St Clether to the Rising Sun

The walk follows the church path in St Clether to the chapel and holy well and continues through the nature reserve to the upper reaches of the Inny Valley. From there, the route returns through St Clether and descends to the River Inny, crossing a tributary by a waterfall, before crossing the main river in a meadow. From here, the route follows footpaths past a ruined barn to emerge on a lane near the Rising Sun Inn. The return to St Clether is via tracks and footpaths, crossing fields and passing Basil Manor and the mill leat.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.6 miles/9.0 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: St Clether Church
  • Parking: Church car park. From the A395 between Hallworthy and Piper's Pool, take the turning next to the old Methodist Chapel, signposted to St Clether and follow the lane to reach the church. Satnav: PL158QJ
  • Recommended footwear: tall waterproof boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Historic church at St Clether, with restored chapel and holy well
  • Riverside meadows along the Inny Valley
  • Rising Sun Inn serving local beer from Penpont Brewery
  • Panoramic views over the Inny and Penpont valleys

Directions

  1. From the church car park, follow the path signposted towards the Holy Well Chapel, leading around the church to the gate at the back of the churchyard.

    The church and holy well in St Clether are dedicated to Saint Cleder (or Clederus), one of the twenty-four children of Brychan. The church is of Norman origin, with a 15th century tower and (apart from the tower) was rebuilt in 1865.

  2. Go through the gate at the back of the churchyard and follow the path along the side of the valley to a kissing gate.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales. He had a large number of children, and most of these were reported to have evangelised Cornwall and North Devon, with many of the churches dedicated to them. Consequently, many of the place names in North Cornwall (St Teath, St Mabyn, St Endellion, St Minver, St Clether, Egloshale, Egloskerry, Advent, Morwenstow, Lelant etc) are from the names of his children. Brychan is buried on Lundy Island, known in the Celtic language as Ynys Brychan.

  3. Go through the kissing gate and continue along the path to the restored chapel.

    The marshy fields to the left provide a good habitat for dragonflies and damselflies.

    Dragonflies are named after the way they hunt, as both the larvae and adults are carnivorous predators. Their two sets of wings beat out of phase, and the frequency, amplitude and the angles of each set of wings can be controlled. This allows dragonflies to hover in a completely stationary position for over a minute, perform extravagant aerobatic manoeuvres and even fly backwards.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

  4. From the gate into the grounds of the chapel, head downhill to reach a large boulder beside a path running along the valley. Turn right onto the path and follow this to a stile.

    It is reputed that St Cleder built his hermitage by a spring in the Inny valley, and erected the 4th century granite altar which can still be seen there; the altar is certainly over 1000 years old. The chapel was originally the village church until the Normans built one, on the site of the present church, in the 12th Century. In the 15th Century, the chapel and well were altered so that the water from the holy well ran through the chapel (past the relics of St Cleder behind the altar) and into the well at the front of the chapel where it would be collected by pilgrims. The flow past the relics was thought to increase the healing power of the water. By the end of the 19th century, the chapel was in ruins, with only the altar and some walling remaining, but was rebuilt around 1900.

  5. Cross the stile and follow the path across the meadow to a wooden stile opposite.

    Before Christianity, the Pagan Celtic people of Cornwall worshipped wonders of the natural world. Where clean, drinkable water welled up from the ground in a spring, this was seen as pretty awesome. Where the springwater dissolved minerals, for specific conditions (e.g. deficiency in a mineral) or where the water was antibacterial, the water appeared to have healing properties. The sites were seen as portals to another world, and is why fairies are often associated with springs.

  6. Cross the wooden stile and a stone stile into the field. Continue ahead across the field to reach a metal gate at the far end.

    "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.

  7. Go through the gate onto a lane. Turn right and follow the lane to a crossroads.

    The lane leading off to the left from the crossroads leads to Trefranck farm.

    Trefranck, meaning "homestead of the French man", has been farmed by the Venning family for over 300 years. The first Vennings recorded anywhere in Cornwall were John and Marry, who were married in Altarnun church in 1629, when Charles I was still on the throne. The name Venning is probably derived from the Cornish "ven", meaning low marshy land. There are farms named Treven and Trevenn either side of St Clether. Trefranck Bungalow (now Forget-me-not cottage) was built in 1916 for Venning's grandparents, and was said to be the first house in St Clether with a bathroom. Trefranck is still a traditional beef and sheep farm, but has also diversified into a wind farm and holiday cottages.

  8. At the crossroads, turn right towards St. Clether and follow the lane past the church to a junction.

    The building opposite the church is the old vicarage.

    The vicarage is an early 17th century building, extended to the rear of the left side in the mid-17th century to give it an L-shape. Thomas Hardy's poem "The Face at the Casement" is about William Henry Serjeant, who was dying in this house. The vicarage is now a private dwelling.

  9. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane straight ahead up the hill until, just past some houses, there is a public footpath sign to the right.
  10. Take the path from the footpath sign to the right, over a wooden stile into a field. Cross the field to a waymarked gateway on the opposite side.

    The settlement of Tremeer was first recorded in 1270 as Tremur. It is the Cornish for "large farm". The word for "large", meor, crops up in quite a few place names such as Porthmeor beach at St Ives.

  11. Go through the gateway then keep left along the top of the field to join a path leading out of the field. Follow the path until you eventually reach a footbridge.
  12. Cross the footbridge and a stile into a field. Bear right very slightly across the field to a gap roughly 30 metres along the right hedge.

