Budock Water and the Lakes

A walk from what was once the parish church for Falmouth to the lakes in a river valley which the Celtic people described as secluded and where Argal Mill lies somewhere beneath the water in a Cornish version of Atlantis

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The walk starts at Budock Church and follows footpaths across the fields to reach the top of College Reservoir. The walk follows the waterside path to the other end of the lake and then continues across the dam of the Argal reservoir to reach the café. The route then passes all the way around Argal Lake before returning to Budock Water.


  • The path from Nangitha Farm is susceptible to summer vegetation growth. If you have secateurs, take them along to snip any brambles.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 6.5 miles/10.5 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots in winter

OS maps for this walk

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


  • Spectacular display of water lily flowers on College Lake in August
  • Mediaeval church at Budock Water
  • Walkway along the top of the dam at Argal Lake
  • Aquatic wildlife in the College Lake nature reserve
  • Spring flowers including primroses and bluebells along the shady paths around the lakes

Adjoining walks


  1. Turn right out of the car park and follow the road a short distance to where a footpath departs from the right opposite Eglos Farmhouse. Bear right onto the footpath and follow this parallel to the road to reach a footpath sign on the right opposite wooden railings on the left.

    The church in Budock Water dates from the 13th Century with a rebuild during the 15th Century. The churchyard itself is thought to date back to the times of the Celtic saint Budock in AD 470, also associated with St Budeaux in Plymouth.

  2. Continue on the footpath until you reach a second wooden railing on the left just after the start of a wire fence on the right.

    Ivy has two types of roots. The "normal" roots extend in to the soil and collect nutrients. At intervals along the climbing stems there are also aerial roots which attach the plant to a surface. As they come into contact with a surface, the roots change shape to anchor the plant. They then produce hairs that wedge into any crevices. The roots also exude a chemical compound which acts as a glue.

  3. Turn left through the railing to reach the road. Carefully cross the road and take the track directly ahead with a Nangitha Farm sign (ignore the footpath to the right over the stile). Follow the track to reach an area with buildings.

    In pre-industrial times, cattle were allowed to roam over quite large areas and could therefore find a suitable tree to relieve an itch. In the Victorian period, farming became more intensive and cattle were moved into enclosed fields. It was quickly discovered that an itchy cow could wreak havoc with walls and fences so dedicated rubbing stones were positioned in the centre of some fields to minimise cow damage. In some cases, new stones were quarried specifically for the purpose and others, existing prehistoric standing stones or even Celtic crosses were unceremoniously re-used.

  4. As the buildings come into view, keep right to follow the concrete track leading uphill. Keep following the track to reach a waymark beside a gate and stile on the right.

    The footpath is the remains of a mediaeval cart road, beside which there was once a cross. At one time Nangitha Lane, as it was known, was described as "a good road with pavement along one side".

  5. Continue further on the track from the waymark until it ends in a gate and a path continues from the left over a stone stile.

    If you have secateurs, use them to snip off as many brambles and blackthorn saplings as you can along this section and the next one. As the woody growth is snipped away, the greener growth can be more easily squished by passing walking boots. If you don't have secateurs, you can still make a positive difference by bashing any nettles with a stick.

  6. Cross the stile on the left of the gate and follow the path to a metal kissing gate beside a farm gate.

    Barbed wire was first used in Victorian times with several different people independently inventing and patenting different designs. Modern barbed wire is made from steel which is then galvanised to prevent it rusting (at least until the zinc coating dissolves away). The barbed wire used for fencing is often made of high-tensile (springy) steel which is suited to being laid in long, continuous lengths. As it is forbidden by the Highways Act of 1980 for barbed wire to block a Public Right of Way, one practical solution used by farmers is to put a plastic sheath over the barbed wire where it passes over a stile. In the rare circumstance that you encounter exposed barbed wire on a stile, the most likely cause for this is mischievous cattle pulling off the plastic sheaths; let the Countryside Team know and they can alert the landowner.

  7. Go through the kissing gate and cross the field to the stile opposite.

    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. 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:


    • 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).


    • 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.
  8. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow along the right hedge to the corner of the field and turn left to keep following along the right hedge. Continue to reach a stone stile just after passing a gateway.

    A mediaeval leper hospital (known as a "lazar house") was located in the field. There are no visible remains but it may be the reason that two footpaths meet here. The name of one of the fields also suggests there may have been a chapel associated with it.

  9. Cross the stile and cross the field to a stile roughly a third of the way along the far hedge from the right-hand corner.

    Whereas many plants rely mainly on bitter chemicals to avoid being eaten by herbivores, thistles have gone one step further and evolved spikes. Despite this, the plants are still eaten by the caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly as they are rich in nutrients. The non-spiky areas of the plant such as the stem and leaf ribs can be eaten (with extreme care to avoid ingesting any harmful spikes) by people too: the ribs from the middle of the leaves are still harvested and sold in markets in some parts of the world. The flowers are rich in nectar and provide an important food source for bees and butterflies.

