St Breward to Lank

The walk starts from St Breward Church and descends through bluebell woods to Tuckingmill. The route then follows tree tunnels through Lamphills Woods to Chapel Farm, where there is a short diversion to reach the Holy Well. The route continues along the Camel Valley to Coombe Mill and then crosses the River Camel to reach the hamlet of Higher Lank. The walk then follows the lane back into St Breward, following a footpath along the cascading stream beside Tor Down Granite Quarry, before returning to Churchtown via the Old Inn.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.1 miles/5.0 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: the lane adjacent to St Breward Church
  • Parking: On roadside next to church. Follow signs to the Old Inn. The church is next to the pub. Note that the pub car park is for customers only. Satnav: PL304PP
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic views across surrounding countryside from Churchtown
  • St Breward Church - the highest church in Cornwall
  • Ancient woodland and rare butterflies in Lamphill Woods
  • Local food and drink at the historic Old Inn in St Breward
  • Pretty woods and riverside scenery along the Camel valley

Directions

  1. Starting from the lane near the church, follow the lane uphill away from the pub, past some buildings on the left until you reach a path on the left with a public footpath sign, just past the national speed limit sign and before the memorial. Turn left down the path and follow it until the path forks near a gate.

    St Breward church claims to be the highest in the county. The tall tower can be seen easily, for many miles around. The church dates from the Middle Ages (1278).

  2. Take the right fork through a double gate into a field. Cross the field to a stone stile in the opposite hedge.
  3. Cross the stile and follow the path downhill to a crossing of paths. Continue ahead on the downhill path until it forks, near to some overhead cables.
  4. Take the right fork, then the second path to the left, leading downhill. Follow this path alongside a hedge on the right to a wooden gate where another path merges from the right. Continue downhill and around a bend to the left until it ends on a track at a waymark.

    There are a good number of bluebells along the wooded paths 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.

  5. Turn left and follow a grassy track along the contour of the hill until it reaches a gate in a wall.

    The hamlet at the bottom of the valley on the right is called Tuckingmill.

    The are several hamlets and villages throughout Cornwall named "Tuckingmill". Tucking was the Cornish term for fulling - the process of cleansing woollen cloth to eliminate oils and dirt, and matting the fibres to make it thicker. In these mills, the process was automated with wooden hammers driven by a waterwheel. The technology originated in the Islamic world, came to Europe via the Moors in Spain and was introduced to Britain by the Normans. After fulling, the cloth would be dyed using natural colourants and then stretched out to dry on tenterhooks.

  6. Go through the gate and keep right along the lower path through the woods until it turns a sharp left corner, widening into a track with a gate across it.

    The path now enters the Lamphill Woods.

    Lamphill Woods are an area of ancient woodland along the River Camel. The woods cover the valley floor from the hamlet of Lamphill (to the north) to Chapel Farm (to the south), where the area becomes known as Hengar Wood. Lamphill Woods are home to numerous species of butterfly, including the rare Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the track until it emerges between two wooden gate posts to join another track, beside a sign for "North Cornwall Aviary".
  8. Bear right onto the track and keep left as it becomes a paved road to follow it ahead to reach a track on the right, marked with a public footpath sign.
  9. The walk continues along the track to the right but first you can make an optional diversion to visit St Breward's Holy Well (see the Point of Interest for directions). To resume the walk, follow the track past a barn on the right, where it becomes a path. Continue to follow the path across a field until you reach a gate.

    To reach the Holy Well, instead of turning right onto the track, continue to follow the lane uphill for about 100 metres to a footpath sign on the left. Go through the gate on the left and follow the rocky path uphill for about 50 metres to find the Holy Well on the right side of the path. Return downhill to the track to continue the walk.

    The Holy Well of St James near St Breward is found down a steep, rocky footpath and almost overgrown with vegetation. First mentioned in 1422, the architecture of the Holy Well is typical of the late mediaeval period. It is also known as "Chapel well" due to its proximity to where an ancient chapel dedicated to St James once stood. It was said that St Breward's well held mystical healing powers and was able to cure "all aylements of the eyees and aforde respite from temporary blindeness".

  10. Go through the gate and continue to follow the path until you reach a stone stile.

    "Holy wells" were created because the Christian church was most unhappy with the Celtic people continuing their old Pagan ways and worshipping sacred springs. In the 10th Century, the church issued a cannon (law) to outlaw such practices. This didn't work, so they issued another one in the 11th Century, and again in the 12th Century. Even despite the church going to the lengths of building a chapel over the top of some springs to obliterate them, the people still hung onto their sacred springs. The church finally settled on a compromise and rebranded the springs as (Christian) Holy Wells, so the old practices could continue behind a Christian fa├žade.

  11. Cross the stile and go through a large wooden gate to enter a field. Head straight across the field to a gate on the corner of a fence.

    The field is part of Coombe Mill Farm. Keep a lookout for a variety of critters as you follow the footpath.

    Coombe Mill is family-friendly holiday farm located near St Breward. Walkers following the public footpath through the grounds may encounter ponies, fallow deer, alpacas, miniature donkeys, pigs, sheep, pigmy goats, peacocks, chickens, guinea fowl, ducks, rabbits, and even an alligator!!

