Callestick and Ventongimps

A circular countryside walk past the nature reserve at Ventongimps and the engine house of West Chyverton mine, with refreshment opportunities at both Callestick Farm, where you can see the ice cream being made, and Healey's Cyder Farm who offer tours and tasting.

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The route follows byways, bridleways and footpaths through woods and fields to Little Callstock. The walk then passes though the woods surrounding Chyverton Park and circles the West Chyverton Mine which once employed over 1000 people but now the tips are overgrown with wildflowers including orchids. Footpaths and lanes then lead to Callestick Farm where the ice cream is made and here there is also an optional diversion to Healey's Cyder Farm where tours of the cider-making process, museum and cellars are available. The return route is via Ventongimps, passing some small wildlife reserves.

Considerations

  • The path through the fields near Lower Ventongimps gets quite marshy after prolonged wet weather. OK in wellies though.
  • The corner of the field on the approach to direction 14 can get a bit overgrown with nettles in summer. Take a stick or something similar to clear any from the path.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104
  • Distance: 5.3 miles/8.5 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots; wellies in winter

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Insect-eating plants in the Ventongimps Moor Nature Reserve
  • Engine house, wildflowers and martian landscape of West Chyverton Mine
  • Tours and tasting at Healey's Cyder Farm
  • Watch the Ice Cream being made at Callestick Farm
  • Wildflowers and butterflies in the fields and along the lanes in Spring

Directions

  1. Facing the road, turn right and walk a few paces along the lane to where a track departs for Cotton Springs. Turn right onto the track and follow it until you reach a junction where another track departs to the right.
  2. Turn right and follow the track to where it bends to go into a field and a wooded path continues ahead.
  3. Keep left to join the wooded path and follow this to reach a waymark at a fork in the path.

    The berries of holly contain a chemical compound very similar to caffeine. Only in very small doses is this a stimulant; in larger doses it is toxic. It is for this reason that you see holly berries on bushes rather than being inside the nearest bird. The birds have learned to wait until after the frosts have reduced the toxicity of the berries before eating them.

  4. Turn left at the waymark and follow the path to a pair of footbridges at the bottom of the valley.

    The bright orange colour of the water in the brook could be the result of water seeping from a nearby mine.

    When the acidic solution containing dissolved metals from mines (known as Acidic Mine Drainage) meets other water, it is diluted and the reduced acidity causes dissolved iron to precipitate out as orange or yellow hydroxides, colouring the water and sticking to anything in the watercourse. In the case of copper mines, copper stays dissolved in the water and at higher levels this can be toxic to wildlife, particularly fish.

    Where there is a large amount of water coming from a mine which is not rendered harmless by natural dilution, reed beds have been found to be very effective in treating the acidic water. Plants and bacteria in the reed bed convert the dissolved metals into insoluble compounds that are trapped within the reed bed. There are even suggestions that the metals may be commercially recoverable after they have been concentrated in the reed bed over a period of time.

  5. Cross the left (waymarked) footbridge and follow the path along the bank. Ignore the gap leading through the bank and continue ahead to reach stone wall with some blocks protruding. Climb over the wall and continue to reach a stile into a field.
  6. Cross the stile and head across the field to a gate to the left of the line of trees opposite.

    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.

    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.
  7. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the track along the right hedge to reach a gate in the far hedge.

    Evidence of windmills in England dates from around the 12th century and in Cornwall there are records of windmills as far back as 1296. Wind turbines may be viewed as the modern successor but actually themselves date back to Victorian times: the first large windmill to generate electricity was built in 1888 in the USA, and in Cornwall, a private house was lit using electricity generated by a wind turbine in 1890.

  8. Go through the pedestrian gate and turn right onto the lane. When you reach a signpost, follow the lane around a bend to the right and then continue until the lane ends in a T-junction.

    Navelwort grows on the vertical faces of the roadside banks as you descend the hill.

    The succulent leaves of navelwort can be eaten and used in a salad. Older leaves become more bitter so the younger leaves are recommended. Care should be taken not to pull roots out of wall when breaking off leaves.

  9. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane a few paces to a track between two wooden gates on the right. Follow the track until you reach a junction.

