Blisland to Newton Downs

The walk starts out from the Blisland Inn, passes the mediaeval church, and heads down into the Lavethan valley. The route departs from the lane, passing a wayside cross and Holy well, to the river confluence at Waterloo. From here, it climbs out of the valley to Trehudreth Downs, which it crosses to Newton Downs, before dipping into the river valley. The return to Blisland is through fields to Metherin and lanes through Carwen, finally passing Blisland Manor, before reaching the Saxon village green.
Due to footpath issues, this walk currently involves wading through streams. Wellies are absolutely vital, as the streams are too deep for walking boots.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/7 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Blisland village green
  • Parking: On the edge of the village green. Satnav: PL304JA
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty Saxon village of Blisland with a village green and manor
  • Impressively ornate 15th century church
  • Panoramic views from Newton Downs
  • Ancient riverside woodland with bluebells in spring
  • Blisland Inn - winner of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year

Directions

  1. From Blisland Inn, make your way to the junction in front of the pub. Turn left, following the lane around the village green, to the church.

    The parish church of Blisland is located at the south edge of the village green, which lies on the west flank of Bodmin Moor. Blisland church is impressively ornate: thought to be on the site of a Saxon church, it was a slate and granite Norman building, but was rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style in the 15th century (and restored in the 19th). It is unique in being dedicated to St Protus (known locally as St Pratt) and St Hyacinth who were brothers martyred in the late 3rd century AD. No one knows why this church was dedicated to them in the 15th century. If you have the chance to visit on 22nd September, there is a feast day procession to St Pratt's Cross and Holy Well.

  2. Continue along the lane, past the Post Office and down a steep hill, until you reach a wayside cross and holy well on the left.

    St Pratt's Cross lies beside the lane between Blisland and Trewint. It marks the site of St Pratt's Well which is used as the source of holy water for christenings at the parish church.

  3. Turn left, onto the footpath, and cross the stile into a field. Cross the field to a gap in the hedge, in the bottom-right corner.

    Many of the fields were arranged in long, thin strips which have subsequently been merged in places to form still relatively long, rectangular fields.

    In mediaeval times, the Anglo-Saxon "stitch meal" technique was adopted in some parts of Cornwall. This involved dividing arable and meadow land into long strips called "stitches". Villagers would be allocated a (usually disconnected) set of strips so that the "best" fields were shared around, as evenly as possible. The long, thin shape was ideal for ploughing with oxen. A typical stitch was one furlong in length and one acre in area, which could be ploughed by a team of oxen in a day.

  4. Go through the gap, into the next field, and follow the right hedge to a stile.
  5. Cross the stile, descend the steps to the lane and turn right. Follow the lane across the river, and uphill to a junction opposite Waterloo Cottage.

    The river is a tributary of the River Camel which it joins at Tresarrett Bridge near Merry Meeting and was used to power a number of mills. The rest of the walk circles the catchment area of the river on the Newton and Metherin Downs. All the small streams crossed by the walk are tributaries of this river.

  6. Turn left and follow the lane up the hill, past Trehudreth Farm and Poldue Farm, until you eventually reach a triangular junction, at a sharp bend to the right.

    The manor of Trehudreth was first recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 as Trewoeret with "land for 2 ploughs, pasture 100 acres". It is thought that other than tre, meaning "farmstead", the place name is based on a personal name which may explain why it has changed so much since mediaeval times.

    Poldue is from the Cornish words pol which could be used to mean either "pool", "pit" or "stream", and dhu, meaning "black". It was first recorded in 1284 as Poldeu.

  7. Turn left at the junction and go through the gate of Wallhouse. Follow the track until you reach a cattle grid.

    As you cross the brow of the hill, there are excellent views of the tors of Bodmin Moor.

    It may be an urban myth that Eskimos have a large number of words for "snow" but it's cast iron fact that there are at least this many words for "hill" in Cornish:

    • Meneth was often used to refer to Cornwall's higher peaks, or (outside of Cornwall) to mountains.
    • Tor was used for hills with rock outcrops protruding (and for the rock outcrops themselves)
    • Brea was used to refer to the most prominent hill in a district.
    • Ryn refers to a 'hill' in the sense of projecting ground, or a steep hill-side or slope.
    • Garth was used to refer to a long narrow hilltop.
    • Ambel refers to the side of a hill.
    • Mulvra refers to a round-topped hill.
    • Godolgh is a very small hill.
    • Bron means 'breast' as well as hill.
  8. Follow the track left, over the cattle-grid, and continue until you reach a stile on the right, before you reach a carving of a horse and foal.

    Tors are the result of millions of years of weathering. They started out as a molten blob of rock beneath the surface, which cooled and crystallised into granite, cracking (mostly vertically) as it cooled. Hot water circulated through the cracks, reacting chemically with the rocks and depositing minerals. As the softer rocks above were worn away fairly quickly, the reduction in pressure from the weight of the rock above caused the granite to crack (this time more horizontally). Water, acidic from carbon dioxide in the air, circulated in the cracks, causing weathering. Repeated freezing and thawing during Ice Ages caused blocks of varying sizes to break off. The "basins" on the tops of some of the tors are also the result of repeated freezing and thawing of water which has collected on the surface.

  9. Cross the stile on the right and follow the left-hand hedge to a gateway.
  10. Go through the gateway and pass alongside the houses to a gateway in the left corner.

    The settlement of Wallhouse was recorded in 1302 as La Walles. The walls mentioned in the name might refer to some of the nearby prehistoric remains.

  11. Go through the gateway and head towards the bottom-left corner of the field, between the two gateways, to reach a corner in the hedge. Make your way to the ditch, in which there is a river crossing.

