Lerryn to St Winnow

The walk follows a byway from Lerryn along the former quays of the Lerryn River into Ethy Woods. The route then follows paths through the woods along the edge of the River Lerryn and up the River Fowey to St Winnow. The walk passes through the churchyard and then follows footpaths across the fields to Ethy Mill where the walk re-enters the woods to reach the parkland surrounding Ethy House. The final section is across the former grounds of the house to reach Lerryn.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Lerryn Car Park
  • Parking: Car Park by the stepping stones. Turn beside Lerryn River stores and park beside the river Satnav: PL220QB
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Views over the creeks
  • Pretty creekside churchyard of St Winnow
  • Mature broadleaf woodland with ancient oaks

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the road and turn left towards the bridge. Follow the road over the bridge until you reach a small lane on the left just past Bridge House.

    The Bridge at Lerryn dates from mediaeval times. There is a record that in 1573 Queen Elizabeth ordered a levy on the rates for the "erecting and re-edifying the decayed bridge called Laryon between St Vepe and St Winnow". The bridge originally consisted of 3 arches but one has been removed, probably as the river narrowed due to silting from the mining activity upstream.

  2. Turn left down the lane and follow it to a T-junction.

    There were four lime kilns at Lerryn, the most obvious of which is beside the road opposite the public toilets. The coal and limestone for these was brought up the creek from the port of Fowey on cargo barges, when the creek was less silted than it is today.

    Internally, a lime kiln consisted of a conical stone or brick-lined chamber which was loaded from the top with alternating layers of limestone and carbon-rich fuel such as charcoal, peat or coal. At the side of the kiln was an alcove known as an "eye" which was used to access the kiln and remove the quicklime from a hole at the bottom of the chamber. The kiln was often run continuously with more layers of fuel and limestone added to the top as the previous layers worked their way down through the kiln. Air was drawn in through the bottom of the kiln and heated up as it passed through the quicklime (also cooling the quicklime) before it reached the level where combustion was taking place.

  3. Turn left at the junction to reach the river. Follow the byway along the river to reach The Granary.

    The source of the River Lerryn is near West Taphouse and it flows across the Bocconoc Estate where it is joined by a number of small streams, draining from the valleys of the estate. More streams join near Couch's Mill and the river then flows another mile and a half to Lerryn where it enters the ria (flooded river valley) that gives rise to the tidal creeks leading up to Lerryn and St Winnow from the sea at Fowey. At one time, the 4 miles of creek to Lerryn was navigable from the sea by cargo barges. Since then, mining activity in the river valleys has caused the creek to silt up so that it is now only navigable by small boats.

  4. Follow the path behind The Granary and along the edge of the creek until you eventually reach a junction of paths at a waymark.

    Beside the footpath in Ethy Woods, just as you approach the point, is a worn stone column, covered in lichen. Despite the wear and tear, it is still possible to make out a fluted design and the base for a capital (the tapered head piece that sits between the pillar and the load that it holds). The column is thought to date from mediaeval times and be from an important building such as a church, chapel or manor. At some later point, it was re-used as a gatepost which is why it is flat down one side.

  5. Turn left to cross through a wall and over a bridge to the other side of the creek. Follow the path until it emerges onto a track.

    In 2000, an earthenware jar was found beside the creek near Ethy which contained over 1,000 silver Roman coins. It dates from the 3rd Century AD and is now held at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.

  6. Turn left onto the track and follow it a short distance to reach another waymark.

    Ethy woods near Lerryn is part-owned by National Trust and partly by the government's Forestry Commission. In 2011, the government announced that it would be selling off the woods and there was local concern about the future of the woodland and public access. The government decision was reversed and the woods remain open to the public.

  7. Bear left down the waymarked path and follow this down to the creek, across the stream, and up the other side until it re-emerges on the track.

    The grey heron is an unmistakably massive bird with a 6ft wingspan and is most commonly seen in or near freshwater. The call of the heron is equally unsubtle - it is more like grating metal than the sound of birdsong. Although herons primarily eat fish, they will eat frogs, rodents, moles, ducklings and even baby rabbits! In Tudor and Elizabethan times, hunting herons with peregrine falcons was considered a royal sport which resulted in the birds being protected from peasants who might otherwise have caught and roasted them.

