Blisland and Pendrift Downs

The walk begins on lanes from Blisland to the farmstead at Pendrift. The route descends into the wooded valley along the De Lank river, crossing the river to the Delank granite quarries. The walk skirts the edge of the quarry pit, before crossing the Pendrift Downs to Jubilee Rock. The walk then returns via lanes and fields to the Blisland village green with its Inn and impressively ornate church.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/6.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Blisland village green
  • Parking: On the edge of the village green. Satnav: PL304JA
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty Saxon village of Blisland
  • Moss covered boulders and ancient twisted oaks on Pendrift Downs
  • Panoramic views from Jubilee Rock - a huge granite boulder carved with insignia
  • Impressively ornate 15th Century church
  • Local food and real ales at Blisland Inn - winner of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year

Directions

  1. From the junction outside the Blisland Inn, turn right up the lane towards Tregenna and follow the lane past the national speed limit signs until you reach a junction on the right, opposite a gate.

    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.

  2. At the junction, turn right and follow the lane to a crossroads.

    The farmstead on the lane now known as Lanxon was first recorded in 1302 as Langeston. The name is a mediaeval attempt to spell "long stone".

  3. At the crossroads, turn left and follow the lane until it forks, just past the cattlegrid in Pendrift.

    Pendrift is a small hamlet on the edge of Blisland. The name Pendrift (first recorded as Pendref) contains the place-name elements pen (meaning top) and dre (aka. "tre", meaning place/farmstead/village); the phrase pen an tre thus means "top of the village".

  4. Keep left at the fork; continue straight ahead and past the houses to a wooden gate across a muddy track.
  5. Go through the gate and follow the track into a field, then follow the right hedge to a waymarked gateway.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  6. Go through the gateway into the next field and follow the right hedge to a stile.

    Notice that many of the fields here are long, thin strips.

    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.

  7. Cross the stile and follow the path to the valley floor.

    The open fields beside the undergrowth in the valley provides a good habitat for foxes to hunt for rabbits.

    The Red Fox has been present in Britain since the last Ice Age and is our most widespread and numerous predator. Foxes are omnivores: as well as hunting small mammals and birds, they will eat fruit and anything else they can scavange, in fact a major component of their diet is earthworms. This flexibility has allowed them to adapt to farmed and urban environments but also varied natural environments including the coast. In the wild, a lucky fox can live an age of about 8 but the lifespan of most foxes is typically only 1.5 - 2 years. One reason for this is that around 100,000 foxes are killed on roads every year.

  8. Bear left along the path until the path passes around a hawthorn tree and small path leads off to the right.

    In Mediaeval times, bringing hawthorn blossom into the house was thought to bring death and it was described as smelling like the Great Plague. The explanation for this is thought to be that the hawthorn blossom contains trimethylamine which is one of the first chemicals formed when animal tissue decays. Young leaves of the plant can be used in salads as the chemical is not present in the leaves so these taste nutty rather than of death.

  9. Keep ahead on the main path and follow the path across the meadow to a footbridge.

    The De Lank River springs from Rough Tor Marsh, between the two highest peaks on Bodmin Moor and joins the River Camel near Blisland. It is an important wildlife habitat, noted for diverse and abundant flora and fauna and its surrounding banks, woodlands and marshes have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Together with the River Camel, the De Lank is an important habitat for the otter which is present along the whole length of the river.

    The name is reported as being from a Cornish name which is recorded as Dinlonk. The Cornish word lonk means gully. The name of the riverside settlement Lank is almost certainly related.

  10. Cross the footbridge and turn left. Follow the path past the pumphouse and then uphill, through a gate, to a second gate.

    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.
  11. Go through the gate and turn left onto the track. Follow this to the gateway then take the path uphill to the right of the gate and follow this until you emerge onto the drive to a house.

    Navelwort grows on the pile of granite rocks.

    Both navelwort's latin name and common name are based on its resemblance to a belly button. Other common names include wall pennywort and penny pies. It is a member of the stonecrop family which are able to survive in barren locations by storing water in their fleshy leaves. The succulent leaves can be eaten and used in a salad. Older leaves become more bitter so the younger leaves are recommended. Care should be taken not to pull roots out of wall when breaking off leaves.

  12. Turn left on the drive and follow it away from the house, to a track. Then turn left on the track, and follow it over a cattlegrid to a farm gate on the right.

    Despite their reputation for being lazy and scavengers, buzzards are formidable predators. Diving on rabbits and small mammals from a slow or hovering flight, or from a perch, they nearly always make the kill on the ground. During their breeding season in spring, buzzards create spectacular aerial displays by soaring high into the air and dropping suddenly towards the ground.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the track uphill until you reach a stile on the right, next to a large clump of trees, on the left.

    The combination of the Great British Weather and a tonne of cow balanced on stilt-like legs can result in some muddy tracks and gateways to navigate, ideally without sinking below the level of your walking boots (or wellies in extreme cases!). Some suggestions for avoiding liquid-filled socks are:

    • Know your enemy: use a stick as a dipstick to assess how deep the mud is. A lake of extremely unpromising liquid mud may only turn out be a couple of inches deep.
    • If there are any rocks nestling in the mud, these are usually a good bet to stand on. Generally they would have already sunk if they weren't on fairly solid ground.
    • Clumps of grass have a root system that means you’re less likely to sink than in areas with no vegetation.
    • Where there are wheel ruts, the bottom of the ruts are often the firmest ground, having been compressed under several tonnes of tractor. However, ruts filled with deep water are best avoided as mud will have washed in with the water so the overall depth will be hard to estimate.
  14. Cross the stile on the right and follow the footpath uphill to a waymark at the edge of the quarry pit.
  15. At the waymark, turn right and follow the path down into the quarry, to a waymark.