    The association of good luck with four-leafed clover was first recorded in Victorian times (1860s-1870s) so may be a relatively recent invention. Perhaps something that occupied children for hours was seen as good luck in Victorian times!

    A survey of over 5 million clover leaf found that the frequency of four-leaf clovers is about one in 5,000 (twice as common as originally thought).

    The world record for collecting four leaf clovers in one hour was set at 166 (in 1998). One very determined collector managed to amass 170,000 four-leafed clovers in a lifetime.

  10. Cross the stile and carefully cross the road to the track opposite to Tregonhaye. Follow the track to reach a farmyard.

    The first record of Tregonhay is from 1350. Other then Tre (meaning farmstead) the origin of the name is not known. Because it's based on the Cornish language, it is thought that the settlement was probably in existence during the Dark Ages prior to the Norman Conquest.

  11. Continue ahead through the farmyard, passing through any gates to reach 3 gates leading in different directions at the far end.
  12. Go through the gate ahead onto the concrete track and follow this downhill to reach another gate.

    In August, blackberries start to ripen on brambles.

    To make blackberry wine, combine 2kg blackberries + 4 litres of boiling water in a plastic container with a lid. Once the water has cooled to lukewarm, mash blackberries and add red wine yeast and pectic enzyme (blackberries are high in pectin so this is needed to stop the wine being cloudy). Cover for 4-5 days then strain through muslin.

    Transfer the liquid to a demijohn and add 1kg of sugar. Top up with a little more water to make it up to a gallon. After fermentation, the wine should clear by itself; in the unlikely event that it doesn't, use some finings. Rack off from the sediment and bottle; it's worth allowing the wine a year or two to mature as it massively improves with age. As a variation, you can add 500g of elderberries and increase the sugar content for a more port-like wine which will need a couple of years longer for the elderberry tannins to mellow out.

  13. Go through the gate (or the climb the stile to the right if closed) and follow the left hedge of the field downhill to reach a line of trees on the left near the bottom. Continue to roughly half-way along these then turn right to cross the contour of the hill to reach a path running parallel to the fence.

    The magpie is believed to be one of the most intelligent of all animals. The area of its brain used for higher cognitive function is approximately the same in its relative size as in chimpanzees and humans. Magpies can count, imitate human voices and have been observed regularly using tools to keep their cages clean. In the wild, they form gangs and use complex social strategies for hunting and tackling predators. It has even been suggested that magpies may feel complex emotions, including grief.

  14. Follow the path parallel to the fence towards the far side of the field until you can see a wooden stile in the fence, then make for this.

    The bramble is a member of the rose family, and the roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!) and can root to form daughter plants. In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers. The flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen) as well as through pollen being transferred by insects from other plants. The word "bramble" comes from bræmaz - a word of Germanic origin meaning "prickly".

  15. Cross the stile and follow the path to the left of the tree down to the track (the path to the right has a drop at the end). Bear right across the track to the waymark then turn left at the waymark to pass between the boulders and reach some steps by the wooden fence. Go down the steps and up the steps on the other side to reach a concrete footbridge (don't cross it).

    The reservoirs are based on a small river which has its source at Longdowns and runs along a fairly deep valley, reaching the sea at Glasney Creek in Penryn.

  16. Continue uphill towards the dam from the first footbridge and go up the steps to reach a second footbridge. Cross this one to join the path around the reservoir. Follow this for about a mile and then pass through a pedestrian gate to reach a road.

    College Reservoir is the earlier and smaller of the two reservoirs in the valley. It was completed in 1906 and has a capacity of just under a quarter of a million litres. The walkway along one side of College Reservoir was repaired and reopened in 2012 after it been closed for over 12 years.

  17. Carefully cross the road to the remains of a junction opposite and follow the narrow path leading from the wooden barrier on the left side to emerge next to the dam of Argal Reservoir.

    In 1939, South West Water work began to dam the river to create a reservoir for public water supply. The concrete dam on Argal Lake was completed in 1941 and at full capacity, the lake holds 1.3 billion litres of water. South West Water still own Argal and College lakes but lease them to the Southwest Lakes Trust.

  18. Turn right to follow the path across the top of the dam to the other side.

    Mabe parish church dates from the 14th Century but the church was largely re-built in 1869, after being struck by lightning. The churchyard is on the site of an earlier Celtic religious enclosure. The churchyard contains a mediaeval cross and a standing stone inscribed in the mediaeval period but thought to have been erected originally during prehistoric times.

  19. Follow the path leading from the dam to emerge in a gravel area and continue ahead to reach a tarmacked road.

    Although most primroses tend to be pale yellow, in residential areas, extensive hybridisation occurs with pink and purple garden primulas to create all kinds of weird and wonderful mutants, with some even shaped like cowslips. However there is a pale pink variety of primrose (known as rhubarb and custard) that is thought to be a naturally-occurring variant of the pale yellow (rhubarb-free) version as it has been found miles away from any domestic plants.

