Poley's Bridge to Blisland

The route starts at Poley's Bridge, where the Wenford Driers once loaded china clay onto the railway to Padstow, and follows the Camel Trail to Wenfordbridge. From here the route heads up De Lank valley, passing the granite quarry, and crosses the De Lank river to Pendrift Downs. Here, the route passes Jubilee Rock, carved with insignia then follows lanes into Blisland. The route leaves the village via the pub and returns across the mediaeval bridge at Keybridge.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Poley's Bridge
  • Parking: Camel Trail Poley's Bridge car park. From the B3266, turn at the crossroads near St Tudy, signposted to Wenfordbridge Pottery. Then at the next crossroads, continue directly ahead signposted to Blisland to reach the car park at the bottom of the valley. Alternatively, from Blisland, follow signs for St Tudy. The car park is marked with a Camel Trail sign. Satnav: PL304QX
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Moss covered boulders and ancient twisted oaks on Pendrift Downs
  • Pretty Saxon village of Blisland
  • Impressively ornate 15th century church
  • Local food and real ales at Blisland Inn - winner of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2001
  • Panoramic views from Jubilee Rock - a huge granite boulder carved with insignia
  • Pleasant woodland and riverside scenery along the Camel Trail
  • Eeerie ruins of the Wenford Dryers

Directions

  1. Where the car park meets the trail, follow the trail in the direction of Wenford to where it meets the road.

    The Camel Trail is a recreational walking and cycling track along the track bed of an old railway running from Wenfordbridge to Padstow. The railway, where the Camel Trail now runs, was originally built in 1831 by local landowner, Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, with a branch to Bodmin, was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. Later, the railway was used to ship slate and china clay from inland quarries to ships in Padstow and also transport fish, landed in Padstow, to London and other cities. The last passenger train was in 1967 and freight finally ceased in 1983, when a need to invest in new track forced closure of the line.

  2. Cross the road and follow the trail to the car park at Wenfordbridge.

    The Wenford Dries are located at Poley's Bridge near St Breward. China clay from the works on Stannon Moor, near Roughtor, was pumped 8km down to the Wenford Dries. Here the slurry was pumped into settling tanks and then dried. The resulting powder was loaded into containers and transported down the railway to Padstow, which is now the Camel Trail. The dryers operated until 2002, apart from a brief closure during the Second World War.

  3. Exit the car park and turn right up a single track lane, passing houses on your right until you reach a public footpath sign on the left.

    Wenfordbridge station was located where the Camel Trail car park is now situated. Wenfordbridge was the furthest outpost of the London and Southwestern Railway from London Waterloo. The station opened in 1834, as part of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway, and changed very little until it closed in 1971. There were three sidings for loading and unloading goods, which now form the car park. This was predominantly coal, inbound, and stone (from local quarries), outbound. A fourth siding continued onwards to the De Lank quarries, to bring in granite for loading onto the train, using a gantry crane.

  4. Cross the stile on the left. Follow the left-hand hedge across a field to a stile.

    Hazelnuts can be found beneath the trees in October and are a favourite with squirrels so you'll need to forage those that haven't already been nibbled. Once harvested, the nuts need to dried before shelling and eating. Wash and dry the nuts first to reduce the chance of them going mouldy. Then lay them out on something where the air can circulate and dry them for 2-4 weeks. An airing cupboard is a good place. You can tell that they are ready when the nuts rattle in their shells. Once shelled, the nuts can be stored in a fridge or even frozen for a couple of years.

  5. Cross the stile and head across the field to a gateway to the left of the house.

    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.
  6. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge to a stile next to a gate in the far hedge.

    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.

  7. Cross the stile onto the lane and turn left. Follow the lane a short distance until you reach a turning to the right signposted to the De Lank Quarry.

    The two large granite structures that you pass between used to support the railway that ran from the De Lank quarry to Wenfordbridge.

  8. Turn right down the lane to De Lank Quarry and follow it a short distance to a junction just before Trelank Barn.

    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.

  9. Keep right to continue ahead on the track. Continue some distance until you cross a cattlegrid and reach a fork at a granite post.

    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.

  10. At the fork, keep left and follow the track ahead until you cross another cattlegrid and reach a fork in the track beside a waymark.
  11. Turn right down the driveway to the house. Just before the gate, bear right down a waymarked path. Follow the path until it emerges onto a track.
  12. Turn left onto the track and walk a short distance to the quarry workings gate. At the gate, turn right and follow the path through two gates down into the De Lank valley until you reach a footbridge over the river.

    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.

  13. Cross the bridge and follow the path across the floodplain around a gentle arc to the left until you are facing the side of the valley. Once you can see the path climbing out of the valley, head to the bottom of this.

    The De Lank river was known locally as White River because when the old china clay pipeline from Stannon to Wenford leaked, the river used to run white. The shopping centre in St Austell is also named White River for similar reasons.

  14. Follow the path uphill to a stile, ignoring any paths that cross it.

    China clay in Cornwall and Devon resulted from a sequence of events that began over 300 million years ago; molten rock cooled into granite: a mixture of quartz, feldspar and mica. As it cooled, the feldspar reacted with other minerals to form china clay.

    The extraction of china clay has dramatically altered the landscape. For every 1 tonne of china clay, there are 9 tonnes of mineral waste products (a gritty sand of quartz and mica), which has led to the creation of large areas of tips. The now disused conical or "sky tips", can be seen near St Austell from as far away as Bodmin Moor.

  15. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a gateway.

    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.

  16. Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge to the track leaving the field. Follow the track a short distance until it ends in a gate.
  17. Go through the gate and follow the track past the houses to a junction.

    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".

  18. Turn left at the junction and follow the track until you reach a gate.
  19. Go through the gate and follow the track left and then right. As the track straightens out, you pass Jubilee Rock on your left which you may want to explore before continuing. Continue along the track until you reach the corner of the hedge.

    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.

  20. At the corner of the hedge, turn right and walk parallel to the right-hand hedge, aiming for the telegraph pole in the far hedge, to reach gap leading onto a road.
  21. Go through the gate and turn right onto the road, following it over a cattlegrid and past the houses to a crossroads.

    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.

  22. Bear left at the crossroads in the direction of Blisland and Bodmin and follow the road until you reach the village green.

    The church is on the opposite side of the green if you'd like to have a look around before continuing the walk.

    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.

  23. Turn right at the junction, along the edge of the village green, passing the Blisland Inn to a junction.

    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.

  24. At the junction by the pub, continue onto the road ahead past the phone box then turn right down the lane signposted to Tregenna, St Tudy and Camelford. Follow the lane until it eventually ends in a T-junction.
  25. At the junction, turn right towards St Tudy and follow the road over the bridge until you reach a signpost at a junction beside Keybridge Farm.

    Keybridge, on the road from Blisland to St Tudy, is a mediaeval bridge crossing the De Lank River. It is thought to date from roughly the early 17th Century when bridges were built less ornately than in previous times. At the midpoint of the bridge is a granite sundial post from the same period.

  26. At the signpost, continue ahead toward St Tudy until you reach the Camel Trail car park at Poley's Bridge.

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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