St Issey to Sea Mills

The route passes through the churchyard and descends into the river valley below St Issey and follows the river past Melingey Mill to joins the Saint's Way to Little Petherick. From here, the walk follows the edge of the creek to the tidal enclosure at Sea Mills. The return route is along small lanes to the Pickwick Inn with excellent views over the Camel creeks. The return to St Issey is across the fields and the Ring O' Bells Inn offers a final stop.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: St Issey church car park
  • Parking: Church car park. Follow the A389 through St Issey and turn into Glebe Crescent, then immediately right into the church car park. Satnav: PL277HJ
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Mediaeval church of St Issey
  • Ornate Gothic Church at Little Petherick
  • Views along Little Petherick Creek
  • Remains of a tidal mill enclosure at Sea Mills
  • Views over the Camel Estuary
  • Wading birds such as herons, curlews and egrets
  • Local food and drink at the Pickwick Inn and the Ring O' Bells

Directions

It is important that you carefully time this walk with the tide times: the footpath along the edge of the creek is underwater at high tide. You can use the Padstow tide times to plan when you do the walk. Once you reach the slate tips at Sea Mills, there is no time pressure from this point on. The edge of the creek is quite muddy so ensure you have appropriate footwear.

  1. From the church car park, head to the back corner near the church and through the archway into the churchyard. Follow the path, keeping straight ahead at the crossing of paths, to reach the church door.
  2. From the church door, go down the steps and follow the path to the lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past The Manor House to reach a concrete track leading into a farmyard on the left opposite a garage on the right.

    St Issey is named after Itha or Ida, born in Ireland in 480AD and recorded as living to an age of 89, to whom the church is dedicated. The church building dates from Norman times and was enlarged in the 15th Century which included the addition of the tower, which was rebuilt around 1680. In 1869, the church tower collapsed after being struck by lightning and the resulting rebuild of 1871 was described as "lamentable". Nevertheless some artefacts survived which may be fragments of a mediaeval monument mentioned in a document of 1399. The church was carefully restored in 1980.

  3. Turn left down the concrete track into the farmyard and follow this past the barn. Keep left to the gate ahead on the far side of the yard (although the official public right of way marked on OS maps is on the right-hand side of the yard, this has been blocked off, so the gate is now the only access to the field).

    In the 1920s, a stone axe head was found in St Issey which has been dated back to Neolithic times. It is now in the Truro Museum.

  4. Go through the gate and bear right across the field to a metal gate just behind the telegraph pole.

    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.
  5. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge past an opening in the right hedge to reach a gateway in the far hedge.

    Although it's obvious that you should ensure any gates that you open, you also close, what about gates you find that are already open?

    If the gate is fully open then leave it alone as it may well be providing livestock access to a water supply, and by closing it you could end up killing them.

    If the gate is ajar but not latched then it's possible that the gate was left open a by previous group of walkers. Properly closing the offending gate behind you will not only bring joy to the landowner but you can feel good about saving a small child from being run over by a car swerving to avoid a cow in the road.

  6. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge, then bear left slightly from the line of trees to a footbridge at the bottom of the field and follow this to a stone stile.
  7. Cross the stile and follow the stepping stones to a stile into a field. Cross into the field and bear right to a gate and stile approximately half-way along the right hedge.

    Wild garlic grows in the shade of the trees along the riverbanks here.

    Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are the useful bit rather than the bulb, so cut/pull off the leaves (don't pull up the plants). The leaves are quite delicate, so you can use quite large quantities in cooking; therefore, harvest it in the kind of quantities that you'd buy salad leaves from the supermarket. There are some lillies that look fairly similar (and some are poisonous) but the smell is the giveaway: if it doesn't smell of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic.

  8. Cross the stone stile to the left of the gate and follow the drive ahead to reach a lane.

    The lane runs along a promontory between two river valleys. A little way to the left along the lane is the remnant of a fortified settlement known as Trenance Rounds. Little now remains other than an odd-shaped field with a small bank which was once a substantial rampart but has been ploughed away over the centuries.

  9. Turn right onto a lane and follow it down to the mill and across a bridge over the stream. Continue along the lane until you pass the cottages on the left and reach a Saints Way sign just past Millstream Orchard.

    The mill is now known as Mellingey Mill, but the "Mill" in the name is really superfluous as Mellingey comes from the Cornish words melyn chy (often combined as melynjy) meaning "millhouse". There are records of a mill here as far back as 1302.

  10. Turn left and climb the steps to join the footpath waymarked to Little Petherick. Follow the path to a stile.
  11. When you reach the stile, cross it and follow the path along the left hedge, passing a waymark, to reach a gate on the far side of the field.

    The Saints' Way runs for 30 miles from Padstow to Fowey, and follows one of the likely routes of early Christian travellers making their way from Wales and Ireland to the Continent during the Dark Ages. Rather than risk a premature martyring on the rocks around Land's End, they would disembark their ships on the North Devon and Cornish coast and cross the peninsula, on foot, to ports on the south coast such as Fowey. The Bush Inn at Morwenstow is thought to be one of the stopovers from the North Devon ports. The route from Padstow to Fowey was in use before the Dark Ages which is evident from Roman coins found along the route. However it is thought that it was likely to have been in use even earlier still, in the Iron Age.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the path to a track. Bear right onto the track and follow it to reach the road.
  13. Turn left along road. Carefully follow it to the bottom of the hill where a track departs from the right, marked with a public footpath sign.

    On the opposite side of the bridge is St Petroc's Church.

