a gate on the right.

    From Golitha Falls to its source on Bodmin Moor, the river Fowey lies within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    There are 33 regions in England designated Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which were created in 1949 at the same time as the National Parks. In fact the AONB status is very similar to that of National Parks. There is a single Cornwall AONB which is itself subdivided into 12 sections. 11 of these are sections of the coastline and the 12th is Bodmin Moor.

  10. Go through the gate on the right and follow the track ahead, keeping right at the junction of paths along the track leading down into the valley. Follow the path past a waymark on the left to reach a waymark in the middle of the path.

    In autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. The sloe gin produced from sloes in September and October seems just as good but possibly requires a little more sugar to compensate.

  11. From the waymark, follow the path between the gorse and tree to reach one waymark and continue a little further to reach a second waymark in a clearing.

    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).

  12. Continue ahead along the bracken on the right and follow the path into the woods. Follow the path until you reach a stone stile crossing a wall ahead.

    The stream is a tributary of the River Fowey which it joins near Draynes Bridge at the start of the walk. The stream is fed by a number of moorland springs around Common Moor and Higher Gimble.

  13. Cross the stile over the wall and follow the fence on the right to reach the stream. Follow along the stream to reach a gate in the fence ahead.
  14. Go through the gate and follow along the wall on the left, past the wooden gate, to reach a gap at the top of the fence on the far side of the field.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleating, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  15. Go through the gap and follow the path between the fence and wall to reach a metal kissing gate.
  16. Go through the gate and downhill a short distance to a grassy track. Then bear left to follow track along the edge of the gorse until you see a waymark on the right. Then make for this.
  17. At the waymark, cross over the stream then follow the wall on the right to a waymarked stile. Cross this and follow the path alongside the stream to reach a final stone stile with a Public Footpath sign.
  18. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow it until it ends in a T-junction.
  19. Turn right and carefully follow the road to reach a Public Footpath on the left just past King Doniert's Stone.

    King Doniert's Stone, located near Golitha Falls, consists of two stone fragments of an ancient memorial cross which is thought might have originally been topped with a wooden cross. It dates from the 9th Century and commemorates the death of Dungarth the King of Cornwall, who drowned in the River Fowey nearby at about the time when the Anglo-Saxons were gaining control of eastern Cornwall. The shorter stone has an Anglo-Saxon inscription which has been translated as "Doniert has asked prayers for his Soul".

  20. Climb the stone stile with the metal railing over the wall. Then bear right slightly across the field to a gate in the middle of the far hedge.

    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.
  21. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a waymarked gateway onto a track, just before the corner of the field.

    English Heritage began in 1983 as a government department responsible for the national system of heritage protection and managing a range of historic properties. In 1999 it was merged with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the National Monuments Record. In 2015 a charity was formed called English Heritage Trust which was split off from the government to manage the National Heritage Collection (which is still owned by the state). The "English Heritage" name is now associated with this charity. The remaining government body is known as Historic England and is responsible for the statutory and protection functions that were part of the old organisation.

  22. Turn right down the track and follow it until it ends at a gate.
  23. Go through the gate and follow the line of the hedge on your left to reach a track on the far side of the yard, leading to the left.
  24. Turn left onto the track and follow it until it ends at a pair of double gates onto a lane.
  25. Climb the stone stile to the right of the gates and turn left on the lane. Walk a short distance along the lane until you see a stile on the right with a public footpath sign opposite a telegraph pole on the left.
  26. Cross the stile on the right and follow the right hedge, crossing the track at the far side of the field to a gateway in the far hedge leading ahead.

    Watch out for the holly bush as you cross the stile.

    The association of holly with winter celebrations pre-dates Christianity: druids were known to use holly wreaths which, it is likely with some discomfort, they wore on their heads.

  27. Go through the gateway and continue along the right hedge to reach a stile.

    The hill to your left with the large mast is Caradon Hill.

    Caradon Hill is situated on the east edge of Bodmin Moor. The hill has a 371 metre summit and the antenna on the top broadcasts TV & radio coverage as far as Truro, Bude, Plymouth and Barnstaple. The name is thought to originate from the Cornish word car for fort. The slopes are dotted with the remains of engine houses and the area was once famous for its copper mines, which were discovered relatively late in Cornwall's mining history. The South Caradon Copper mine was the largest copper mine in the UK during its heyday in the late 1800s. In an account documented in the early 20th Century, it was described:

    On Saturday nights after pay-day, the populous villages of Caradon Town, Pensilva, Minions and Crows Nest were crowded with men, and resembled in character the mining camps of Colorado and the Far West.
  28. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to the gateway opposite.

    Whereas many plants rely mainly on bitter chemicals to avoid being eaten by herbivores, thistles have gone one step further and evolved spikes. Despite this, the plants are still eaten by the caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly as they are rich in nutrients. The non-spiky areas of the plant such as the stem and leaf ribs can be eaten (with extreme care to avoid ingesting any harmful spikes) by people too: the ribs from the middle of the leaves are still harvested and sold in markets in some parts of the world. The flowers are rich in nectar and provide an important food source for bees and butterflies.

  29. Go through the gateway and cross the field to a metal gate opposite.
  30. Go through the gate and follow the waymarked path ahead until it ends on a drive.
  31. Follow the track downhill, passing Penhale farm and a footpath sign on the right. Continue downhill on the track, marked as a Private Road, until it ends in a T-junction on a lane.

    The small stream that is crossed by the track is a tributary of the River Seaton.