  8. Turn left onto the track and follow it until you reach a large green wooden sign, with "Forestry Commission Ethy Wood" on the other side.

    The path follows the River Lerryn to its confluence with the River Fowey and then follows the Fowey upriver.

    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. Continue ahead on the path and keep left to follow it parallel to the creek until it ends at a stile.

    Amongst the trees planted in the woodland are Chestnut, and the nuts are apparent in Autumn from their extremely spiky casings.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their various campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops. In terms of nutrition, chestnuts contain very little fat and are in many ways more similar to a cereal than other nuts, containing principally starch and sugars. They are consequently much less calorific: the kernels contain around a third of the calories of a similar weight of other nuts.

    The size of the nuts from British trees is quite variable but the largest approach that of the nuts sold in supermarkets. Nuts that are very flat or less than the girth of your little finger are not worth harvesting; anything bigger is viable. A painless way to extract the nuts is to grip the husk between your feet and rub it between your boots or against the ground. This saves having to handle the spiky husks as the spikes are very sharp and tend to break off under the skin to leave behind splinters. Often the husks contain one (fairly round) large nut surrounded by several small, flat nuts, so it's worth squeezing out quite a few husks to get the larger nuts. Discard any nuts with holes in (as they will contain maggots) or that are very dark in colour - the fresher ones will be "chestnut" brown rather than dark brown.

  10. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge of the field to reach a stile over a fence.
  11. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to reach a stile onto a footbridge.
  12. Cross the stile and footbridge and follow the path to emerge on the creekside. Follow the edge of the creek past the church to reach a waymark.

    You may notice the occasional, and rather large, white shell in the creekside mud. These are clam shells.

    Cockles and clams look fairly similar, but cockles have much thicker shells. There are a few different varieties of various shapes and sizes.

    In the cockle department, you're most likely to encounter dog cockles which get their name because they are tough if overcooked; however if cooked correctly they are very good to eat and taste of almond (and are known as Amande de Mer). They have an almost round, slightly ringed shell which is smooth on the outside but has some grooves on the inside edge. The common cockle has a heavily ridged shell, but do not seem to live up to their name in Cornwall.

    Clams generally have smoother, more delicate shells. Venus clams have a porcelain-like shell with rings and are about the size of a golf ball. The surf clam is larger, often around the size your hand and has the patterning resembling a mussel.

    Cockles and clams can be collected by raking them from the sand at low tide. The Magna Carta grants every English citizen the right to collect up to eight pounds of cockles/clams from the seashore per day.

  13. Turn right at the waymark and follow the track a short distance to a Public Footpath sign pointing into the churchyard. Go through the gate into the churchyard and follow the path past the church to reach a gate on the far side of the churchyard.

    St Winnow was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Sanwinnel, and early maps indicate that the churchyard was originally oval in shape, typical of Celtic religions enclosures know as a lann. It is therefore thought that the churchyard may be on the site of the 7th Century chapel of St Winnoc. A stone church was built in the 12th Century and a few traces of this remain in the current church which was built in the 15th Century and restored in the 19th. Much of the stained glass added in the Tudor period survived and can still be seen in the church.

  14. Go through the gate and walk uphill past the cottage to a track on the right marked with a Public Footpath sign. Turn right down the track and go through the gate. Follow the track until you reach a pair of gates.
  15. Go through the leftmost gate (ahead) and follow the track until it emerges at a junction of tracks at a gateway.

    Searches with a metal detector in the fields around St Winnow have unearthed a number of historic artefacts including prehistoric flints, pieces of bronze, Roman brooches and coins, lead seals and musket balls. One of the Roman coins found has been dated to 146 BC, which is a year before the Roman conquest of Britain. It may possibly be from earlier trade links with the Romans.

  16. Cross the stile ahead then head across the diagonal of the field to reach a stile just to the left of the gateway.

    During the Iron Age and even during Roman times, bronze was still used particularly for items such as jewellery. There were two reasons for this: unlike iron, bronze does not quickly corrode in air and water and the colour and lustre of polished bronze was more attractive than rusty iron.

