Lanhydrock to Respryn

The walk begins in the Lanhydrock main car park but follows paths away from the house into Hart Wood and through the broadleaf woodland to reach the horse and coach route from Lanhydrock to the railway station. The walk continues along the River Fowey to Respryn Bridge and follows the driveway to the gatehouse of the Lanhydrock park. From here the route turns through the Great Wood and follows the track towards Maudlin to return via the woodland gardens and Lanhydrock House.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Lanhydrock cycle trails information point
  • Parking: Lanhydrock car parks. Satnav: PL304AE
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty broadleaf woodland and riverside scenery
  • Birds, deer and aquatic wildlife
  • Fungi ranging from edible to surreal
  • Ornamental woodland garden with camellias and rhododendrons
  • Lanhydrock House set in immaculate formal gardens

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Follow the Cycle Trail signs to the information point at the top corner of the car park, near the fence of the corner of the cricket ground. Turn right (signposted to Skills Area), and keep right along the path through the trees until it ends at a red gate leading onto a lane.
  2. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Walk a short distance to a crossroads and cross the road carefully to the track opposite. Follow the track until it splits three ways.
  3. Where the track splits, keep right and follow the woodland track until you reach a waymark where a path departs from the right.

    The National Cycle Network is coordinated by the charity Sustrans. It began with one route in Bristol in 1984 and now consists of around 15,000 miles of signposted cycle routes known as National Cycle Routes. These each have a number and are constructed using a combination of roads typically chosen to have light traffic and some traffic-free tracks which are open to cycles.

    Between Bude and Land's End the National Cycle Routes 3, and 32 which is an alternative North Coast route from Bodmin to Truro, are collectively known as the Cornish Way, stretching for 123 miles. Together they comprise of 175 miles of route.

  4. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path through the woods until you reach another waymark where a small path joins from the left.

    Amongst the broadleaf trees growing in Hart Wood are beech, which drop nut casings onto the forest floor in early Autumn.

    Compared to many native trees, the beech colonised Great Britain relatively recently, after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. The fruit of the beech tree is known as "mast" or, less crypically, "beechnuts". The small triangular nuts are encased in spiky husks which split and drop from the trees from late August to early October. The kernels of these are edible and are similar to hazelnuts. They were once used as a source of flour, which was ground after the tannins had been leached out by soaking them in water. If you find them too bitter, you might want to try this trick, although toasting them in a hot pan is also a good option. Young beech leaves can be used as a salad vegetable, which are apparently similar to a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture. Older leaves are a bit chewy, as you'd expect.

  5. Continue along the path from the waymark to reach a cycle track crossing the path. Continue ahead on the path marked with a no cycles symbol and follow it until you reach a waymark where a small path departs from the left.

    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.

  6. Keep right on the main path, in the direction indicated by the waymark, and follow the path until it ends at a red gate onto a lane.

    Blackbirds are one of the most common birds in the UK with a population of somewhere between 10 and 15 million. However, blackbirds were in steady decline from the 1970s through to the mid-1990s. The population has only relatively recently recovered.

    The reference in the nursery rhyme "sing a song a sixpence" to "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" is thought to be to the 16th Century amusement (though not for the blackbirds) of producing a large pie with a chamber for live birds which would fly out when the pie was cut open.

    Baby blackbirds usually leave the nest before they can actually fly then hop and scramble through the bushes. Their parents watch over them so don't attempt to rescue them.

  7. Go through the gate onto the lane and turn left. Walk a short distance to a cycle path sign opposite another red gate on the right. Go through the gate and cross the cycle track to the path opposite. Follow the path along the stream until you reach a pair of footbridges by the river.

    The surfaced cycleway leading from Bodmin Parkway station to Station Lodge near Respryn Bridge was originally created in 1864 for a horse-drawn carriage to connect Lanhydrock with the railway. Known as Station Drive, the ornamental carriageway includes fantastic conifer specimens including giant and coastal redwoods, Douglas fir and Monterey pine.

  8. Cross the footbridge on the right and follow the path along the river to a gate.

    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.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a gate into a grassy area containing a car park.

    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.

