Rilla Mill and Plushabridge

The walk starts at Rilla Mill and follows the woods above the River Lynher to Westcott. A series of small lanes and tracks then lead to Colquite Wood where the route follows the river to Starabridge and continues downriver to Measham. From here a series of small lanes and footpaths lead to Sutton, with views to Caradon Hill and Minions. The return route is along a tributary valley to Plushabridge and along the Lynher valley to Rilla Mill.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 108,109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.5 miles/7.2 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Parking area in the Woodland Rise housing estate
  • Parking: Council parking area in Woodland Rise housing estate marked "no ball games". From the bridge at Rilla Mill, head uphill past the pub until you reach a residential road on the left marked "Highbury leading to Woodland Rise". Follow this around a bend until you reach a tarmac parking area on the right with a Cornwall Council sign saying "No ball games". Satnav: PL177NZ
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty woodland scenery along the River Lynher
  • Views over Bodmin Moor to The Cheesewring
  • Views across southeast Cornwall to Kit Hill

Directions

  1. Go through the gate and down the steps from the parking area. At the bottom, turn right and follow the woodland path. Keep right where the path forks and follow it to a gate across the path.

    The name Rilla Mill was first recorded in 1441 spelt "Rillamylle" and is thought to take its name from the nearby manor of Rillaton. From the Domesday Book, Rillaton was formerly known as "Resleston" which is a mashup of the Cornish words res (ford) and lys (court, or simply, place) with a Saxon ending tun for "farm". The presence of a mill was mentioned in a document from 1161 and a surviving mill building was documented in the 19th and the early 20th Century, but was demolished in the 1960s when it was regarded as a hazard to road traffic. The mill leat and race are the only remaining parts.

  2. Go through the gate and cross the stepping stones. Follow the path to reach a fork in the path with a pedestrian gate which you can just make out through the holly bush ahead.

    The association of holly with winter celebrations pre-dates Christianity: druids were known to use holly wreaths which, it is likely with some discomfort, they wore on their heads.

  3. Keep right and go through the gate behind the holly bush. Follow the path until it reaches a lane.

    A huge beech tree on the corner of the lane drops large numbers of beechnuts in the autumn.

    Compared to many native trees, the beech colonised Great Britain relatively recently, after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Beech trees can live up to 400 years.

    Beechwood aging is used in the production of Budweiser beer but beech is not the source of flavour. In fact beechwood has a fairly neutral flavour and in the brewing process it is pre-treated with baking soda to remove even this. The relatively inert strips of wood are then added to the fermentation vessel where they increase the surface area available for yeast. It is the contact with yeast that produces the flavour in the beer, not the beech itself.

    The fruit of the beech tree is known as "mast" or, less crypically, "beechnuts". The small triangular nuts are encased in spiky husks which split and drop from the trees from late August to early October. The kernels of these are edible and are similar to hazelnuts. They were once used as a source of flour, which was ground after the tannins had been leached out by soaking them in water. If you find them too bitter, you might want to try this trick, although toasting them in a hot pan is also a good option.

    Young beech leaves can be used as a salad vegetable, which are described as being similar to a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture. Older leaves are a bit chewy, as you'd expect.

  4. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to where a narrow lane departs to the left.

    Down the the valley behind you along the lane, an open-cast mine known as Westcott Mine worked for lead and copper in the 1840s. The remains resemble quarries.

  5. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until it ends in a T-junction with a lane.

    The metallic minerals associated with outcrops of granite tend to occur in bands which radiate out from the granite outcrop. A band of tin deposits usually occurs closest to the granite, then beyond this a band containing copper ore. A band of zinc and lead deposits is commonly found further away from the granite, with just iron at the furthest extreme. The reason for the banding is that the deposition of each mineral occurs within a specific temperature range. Granite starts as a molten blob of magma which cools very slowly and provides a source of heat. The temperature of water in the cracks in the neighbouring rock therefore decreases with increasing distance from the hot granite.

  6. At the junction, turn left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a public footpath sign on the left beside a track.

    The settlement of Uphill was first recorded in 1302 spelt HuppeHull. The name is from mediaeval English and simply means "place on the hill".

  7. At the footpath sign, turn left down the track and follow it to a fork. Keep right at the fork between the granite gateposts and follow the track to a bend where a waymarked path departs ahead.
  8. Bear left to follow the path ahead and over a stile to a waymark. Turn right at the waymark and follow the steps to reach the river. Follow the path alongside the river, past a rope suspension bridge, until the path ends at a gate.

    Trees in the woodland include chestnut.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their various campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops.

  9. Go through the gate to reach a lane. Turn right and cross the bridge to reach a stile on the left. Cross the stile and follow the path along the river to reach an iron stile at the far end of the field.

    Starabridge is a 3-span clapper bridge (composed of pillars with slabs balanced between them) which is thought might originally date from the 16th Century, during the Tudor era. The east side of the bridge looks to have been damaged at some point in its history, and partially rebuilt, as part of the triangular cutwater is missing and the parapets are patched with brick.

