Wadebridge to Polbrock

The walk follows the River Camel upstream from Wadebridge, then heads inland across the Treraven Farm nature reserve to the pretty hamlet of Burlawn. The route then drops into the woods and follows a stream to Hustyn Mill and through Bishop's Wood to its confluence with the River Camel. The walk then heads upriver to Polbrock Bridge and follows the Camel Trail back to Wadebridge along the edge of Gaff Wood and Treraven Wood.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.8 miles/10.9 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Piggy Lane long stay car park
  • Parking: Piggy Lane long stay car park (behind Lidl). Follow signs for the Camel Trail as you enter Wadebridge. From the Camel Trail roundabout, pass the side of Lidl to reach the Long Stay car park behind it. Satnav: PL277AR
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Attractive riverside scenery along the River Camel
  • Pretty wildflowers in the woodland at Mill Pool Wood
  • Views across the Camel Valley from Burlawn
  • Woodland all the way from Burlawn to Wadebridge
  • Wide variety of birdlife all along the route

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way from the car park to the Camel Trail roundabout then follow Eddystone Road ahead to the roundabout in the centre of the town.

    At the start of the 1880s, the rocks on which the Eddystone Lighthouse was built began to crack due to erosion by the sea. Granite was quarried for a new lighthouse at the De Lank quarry and brought to Wadebridge where stonemasons dovetailed each block to those in all directions for high strength. Once each layer was checked for a fit with the one above, it was shipped from Wadebridge and the completed 49 metre lighthouse was lit in 1882. The road where the masons worked became known as Eddystone Road, which now links Wadebridge to the Camel Trail to Padstow. The lighthouse is still in operation today.

  2. Cross the roundabout to The Platt (with the hexagonal shelter) on the opposite side and walk past Co-op, through its car park and past short-stay car park to reach a signpost to "Challenge Bridge".

    The settlement at Wadebridge dates back at least to early Mediaeval times with a licence for a market being recorded in 1312. Originally there was no bridge and thus the settlement was called "Wade" (as this is what you had to do when crossing the ford). This far down the River Camel, numerous tributaries had emptied into the river so the crossing was quite perilous. Chapels were situated either side of the river to pray for a safe crossing, and give thanks should the other side be successfully reached. The death toll, both in human lives and livestock, was the motivation for the building of the bridge.

  3. Turn left at the signpost and follow the pavement to reach a path leading through a pedestrian area towards the bridge. Bear right onto this and follow it to the footbridge.

    The suspension footbridge upriver of the road bridge at Wadebridge is known as either Bailey Bridge, Challenge Bridge or Anneka's Bridge. It was constructed in the early 1990s by Anneka Rice during her TV series "Challenge Anneka".

  4. At the footbridge, stay on the right-hand bank and continue upriver until the path ends on the lane.

    The bridge in Wadebridge dates back to mediaeval times. Distressed at the deaths occuring regularly at the river crossing, the vicar of Egloshale planned the building of the bridge which was completed in 1468. Tolls were collected and these were used to pay for maintenance of the bridge. The bridge was widened twice from its original 3 metre width: once in Victorian times, and substantially more so in the 1960s - to accommodate motor vehicles, for which this was the main crossing of the River Camel until the bypass was built in the 1990s. The fourteen arch mediaeval bridge was known as the "Bridge on Wool". For a while, this was interpreted literally: that wool bales could have been used as part of the pier foundations, however it had since been established that the bridge rests on bedrock. The name is more likely to be an allusion to the original source of funding for the bridge.

  5. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to the Camel Trail sign.

    The area of Wadebridge along the river towards Bodmin is known as Guineaport. It is thought that the name stems from a time when the river channel was deeper and the town was a busy port. Many ships were moored along the wharfs and harbour, and the charge for mooring a ship at the port was one Guinea.

  6. Keep right, to stay on the lane, at the Camel Trail sign and follow it a short distance ahead to a bend.
  7. At the bend, take the track ahead marked as Public Footpath. Follow the track past a pair of metal gates until it ends in a wooden gate.

    During the 20th Century, much of the salt marsh along the River Camel, which supports diverse bird life, was drained for agricultural land. In 2001, the Gaia Trust acquired the meadow below Treraven Farm in Wadebridge and together with Cornwall Council, embarked in the Camel Valley Wetland Restoration Project. Treraven Marshes were re-flooded in 2007 and a long list of bird species, new to the site, have been recorded since. Cornwall Wildlife Trust have designated the marshes the first new County Wildlife Site in 20 years. There is a bird hide next to the Camel Trail overlooking the marshes.

