Warbstow to Treneglos

A circular countryside walk from the Saxon village of Warbstow to the Celtic hamlet of Treneglos in the tributary valleys of the River Ottery, where the North Cornwall railway once ran.
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The walk starts from Warbstow church and heads across tracks and fields to the farms of Youlstone and Trewonnard. The route then follows a country lane and track across the valley to Treneglos church. The return route is an adventure across the two tributary valleys either side of Nether Scarsick, wading across the streams in both cases.

Due to footpath issues, this walk currently involves wading through streams and crossing a barbed-wire fence. Do not attempt this walk unless these things do not bother you. Wellies are absolutely vital, as the streams are too deep for walking boots.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.5 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Warbstow Church
  • Parking: Gravel area near barn uphill from Warbstow church PL158UP. Follow signs to Warbstow and then turn at the junction signposted Warbstow Parish Church
  • Recommended footwear: Wellington boots (wading across streams required)

OS maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Ancient riverside woodland near Treneglos and Nether Scarsick
  • Historic Treneglos and Warbstow churches

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Head downhill on the lane from the parking area to reach a path into the churchyard and go through the churchyard gate. Then bear right, around the church, to a gap in the hedge at the top of the churchyard.

    The parish churchin Warbstow was originally Norman, but largely rebuilt in the 15th century. However its site on a small hill, surrounded by a circular bank, strongly suggests that the churchyard is celtic in origin.

  2. Go through the gap and turn right onto the track. Follow the track to a public footpath sign just before it ends at a metal gate.

    The name for the parish of Warbstow is taken from the nun, St Waerburgha, who was daughter of a 7th century Anglo-Saxon king. Her relics, at Chester, were an object of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. The church has been dedicated to St Waerburgha for at least 1000 years, presumably by the Saxon settlers.

  3. Go through the gate on the left indicated by the footpath sign and follow the right hedge of the field to a stile.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleeting, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  4. Cross a stile, then turn left and follow the left hedge to another stile in the corner of the field.
  5. Cross the stile and turn right along a lane. Follow the lane for about 100m to a track on the left, signposted to Higher Youlstone and Youlstone Farm
  6. Turn left onto the track and follow it to Youlstone Farm (a building on the right, with a barn on the left).
  7. When you reach the farm, continue ahead, between the house and the barn, to where the track resumes. Follow the track until you reach the gate of Higher Youlstone.
  8. Go through the gate and take the left fork in the track. Follow the track to two metal gates on the left side of the track, just before it turns into the garden on the right.

    Just as you take the left fork, there is a Celtic stone cross, next to the wall on the left of Higher Youlston.

    There are said to be 360 wayside crosses in Cornwall. In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. There have been various reasons for erecting these: markers placed along routes used by Christian pilgrims, or as a shrine in reverence, perhaps to a saint who has some connection to the locality. Others mark burial sites, a disaster, a miracle, or some other event that should be remembered. In some cases, they were erected to mark meeting places for Christian worship and later churches were built adjacent to the cross, resulting in the cross being within the churchyard or close by.

  9. Go through the rightmost of the two gates on the left. Turn right in the field and keep the fence on your right as you walk downhill to reach a stile near the far end of the fence.
  10. Cross a stile, then turn left and cross over another stile and footbridge to reach a field. Head uphill to a gate in the middle of the top hedge, leading to a house.
  11. Go through the gate and along a short track towards the house to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to the bottom of the valley, and back up the other side to a junction with a "Ford" sign.

    The railway bridge crossed by the lane is a remnant of the North Cornwall line.

    The North Cornwall Railway was a venture backed by the London and South Western Railway to compete with the Great Western Railway for services to Cornwall. The North Cornwall line ran from Halwill in Devon to Padstow via Launceston, Camelford and Wadebridge and was built for economy rather than speed, including climbs and curves to avoid costly construction work. The line was opened in sections at the end of the 19th century, reaching Padstow in 1899. There was an aspiration to connect Wadebridge to Truro, but this was never realised. Due to holidaymakers increasingly travelling by car in the 1960s, demand for passenger services dwindled and the line was closed as part of the cuts in 1966.

  12. At the junction, go straight ahead, down the track marked with the "Ford" sign, and follow it around a bend to the right then down to the bottom of the valley to the ford.

    The settlement of Higher Scarsick was first recorded in 1303 as Overarescasek. The name is thought to be from the Cornish words ros (meaning either moorland or a hill spur/promontary) and kasek (meaning mare).