    A waterfall lies just south-east of St Clether, along the footpath from Tremeer. Hidden by trees and reached by crossing a footbridge, it is particulary photogenic on sunny days, when sunlight dapples the water through the trees.

  13. Go through the gap and head downhill towards a gate in the bottom-left corner of the field.
  14. Go through the gate and bear left to the footbridge.

    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.

  15. Cross the footbridge and turn left to follow along the river to the hedge. Then turn right and follow along the hedge to a gate in the top corner of the field.
  16. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge past the derelict stone barn and a gate beside it to the gate leading ahead onto a track.

    The barn contains a large elder tree, and there are more elder trees in the hedgerows of the fields.

    Elderflowers appear in June and are easily recognisable as large white umbels on the shrubby green trees. Elder trees were associated with witchcraft which may have arisen because their berries were used in medicines. Consequently there were many superstitions about cutting down or burning elder trees.

    Elder be ye Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed ye'll be.

    If you are harvesting the flowers to make cordial or wine, avoid picking umbels where the flowers are going brown or haven't opened yet; they should be bright white with a yellow centre. If you are harvesting the berries they should be black (not red) and not shrivelled.

  17. Go though the gate ahead and follow the rough track until it emerges into a field.

    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.
  18. As you emerge into the field, turn left to follow the gulley along the left hedge and reach a stream in front of a gate.

    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).

  19. Cross a small stream and go through a gate; continue to follow the track to reach a lane.

    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.

  20. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to a crossroads.
  21. At the crossroads, turn right and follow the road signposted to Davidstow, Camelford and the Rising Sun Inn, to a sharp bend opposite the Inn.

    The large building with the tall chimney close to the A39 at Davidstow is the cheese factory, more formally known as Davidstow Creamery. Davidstow Creamery is famous for producing both Davidstow Cheddar (using water from Davidstow holy well) and the ironically named Cathedral City cheeses (Davidstow Moor having neither a cathedral nor anything resembling a city).

  22. As the road bends sharply right, turn left past the Rising Sun Inn and follow the lane until you reach a junction with a track marked Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles and roads to South Carne and Altarnun.

    The Rising Sun Inn, just outside Altarnun, is a 16th Century Inn built originally as a farmhouse. The pub serves local food and real ales from the award-winning Penpont Brewery in Altarnun which uses springwater drawn from the moor. There are two open fires in winter.

  23. Continue ahead at the junction, signposted to South Carne, until you reach a track on the right marked by a public footpath sign.
  24. At the public footpath sign, turn right onto the track and follow it through a metal gate to a fork.
  25. Where the track forks left to a farmhouse, keep right and continue straight ahead to the end of the track.
  26. At the end of the track, turn left and follow the track (which becomes a lane) until you reach a stone stile on the left with a public footpath sign at a bend in the lane.
  27. Cross the stile, then follow the left hedge of the field past one metal gate to reach a second gate in the far hedge.
  28. Go through the gate, and bear right to cross the field diagonally to a pedestrian gate in the opposite corner.
  29. Go through the gate and follow the path down some steps and through a gate onto a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to a gate on the right with a public footpath sign.
  30. Go through the gate beside the public footpath sign and follow the left hedge. As you approach the far hedge, bear right to a kissing gate just to the left of the track to the farmhouse.
  31. Go through the kissing gate and down the steps to a track. Turn left and follow the track to a metal gate on the right beside a waymark.

    The settlement of Trecollas was first recorded in 1350 as Curcalwys. The name contains the Cornish word cruc meaning barrow or hillock.

  32. Go through the right-hand metal gate and cross the field to a stile roughly 15 metres to the right of the left corner of the far hedge.
  33. Cross the stile into the next field. Cross the field to a metal pedestrian gate roughly 15 metres to the right of the farm gate in the left corner of the far hedge.
  34. Go through the pedestrian gate into the next field, and head downhill towards the large house, then make for the waymarked stile.

    The large house at the bottom of the valley is Basil Manor. The house is thought to be originally early 16th Century, with some remodelling in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was restored and rebuilt between 1870 and 1880. The house now belongs to the Peredur Trust (for children with special needs).

  35. Cross the stile and a footbridge leading into an overgrown field. Stay close to the left hedge to join a path which takes you under the trees. Follow this to a waymarked footbridge.
  36. Cross the two footbridges to reach a pair of stiles. Cross the stile ahead and follow the left hedge to a building in the corner of the field. Turn right to stay in the field and keep following along the left hedge to reach a gateway.
  37. Go through the gateway and bear left slightly around the tree then head towards the small building. Pass the building to reach a gate onto a lane.

    The road bridge near Basil Manor is over a mill leat, which was used to drive a water wheel, to power all the barn machinery via a long above-ground drive shaft. Such shafts were notoriously dangerous for ladies wearing long dresses, which could trail and catch in the rotating shaft. The ruin of the mill is just upstream from the bridge, and the mill leat is now used to generate hydro-electric power.

  38. Go through the gate onto the lane, then turn right and follow the lane to a junction where a lane joins from the left.

    The large house on the left as you approach the junction is the Old School.

    The Old School in St Clether was built in the late 19th century in response to a government initiative which brought about compulsory education for children up to the age of 12. It was owned by the church and after it closed as a school in 1949, it was used as a village hall. It was sold in the 1970s to raise money for church repairs and is now a private residence.

  39. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane uphill to reach the church.

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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