  8. Go through the gate or cross the stile and follow the right hedge to another gate.

    Egloshayle was once a small self-contained settlement, based around the church on the opposite side of the river.

    Egloshayle is now an area within the Wadebridge connurbation but was once a distinct settlement. The name Egloshayle is from the Cornish words eglos (meaning church) and heyl (meaning estuary) and is pronounced to reflect this (eglos-hale not eglo-shale). It was originally a Bronze Age settlement and later a river port, rivalling Padstow. The river trade is reported to include tin, clay, wool, and vegetable crops. The wool component of the trade may well be the origin of the name "Bridge on Wool" given to the bridge at Wadebridge.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the path until it ends at a junction.

    The settlement of Treraven dates back to the Middle Ages. It is first recorded in 1208 when it is spelt "Treruvin".

  10. At the junction, turn left and follow along the fence to a waymark beside another junction.

    Treraven Farm, whose land adjoins the River Camel upriver from Wadebridge and the Camel Trail, was acquired by the Gaia Trust in 1999. A community forest has been planted, adjoining the oak woodland of Treraven Wood along the Camel Trail, and permissive paths have been created through the woodland that connect to the public bridleway.

  11. At this junction, turn left and follow the track to a gate on the right marked Permissive Access to Treraven Farm.

    The Gaia Trust is a small Cornish charity established in 1988, dedicated to preserving biodiversity and providing public access to nature, and have won a number of National awards for their work. Their farms and nature reserves are all open to the public, and they run a range of events for the public at their farms.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a gap in the far hedge.

    Huge amounts of sorrel grow in this field which causes it to develop a red sheen in summer.

    Sorrel is common in fields and hedgerows and easily recognisable by its red seeds at the top of a tall stalk. The leaves resemble small, narrow dock leaves.

    Sorrel is used both in soups or as a salad vegetable. The leaves have a pleasant lemony flavour.

    In common with many vegetables, Sorrel contains oxalic acid. Exactly how much is a bit unclear: many articles mention "high amounts" though some published studies report a lower percentage than in spinach, parsley or rhubarb, though don't specify how easily soluble the Oxalic acid is in each case. Oxalic acid poisonous if enough is consumed and prolonged exposure can cause kidney stones. So use sorrel reasonably sparingly and don't eat it every day.

  13. Go through the gap and follow the grassy corridor to emerge into a meadow.
  14. Continue ahead to meet the right hedge then follow the right hedge to a gateway in the corner with the far hedge.
  15. Go through the gateway and follow along the right hedge, passing a waymark, until you reach a gateway.
  16. Go through the gateway and bear left across the field to a gateway with a metal gate.
  17. Go through the gate and bear left onto the track. Follow the track to a bend with a stile on the right and a gateway ahead leading into a field.
  18. Turn left to stay on the track and follow it until it ends at a lane, next to a white house.
  19. Where the track emerges on a lane, continue ahead on the lane and follow it to a junction.
  20. Turn left at the junction into Burlawn, and follow the lane downhill until you reach another junction.

    The place names "Burlawn", "Burlorn" Tregoose, Lower "Burlone" and "Bozion" Farm are all various failed attempts to write down the Cornish name "Boslowen" (which transliterates from Cornish as "happy dwelling"). The surreal-sounding "Burlone Pillow" was originally Boslowen Polbrogh (as it lay between Boslowen and Polbrough).

  21. Bear left to stay on the lane and follow it towards the phone box. Then follow the lane right, past the pump, until you reach a tarmacked driveway on the right, opposite Hustyn Cottage.

    The main route from Padstow to Bodmin was once near here across the Hustyn Downs. It's likely this is the way that the monks would have fled from the Lanwethinoc monastery at Padstow as it was sacked by the Vikings, carrying the relics of St Petroc to Bodmin.

  22. Turn right and follow the tarmac, keeping right to pass the entrance of "Ewon Arghans" until you reach the signs for "An Gevran" and "The Dumbles".
  23. Bear left down the driveway of "The Dumbles" and keep right along the hedge to a stile.
  24. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to reach a stile in the fence along the bottom of the field.
  25. Cross the stile and follow the path down into the woods to a waymark. Continue downhill from the waymark until you reach a waymark next to a footbridge.