    The De Lank quarries are on Bodmin Moor between Blisland and St Breward. The quarries lie along the bed of the De Lank river, which runs through a culvert beneath the quarry workings. Buildings and monuments that have incorporated silver-grey granite include Tower Bridge, The Royal Opera House and monuments to Churchill and Marx. At the Eden Project, "The Seed" in "The Core" was quarried from here.

  16. From the waymark, bear left to a public footpath sign and cross the quarry in the direction indicated to a second footpath sign. Turn left at this to reach a small path into the bushes on the right just before the small building.

    A short distance to the northeast, almost adjoining the De Lank quarries, is Hentergantick quarry.

    The London Stock Exchange and the Tate Gallery are built from Bodmin Moor granite extracted at Hentergantick quarry.

  17. Follow the path up to the top of the valley, to a waymarked stile on the edge of a 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.

  18. Cross the stile, turn right and follow the waymarked path, crossing through a gateway at the top left corner; then head for the gate in the bottom-right corner of the small adjoining field.
  19. Go through the gate and follow the path into the woods, through a gate and uphill, past a waymark, until you reach a gateway.

    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.

    The older an oak tree becomes, the more acorns it produces. A 70-80 year old tree can produce thousands. As well as for squirrels, acorns are a really important food for deer and make up a quarter of their diet in the autumn. Acorns are high in carbohydrates and were also eaten by people in times of famine. Acorns were soaked in water to leech out the bitter tannins and could then be made into flour.

    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.

  20. Go through the gateway and turn right. Then follow the right-hand hedge, to a waymarked stile.

    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.
  21. Cross the stone stile and bear left into the field. Then follow the path along the right hedge, to a waymark.
  22. From the waymark, follow the path ahead, to merge onto the track; follow this to the ford.

    The bramble is a member of the rose family, and the roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!) and can root to form daughter plants. In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers. The flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen) as well as though pollen being transferred by insects from other plants. The word "bramble" comes from bræmaz - a word of Germanic origin meaning "prickly".

  23. Before the ford, bear right, to a stile about 5 metres to the right of the ford. Cross the stream and take the grassy path straight ahead, for about 50 metres, until you reach an embankment.

    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.

  24. Turn right and walk between the banks until two of the banks converge and further until the final two banks converge.

    Gorse, also known as furze, is present as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century).

  25. Bear right and keep following the bank, until it eventually ends with another larger bank crossing it, beside some big piles of boulders.

    Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in Spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant.

  26. Turn left, to follow the top of the larger bank, and follow the winding path, to the right, until you can see a huge boulder on the right, which is Jubilee Rock.

    Located near Pendrift on the northern edge of Blisland, Jubilee Rock is a large natural granite boulder which originally supported another large balancing rock (known locally as a logan stone). It is now a Grade II listed monument as it is covered with carvings of Britannia, royalty, and Coats of Arms. It was originally carved in 1809-10 for George III's Golden Jubilee by Lieutenant John Rogers. It was updated with new carvings in 1859 and 1887 for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and the carvings were restored for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. A brass plate now in Bodmin Town Museum was originally fixed to the rock containing lines of verse composed by John Rogers. In 2010, the plate was temporarily reattached to the rock for a 200 year celebration which involved attempts at singing the verses John Rogers had composed.

  27. From Jubilee Rock, turn left to reach a track. Bear left onto the track and follow it uphill to the corner of a hedge.
  28. At the corner of the hedge, turn right and walk parallel to the right-hand hedge, to a stile in the right-hand corner of the field.

    There are 33 regions in England designated Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which were created in 1949 at the same time as the National Parks. In fact the AONB status is very similar to that of National Parks. There is a single Cornwall AONB which is itself subdivided into 12 sections. 11 of these are sections of the coastline and the 12th is Bodmin Moor.

  29. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane until you reach a public footpath sign, between the houses.
  30. Take the footpath signposted to the left to Torr House, following the track, past the houses, to a waymark in a gravel parking area.
  31. From the waymark, turn left and follow the waymarks along the left hedge, to a stile.
  32. Cross the stile into a field and head diagonally right, to a gate on the opposite side.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleeting, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  33. Go through the gate and cross the field towards the buildings, heading to a waymarked gate straight ahead.
  34. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track, then left when it joins another track. Follow the track a short distance to a waymarked gate on the left, marked "footpath".
  35. Go through the gate on the left marked as a footpath. Bear right across the field to a gateway to the left of a large tree.
  36. Go through the gateway and cross the field to a gate in the opposite corner.

    Crows can often be seen perching in the tall trees.

    Birds of the crow family are considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals, displaying a high learning ability and are able to use logic for solving problems. Researchers have found some crow species capable of not only tool use but also tool construction. Crows have also demonstrated the ability to distinguish individual humans apart by recognizing facial features. Ravens are considered the most intelligent species, outperforming chimpanzees in some tests.

  37. Go through the gate and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane back into Blisland until you reach a junction at 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.

  38. Cross to the green and turn right to return to the Blisland Inn.

    The church is on the far side of the green on your left. If you wish to have a quick look before finishing the walk, follow the path across the green and bear left to reach 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.

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.

A free way to not kill penguins: discarded ink cartridges float in rainwater, can wash into rivers, be broken up by the sea into reflective shards eaten by dopey fish, and build up in the stomachs of seabbirds, causing them to starve to death. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?