Circular walk from Blisland through Lavethan Wood

Blisland to Lavethan Wood

A short circular walk from the village of Blisland through the churchyard, two stretches of the Woodland Trust reserve of Lavethan Wood and land which was once the estates of Lavethan and Barlandew manors, returning via the Holy Well of St Hyacinth and St Pratt.

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The walk starts at the Blisland Inn, then heads through the churchyard and down a track to cross the Mill Race stream. The route then goes through Lavethan Wood, to emerge on a lane near Cock's Penrose farm. The walk follows the lane to Barlendew Farm and then across fields back into Lavethan Wood, emerging onto a lane near Bridge Cottage and following it past the Holy Well to Blisland.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 2.7 miles/4.4 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots, or wellies in winter

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 109 OS Explorer 109 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)

Highlights

  • Nature reserve of ancient woodland in Lavethan Wood, with bluebells in spring
  • Wildflowers flowers along the country lanes in spring and summer
  • Impressively ornate 15th century church and mediaeval holy well
  • Pretty Saxon village of Blisland with a village green and manor
  • Local food and drink at Blisland Inn - winner of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Blisland Inn

Directions

  1. From the lane in front of the Blisland Inn, cross the village green towards the church, to the gate into the churchyard.

    The Blisland Inn lies on the north side of the village green of Blisland, located on the western flank of Bodmin Moor. The pub is renowned for real ales, winning the CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2001; there are at least 6 real ales on tap at any one time. The landlord has had his own wooden barrels made by a retired cooper, which he sends to the local brewery to fill.

  2. Go through the gate and follow the path, through the churchyard, to the church entrance.

    The parish church of Blisland is located at the south edge of the village green, which lies on the west flank of Bodmin Moor. Blisland church is impressively ornate: thought to be on the site of a Saxon church, it was a slate and granite Norman building, but was rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style in the 15th century (and restored in the 19th). It is unique in being dedicated to St Protus (known locally as St Pratt) and St Hyacinth who were brothers martyred in the late 3rd century AD. No one knows why this church was dedicated to them in the 15th century. If you have the chance to visit on 22nd September, there is a feast day procession to St Pratt's Cross and Holy Well.

  3. From the church entrance, bear right onto the path opposite the church entrance, down some steps and follow it until it ends on a track.

    From December until the spring, celandine leaves are quite noticeable along the edge of paths. They have a shape similar to a "spade" in a pack of cards and are patterned with lighter green or silvery markings.

    Many flowers have patterns not visible to the human eye because they require ultraviolet wavelengths to distinguish them. Humans only have 3 colour receptors (red, green and blue) whereas many pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies have more receptors that span into the ultraviolet. They perceive colour quite differently from us and the ultraviolet patterns often point to the location of the nectar within the flower, much like a coloured arrow used to indicate where to open a food package.

  4. Bear right onto the track. Follow this through a gateway marked with a public footpath sign. Keep right at the bottom to follow a path into a field.

    The wildflowers along the track provide a nectar source for butterflies and bumblebees in the spring and summer.

    The oldest moth fossils found so far are from the Carboniferous period 300 million years ago. By the Middle Triassic (age of amphibians - before the dinosaurs), moths had evolved their proboscis used to collect nectar from flowers. Day-flying butterflies were on the scene in the Late Cretaceous (when Tyrannosaurs were around). Originally it was thought day-flying was to avoid night-flying bats but it's now thought more likely that this was mainly to take advantage of the abundance of nectar that was originally targeted at bees.

    The edges of fields are typically less productive areas (e.g. due to the shade from hedges) so for purely economic reasons a margin was sometimes left around the main crop. However, field margins have been found to play such a crucial role for protecting soil and water and enhancing biodiversity on farms that there are now legislative requirements for farmers to maintain uncropped field margins.

    More than 150 plants are characteristic of arable land but due to agricultural intensification, these and the insects and birds which depend on them have declined. The field margins are areas where these biologically important weeds can thrive.

    When fields are ploughed and tilled, rainwater can wash the loose soil out of the fields. The vegetation on margins acts as a barrier and strains out many of the particles of soil from the rainwater.