  17. Cross the pair of stiles into the field and follow the left hedge. Keep along the left hedge past the waymarks to follow the track to a gateway.

    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.
  18. Cross the stile on the left of the gate and bear right across the field to the gateway in the middle of the hedge on the right.
  19. Cross the stile on the left of the gate and then bear left slightly towards the bottom corner of the field.
  20. Cross the stile in the corner of the field then follow the left hedge to reach a stile.
  21. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a stile at the bottom of the field.
  22. Cross the stile and make your way down to the track. Turn right onto the track and follow it downhill until you reach a fork at a waymark.
  23. Bear left at the waymark down the concrete track between the mill buildings and across the stream; then follow the track uphill to where a path departs from the left at a wooden fence.

    Ethy mill dates back to mediaeval times, and was first recorded in 1346, although the ruins you can see today are more recent.

    Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.

  24. Bear left up the path and follow this to a crossing of paths.

    Under trees, keep a close eye on the description of the "endpoint" of the direction you are following as occasionally your GPS position might not be accurate enough for the app to know that you have reached it. If you stand still, the position will often "wander around" and eventually "catch up". If your GPS position "misses" a direction location, you can manually tell the app to navigate from the next direction using the button next to it on the directions screen.

    The reason that trees trouble GPS receivers is that branches and leaves absorb the frequencies of radio waves used to transmit GPS signals, so summer is also slightly worse than winter. The result is that GPS receivers lose the signals from some of their satellites and therefore the position accuracy degrades. Phones with dual GPS/GLONASS support, such as the iPhone and newer Android phones, tend to fare a little better as they have access to more satellites. Once the new European Galileo positioning system is fully deployed and supported, satellite positioning under trees is expected to improve massively.

  25. Keep ahead at the crossing and follow the path uphill to reach a gate into a field.

    Wild garlic grows along the path here. There is also masses of it a short distance along the Lanreath road, near the pub in Lerryn.

    Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are the useful bit rather than the bulb, so cut/pull off the leaves (don't pull up the plants). The leaves are quite delicate, so you can use quite large quantities in cooking; therefore, harvest it in the kind of quantities that you'd buy salad leaves from the supermarket. There are some lillies that look fairly similar (and some are poisonous) but the smell is the giveaway: if it doesn't smell of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic.

  26. Go through the gate and continue ahead to pass to the left of a fenced copse. Then make for a gap in the middle of the fence.

    The settlement of Ethy dates from mediaeval times and was first recorded in 1196 as "Ewthy", which is likely to be a mangling of Cornish words describing the place (the second syllable was possibly chy, meaning "house"). The Ethy estate was owned by the Courtney family who are commemorated in the mediaeval stained glass in St Winnow churchyard. The current Ethy House was built in Georgian times and set in a 18 acre garden. The National Trust acquired over 300 acres of the Ethy estate in 1959, but Ethy House itself is privately owned. Together with Fowey Hall, Ethy House is thought to have provided inspiration for Toad Hall to the author of Wind in The Willows, Kenneth Grahame, who spent much time in Fowey.

  27. Go through the gap and turn left; follow the left hedge a short distance to a gate. Go through the gate and keep following the left hedge to reach a waymark. At the waymark, bear right slightly towards the rightmost of the telegraph poles in front of the houses.

    As you go through the gate, note the holly bush on the other side of the gate on the left. In Winter, rather than producing the usual bright red berries, the berries on this bush are bright yellow.

    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.

  28. Go through the gate beneath the telegraph pole and follow the path to a cul-de-sac. Turn left and follow the residential road until it ends at a T-junction.
  29. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane downhill to the junction outside Yonder Cottage that you emerged from near the start of the walk.
  30. If the tide is out, you can continue ahead at the junction and cross the river via the stepping stones to reach the car park. Otherwise, turn left at the junction to retrace your steps to the main road, then turn right to return via the bridge to the car park.

    In 1982, a person with a metal detector found a hoard of 103 Roman coins at Lerryn on the foreshore between the car park and the bridge. The coins date from the 3rd century AD, each featuring the Emperor of the time including Gordian III, Valerian II and Tentricus II. The coins were purchased by the Royal Institution of Cornwall.

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. 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.

If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?