  20. Bear right across the road to the main car park and walk to the far end of the car park to locate a path on the left marked "Round Reservoir walk" (not the one by the café).

    Beneath the water of Argal Lake lies Argal Mill. The mill was shown existing on an OS Map of 1938, the year before the river was dammed, although it had not been in use since 1878.

  21. Follow the path, keeping left at any major junctions to go all the way around the reservoir and return to the dam, where there is a wooden gate leading to the road on the right.

    Swans usually mate for life, although "divorce" can sometimes occur if there is a nesting failure. The birds can live for over 20 years but in the 20th Century many swans were found to be suffering from lead poisoning. This was tracked down to the tiny "lead shot" weights used for fishing that swans would hoover up with weed and roots from the bottom of rivers and lakes. Since the introduction of non-toxic metals for making fishing weights, incidents of poisoning have disappeared and the swan population is now even growing very slightly.

  22. Go through the wooden gate on the right and carefully cross the road to the Public Bridleway opposite. Follow this uphill to meet a lane.

    In the 1990s, a process was put in place to transfer the leisure activities managed by South West Water to a new charity. The South West Lakes Trust was formed in 2000 and looks after the following lakes in Cornwall: Argal, College, Crowdy, Porth, Siblyback, Stithians and Tamar. The trust now also includes the Wheal Martin china clay museum.

  23. Continue ahead onto the lane and keep following it until it eventually ends in a T-junction.

    The settlement of Argal takes its name from the Cornish word argel meaning "secluded place". Usually, place names that derive from the Cornish language date from a period when this was spoken by the land-owning classes, i.e. in early mediaeval times before the French-speaking Normans took control. However, in this case there are no records of the name from mediaeval times but this could be simply because Argal was so secluded!

  24. Carefully cross the road to the stone stile opposite and climb this. The metal gate (just about) opens so you can squeeze out to the right. Once in the field, follow the left hedge to reach a stone stile on the far hedge, just to the left of the gateway.

    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.

  25. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and follow the right hedge to reach a metal gate in front of a stile roughly 20 metres from the corner of the field.

    The UK is one of the windiest places in Europe and considered as one of the best places in the world for wind power. Over 10% of the UK's energy already comes from wind power (which rises to around 40% during windy months) and it is now one of the cheapest sources of electricity. Wind turbines last for about 20-25 years until the moving parts wear out and they need to be replaced.

  26. Cross the stile and cross the small field to the metal gate opposite.

    Studies have shown that crows are capable of self-discipline. If offered one piece of food now or two later, the crows will resist temptation and wait. However if the initial piece of food is a high value item such as sausage, they won't take the risk.

  27. Go through the kissing gate and follow the track to the gate and stile.

    You now have an opportunity to admire your secateurs handiwork and snip off any naughty brambles that escaped before.

  28. Cross the stile and follow the track the length of the field on the right until you reach a stone stile (easily missed) in the hedge on the right just before the next field.
  29. Cross the stile on the right and follow the path along the edge of the field to reach a pedestrian gate.
  30. Go through the gate and down the steps to a driveway. Bear right a few paces to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it downhill until it ends in a T-junction with the main road.

    Earliest records of the parish of Budock are from 1207. The "water" was appended to indicate the village was near a stream (as with Chacewater and Canworthy Water).

  31. Carefully cross the road to the public footpath opposite. Follow the path uphill until it emerges onto another path.

    Ferns evolved a long time before flowering plants and dominated the planet during the Carboniferous period. The bark from tree ferns during this period is thought to have been the main source of the planet's coal reserves.

    Ferns lack seeds as well as flowers and reproduce via tiny spores which are most commonly distributed by the wind. This allows them to colonise some quite random places.

  32. Turn left and follow the path uphill to reach the church.

    During the spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks.

    The plants get their name due to their triangular flower stems. As the name also suggests, they are members of the onion family and have a small bulb. In fact, in New Zealand they are known as "onion weed".

    Hazelnuts can be found beneath the trees in October and are a favourite with squirrels so you'll need to forage those that haven't already been nibbled. Once harvested, the nuts need to dried before shelling and eating. Wash and dry the nuts first to reduce the chance of them going mouldy. Then lay them out on something where the air can circulate and dry them for 2-4 weeks. An airing cupboard is a good place. You can tell that they are ready when the nuts rattle in their shells. Once shelled, the nuts can be stored in a fridge or even frozen for a couple of years.

  33. Turn left and follow along the wall of the churchyard, around the corner to the right to return to the car park.

    According to folklore, it's unlucky to bring bluebells into a house and also unlucky to walk through bluebells as it was thought that the little bells would ring and summon fairies and goblins.

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

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