    When fertilisers are applied to the crops in the field, the margin helps to reduce the amount drifting over the hedges when it is applied. The plants around the margin then act as a sponge, helping to hoover up nutrients that wash off the crop.

  5. Cross the field to a stone footbridge in the bottom corner at the far side, following a path which becomes gravelled as it approaches the bridge.

    Moles are solitary except when breeding so a network of tunnels is occupied by a single mole. Moles typically live for around 3 years and when a mole dies, its tunnel network is often inherited by one of its offspring. Thus the expanding estate can be passed down through several generations. In wetland areas where there is no gradient available to retreat uphill from rising water, moles construct a large mound protruding around half a metre above the ground to act as an emergency flood shelter.

  6. Cross the footbridge and bear right slightly across the field to a wooden gate opposite leading into the woods.

    The river is a tributary of the River Camel which it joins about a quarter of a mile downriver at Tresarrett. It is fed by a number of small streams from the Trehudreth and Kerrow downs and was used to power the mills of Waterloo and Lavethan Mill at Tresarrett.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path a short distance to a crossing with a waymark. Turn right and follow the path to a junction where it meets another path.

    Lavethan Wood lies just south of Blisland on the north-facing slopes of a river valley. Lavethan Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Planted Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Most of the wood stands on the sloping, freely draining, rich brown earths underlain with Devonian slates. Bluebells are prolific in the wood between April and June. Two public footpaths cross the wood and a permissive path along the stream links the two.

  8. At the junction, bear left up through the woods until the path ends at a stile into a field.

    Look to your right as you walk through the woods to see Lavethan Manor on the opposite side of the valley.

    Lavethan (originally Le bidhen meaning "the meadow") is an old manor house near Blisland, listed in the Domesday Book. The current building incorporates parts of an earlier 15th century house, and was partly remodelled in the 1650s. The Kempe family moved their residence here from Trevelver in 1475 and for the next 200 years, they were the chief landowners in Blisland, being Lords of the Manor of Barlandew, which in 1654 consisted of twelve messuages (dwellings), six cottages, two water corn mills, two tucking mills, sixteen gardens, sixteen orchards, 400 acres of land, 50 acres of wood, 50 acres of moor, and 300 acres of furze and heath! Much of the surrounding Lavethan Wood, originally belonging to the manor, is now maintained by the Woodland Trust, although the house still retains 35 acres of gardens and fields.

  9. Cross the stile into the field. Follow the path along the right hedge to reach a stone stile to the right of the gate in the far hedge.

    The Woodland Trust was founded in 1972 and is dedicated to providing a UK rich in native woods and trees. They summarise themselves as "the RSPCA of trees" and have set themselves the ambitious target of doubling native tree cover throughout the UK over the next 50 years. They now look after more than 1,100 woods and over 110 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are committed to providing free public access wherever possible.

  10. Cross the stile, go down the steps and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane around a sharp bend to the left. Continue on the lane for half a mile, until you reach a track with a Public Footpath sign just after some barns and before a farmhouse.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 (a lot of moo is needed for the cheese and clotted cream produced in Cornwall) so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    The Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.

    Do

    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).

    Don't

    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  11. Turn left onto the track marked with the Public Footpath sign. Follow the track past the farmhouse then head towards the end of the stone wall, with another Public Footpath sign, in front of a large barn.

    "Barlendew" (or "Barlandew") means "above God's enclosure" in Cornish because, at the time of building, there was a clear view of the Blisland church from here.

  12. Join the path and follow it alongside the wall to a kissing gate.

    From Tudor times onward, the majority of farming in Cornwall was based around rearing livestock with dairy cattle being predominant. This is reflected in traditional Cornish dairy produce including clotted cream and, later, ice cream and in the North Cornwall dialect where the pejorative for "farmer" was a fairly graphical description of the act of milking before the introduction of milking machines which rhymed with "bit fuller".

  13. Go through the kissing gate into a field. Follow the left hedge of the field to a gateway in the corner.

    The name "Kissing Gate" is based on the way that the gate touches either side of the enclosure. Romantics may however wish to interpret the name as part of the walk instructions.

  14. Go through the gateway and through the gateway on the right of the stile on the opposite side of the track. Follow the left hedge then head for the stone stile approximately 30 metres from the corner of the field, just next to a wooden section in the fence.