    On the opposite side of the lane is Chyverton Park.

    Chyverton Park includes a house and landscaped garden both created in the 18th Century, replacing an earlier house and garden. The gardens are planted with 200 species of magnolia, making it one of the largest collections in Cornwall.

  10. Keep right to follow the track around the bend and continue to a junction. Keep right at the junction and follow the track until you reach to a public footpath signpost, beside the engine house.

    In the second half of the 19th century, West Chyverton mine employed over a thousand people and produced around 45,000 tons of lead ore in the period 1859-86. The ore contained 45 oz. silver to each ton of lead. Refining the silver was profitable at levels above 5oz per ton, but at this level, the silver was worth as much as the lead that it was separated from. The ore also contained high levels of zinc and when lead prices fell in the 1870s, this became the primary product of the mine. Small pieces of the lead ore can still be found on the tips and along the byway.

  11. Continue ahead on the track and follow it until you reach a fork.

    The footpath on the right leads to the engine house and the bizarre landscape of the mine tips, some parts of which have been colonised by vegetation including some nice orchids. The bare parts form a sandstone canyon that looks like something from Colorado or the Australian Outback and has to be one of the most eccentric landscapes in Cornwall.

  12. Turn left at the fork and follow the track to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a gate on the right with a stony area in front.

    If you see large birds of prey circling over the valley, they are almost certainly buzzards.

    The majority of buzzards diet is earthworms and carrion and consequently they have a reputation for being lazy and scavengers. However, when they need to be, buzzards are formidable predators. Diving on rabbits and small mammals from a slow or hovering flight, or from a perch, they nearly always make the kill on the ground.

  13. Continue on the lane a few paces past the gate to reach a path through the bushes on the right leading to a series of stone footholds down a high wall (with dogs, the gate might be a necessary alternative to bypass the long drop). Descend into the field and follow along the left hedge of the field to reach the bottom. Then cross the overgrown area to a wooden gate on the far side.

    The farmland in this area with trees along the field boundaries provides an idea habitat for magpies.

    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. Go through the gate and head straight across the field to a gate in the middle of the opposite hedge.

    Where an electric fence crosses a footpath, it should either be covered by an insulating sheath (e.g. on stiles) or there should be a section that unclips with insulating plastic handles to allow access through. Ensure you re-clip this on passing through so animals cannot escape. The connecting cord/spring between the handles is often conducting so avoid touching this and be aware of any dangling rucksack straps.

  15. As you approach the gate, turn left to stay in the field and follow along the hedge to reach another gateway in the corner.

    The small stream along the right-hand side of the field is fed by a lake which you'll encounter shortly. In the fields behind the stream was a lead and silver mine known as Chiverton Moor Mine. There are various lumps and bumps between the fields where the the waste tips have grown over with grass and gorse.

  16. Go through the gateway and follow the track out of the field. Keep following the track to eventually emerge into a field.

    The lakes and surrounding wetlands support a range of aquatic life including dragonflies and damselflies.

    Their two sets of wings beat out of phase, and the frequency, amplitude and the angles of each set of wings can be controlled. This allows dragonflies to hover in a completely stationary position for over a minute, perform extravagant aerobatic manoeuvres and even fly backwards.

    Newts are members of the salamander family, which dates back to the Jurassic period. The newt species you are most likely to encounter in Cornwall is the palmate newt. Great crested newts aren't found in Cornwall at all. Common newts, contrary to their name, were only ever found in the far east of Cornwall and have become rarer over time. In recent years, the newt population has declined in the UK overall due to pollution and destruction of their habitat. Old farm ponds with good weed cover make good habitats as newts prefer still water to fast-flowing streams.

  17. As you emerge into the field, keep following the track alongside the right hedge to reach a gate in the far hedge. Go through this and follow the track a short distance further to reach a lane.

    Note how the trees here are sculpted by the wind. On your left the tips of the conifers all lean and the deciduous trees form "ramps" where the trees in the lee of others can each successively grow a little taller. In the right-hand hedge, straggly branches protrude across the path in the lee of the wind; on the windward side the branches are much more compact. Since the prevailing wind direction is southwesterly, it's possible to use the trees as a compass.

