Polyphant

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The walk begins beside the Methodist Chapel and heads to the centre of the village then follows footpaths through the mediaeval farmsteads of Trerithick and Trethinna to briefly join the Inny Valleys circular trail to Gimblett's Mill. The route then climbs to the opposite side of the valley to join the pathway from Laneast church to the church at Trewen. The walk crosses back over the river at Trewen Mill and follows a footpath through the fields and woods to complete the circular route.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Chapel car park
  • Parking: Chapel car park PL157PR. From the A39, take the junction north of Camelford signposted to Altarnun and Military Museums. Follow the road to the Rising Sun Inn and stay on the road to pass the turning to Altarnun. When you reach Polyphant turn left when you reach the crossroads beside the chapel.
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or walking shoes in summer

OS maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • A pretty, tranquil area of Cornwall away from the summer crowds
  • Pretty riverside scenery at Gimblett's Mill and Trewen
  • Pleasant winding country lanes and footpaths with colourful wild flowers in spring and summer
  • Rich wildlife including birds, butterflies and deer

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way out of the car park and turn right onto the track. Follow it past the chapel until it ends at a crossroads.

    The Wesleyan chapel was built during the 19th Century.

    In the early 18th Century, a rift developed between the Cornish people and their Anglican clergy. Meanwhile in Oxford, the Wesley brothers began practising their rigorous holy lifestyle which was mockingly referred to as Methodism by their peers. The Wesley brothers arrived in Cornwall in 1743 and began preaching, bringing with them charismatic lay preachers who spoke in the dialect of the locals. Services were held in the cottages which was attractive to women who needed to look after young children, and in the many villages where the parish church was more than a mile away or at the top of a steep hill. A combination of these factors made Methodism very popular in Cornwall and through the late 18th and the 19th Century, many chapels were built (in the centre of the villages).

  2. Cross the road to the lane opposite, signposted to Lewannick. Follow the lane to the junction opposite the phonebox stopping at a track on the right immediately before the tarmacked section of road.

    Polyphant lies in the parish of Lewannick and the walk to the parish church may have fuelled enthusiasm for the adoption of methodism in Polyphant. However, in mediaeval times a (Catholic) chapel was recorded as being present in Polyphant.

  3. Bear right onto the track and follow it past the bench to reach the "3 cows on't green" store.

    The settlement of Polyphant was first recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 which notes it had "land for 3 ploughs; woodland 4 acres; pasture 10 acres". It was recorded as Polefand which comes from the Cornish words pol and lefant and means "toad pool".

  4. Turn right, indicated by a Public Footpath sign, to pass between the "3 cows on't green" and the large barn to its right. Follow the track uphill to merge onto another track. Continue following the track to reach "One Way" and "Way Out" signs on the right.

    In Norman times, ploughing was done with oxen and where the Domesday survey mentions "land for one plough" this was a standardised measurement of land area. The amount of land that could be planned with an 8 oxen team in one season was around 120 acres and represented enough to support a household.

  5. Continue ahead a short distance to reach an unsurfaced track on the right. Bear right onto the track and follow this a short distance to a crossing with a tarmacked driveway.

    Polyphant is perhaps most famous for a type of greenstone quarried in the area, known simply as "Polyphant stone". The rock is quite soft and polishes to a very attractive dark green shiny surface. It is a superb medium for carving and famous sculptors including Barbara Hepworth have produced pieces of their work in it. It has been worked since Norman times.and is mentioned in the Doomsday survey of 1086. Many churches in East Cornwall have interior features made of it. It does not weather well for exterior stonework because it is both soft and porous, and therefore susceptible to frost damage.

  6. Cross the tarmac to the unsurfaced track ahead and follow this until a grassy path departs ahead just before the track goes through the gate to a stable block.
  7. Keep right to follow the grassy path ahead to a metal gate.
  8. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge to reach a track leading into the farmyard.
  9. Join the track and follow it a short distance to the farmyard then turn right and follow the concrete track past the cottage and a metal barn to reach a metal gate on the left.
  10. Go through the gate and cross the field to the two metal gates opposite.
  11. Go through the gate on the left into the field ahead and bear right slightly across the field to a stile in the opposite hedge.
  12. Cross the stile and hedge and follow along the fence to reach a metal gate.

    Buzzards can often be seen circling the valley and use the trees such as those opposite as perches.