    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 bleating, 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 a miscarriage. 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.

  15. If the stile is still obstructed with barbed wire, divert left through the gateway in the corner of the field, otherwise cross the stile. Once in the next field, bear right to the far right corner of the field where there is a stone stile.

    In fields with crops where the footpath doesn't run along the edge, if there is a well-trodden path then follow this to avoid trampling any more of the crops. If there appears to be no path through the crops then you do have a right to walk through the crop but stick as close as possible to the line of the path to avoid damaging any more of the crop than strictly necessary. Alternatively, you can follow around the edges of the field to avoid trudging though the crop.

  16. Cross the stile and follow the path between the fence and hedge to a wooden stile.

    Rabbits were originally from the Iberian peninsula and were brought to Britain by the Normans and kept in captivity as a source of meat and fur. Although grass is their principal natural food, rabbits are able to survive on virtually any vegetable matter and with relatively few predators, those that escaped multiplied into a sizeable wild population.

  17. Cross the stile and follow the path through the woods until it ends at a stile beside a lane.

    On the left of the stile leading onto the lane is a gate leading to a path along the river. It's quite a pretty spot if you fancy a small detour for a few photos or a picnic. Return to the gate and stile to continue the walk onto the lane ahead.

  18. Cross the stile into a lay-by beside a lane. The walk continues through the gate on the left with a Woodland Trust Welcome sign. St. Pratt's Cross and Holy Well is 100 metres up the lane on the opposite side of the bridge if you want to have a look first. Once through the gate with the Woodland Trust sign, follow the main path through the woods until you eventually reach a fork in the path with the left-hand path leading uphill.

    St Pratt's Cross lies beside the lane between Blisland and Trewint. It marks the site of St Pratt's Well which is used as the source of holy water for christenings at the parish church.

  19. Keep right at the fork to follow the path to a gate into a meadow.

    Beech bark is very delicate and does not heal easily. Consequently some graffiti carved in beech trees is still present from more than a century ago. This is a practice that should be strongly discouraged as it permanently weakens the tree, making attack by insects more likely which can prematurely end its life.

  20. Go through the gate on the right of the main gate into the meadow and head towards the metal gate on the right side of the meadow. As you approach this, bear right to the footbridge that you crossed earlier, about 20 metres to the right of the gate.

    The shady bank on the edge of the wood is colonised by mosses and liverworts.

    Around 400 million years ago, green algae made its way from the sea to the land and the first liverworts appeared. These ancient, very simple plants are still around today. DNA studies suggest that all land plants and mosses may have originally evolved from early liverworts.

    Liverworts are found in damp, shady places but form flat structures that almost resemble soft corals. Their name is based on the appearance of the leaves which was thought to resemble an animal liver. Like mosses, liverworts don't produce flowers but instead reproduce via spores.

  21. Cross the bridge and follow the path into the meadow on the other side. Head across the meadow to the gap in the hedge and keep left along the hedge to join the track uphill. Follow this back to where the footpath departs from the left.

    The wildflowers in the field provide nectar and pollen for bumblebees.

    In early spring, queen bumblebees need to visit up to 6,000 flowers per day to gather enough nectar and pollen to establish their colony. Many commercial crops such as oil seed rape flower too late for the queens so the survival of bumblebees is heavily dependent on early-flowering rough ground plants and hedgerow bushes such as blackthorn.

    In marshes, micro-organisms thrive in the wet mud and use up the supply of oxygen. To survive being partially buried in mud with low oxygen levels, many marsh plants have therefore evolved snorkels: air channels in the stem which allow oxygen to reach the base of the plant. This is why the leaves of reeds feel spongy.

  22. Bear left onto the path and follow this back to the churchyard. Exit the churchyard to the village green where you started the walk. The Community Shop (selling coffees) is along the lane to the right from the churchyard exit and the pub is on the opposite side of the green.

    Notice the sundial above the church door. This is calibrated for the position of the sun in Blisland and would run fast if taken to London. Blisland is roughly 5 degrees west of the Greenwich median and therefore the true time here is about a quarter of an hour behind GMT. It's therefore possible to arrange to meet someone at the church at a particular time, stop for a pint at the Blisland Inn on the way and technically still arrive early!

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