Lanhydrock Gardens

The walk starts from the gatehouse into the formal gardens and climbs through the magnolia arch to the Higher Gardens overlooking Lanhydrock. The route then descends through the woodland gardens and the Great Wood to the river. The walk then follows the River Fowey to Respryn Bridge and returns via the drive passing through the gatehouse and the parkland to Lanhydrock house.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.3 miles/5.3 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Lanhydrock's main entrance (you will need to pay an entry fee for the gardens unless you are a NT member)
  • Parking: Main car park. Satnav: PL304AE
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Lanhydrock House with opulent furnishings and impressive kitchens
  • Colourful and elegant formal gardens
  • Higher Gardens with ornamental trees and nice views
  • Pretty woodland along the River Fowey, rich in wildlife
  • Vista to the main gatehouse through rolling parkland

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Start with a visit to the gardens (and optionally the house). You will need to purchase a ticket unless you are a National Trust member. Follow signs for "house and garden" to reach the gatehouse leading into the gardens. After exploring the house and gardens, make for the Holy Well near Joseph's Cottage at the top of the formal gardens.

    The first version of the house at Lanhydrock , completed in 1651, had a 4 sided layout around a central courtyard. During the first half of the 18th Century, it was neglected and by 1750 in so much disrepair that demolition was seriously being considered to recover some money in salvage and building materials. In 1780, some restoration and remodelling occurred which included demolition of the East Wing to create the U shape. After this, there was another period of slow decline. Then in the mid 1800s, the house underwent a major rework. Not long after this, in 1881, a fire destroyed the south wing and caused major damage to the central section. After this, the house was rebuilt with the exterior in the style of the original building and the Victorian interior was reconstructed, with the addition of kitchens behind the south wing.

  2. Facing the Holy Well, follow the path around the corner to the left then head uphill through the wrought iron Magnolia arch to the Higher Gardens to reach a fork in the path.

    The garden's design relates to the Victorian restoration of the house. It was laid out along mid-19th century lines by George Truefitt, to complement the style of the house and to provide a pleasure ground for the family. The formal gardens include an enclosed forecourt with topiary, based on rows of Irish yews and box-edged rose beds, a parterre also hedged with box and a herbaceous garden enclosed in a circular yew hedge. The picturesque woodland gardens, leading from the formal gardens to the Great Wood, specialise in magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons.

  3. At the fork, bear left and follow the path until it meets another path next to the thatched Summer House.

    The higher gardens have been crafted so that as the path passes above the house, there is a view over the house to your left. Low-growing hydrangeas are planted in the line of the house so that they provide a colourful frame for the view when they flower.

  4. Bear left through the gate and follow the path straight ahead until it emerges onto a lane.

    This area of the gardens contains many fine specimens of ornamental Camellia and Rhododendron which provide a burst of colour in early Spring.

    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.

  5. Bear slightly right across the lane onto the gravel path ahead. Follow this downhill through the woods until it eventually forks at a waymark.

    The Great Wood alongside the parkland at Lanhydrock has been designated as an Important Plant Area by the organisation Plantlife for its ancient woodland and lichens. Trees include beech, oak, sycamore, ash, sweet chestnut, holly and a number of Scots Pine. Since the clearance of invasive Rhododendrons from the Great Wood, fantastic displays of bluebells can be seen in the spring. Lanhydrock is also home to kingfishers, dormice and 12 species of bat.

  6. At the waymark, follow the waymarked gravel path to the right past one waymark, where a path joins from the left, to a second waymark in front of a large tree where a path departs downhill to the right.

    Deer sometimes venture into the woodland, typically early in the morning when there aren't any dogs around.

    Red and Roe deer are the two truly native species of the six found in the UK and both have pointy, branching (rugose) antlers. The Red deer is the largest of the species and has a characteristic large white V on its backside whereas the Roe deer just has a small white patch.

    The fallow deer was introduced by the Normans and has flat, elk-like (palmate) antlers and an inverted black horseshoe surrounding a white patch on its rear end.

    In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, three "exotic" Asian species (munjac, sika and chinese water deer) were introduced. These all have quite rounded ears whereas the European species all have pointy "elf-like" ears.

    Roe deer, Fallow deer and Red deer are all present in Cornwall and the populations of all three species has increased substantially over the past decade, possibly by as much as a factor of ten. There are also a small number of munjac deer, but far fewer than in the rest of England.

  7. At the waymark, take the unsurfaced path to the right and follow it until you reach a fork.

    The Roe Deer is unusual among hoofed animals as the egg is fertilised at the time of mating but then goes into suspended animation for several months - a process known as delayed implantation. This mechanism means that instead of being born in late winter, the young are born in early summer when food is more plentiful.

    In most species with delayed implantation, the mother sends out a hormonal signal to tell the embryo to wake up. However in the case of the Roe Deer, the embryo has a built-in egg timer which sends a chemical message back to the mother that it's time to resume the pregnancy.

  8. At the fork, take the path on the right and follow this until it ends at a stile above a track.

    Green woodpeckers are the largest and most colourful of the woodpeckers native to Britain and have a distinctive laughing "yaffle" call. The two species of spotted woodpecker are smaller and usually noticed from the drumming sound they make on trees. All of the woodpeckers bore holes in trees in which they nest, but only the spotted woodpeckers drill into trees in search of food, spending most of their time perched on a tree. Conversely, green woodpeckers spend most of their time on the ground, hunting for ants. The ants nests are excavated using their strong beak and ants caught on the barbed end of their long tongue. In fact, their tongue is so long it needs to be curled around their skull to fit inside their head.