    In spring there are spectacular displays of bluebells, particularly in the area to your left as you reach the top of a steep bank.

    During periods of cold weather, spring flowers, such as bluebells, have already started the process of growth by preparing leaves and flowers in underground bulbs during summer and autumn. They are then able to grow in the cold of winter, or early spring, by using these resources stored in their bulb. Once they have flowered, the leaves die off and the cycle begins again.

    Other species (such as cow parsley or dandelions) require warm weather before they are able to germinate and grow. With the warmer springs induced by climate change, bluebells lose their 'early start' advantage, and can be out-competed.

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  26. Cross the two footbridges and continue ahead a short distance to reach a junction with another path. Turn left onto this and follow it until you eventually reach a junction in front of a granite gatepost.
  27. Turn left and follow the path, past the house, until you reach the driveway.
  28. Bear right onto the drive and follow it to the road.
  29. At the road, turn right, ignoring the public footpath sign ahead, and walk uphill a short distance to the Bishop's Wood sign. Turn left at the sign, down the track and follow it until it eventually ends at a T-junction.
  30. Turn left at the junction and follow the track, along the river, until it ends in a parking/picnic area near a bridge.

    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.

  31. Continue through the car park to reach the lane.

    Polbrock is a small settlement on the River Camel, upstream of Wadebridge. Polbrock is an anglicised version of the Cornish name Polbrough which transliterates to "Badger's pool". It's likely the nearby hamlet of "Brockton" was an Anglo-Saxon rebranding of an original Cornish placename, possibly something like Trebrough which would be along the lines of "Badger Farm".

  32. Turn left onto the lane over the bridge, until you reach a flight of steps on the left just before the second bridge.

    Badgers are most closely related to otters and weasels, but are omnivores and often catch their food by burrowing after it. Up until the 1950s, somewhat prior to the Gastro-pub revolution, many westcountry pubs had Badger Ham on the bar!

    Due to their relatively large body size, badgers are susceptible to the same pathogens as domestic livestock, and so badgers and cattle can catch tuberculosis from each other. In recent years, there has been controversy over badger culling as an attempted means to control the spread of bovine TB. The conclusions of the scientific trials of 2007 were that badger culling was not effective. One reason is that culling creates vacant territories and causes other badgers to roam more widely, continuing a spread. In 2010, a TB vaccine was produced which is hoped will prove more effective than culling, as a band of vaccinated badgers will act like a firewall, blocking a spread.

  33. Go down the steps on the left, immediately before the bridge. Turn left onto Camel Trail and follow it back into Wadebridge.

    The Camel Trail is a recreational walking and cycling track along the track bed of an old railway running from Wenfordbridge to Padstow. The railway, where the Camel Trail now runs, was originally built in 1831 by local landowner, Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, with a branch to Bodmin, was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. Later, the railway was used to ship slate and china clay from inland quarries to ships in Padstow and also transport fish, landed in Padstow, to London and other cities. The last passenger train was in 1967 and freight finally ceased in 1983, when a need to invest in new track forced closure of the line.

  34. At the end of the trail, follow the lane ahead past the John Betjamen Centre to return to the car park beside Co-Op. Retrace your steps past the Co-Op and cross the roundabout onto the road opposite (keeping the bank on your left) to return to the long-stay car park near the Camel Trail roundabout.

    The well-signposted John Betjamen Centre is sited in the main building of the old railway station.

    The John Betjeman Centre is sited in the main building of the old railway station at Wadebridge.

    Betjeman spent the last years of his life in Trebetherick and died there in 1984; his grave is at St Enodoc Church. After his death, a group of local friends and enthusiasts launched an appeal to restore the derelict station building as a memorial to him. There is a memorabilia room dedicated to Sir John, displaying a variety of his personal effects, academic honours and furniture.

    The Poet Laureate had a lifelong love of North Cornwall ever since his first holiday in Trebetherick as a young boy.

    On Wadebridge station what a breath of sea
    Scented the Camel valley Cornish air,
    Soft Cornish rains, and silence after steam
    As out of Derry's stable came the brake
    To drag us up those long familiar hills,
    Past haunted woods and oil lit farms and on
    To far Trebetherick by the sounding sea.

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
  • Please let us know if there are nice autumn colours in the woods
  • 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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