    The church at Little Petherick was built originally in the 14th century and was rebuilt in 1745. Since then it has been restored twice, each time by a famous Gothic architect: initially in the 1850s by William White, and the second time in 1908 by Ninian Comper. The result is impressively ornate.

    The church is dedicated to St Petroc who, according to legend, came this way when he fled to Bodmin from Padstow. The parish is known as St Petroc Minor to distinguish it from Padstow (formerly Petrocstow).

  14. Turn right down the track marked with the Public Footpath sign and go through the kissing gate on the left of the gate. Follow the track to another gate.

    Originally, the religion of the Cornish Britons was Celtic polytheism - a pagan, animistic faith, assumed to be led by Druids. Celtic Christianity was introduced to Cornwall in the year 520 by Saint Petroc, a Brython from the kingdom of Glywysing, and other missionaries from Wales, as well as by Gaelic monks and holy women from Ireland.

  15. Go through the gate and follow the track past the entrance of the water works until you reach the remains of a stile next to an old gate.
  16. Go through the gap where the stile was and follow the path to a footbridge. Cross the bridge and bear right around the top of the creek to reach a stile into a field.
  17. Cross the stile into the field and follow the left hedge to a small opening in the bushes leading to a stile and footbridge (roughly 30m to the left of the larger opening into the next field). Follow the path through the opening to the stile.
  18. Cross the stile and footbridge; then follow the path up into a field. Follow the left hedge to a stile.
  19. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a stile.

    The creek provides a habitat for a range of wading birds, the larger of which can often be spotted from the fields alongside the creek.

    The grey heron is an unmistakably massive bird with a 6ft wingspan and is most commonly seen in or near freshwater. The call of the heron is equally unsubtle - it is more like grating metal than the sound of birdsong. Although herons primarily eat fish, they will eat frogs, rodents, moles, ducklings and even baby rabbits! In Tudor and Elizabethan times, hunting herons with peregrine falcons was considered a royal sport which resulted in the birds being protected from peasants who might otherwise have caught and roasted them.

  20. Cross the stile and the one ahead of it; then follow the path through the copse until you reach a stile on your left.

    The little egret - a white member of the heron family - can be seen on many of the creeks in Cornwall and yet is only a very recent settler in Britain. The birds first appeared in Britain in any number in 1989 and the first to breed was in 1996 in Dorset.

  21. Cross the stile and turn right along the creek. Follow the edge of the creek, keeping the hedge on your right, until you reach a low wall on your right.

    The walled enclosure in the river was for the tidal mill here.

    In 1602, tide mills were described by Richard Carew in his Survey of Cornwall:

    Amongst other commodities afforded by the sea, the inhabitants make use of divers his creekes for grist mills, by thwarting a banke from side to side, in which a flood-gate is placed, with two leaves; these the flowing tide openeth, and, after full sea, the waight of the ebb closeth fast, which no other force can doe: and so the imprisoned water payeth the ransome of driving an under sheete (i.e. undershot) wheel for his enlargement.
  22. Continue along the creek edge, keeping the slate tips on your right until the path eventually ends on a lane.

    The tidal mill in Little Petherick creek was first recorded in 1675 as "two salt water grist mills". The mill closed in 1899, apparently due to the restriction of the tidal flow in the creek, caused by the construction of the North Cornwall Railway across the mouth of Little Petherick creek. The mill building was demolished in the early 20th Century and the outbuildings have been converted into houses; the garden of one of these is where the mill used to be located. The enclosing wall of the mill pond is still mostly intact, although the interior is now filled with silt. Further along shore, there are slate tips and, behind this, the slate quarries that yielded the stone used to build the mill and retaining wall.

  23. Turn right onto the track and follow it half a mile, passing Trevorrick Farm, until you reach a junction signposted to Benuick.

    There is a story that a previous owner of Sea Mills near Little Petherick, who was a member of the Total Abstinence Society, tried to pursuade the people of Padstow to abandon the drunken revelry of their "Obby Oss" celebrations by offering them a free ox to roast for the next seven years if they would cease the festival. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was not well-received by the Padstow residents, and despite other schemes by the society such as the creation of a rival Blue Ribbon’Oss, the ancient festival survived.

  24. At the junction, bear right to stay on the lane and follow it to a crossroads outside the Pickwick Inn.

    The settlement of Burgois is first recorded in 1423 when it was spelt "Borguys". The name is also recorded in Tudor times as "Bargus" and this is thought to more closely resemble the original name. It is constructed from the Cornish words bar (meaning summit) and cos (meaning wood) and in Cornish, words starting with a "c" often mutate into "g" when placed after another word.

  25. Continue ahead at the crossroads, signposted to St Issey, and follow the lane to a junction where there is another signpost to St Issey.
  26. At the junction, continue ahead until you reach a Public Footpath sign for St Issey (1/3 mile) on the right.
  27. Climb the steps and cross the stile. Follow the left hedge of the field to a waymarked gateway.
  28. Go through the gateway and cross the field towards the church tower and as a footbridge in the opposite hedge comes into view make for this. If there is a crop in the field you may need to follow along the left hedge.

    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.

  29. Cross the footbridge and bear right slightly to follow the right hedge up the field to reach a gate and stile towards the top of the field.
  30. Go through the gate and cross the stile and walk past the first row of cottages on the left to a path between the fence and shed on the left, opposite the island on the right.
  31. Turn left between the fence and shed and follow the path to emerge onto the pavement of the main road.
  32. To return to the church car park, bear left and cross the road to the churchyard gate, follow the path through the churchyard to the crossing of paths, and turn left at the crossing to pass through the gate.

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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