  9. Climb down the stile onto the track and bear right to the signpost. Turn left in the direction of "Respryn via footbridge" and follow the lane downhill. Continue past a junction on your left, and a gate on the right signposted to Restormel Castle, until you cross a stone footbridge to reach a gateway with granite gateposts.

    Restormel Castle is one of the four chief Norman castles in Cornwall and is notable for its perfectly circular design; the 13th century circular shell-keep still encloses the principal rooms of the castle. The mound on which it is built is the site of an earlier castle, probably originally built at the start of the 12th Century, shortly after the Norman conquest of England, as a motte and bailey castle. The castle is strategically positioned, overlooking the primary crossing point over the River Fowey and was located in the middle of a large deer park. The castle had an early form of pressurised tap water, piped into the buildings from a natural spring.

  10. Go through the gateway and follow the path until you reach the river.

    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.

  11. When you reach the river, continue following the waymarked path upstream until you reach a footbridge.

    If you look carefully in some of the slower-moving sections of the river, you can often see fish slowly swimming against the current to remain stationary.

    Trout are members of Salmon family who all have an extra tiny (adipose) fin on their back towards their tail, that most other fish don't have. No-one is quite sure what the purpose is of this fin but a neural network in the fin indicates that it has some kind of sensory function.

    The native trout in the UK is not the trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock (the Rainbow Trout, which has red flush along its side and is native to North America), but the Brown Trout which has well-defined dark red spots along its sides. You can often make out the spots when you see them lying in pools. Rainbow Trout are often stocked in fishing lakes so do sometimes escape into the wild.

    Small trout typically feed on invertebrates whereas larger trout generally feed on other fish but have been known to eat anything of a suitable size unlucky enough to fall into a river. In fact in New Zealand, mouse-shaped lures are sold for trout fishing!

  12. Cross the footbridge over the river and follow the path upriver until it passes through a gap in a wall and forks.

    If you do happen to see a really large fish then the chances are that it's either a salmon or sea trout.

    Sea Trout have a very similar life-cycle to Salmon, being born in a river, migrating to the ocean to feed and then returning to the river to spawn. As with Salmon, they do not feed once they enter freshwater and after spawning they are susceptible to disease. It is not unusual to see them with fungal growths in early winter, but as long as these infections aren't too major, the trout return to the sea where they recover and return to spawn again.

    What is intriguing is that Sea Trout are exactly the same species as Brown Trout, which live all their lives in a river. It seems to be that if there isn't enough food, young trout undergo "the change" (known as smoulting) in which their physiology permanently alters for an existence in saltwater, they change colour to silver, and they head off to live in the sea.

  13. Where the path forks, keep left along the river, passing the dog washing area until you reach a lane.

    The "National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty" was founded in 1895 when snappy names weren't in fashion. Their first coastal acquisition was Barras Nose at Tintagel in 1897. Five years later, Tintagel Old Post Office was their first house to be acquired in Cornwall. The National Trust now has over 4 million members and owns over 700 miles of British coastline.

  14. Turn left onto the lane and follow it over Respryn Bridge. Continue past Respryn car park on your right until you reach the entrance to Lanhydrock.

    Respryn Bridge is a five-arched mediaeval bridge constructed of granite and rubble spanning the River Fowey at Lanhydrock. The central pointed arch dates from the 15th century; the other arches are more recent. Before this, there was a 13th Century bridge on the site. The place name indicates a ford was here before the bridge, on an ancient trackway between Bodmin and Looe. A chapel was also documented as being located by the river in the 12th Century. In the Middle Ages, chapels were quite common at fords, so the prospective crosser could pray that they were going to make it to the other side, or in the other direction (only, if successful!) give thanks for a safe passage.

  15. Turn left into Lanhydrock, along the path which joins the drive. Then follow the drive to the gatehouse.

    Lanhydrock lies just south of the A30 below Bodmin near Bodmin Parkway station. The Lanhydrock estate originally belonged to the Augustinian priory of St Petroc at Bodmin, but the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Tudor times saw it pass into private hands. It was bought in 1620 by wealthy merchant Sir Richard Robartes, who began building the house in 1630 but died only 4 years later. The building was finally completed in 1651 by his son and the estate remained in the Robartes Family until the 20th Century.

    The Robartes family declined significantly during the First World War, losing the heir who was killed during the Battle of Loos in France whilst trying to rescue a colleague from no-man's land. The estate passed to his younger brother, Francis, who became 7th Viscount Clifden. In the Second World War, the house was used to accommodate evacuees. After the war, in 1953, the house and approximately 400 acres of parkland were given to the National Trust by the ageing Viscount. On the death of his younger brother Arthur, the barony and viscountcy of Clifden and barony of Robartes became extinct. Only one descendant of the family survives, living in a cottage on the estate.

  16. Go through the pedestrian gate, on the right of the gatehouse, and follow the drive through the park to Lanhydrock House.

    The granite parish church that stands in the grounds of Lanhydrock House predates even the first version of the house: parts of the church date back to the late 15th century, though an earlier church or chapel once stood on the site. The church was restored at the end of the 19th Century, following on from the reconstruction of Lanhydrock House after the fire. The church is dedicated to St Hydroc, a 5th Century Celtic saint, possibly a hermit. Outside the church is an ancient granite cross, reported by one source to be from the 13th century.

  17. Turn right at the crossroads in front of the house, to return to the main car park.

    During mediaeval times, whilst the land at Lanhydrock was owned by the priory of St Petroc, it was let out as a small manor farm (sometimes known as a barton). The farmhouse was thought to be located approximately where the northern range of Lanhydrock House is situated today. It is recorded that in 1545, the tenant farmer was evicted for allowing the house to fall into decay and for stealing apples.

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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