  18. Turn right onto the lane and follow it until you eventually reach a T-junction outside Callestick Farm (of Ice Cream fame).

    Callestick Farm near Ventongimps has been farmed by the Parker family for a number of generations and has been making ice cream since 1989. They were the first ice cream to be awarded Red Tractor status for animal welfare and land management. The small fields, wide margins and ancient hedges provide a valuable habitat for insects, small mammals and ground-nesting birds. Their ice cream is made from the milk from their small herd of dairy cows and their sorbets are made with water from a spring which rises on the farm.

  19. The walk continues to the right at the junction. Beforehand, you can make an optional diversion on the lane to the left to Healey's Cyder Farm, returning here afterwards. From the junction here, follow the lane past Callestick Farm to a crossroads.

    Healey's Cyder Farm is located near Callestick. The family-run business was established in the 1980s and is now largest cider producer in Cornwall with over 3000 apple trees. Only wind-fallen apples are used to make their cider and they have won many awards.

    Their best known cider is Cornish Rattler - a crisp cloudy cider that has a strong cult following in Cornwall with sales steadily increasing over the last few years. Rattler is distributed by St Austell Breweries and thus available on tap in many of the pubs throughout Cornwall and is now also available in bottles in many supermarkets. The "original" version is 6% and very refreshing to drink by the pint which can result in rapid onset of singing Cornish Anthems, followed not long after by loss of the ability to play the accordion to accompany said Anthems; a 4% draft version has just been released to avoid the need to go to sleep half way through the evening, or for your nominated accordion player.

    The UK produces nearly two-thirds of all cider in the European Union and by volume of alcohol, the excise duty on cider is lower than any other drink. Cider has had a huge resurgence in popularity over the last few years and three in five adults now drink it.

    Cider is part of the Westcountry heritage and this includes a tradition dating back to the early Middle Ages known as the "Orchard Wassail" where an offering of bread and cider was made to the apple trees and incantations were recited to promote a good harvest.

    Cornish ciders beginning to achieve popularly outside the county include "Cornish Rattler" from Healey's cider farm (distributed by St Austell Ales) and "Orchard Cornish" cider (a joint venture between Cornish Orchards and Sharp's Brewery). In the interests of research, both have been extensively tested and deemed very refreshing and conducive to the recital of incantations.

    Donald Healey was born in Perranporth and became famous in the 1930s as a racing driver and later as a car designer resulting in the Austin Healey sports car. During the years he lived in Perranporth he owned a number of businesses there including a garage (naturally). With the wealth that he accumulated, he bought Trebah House on the Helford River. His descendants set up and run Healey's Cyder Farm.

  20. Turn right at the crossroads and follow the lane until it ends at a junction beside a bridge.

    Ventongimps moor is one of the best places in Cornwall for damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies and moths with over 100 species being recorded. It also supports a number of rare bog plants including the sundew which catches insects on its sticky hairs which act like flypaper. It is estimated each plant catches 2000 insects per summer which are digested by the plant, providing nutrients which are scarce in the moorland peat. The boggy habitat is formed due to the layer of peat resting on a layer of clay, trapping water beneath the moor.

  21. Turn right over the bridge and follow the lane past some houses on the left including one named "foxgloves" to reach a track on the left with a Public Byway sign.

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. As an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

    Ventongimps is a name that has clearly become mangled over the years. It was once known as Fentengempes. Fenten is the Cornish word for "spring". In Cornish, words starting with a "k" often change to a "g", depending on the word in front, and therefore the second word could be a variation of kemper, which means "confluence". There is a substantial river confluence a short way to the north of the small settlement of Ventongimps so it could be a reference to that, or there are also a number of small springs that join the river.

  22. Continue on the lane until you reach the track for Cotton Springs and the lay-by just beyond this.

    Since its reintroduction, sycamore has spread widely as the seeds are extremely fertile and able to grow just about anywhere where the ground is sufficiently wet. In particular they can grow within the shade of the parent tree, creating dense cover that crowds-out other species. In some areas it is regarded as an invasive weed.

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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