  12. Go through the gate and cross a grassy area to reach a metal gate in the bottom-right corner leading onto a track.
  13. Go through the gate and turn left onto the track. Follow the track until you reach a waymarked stone stile, just after a large barn on the left.
  14. Cross the stile and then a footbridge to reach the track again. Continue straight across the track, crossing another stone stile onto a lane. Turn right and follow the lane to a bridge.
  15. Cross the bridge and follow the lane past some buildings on the right and past tracks meeting the lane from either side. Continue uphill to reach a gate on the left near the top of the hill, marked with a public footpath sign on the right side of the lane.
  16. Go through the gate and walk down the centre of the field to a line of trees in the middle of the far side of the field.
  17. Follow the line of trees, keeping it on your left, to reach a stone stile next to the river.
  18. Cross the stiles and bridges, then bear left and follow the path uphill until it emerges into a field.

    The stone bridge crosses the River Camel.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay. The name Cam-El is from the Cornish meaning "crooked one". It is documented that only the upper reaches of the river, above Boscarne, were originally known as the "Camel". The section from Boscarne to Egloshayle was known as the "Allen" and below this, it was known as "Heyl".

    The River Camel is classed as a SSSI and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EC Habitats Directive. Bullhead, Atlantic Salmon and Otters breed in the river.

  19. Follow the right hedge of the field to pass a metal gate and reach a stone stile in the corner of the field.

    The otter's semi-aquatic nature has been well known since ancient times, in fact the words "otter" and "water" both derive from the same original word. It has been reported that Bodmin Moor acts as an interchange for commuting otters as the rivers Camel, Delank, Fowey and Inny all have sources or tributaries in a quite a small area.

    During the 1960s, the otter population crashed in the UK due to the widespread use of pesticides such as DDT which leached into the waterways and poisoned the otters. However, due to predominance of dairy farming in Cornwall during this period rather than the more pesticide-reliant arable, the county remained an otter stronghold. The Tamar Otter Sanctuary near the Devon border was a key part of the otter conservation movement which has been a remarkable success. It is thought that otters have now re-colonised all the areas in the UK that they were wiped out from during the 20th Century.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach another stone stile beside a gate in the far right corner.

    The settlement of Higher Lank was first recorded in 1591 but existed long before this as Lower Lank was recorded in 1278 as Ville Minoris Lanke (implying there was also a Ville Majoris Lanke). The name is from the Cornish word lonk meaning "gorge".

  21. Cross the stile onto a lane. Turn left and follow the lane until you reach a junction on the left signposted as "Coombe Road".

    The lane leads you back into the village of St. Breward.

    St Breward is on the northwest side of Bodmin moor and the parish covers both Roughtor and Brown Willy. The name of the village is said by some to come from the 6th century Cornish Saint Branwalader. Others say it is from a 13th century bishop of Exeter. Previously the village was called Simonward which, according to legend, was the name of the brewer to King Arthur's household although that might have been concocted in the Old Inn after a few ales.

  22. Turn left down Coombe Road and follow it until you reach a bend with a sign for Penrose Burden and Coombe.

    The Cornish language has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream
    • tenow - valley floor
  23. Bear right off the lane at the bend, down the track marked with a "dead end" sign. As soon as you cross the bridge over a small stream, turn right along a path just before the red iron shed to reach a footpath sign. Follow the path uphill, alongside the stream, until it forks beside a waymark.

    The sheds belong to the Tor Down Quarry.

    Tordown Quarry was opened in 1840 to supply granite to rebuild Bodmin's notorious Jail. Granite quarrying in St Breward was the main industry for centuries and the granite produced was used far and wide: the Naval College at Dartmouth, London's County Hall, Transport House, Shipping Office, Tower Bridge, Putney Bridge, The Thames Embankment, and Blackfriars bridge are all built from granite quarried in St Breward. Landmarks such as Eddystone Lighthouse, Winston Churchill's statue and the London Cenotaph are hewn from granite mined in St Breward.

  24. Turn left at the fork and follow the path uphill until it ends at a stone stile.

    Himalayan Balsam is a tall plant with very pretty pink flowers that can often be seen lining footpaths in the summer and early autumn. It was introduced as an ornamental species in 1839 and unfortunately the plant is now a major ecological problem. It can grow from a seed to 9ft high in a few months, forming dense thickets and wiping out other plant species. It is also extremely invasive as the seed pods open explosively, launching around 800 seeds per plant up to 7 metres and the seeds are also adapted to travel by water.

  25. Cross the stile and bear right to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to the second of two "School" signs on the left.
  26. At the sign, take the left (tarmacked) track, which leads past St Breward Primary School, and follow the track until you reach a gate on the left with a stone stile beside it.
  27. Continue straight ahead along the path, following it until it eventually ends at a gate.
  28. Go through the gate into a farm yard and continue straight ahead along a track to reach a lane, with the Old Inn on the opposite side.
  29. Turn left and follow the lane past the Old Inn and the church to complete the circular route.

    The Old Inn in St Breward dates back to the 11th Century when it provided shelter for the monks who built the neighbouring church, and claims to be Cornwall's highest Inn. There is an open fire in winter in the 11th Century granite fireplace. The pub was used as the setting for the TV comedy drama, Doc Martin, when the baby was born to the main characters.

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 also very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • 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 useful as some single women can just about manage one or two but not a dozen.

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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