Golitha Falls to Trethevy Quoit

The walk starts from Draynes Bridge at the Golitha Falls car park. The route follows a winding path across the Bulland Downs to King Doniert's Stone then 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.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6 miles/9.7 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Draynes Bridge near Golitha Falls car park
  • Parking: Golitha Falls car park. Satnav: PL146RX
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

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. Turn left out of the car park and cross the bridge over the river. Turn left onto the lane in the direction signposted to Bolventor. Follow the lane past one old public footpath sign on the right to a second (newer) public footpath sign on the left, pointing towards a gate on the right.

    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. A circular path of about 1km runs around the reserve. There is also a shorter paved route of about 400m.

    In spring, the valley is carpeted with bluebells and in autumn, the trees are vivid colours. In summer, look out for woodland butterflies such as the orange and black silver-washed fritilliary; the males are attracted to orange items including car indicators and Sainsburys' carrier bags!

  2. 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 one waymark to a second waymark.

    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, bear left slightly between the gorse and tree. Follow the winding path ahead, along the contour of the hill. Continue past one waymark 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). Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads and to make a tea, beer or wine.

  4. Keep right along the hedge and follow the path into the woods. Continue on the path, alongside the stream, 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.

  5. Cross the stile over the wall and follow the fence on the right to a crossing over the stream leading to a stile on your right.

    The Fowey river network has a healthy otter population.

    The otter's semi-aquatic nature has been well known since ancient times, in fact the words "otter" and "water" both derive from the same original word. It has been reported that Bodmin Moor acts as an interchange for commuting otters as the rivers Camel, Delank, Fowey and Inny all have sources or tributaries in a quite a small area.

    During the 1960s, the otter population crashed in the UK due to the widespread use of pesticides such as DDT which leached into the waterways and poisoned the otters. However, due to predominance of dairy farming in Cornwall during this period rather than the more pesticide-reliant arable, the county remained an otter stronghold. The Tamar Otter Sanctuary near the Devon border was a key part of the otter conservation movement which has been a remarkable success. It is thought that otters have now re-colonised all the areas in the UK that they were wiped out from during the 20th Century.

  6. Cross the stile and footbridge and follow the path to a second footbridge. After this keep right and follow the path roughly parallel to the wall on the left. Continue on the path as it bends to the right and follow it into a clearing. Cross the clearing to a gap in the bushes to reach a waymark on the far side.

    Lichens are a partnership of two different organisms: a fungus providing the "accommodation" and an alga or cyanobacterium providing the "food" through photosynthesis. The fungal partner provides a cosy, sheltered environment for the alga and tends it with mineral nutrients. However, the alga partner is more than simply an imprisoned food-slave: it is such a closely-evolved alliance that the fungus is dependant on the alga for its shape and structure. If the fungal partner is isolated and grown on an agar plate, it forms a shapeless, infertile blob.

  7. At the waymark (behind the bush on the right as you approach), bear left to follow the path between the bushes and reach a small brook. Bear right to cross over the brook and then follow along the bottom of the bank, keeping it on your left to reach a clearing with a waymark.
  8. At the waymark, turn left and follow the path uphill alongside the wall, ducking under any overhanging trees as required. Continue along the wall until you reach a large grassy mound ahead sparsely covered with bushes.
  9. Bear left to keep the mound on your right, and bear left again when the path splits so that the mounds stay on your right. Keep following the path until you eventually emerge into a field and reach a gate onto a lane.

    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.
  10. Go through the gate and bear left across the lane to the footpath sign opposite. Before continuing, you may want to take a short diversion to the left to see King Doniert's Stone, then return here. Climb the stile over the wall beside the footpath sign and bear right slightly across the field to a gate in the middle of the far hedge.

    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".

  11. 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 part of the government responsible for that ran the national system of heritage protection and managed 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.

  12. Turn right down the track and follow it until it ends at a gate.
  13. 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.
  14. Turn left down the track and follow it until it ends at a pair of double gates onto a lane.
  15. 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.
  16. Cross the stile on the right and follow the right hedge to a gate in the far hedge.

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

    The association of holly with winter celebrations predates Christianity: druids were known to use holly wreaths which, it is likely with some discomfort, they wore on their heads. The berries of holly contain a chemical compound very similar to caffeine. Only in very small doses is this a stimulant; in larger doses it is toxic. It is for this reason that you see holly berries on bushes rather than them being inside the nearest bird. The birds have learned to wait until after the frosts have reduced the toxicity of the berries before eating them.

  17. Go through the gate 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.
  18. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to the gateway opposite.
  19. Go through the gateway and cross the field to a metal gate opposite.
  20. Go through the gate and follow the waymarked path ahead until it ends on a drive.
  21. Follow the track ahead, past Penhale farm and past a footpath sign on the right. Continue 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.

  22. Turn left onto Well Lane and follow it until it ends in a T-junction on the main road.

    When you turn left onto Well Lane, the St Cleer Holy Well is roughly 30 metres to your right on Well Lane. You may wish to have a quick look before continuing.

    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.

  23. 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.

  24. Turn left through the wooden gate and follow the path along the hedge until you reach a fork in the path.

    "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 fa├žade.

  25. Keep left at the fork and follow the path to reach a lane beside Trethevy Quoit.

    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".

  26. Turn right onto the lane and follow it, keeping right, until it eventually 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.

  27. Turn left and follow the road around a bend to the right until you reach a crossroads with a signpost to St Cleer.
  28. Turn right down Tremar Lane and follow the lane until it ends at a T-junction beside the pub.

    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.

  29. Cross the lane 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.

  30. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to a left junction beside the blacksmith.
  31. Turn left past the blacksmith and pottery and then almost immediately right past Primrose Cottage down 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.

    Despite their reputation for being lazy and scavengers, Buzzards are formidable predators. Diving on rabbits and small mammals from a slow or hovering flight, or from a perch, they nearly always make the kill on the ground. During their breeding season in spring, Buzzards create spectacular aerial displays by soaring high into the air and dropping suddenly towards the ground.

  32. 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.

  33. At the junction, carefully cross over the road (the corner to the right is blind but there is a mirror to see oncoming traffic) and bear right down the small lane almost opposite to complete the circular route.

    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. The upper reaches run through 2 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the Fowey valley is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is also used as a conduit for the public water system to feed water from the Siblyback and Colliford reservoirs on Bodmin Moor down to Restormel where it enters the water mains. The increased demand for water from summer visitors has the effect of buffering the river levels in the drier months from the reservoirs. The river has populations of Sea Trout and Salmon as well as Brown Trout which make it popular with fly fishermen.

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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