  13. At the ford, bear left to cross a footbridge which leads back onto the track. Continue along the track until it ends at a lane.
  14. Bear left across the lane and turn right to follow the path between the walls to reach a gate into the churchyard.

    The placename is from the Cornish word eglos for church, and translates to something along the lines of Church Farm. The church here dates back to Saxon times and though the settlement itself wasn't mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, the church was.

  15. Go through the gate into the churchyard and follow the path around to the right of the church and down onto a path that joins back onto the road.

    Christianity in Roman Britain began in the 4th or 5th century AD. However there were no known cities west of Exeter, so the spread into Cornwall is likely to have been very limited. The majority of Cornwall is likely to have remained Pagan until "The Age of Saints" - the late 5th or early 6th century - when the Irish missionaries including St Piran and St Petroc settled in Cornwall.

  16. Go through the gate onto the road, turn right and follow the road until, just past the stone walls of an old railway bridge, you reach a public bridleway sign.
  17. Go through the a pair of wooden gates into the field and head to a gate in the right hedge at the bottom-right corner of the field.
  18. Go through the gate in the right hedge and follow the short track into the next field. Bear left to the bottom-right corner of the field, to enter a narrow strip of field along the right hedge; head to a gate in the bottom-left corner of this narrow strip.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  19. Go through the gateway and wade across a stream (note that although there is a footbridge marked on the OS map, at the time of writing, no such bridge existed, necessitating a wade across the stream). Once across the stream, bear right and follow the treeline to reach a large tree ahead.
  20. At the tree, bear right to follow the track uphill. Follow the track past a house to reach a lane.
  21. Turn right onto the lane and follow it for about 100m until, just after the last barn, you reach a pair of metal gates marked with a public footpath sign.

    This area of Cornwall represents the border between Celtic Dumnonia and Anglo-Saxon Wessex. Consequently, along this route there is Anglo-Saxon influence (placenames like Warbstow and Fonston) interspersed with traditional Celtic names (Trewonnard, Treneglos, Treglith etc). Northeast of the River Ottery, fewer names beginning with "Tre-" exist whilst further southwest the names ending in "-stow", "-ton" and "-cott" become sparser.

  22. At the sign, go through the black gates onto the track and follow it to a series of metal gates.

    The settlement of Nether Scarsick was first recorded in 1303 as Nethere Rescasec. It was quite common in mediaeval times to use "nether" for "lower" and "over" for "higher" in place names.

  23. Go through the metal gate straight ahead leading onto a grassy track and continue to follow the track to another gate.
  24. Go through the gate and continue to follow the left hedge to the corner of the field. Then follow the bottom hedge for about 50m until you find a gap in the hedge with a wooden stile (or remains of).

    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:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. 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.
  25. Climb over the wire fence at the gap in the hedge (where pipes cover the barbed wire) and climb over the wooden fence to reach the stream. Wade across the stream then follow the left hedge over the marshy area, to reach the field. Bear right up the field to the first of several gaps starting roughly halfway along the right hedge.

    A short distance downriver, the streams on this walk join the Canworthy Water (river) which itself which joins the River Ottery at the settlement of Canworthy Water.

  26. Go through the gap into the next field, then head slightly left across the field, to follow the right side of a hedge which begins halfway across the field. Follow this across the field to reach a stile.

    The River Ottery is a tributary of the Tamar and stretches about 20 miles across the northeast of the county. Its basin spans a Carboniferous geological formation known as the Culm Measures which contains a soft-sooty form of coal and supports grassland that is very rich in species, some rare such as the Marsh Fritillary.

    The river once formed a northern boundary between Celtic Dumnonia and Anglo-Saxon Wessex and consequently the place names to the north are predominantly Saxon and those to the south are Celtic. The name of the river itself has Anglo-Saxon roots from the Old English oter (after the creatures that thrived along it) and ea (meaning stream).

  27. Cross the stile then cross the next field towards a stile located just to the right of a large tree which itself is about 100m to the right of a barn 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.

  28. Cross the stile into the next field andbear left slightly across the field to the stile in the opposite hedge.
  29. Cross the stile onto a lane and turn left on the lane to reach a junction. At the junction turn right, down the lane signposted to Warbstow and Downinney. Follow the until you reach a junction to the left.

    Warbstow is a parish in north-east Cornwall alongside the River Ottery. Warburghstow was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. The original manor house of Downwinney stood at one end of the village green, but only the Norman door, porch, and an upstairs window have survived.

  30. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane back to the church to complete the walk.

    Beech trees are planted along the hedge and drop beechnuts onto the road.

    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.

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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