  10. Climb the stile and follow the path along the river, crossing a stone footbridge, to reach a wooden footbridge.

    The River Lynher (pronounced "liner", as in ocean) is just over 20 miles long, rising on Bodmin Moor and joining the Tamar in its estuary near Saltash. The name dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded as "Lyner" in 1318. It is also known as the St Germans River at the point where it widens into a broad, tidal channel, close to its mouth.

    During Victorian times, the river was polluted by copper mining waste and during the late 20th century, runoff from intensive dairy farming and an increase in arable farming were found to be affecting water quality and silting the gravel beds needed by spawning salmon. In the early 21st century, a number of these issues were addressed under the Cornwall Rivers Project.

    The river is now a haven for wildlife with several stretches being designated as Sites of Special Scientific interest (SSSIs). The river's resident species include otters, brown trout and Atlantic salmon which breed in its major tributary, the Tiddy.

  11. Cross the bridge and follow the path along the iron railings. Keep right along the path to climb away from the river and reach a lane.

    A salmon hatchery is run by volunteers on the River Lynher to offset the effects of salmon being caught commercially in nets at sea on the river's population.

    Salmon spawn in winter in the tributary streams of rivers, where the gravel is suitable. The young fish (known as "parr") grow by feeding on aquatic insects for one to three years. They then undergo a physiological pre-adaptation to life in seawater known as "smolting". In spring, large numbers of "smolts" swim downriver and migrate to the rich feeding grounds of the Norwegian Sea where they feed on fish such as herring and sandeels.

    Salmon exhibit remarkable homing instinct, locating their river of origin using the earth's magnetic field and smell which includes pheromones released by other salmon in the river. Some salmon reach maturity after only one year at sea; these are known as "grise" and return in summer, weighing between 1 and 4kg. Larger fish, that take two or more years at sea to mature, usually return considerably earlier in the year.

    Salmon cease to feed on entering freshwater and having spawned, the fish (referred to as "kelts") are susceptible to disease and predators. However some do survive to repeat their epic journey again and there are records of some salmon spawning three times.

  12. Bear left onto the lane and follow it downhill to a junction.

    As you descend the hill, you pass through the hamlet of Measham which dates back to Mediaeval times. It was recorded around 1140 as "Meuuesham". The name is Anglo-Saxon, and the ham could either refer to a settlement or, equally likely in this case, the water meadow.

  13. Bear right across the road to the lane opposite. Follow the lane past Lynher House on the left to reach a flight of steps next to a gate on the right.

    A short distance up the road to the right is where Cornish Yarg cheese used to be produced.

    Cornish Yarg is a soft cheese made from cows milk which varies in texture from creamy on the outside to crumbly towards the centre. The original version is wrapped in nettle leaves but it is now also available wrapped in wild garlic leaves. The name is the reverse of "Gray" as the cheese was originally made by a couple with this surname from Withiel, who discovered a recipe, thought to date from the 13th Century, in a dusty book in the attic. In the 1970s, the recipe was given to Lynher Dairies who now produce the cheese, still on a relatively small scale (from a single farm near Truro at the time of writing). Both versions of the cheese have won a number of British and International cheese awards. In order to comply with stringent US export standards, the US inspectors required an explanation of what stinging nettles were. We can assume that the introduction was gentler than it could have been, as the cheese is now on sale in the USA and growing in popularity.

  14. Follow the steps to the right to reach a stile. Cross the stile and follow the path up the steep bank to reach a gate at the top onto a lane.
  15. Go through the gate, turn left onto the lane and pass the cottage to reach a flight of steps on the right. Climb the steps to a stile and cross this into a field. Head straight across the field to a stile next to a gate in the opposite hedge.

    To the far right is Notter Tor and to the left of this, the Cheesewring quarry at Minions. The Cheesewring itself is also just visible, perched above the quarry face.

    The Cheesewring is a tor on Stowes Hill near Minions. The tor gets is name because it is topped with a natural rock formation that looks like the press with a stack of weights that was used to make cheese (and also cider as the apple pulp was known as "cheese"). The cheesewring was a well-known landscape feature by Tudor times and it featured in large illustrations in the margins of Cornwall maps at the end of this period. The granite slabs, which appear to have been balanced, were created by erosion over many thousands of years.

  16. Cross the stile and head straight across the field to a kissing gate in the hedge opposite.

    The large hill directly ahead is Caradon Hill.

    Caradon Hill is situated on the east edge of Bodmin Moor. The hill has a 371 metre summit and the antenna on the top broadcasts TV & radio coverage as far as Truro, Bude, Plymouth and Barnstaple. The name is thought to originate from the Cornish word car for fort. The slopes are dotted with the remains of engine houses and the area was once famous for its copper mines, which were discovered relatively late in Cornwall's mining history. The South Caradon Copper mine was the largest copper mine in the UK during its heyday in the late 1800s. In an account documented in the early 20th Century, it was described:

    On Saturday nights after pay-day, the populous villages of Caradon Town, Pensilva, Minions and Crows Nest were crowded with men, and resembled in character the mining camps of Colorado and the Far West.
  17. Go through the kissing gate and bear left slightly to reach an iron stile in the middle of the hedge ahead.