  10. Go through the gate and bear right to a wooden walkway next to the large sign in the corner of the parking area.

    Robins are able to hover like kingfishers and hummingbirds and use this skill when feeding from bird feeders, which they are unable to cling to. Robins are also able to see magnetic fields. Receptors in their eyes make magnetic fields appear as patterns of light or colour which allows them to use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation. The tradition of robins on Christmas cards is thought to arise from Victorian postmen wearing red jackets and been nicknamed Robins.

    The Cornish name for the bird is rudhek from rudh = "red" (in Cornish, "dh" is pronounced like the "th" in "with"). Cornish place names like Bedruthan, Ruthern and Redruth are all based on the colour red.

  11. Follow the path over the bridge to reach the cycle path by a large tree. Turn left onto the cycle path and follow it past the lodge to reach a lane.

    National Cycle Route 3 is part of the National Cycle Network managed by the charity Sustrans and runs 338 miles from Bristol to Land's End. The route is a mixture of lanes, byways and some tracks not open to road traffic including the upper section of the Camel Trail from Wenfordbridge to Dunmere.

  12. Cross the lane and follow the drive to reach a junction of tracks in front of 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.

  13. Before the gatehouse, turn left and follow the track until you reach a wooden signpost at a junction of paths.
  14. Keep ahead, to the right of the wooden gate, and follow the track until it forks.

    To your right is the Great Wood of Lanhydrock.

    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.

  15. Keep right at the fork and head to the gateway ahead at a bend in the track.

    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.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the track across the field and into the woods until you reach a path departing from the left.

    For such a widespread tree, the oak is surprisingly inefficient at reproducing naturally. It can take 50 years before the tree has its first crop of acorns and even then, the overwhelming majority of the acorns it drops are eaten by animals or simply rot on the ground. Squirrels play an important part by burying acorns and occasionally forgetting a few, which have a much better chance of growing than on the surface.

    Oak was often associated with the gods of thunder as it was often split by lightning, probably because oaks are often the tallest tree in the area. Oak was also the sacred wood burnt by the druids for their mid-summer sacrifice.

    Wood from the oak has a lower density than water (so it floats) but has a great strength and hardness, and is very resistant to insect and fungal attack because of its high tannin content. This made it perfect for shipbuilding, and barrels made from oak released preservative tannins into their contents.

    The high levels of tannins make large amounts of oak leaves and acorns poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep, and even goats, but not to pigs as wild boar were adapted to foraging in the oak forests.

  17. Keep right to stay on the main track and follow this until you reach a wooden signpost to Lanhydrock House and Respryn river walks.

    The track ahead continues until it eventually reaches the gatehouse at Maudlin, passing the mineshafts of Maudline mine, now concealed in the woodland.

    The mine at Maudlin was described in 1860:

    36 men, 2 females, and 4 boys employed: total 42. Mineral Owner, Duke of Cornwall. Dues, 1-20th. Depth of adit, 30 fathoms. Depth under adit, 70 fathoms. Workings commenced in 1851. Pumping-engine 36-inch. A water-wheel, 32 feet diameter and 3 feet 4 inches wide, draws up the stuff and stamps it. A good discovery has just been made, and the prospects of this mine are very favourable.
    The works are of very ancient origin, and produced large quantities of copper and tin, principally copper, from huge deposits in connection with the carbona, under large deposits of gossan. These mineral deposits, in their turn, became unbottomed by a second appearance of large deposits of gossan; in sinking through which, to reach the metallic minerals below, the present adventure is being carried on. While sinking through the gossan the returns of minerals are inconsiderable, and expected so to continue until the gossan is again unbottomed.

    (gossan is mining jargon for an oxidised area of the mineral lode; carbona is a deposit of ore)

  18. Turn right in the direction signposted to Lanhydrock House and follow the track until you reach a junction with waymarked granite gateposts on your left.

    The woods around Lanhydrock provide cover for deer, which you're most likely to see at quiet times when there are no people or 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.

  19. Continue ahead, passing through a gate and alongside Garden Cottage, until you reach a junction in the track, just past the cottage.

    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.

  20. At the junction, keep ahead and follow the track through the woodland gardens until it ends at a wooden gate.

    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.

  21. Go through the gate and bear right to reach the gatehouse at the main entrance to the house.

    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.

  22. Continue uphill, joining the path the runs alongside the track to reach the ticket office and the car park on the opposite side of the lane at the top of the hill.

    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.

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