Luxulyan Valley circular

The route begins at the Black Hill Luxulyan Valley car park and climbs up to the Treffry Viaduct. The route then follows the trackbed of the horse-drawn tramway to the wheelpit where a 30ft waterwheel once hauled wagons up the inclined plane, which you then walk down to follow the leat that powered the waterwheels of the Fowey Consols mine. From here the route follows a path through Carmears Wood to join the Velvet Path which it follows back to the inclined plane. The walk then descends to the bottom of the inclined plane and follows the lower path alongside the river passing Trevanny Dry and beneath the viaduct to complete the circular route.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.3 miles/5.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Black hill car park
  • Parking: Black hill car park. Follow signs to Luxulyan and head towards the church. With the church on your left, follow the lane to past one junction to the right and reach another marked "Weak Bridge Ahead". Turn down this and follow it to reach the car park. Satnav: PL242RZ
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Lush broadleaf woodland in the Luxulyan Valley
  • Victorian industrial heritage including the massive Treffry Viaduct
  • Riverside wildlife including dragonflies and damselflies

Alternative walks in same location

Directions

  1. From the car park, follow the path between the granite posts to the Luxulyan Valley sign and then go up the steps on the left. At the top of the steps, turn right and follow the path along the leat to a footbridge.

    The Luxulyan Valley is the steep-sided, wooded valley of the River Par. It was designated part of a World Heritage Site in 2006 due to its major concentration of early 19th century industrial remains, the majority of which are the result of the work of Joseph Treffry. The area is looked after by The Luxulyan Valley Partnership which includes The Friends of Luxulyan Valley - a conservation group established in 1997 and has a network of permissive paths, many of which are based on the routes of horse-drawn tramways.

  2. Cross the footbridge on the left and follow the path up the bank to reach a track.

    The viaduct was constructed between 1839 and 1842 from local granite to link Joseph Treffry's horse-drawn tramway between Molinnis (the location of the Bugle Inn) and Ponts Mill. This later became part of a larger scheme to create a horse-drawn tramway between Par and Newquay.

    It was the first stone viaduct built in Cornwall and is an engineering masterpiece consisting of 10 arches spanning 200 metres which rise 27 metres from the valley floor. The viaduct also doubled as an aquaduct - it has a water channel beneath the railway track which was precisely sloped to create a steady flow of water and feed Carmears leat.

  3. When you emerge onto the track, turn right and walk a short distance to a junction of tracks. Turn left and follow the track away from the viaduct for about half a mile, passing over a wooden walkway and along a trackbed with granite blocks. Continue for about 50 metres after the granite blocks end to where a path departs from the right towards a wooden fence.

    The upper leat in the Luxulyan Valley, known as Carmears Leat, was the last one constructed, in 1842. Its purpose was to supply water to the wheelpit whilst also increasing the amount of water available to the Fowey Consols mines. Water was extracted from the River Par at Cam bridges and channelled beneath the viaduct into the leat. After driving the wheel, the water drained into the lower (Fowey Consols) leat.

  4. Keep left to stay on the tramway and follow it past some ruined buildings and down the incline until you reach a junction of paths at a crossing over a leat (watercourse).

    The wooden fence is along the top of the wheel pit.

    The Wheelpit was constructed in 1841 and brought into service in 1842 when the leat above it was completed. The original wheel was 30 feet in diameter and used for hauling wagons up the inclined plane until the 1870s. When the Cornwall Minerals Railway was built, the tramway fell into disuse and the waterwheel was repurposed to grind chunks of quarried china stone (partially decomposed granite) to yield a powder similar to china clay. The wheel was replaced with an even larger one of 40ft diameter and grinding pans were constructed beside it. The remains of the grinding pans can be seen today. Once ground, a suspension of the china stone in water was pumped down a pipeline along the side of the inclined plane to the clay driers at Ponts Mill.

  5. Cross the leat to take the second path on the left. Follow the path, keeping the leat on your left, until you reach another junction of paths with a crossing over the leat.

    China Stone is a term used to describe granite which has partially decomposed, but not all the way to china clay. Porcelain is made by mixing china clay with ground china stone and then melting these together in a kiln to form the ceramic. After much trial and error in finding suitable sources of china stone in Cornwall, a patent was filed in 1768 for the manufacture of porcelain using entirely Cornish materials; previously this was only available from China.

  6. Turn left over the bridge across the leat and follow the path uphill to reach a junction of paths at a sharp bend in the main path.