    Clover is a native plant but is also sown as a fodder crop or as "green manure" as it is a "nitrogen-fixing" plant which converts atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium salts, improving soil fertility. The two most common species are known simply as White Clover and Red Clover, based on the colour of their flowers, with the latter generally being a slightly larger plant.

    The flowers and leaves of red clover can be dried to make a sweet tasting herbal tea. In order to get a good flavour, this needs to be infused for quite a long time (around half an hour) until a deep amber colour develops. Fresh clover doesn’t work so well as the drying process breaks down the cell walls of the plant.

  18. Cross the stile and cross the field diagonally to the opposite corner, approx 30m to the right of the gap in the hedge. As you reach the corner you'll see a waymarked farm gate, tucked behind the hedge on the left.
  19. Go through the gate and follow the track to a gateway into a field on the left.
  20. Turn right, away from the field and follow the track until it ends on a lane.
  21. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to a track on the left beside The Grange, marked with a public footpath sign opposite.

    The settlement of Sutton dates back to Mediaeval times and was first recorded in 1175 when it was spelt "Sutun". The name is Anglo-Saxon: tun means "farm", so this was "South Farm".

  22. Turn left down the track and keep right to follow the lower track. Follow it until you reach a stile quite hidden in the hedge on the right, roughly 5 metres before the track ends in a gate.
  23. Cross the stile and bear left across the orchard to reach another stile. Cross this and step over the ditch to reach the track. Turn right onto the track and follow it downhill to the pond.
  24. Bear left from the track, keeping the pond on your left to reach a waymark. Follow the path between the pond and stream to reach a stile onto a footbridge. Cross the footbridge and follow parallel to the left hedge to reach a ladder stile, roughly 30m to the right along the hedge from the gateway.

    The stream rises at Minions and collects water from the north side of Caradon Hill. It flows through Upton Cross to here and joins the river Lynher between Rilla Mill and Plushabridge, ultimately meeting the sea in Plymouth Sound.

    Rain falling on the far (west) side of Caradon Hill has a different destiny, forming the headwaters of the River Seaton which meets the sea near Looe Bay.

  25. Cross the stile and bear right slightly up the bank to reach a gate in the middle of the far hedge.

    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.
  26. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the left hedge to a waymarked farm gate.

    The large hill in the distance to the right is Kit Hill.

    Kit Hill Country Park, which includes the hill and surrounding area, was donated by the Duke of Cornwall to the Cornish people to mark the birth of Prince William in 1985. The hill was formed in the same way as Bodmin Moor by magma pushing up beneath the existing sedimentary rocks to form a body of granite and mineral veins in the cracks formed as the granite cooled. The name "kit" comes from the Old English word for a bird of prey, and the Country Park still has a population of buzzards and sparrowhawks.

  27. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to a stile next to a gate.
  28. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the left hedge to a gate onto a lane.
  29. Go through the gate and bear left to where the lane ends at a junction. Turn left and follow the lane past a junction and over the bridge. Continue up the hill on the other side to a public footpath sign on the left.

    Plusha bridge was built in the late 15th Century to give miners in Caradon more convenient access to the parish church in Linkinhorne. Some of the elegance of the original three arch design has been lost when the bridge was widened for transport.

  30. Go through the metal gate through which the footpath sign points and a wooden pedestrian gate beyond this. Follow the path along the left hedge to a gate and stile.
  31. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the line of trees to a stile beneath the trees to the right of the farm gate.
  32. Cross the stile and pass to the right of the tree. Head across the middle of the field keeping to the right of the trees on the left side of the field to reach a metal gate next to a ladder stile in the far hedge.
  33. Go through the gate and turn left. Cross the footbridge and follow the path into a field. Follow the right hedge to the top of the field and down a grassy corridor to reach a gate at the far end.

    Arum lilies often grow along the right-hand hedge near the top of the field.

    The Wild Arum (Arum Maculatum) is known by over 90 colourful folk names including "Lords and ladies", "Priest in the pulpit", "Devils and angels", "Cows and bulls" etc. Most of these have sexual connotations as the inflorescence (known as the "spadix") is obviously phallic, and is sheathed suggestively by the encircling, leaf-like spathe. Another name "Cuckoo Pint" alludes to the time of the flower's appearance being with the first cuckoos; "pint" stays on theme, being the Old English slang for penis (a contraction of "pintle").

    In order to attract pollinating insects, the plant heats the flower spike up to 15 degrees C above that of the surroundings. Once pollinated, in late summer, the plant produces clusters of bright orange berries on stalks. Despite being very pretty, these are poisonous and cause skin irritation so children should be warned not to pick them.

  34. Go through the gate on the right and bear left onto the track. Follow this until it ends on a road.
  35. Turn left onto the road and follow it downhill to a public footpath sign opposite The Manor House (pub).
  36. Turn right onto the footpath, signposted to Westcott. Follow the path to reach the flight of steps leading 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, 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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