    The source of the River Seaton is in Minions near the Cheesewring Hotel and it connects with two tributary streams running through St Cleer. Due to the copper mining activity around Caradon Hill, the tributary streams contain dissolved copper salts where the groundwater drains from old mines or percolates through waste tips. The level of copper in the main river is not high enough to prevent fish living in it but it does restrict the invertebrate species that are able to live in the river and so the fish population is lower than surrounding rivers as there is less for them to eat. The river runs for just over 10 miles before reaching the sea at Seaton beach.

  32. At the junction, St Cleer Holy Well is roughly 30 metres to your right if you want to have a quick look, and the walk continues downhill to the left. Follow the lane downhill until it ends in a T-junction with the main road.

    St Cleer Holy Well, situated on the appropriately-named Well Lane, is a natural spring covered by an elaborately-carved Victorian well house, constructed in 1864. A well house possibly dating back to mediaeval times had stood there previously but it was knocked down during the English Civil War in the 17th Century and lay in ruins until the Victorian reconstruction. The water from the well is reputed to cure madness, but in our scientific trial of one of the iWalk team drinking some and another being the "control", no significant difference in sanity regarding the appeal of walks in the pouring rain was observed. According to one source, the cure is only achieved by immersion in the well, for which there were fewer volunteers. A 9ft tall Latin cross carved from granite stands beside the well.

  33. Carefully cross the road to the bridleway opposite. Follow the track a short distance until you reach a wooden gate on the left, just past Roman House.

    The reputation of holy wells to cure madness stems from the mediaeval practice of "bowsenning" the "insane". This consisted of, without any warning, shoving the unfortunate person who was in a state of psychosis (and therefore already highly distressed) into the cold water. In many cases, this only increased the level of distress but the fatigue resulting from trying not to drown was mistaken for improvement. It is also possible that in a few cases that the shock caused a mental reboot which did bring a sufferer out of a mild psychotic episode, and these occasional successes fuelled enthusiasm for the practice. It is also possible that "insanity" was occasionally alcoholically-induced and similar improvement was noticed. For the very unfortunate sufferers that did not recover on first round of "treatment", the practice was repeated regularly.

  34. Bear left through the wooden gate and follow the path between the walls to emerge on a track beside a metal gate. Continue between the hedges until a path leads off to the left just before the track goes through a gate.

    "Holy wells" were created because the Christian church was most unhappy with the Celtic people continuing their old Pagan ways and worshipping sacred springs. In the 10th Century, the church issued a cannon (law) to outlaw such practices. This didn't work, so they issued another one in the 11th Century, and again in the 12th Century. Even despite the church going to the lengths of building a chapel over the top of some springs to obliterate them, the people still hung onto their sacred springs. The church finally settled on a compromise and rebranded the springs as (Christian) Holy Wells, so the old practices could continue behind a Christian façade.

  35. Bear left onto the path and follow this until it ends in a gate onto a lane.

    Trethevy Quoit, near Tremar, is a 9ft tall 4000 year old Dolmen (burial chamber) with a 10 ton capstone that would have originally been buried in earth. It is one of the two known as "King Arthur's Quoit". The other one is situated at Trethevy near Tintagel, which is pretty confusing, since that one isn't known as "Trethevy Quoit". If that isn't confusing enough, the one near Tremar is sometimes referred to as Trevethy rather than Trethevy. It appears on a 1614 map as "Trethevy Stones".

  36. Go through the gate to the lane. The walk continues along the lane to the right but first you might want to have a look at Trethevy Quoit which is through the gate on the left. Follow the lane for just under half a mile until it ends at a T-junction.

    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.

  37. Turn left and follow the road around a bend to the right and up the hill until you reach a crossroads with a signpost to St Cleer.
  38. Turn right onto the lane signposted for St Cleer and follow the lane until it ends at a T-junction.

    The Market Inn, facing St Cleer church, dates from mid-19th century, when St Cleer developed into a sizeable settlement due to the growth in the mining industry on Bodmin Moor. In the 1850s, there were around 4,000 miners working in the South Caradon area.

  39. Cross the road and go through the gate into the churchyard. Follow the path through the churchyard to a gate in the far left corner.

    St Cleer church was first built around 800AD and subsequently rebuilt in the 13th Century. The tower suffered damage and was rebuilt in the 15th Century; it is just short of 100ft tall and contains 6 bells.

    The church is dedicated to St Clarus, who was born in Rochester in the 9th Century and went to Normandy to become a Benedictine monk. He was, somewhat harshly given his profession, beheaded after rejecting the advances of a noblewoman.

  40. Exit the churchyard and join the pavement on the road ahead. Follow the road to it to a junction to the left at The Forge.
  41. Turn left past The Forge and then almost immediately right past Primrose Cottage onto Treworrick Lane. Follow the lane through any gates across the lane until the lane eventually ends in a T-junction.

    The tall trees alongside the road provide perches for buzzards.

    A pair of buzzards have a territory which includes a number of possible nesting sites which can be as many as 20. They move nesting site each year which prevents build-up of nest parasites such as bird fleas. The new nest is decorated with fresh green foliage.

  42. Turn right onto the lane and follow it until it ends in a T-junction at Redgate Smithy.

    The valley that the road climbs from is the beginning of the catchment area for the East Looe River. A small stream runs along the bottom of the valley which is technically the East Looe River. When you reach the main road, you are on the watershed between the Fowey and Looe rivers.

  43. At the junction, carefully cross over the road (the corner to the right is blind but there is a mirror to see oncoming traffic) to the lane almost opposite signposted to Golitha Falls. Follow this back to the bridge to return to the car park.

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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