    Joseph Treffry had the 2 mile long watercourse constructed in the 1820s to supply water to his Fowey Consols copper mines on Penpillick Hill in order to drive water wheels to pump out the mine. The water is taken from the Gatty’s Stream using a sluice gate near Gatty’s Bridge. The leat passes through a tunnel, bored through a granite outcrop which blocks its path. Before the tunnel was constructed, the leat was run around the outcrop, through channels on a wooden gallery which was hung off the granite.

  7. Keep right to follow the path around the sharp bend and continue through the woods until it eventually crosses a leat.
  8. Follow the path ahead leading downhill from the leat and continue until you reach a bend in front of a fenced-off mineshaft (with a "Danger Mineshaft" sign on a post) at a junction of paths.

    The mineshaft is part of Prideaux Wood mine which stretched across to the other side of the valley. The main complex of mines that the leat fed, known as the Fowey Consols, lie on the other side of the A390 on the side of Penpillack hill.

    Three mines on Penpillick hill - Wheals Chance, Treasure and Fortune - opened in 1813 and Joseph Treffry bought shares in these. He consolidated these with Lancescot and Polharmon in 1819 to create the group of 5 mines known as Fowey Consols which was one of the deepest, richest and most important of the Cornish copper mines. At its peak it was worked by six steam engines and 17 water wheels, and employed 1680 people. It continue until the collapse of the copper market in 1867.

  9. At the bend in front of the mineshaft, keep right to follow the path downhill. Continue to reach a flight of steps departing to the left at a wooden post.

    The bridge over the incline was constructed in the 1840s by Nicholas Kendall as part of an 8 mile carriage drive to Luxulyan Church from his estate at Pelyn near Lostwithiel, that took 20 years to complete. It was known appropriately as Long Drive. When it fell into disuse, the carriageway became known as the Velvet Path due to the moss covering it.

  10. At the post, keep right to stay on the path and follow it to reach a path departing from the right. Keep left to cross the railway bridge and reach a path departing to the left, immediately after the bridge.
  11. Turn left after the bridge, onto the path leading downhill and follow it to the tramway. Bear right onto the tramway and follow it downhill until it ends in a kissing gate followed by a flight of steps onto another track.

    The inclined plane was part of the horse-drawn tramway which originally ran from the canal at Pont’s Mill to Molinnis (near Bugle). The incline was originally nearly 900 metres long and rose around 100 metres. Wagons coming downwards contained granite and china clay whilst traffic upwards consisted of imported lime and coal, landed at Par docks. The wagons were hauled up and down the incline using water power.

  12. At the bottom of the steps, turn right and follow the track under a railway bridge to reach a bridge over the river.

    The River Par rises on Criggan Moor near Roche and flows through the China Clay areas around Bugle before descending through the Luxulyan valley and meeting the sea at Par. The river is fast-flowing and once ran white from the suspended china clay; it now supports a healthy fish population.

  13. Cross the river and follow the path past the clay driers on the left. Continue until you reach another bridge over the river.

    The china clay driers known as Trevanny Dry or Central Cornwall Dry were built in the 1920s and ran until the 1960s. Clay was pumped as a slurry down a pipeline from Starrick Moor near Trethurgy and was allowed to settle in tanks at the rear before being spread out on the coal-fired drying floor. A branch line ran to Pontsmill, resurrecting part of one of Treffry's old tramways and a petrol-powered locomotive shuttled up and down the short line to get the clay trucks onto the line to Par. The chimney was originally slightly taller until it was hit by lightning.

  14. Cross the river and follow the path beneath the railway line to a fork in the path before another bridge over the river.

    In 1873, Treffry's tramways were taken over by the Cornwall Minerals Railway (CMR) and converted for use by steam locomotives. The project also involved building an extra section of line to link the tramways in the Newquay area with those in the Par/Bugle area. The section through the Luxulyan Valley was bypassed as this involved an inclined plane driven by a waterwheel. The railway originally extended to Fowey but the section of line from Par to Fowey was closed in the 1960s and converted to a private road haul route for china clay.

    Collapses in mineral prices caused financial difficulties and lead to attempts to encourage passenger traffic associated with tourism. The struggling CMR was eventually purchased by Great Western Railway in 1896. The section between Par and Newquay remains as a branch line of the national rail network.

  15. At the fork, bear right and follow the path uphill to a junction of paths. Bear left at the junction and follow the path beneath the viaduct and back 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 referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa
  • Any waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Please let us know if there are nice autumn colours in the woods

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