    Looking across the barren granite landscape of Bodmin Moor, it may seem strange that so many settlements can be found here from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. About 10,000 years ago, Bodmin Moor was almost entirely covered in forest, and the Neolithic tribes would have lived in forest clearings. During the Bronze Age, the majority of forest was cleared for farmland. The burning and grazing, over several thousand years, has resulted in poor soils which are naturally quite acidic due to the granite rocks. This, together with the exposure to the wind, is why the few trees on the moor today are generally stunted.

  12. Carefully cross over the river, and make for the footbridge on the other side.
  13. Cross the footbridge and bear right slightly, to the rightmost pile of rocks on the horizon.

    The piles of rocks, known as field clearance cairns, consist of the granite boulders that were originally strewn across this field.

    The word granite comes from the Latin granum (a grain), in reference to its coarse-grained structure. Granite forms from a big blob of magma (known as a pluton) which intrudes into the existing rocks. The huge mass of molten rock stores an enormous amount of heat so the magma cools very slowly below the surface of the Earth, allowing plenty of time for large crystals to form.

    Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids arising from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  14. Turn right at the rocks, and head across the field, in the direction of the tor in the distance, to reach a granite boulder below the fence.
  15. Cross through the fence where you can, to the right of the boulder. Once in the next field, head for the trees to the left of Roughtor. Join the lane on the far side of the field, and bear left along it to the farm, where there is a public footpath sign onto the farm track.

    Rough Tor is the second highest peak on Bodmin Moor. It is pronouced "row-tor" because the local dialect word "row" meant "rough". The summit of Rough Tor is encircled by a series of rough Neolithic stone walls which link natural outcrops, to form a tor enclosure. Also on the summit are the foundations of a mediaeval chapel, built into the side of one of the larger cairns.

  16. Follow the track into Newton Farm passing two barns on your right, to a wooden gate, before the third barn.

    The settlement of newton was first recorded in 1284. It means "new farm" in mediaeval English.

    Barley is a fundamental part of the rural culture - the word "barn" literally means "barley house". During mediaeval times, only the ruling classes had bread made from wheat; the peasants' bread was made from barley and rye.

    Barley was one of the first domesticated crops and has been dated back over 10,000 years. Consequently beer made from barley is likely to have been one of the first alcoholic drinks consumed by the Neolithic tribes.

  17. Go through the wooden gate, and in the field, turn left through the gateway in the left hedge, into the next field. Then follow the right-hand hedge, down to the river.

    In Ireland where the damp climate meant that only low-gluten cereal crops could be grown, bread was risen with soda rather than yeast as this suited both the low-gluten flour and the hearth-based cooking method. Given the similar climate and high levels of migration from Ireland to Cornwall in Celtic times, it's very possible this method was also used here too.

  18. From the corner of the field, bear right along the path, onto the riverbank, and then cross the river, with care, to reach a stile.

    In the old days, bread was made on the hearth using barley flour which was cheaper than wheat. Since barley flour is ironically now pretty expensive, in our recipe we mix half-half with cheap SR flour in the spirit of traditional thriftiness. If you can't get barley flour, a rustic wholemeal flour such as that milled at Zennor Mill or Cotehele will do nicely.

    Mix 175g of barley flour + 175g SR flour + 6g salt + 3g bicarb. Add 200ml buttermilk, or mix 160ml water with 40ml yoghurt or creme fraiche and use this instead.

    Mix together (don't knead), form into a dome; cut a deep cross with a sharp knife. Put into a preheated oven at 200C (180C fan) for 20-25min (until starting to brown). Serve warm with butter or clotted cream. It's very nice with soup or smoked mackerel paté.

  19. Cross the stile and head to the right, around the boulders, then up the field to a gap in the middle of the hedge, to the left of the gateway.
  20. Go through the opening into the field behind, then bear left towards the large trees, to reach some large boulders by the stream.
  21. Cross the fence and the stream, and on the opposite bank, bear left towards the largest boulder. Then bear right to the leftmost of the openings in the hedge.

    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 can't avoid it: 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.
  22. Go through the opening and follow the left-hand hedge of the field, passing a gateway until you reach another opening at the far end. Turn left through the opening, back into the woods, then turn right to reach a stile.
  23. Cross the stile into a field and cross the field, keeping the hedge on your left, to a gateway in the far hedge.
  24. Go through the gateway into a second field and turn left through the gateway immediately on your left. Then turn right and follow the right-hand hedge (i.e. in the same direction you were going previously) to another gateway.
  25. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge to another gateway.
  26. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge to a gateway onto a track.
  27. Go through the gate and turn left onto the track; follow it for a short distance until it ends on a lane.

    The settlement of Metherin was first recorded in 1201. The name is based on the Cornish words meth, meaning "middle" and rynn, meaning "point of land".

  28. Turn right onto the lane and follow this to a T-junction.
  29. Turn left and follow the lane, past The Old Chapel and back into Blisland, until you reach a junction, just before the village green.

    Blisland is a small village which lies on the western flank of the Bodmin Moor, perched above the valley of the River Camel. Unlike most other Cornish villages, the houses of Blisland are grouped around a village green indicating Saxon origins. On the corner of the green is Blisland Manor which is much more recent, dating from the 16th Century. There are 7 wayside crosses in Blisland (out of 360 in Cornwall) including one near the village post office.

  30. Keep right and follow the lane around the green, back to the Blisland Inn.

    The Blisland Inn lies on the north side of the village green of Blisland, located on the western flank of Bodmin Moor. The pub is renowned for real ales, winning the CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2001; there are at least 6 real ales on tap at any one time. The landlord has had his own wooden barrels made by a retired cooper, which he sends to the local brewery to fill.

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
  • 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 also useful.

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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