    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 cross the field passing to the right of the tree in the field. As you approach, pass to the right of the track to stay in the field and reach a stile in the corner.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. 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.
  14. Cross the wooden stile and the wall and follow the lane ahead to reach a Public Footpath sign.
  15. Turn right at the Footpath sign and follow the track indicated uphill until you reach a gate by a barn. Then turn left to follow along the side of the long barn. At the end of the barn turn right and follow the track uphill a short distance to a waymark at a junction of tracks.

    The settlement here, now known as Trerithick, was recorded in 1350 as Treydock. It is thought to be based on a personal name, i.e. "Ydock's farm" and date from the early Middle Ages.

  16. Go through the metal gate ahead indicated by the waymark and follow the left hedge of the field (leaving a wide berth to avoid the nettles along the first half of the field) to reach a stile.

    The idea of eating something that can sting you seems wrong until you realise that nettles lose their sting as soon as you cook them, and they taste like spinach. Wearing gloves, strip off the young tender leaves, discarding any large coarse leaves and stems. Use lightly boiled, steamed or wilted as if it were spinach (though not raw unless you want to live dangerously!). All the usual spinach flavour combinations apply (e.g. with ricotta). Nettles are extremely nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin A and C, large amounts of iron and a significant amount of protein.

  17. Cross the stile and turn left onto the lane to reach the signpost. Turn right towards Trethinna and follow the lane downhill to reach a track on the left indicated by a Public Footpath sign.

    Penpont Brewery is located up the lane on the left.

    Penpont Brewery was established in 2008, in a converted farm building at Trenarrett near Altarnun. They use their own spring water (from a spring that feeds Penpont Water) to make their beer, using locally produced ingredients where possible. Their beers are available at the Rising Sun Inn, near Treween.

  18. Turn left onto the track and follow it around the S-bend and continue to a gate across the track where the track splits to go into a yard on the left.

    The small settlement is called Trethinna. The place name has changed little since the Middle Ages - it was recorded as Trethynna in 1350. Other than indicating a farm, the meaning of the name is not known.

  19. Go through the gate and keep right to reach another gate. Go through this and continue ahead until you reach a number of gates where the track bends to go into a field and a small grassy path continues ahead.

    Gates on public rights of way are normally not locked or tied shut, but farmers may occasionally need to do so to prevent animals from manipulating the latches or in the sad cases where walkers have repeatedly left gates open. If a gate is tied shut and straightforward to untie and retie, then do so, leaving it as you found it. In cases where opening the gate is nontrivial and thus it is necessary to climb the gate, ensure you climb next to the hinges to reduce the risk of bending the gate.

  20. Follow the path ahead to emerge into a field.
  21. Bear right slightly across the field to the stile directly below the electricity pylon in the opposite hedge.

    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.

  22. Climb the stile over the wall and then bear right slightly across the field to reach a ladder stile located mid-way between the two large trees in the hedge opposite.
  23. Cross the stile and cross the field to a gateway just below the large trees in the hedge opposite, approximately one third of the way down the hedge.
  24. Go through the gateway and follow the path along the line of trees to reach a stile.

    Waterspouts are something most people associate with tornados and you may be surprised to discover that one is an important part of the history of the Inny Valley.

    Waterspouts are funnels of spray caused by a rotating vortex of air over the sea or a lake caused by warm air spiralling as it rises. Massive waterspouts can be caused by tornadoes but they can also occur on a smaller scale in stormy weather. Eventually the rising column of air collapses and the spray (and frogs or fish that ventured too close to the surface) falls as rain. The author has witnessed two waterspouts over the Atlantic in North Cornwall in recent years.

  25. Cross the stile and follow the path to emerge onto a lane.

    In July 1847 a large waterspout came in off the Atlantic and collapsed over Davidstow Moor where the sources of both the River Camel and River Inny rise. A wall of water 12-18 feet high swept down the Camel Valley demolishing all but two of the bridges. The solidly-built mediaeval Helland Bridge survived despite tree trunks piling against it. Wadebridge survived by being secured with ropes and chains by (brave) men in boats. Many years after the flood, pieces of hay and straw could still be seen in the trees 20 feet above the river at Dunmere.

  26. Turn right onto the lane and follow it down to the bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the lane around the bend and up the hill for nearly half a mile until you reach Trespearne Barn at the top of the hill and then continue a short distance to Trespearne Farm on the right.

    Gimblett's Mill, on the River Inny near Altarnun, dates from about 1800. The bridge over the river was built in 1847, following the great flood which swept away almost all the crossings along the river.

  27. Pass the entrance to the farm and bear right down the unsurfaced track beside the wooden gate. Follow the track through the metal gate and continue until you reach a gateway on the right.

    The settlement of Trespearne was first recorded in around 1200 as Trespernan. The name is Cornish and means "thorn tree farm". It is thought that the settlement dates from the Dark Ages.

  28. Go through the gateway and follow along the fence on the right then depart towards the pedestrian gate in the hedge opposite.

    Yellow buttercups can be seen in the fields around here during June.

    The Latin name of the buttercup, Ranunculus, means "little frog" and said to be because the plants like wet conditions. It is thought it may have come via a derogatory name for people who lived near marshes!

    The plant produces a toxin called protoanemonin, which is at its highest concentration when flowering. It is thought that buttercups may be partly responsible for Equine Grass Sickness. A man in France who drank a glass of juice made from buttercups suffered severe colic after four hours and was dead the next day! Fortunately the toxin is quite unstable and drying of the plant in haymaking leads to polymerisation into non-toxic anemonin.

  29. Go through the gate, cross the stile over the hedge and go through next gate. Then cross the field towards the trees straight ahead to reach a sloping wooden fence and stile.
  30. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a pedestrian gate.

    The fields here are used in a crop rotation which includes barley some years.

    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.

  31. Go through the gate and follow the track through the metal farm gates. Join the surfaced track ahead and follow this to where it opens out beside Trekenner Cottage and Trekenner Farmhouse.

    The settlement of Trekenner was first recorded in 1207 as Trekinener. It is thought that it might be based on a personal name i.e. "Kinener's Farm".

  32. Pass to the right of the barn indicated by the waymark on the barn wall and follow the track to reach a pedestrian gate on the right of a farm gate. Go through the gate and continue ahead to a similar gate. Go through this and turn right to reach a third similar gate.
  33. Go through the gate and bear left to the footbridge.

    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.
  34. Cross the bridge and follow the path into a field. Follow along the right hedge to reach a stile in the top-right corner of the field.

    This is one of two small tributary streams that feed into the River Inny just below Gimblett's Mill so the river is carrying more water by the time it reaches the mill further along the walk at Trewen.

    The River Inny is a tributary of the Tamar and is approximately 20 miles long, supporting populations of trout, salmon and sea trout as well as otters and kingfishers. The name of the river was recorded in the 1600s as Heanye and may be from the Cornish word enys - for island. Penpont Water is its main tributary and has a status of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Area of Great Scientific Value and Area of Great Historical Value. The source of the Inny is very close to the Davidstow Cheese factory, from a spring in the field opposite Pendragon House.

  35. Cross the stile, descend the steps and follow the path to reach a track.
  36. Turn left onto the track and follow it to merge onto a lane. Follow the lane until it ends in a junction beside a church.
  37. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane past the church and Barn Court to a junction on the right beside Innyside House.

    Trewen church dates from Norman times but all that remains from this period is the font. The church was rebuilt in the 15th Century and the church bell dates from around 1400. The church was restored in 1863 and the piscina was found in a hedge in 1978.

  38. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane downhill to the mill and bridge, and up the other side of the valley until you reach a Public Footpath sign on the left.

    The first record of Trewen Mill is from 1880 where it appears on a tithe map. It was used to grind corn and was powered from a leat taken from the Inny some way upstream.

    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.

  39. Cross the stile below the footpath sign and follow the left hedge to reach a stile in the far hedge.

    There is a huge rabbit warren nearby and large numbers of rabbits can often be seen in this field.

    Rabbits were originally from the Iberian peninsula and were brought to Britain by the Normans and kept in captivity as a source of meat and fur. Rabbits are able to survive on virtually any vegetable matter and with relatively few predators, those that escaped multiplied into a sizeable wild population. Given that most farmers' crops met the "virtually any vegetable matter" criterion, in the 1950s, the disease myxomatosis was deliberately introduced to the UK to curb rabbit numbers and they almost became extinct. The few survivors resistant to the disease have since multiplied and the peak population is now estimated at around half the size of the UK human population. Rabbits provide food for foxes, stoats, weasels and birds of prey such as the buzzard.

  40. Cross the stile and climb the wall then bear right slightly across the field to a gateway in the corner.
  41. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the farm gate and join a track. Follow the track past a gate on the left to a bend where it goes through a gate on the right. Continue on the grassy track leading ahead from the bend to reach a gate and stile after the woods.

    There is a good display of bluebells in the spring.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells with a fine up to £5,000 per bulb!

  42. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the track ahead to complete the circular route and return to the car park.

    Across the fields to the right is the remains of an Iron Age settlement, now mainly defined by a line of trees planted along its embankment. It originally consisted of a single defensive oval rampart surrounding the settlement. It is located on the ridge overlooking the River Inny.

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

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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