Camelford Way circular walk

The Camelford Way

A short and easy circular walk from Camelford along the wildflower-rich meadows of the River Camel to the clapper bridge at Fenteroon, returning through the fields with views over the Camel Valley.

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The walk enters Camelford's market square and then follows a footpath to the River Camel. The route then follows the river along a wooded valley to Fenteroon Bridge. The return route is on footpaths through fields and finally passing along Camelford's high street.

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This is a lovely, gentle country walk.
A lovely little walk.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 1.8 miles/2.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 109 OS Explorer 109 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • The old market town of Camelford
  • Pretty riverside scenery along the River Camel
  • Wild garlic and bluebells at Fenteroon Bridge in spring
  • Views across the Camel Valley from the fields around Fenteroon Farm

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Darlington Inn
  • The Masons Arms

Directions

  1. From the car park, turn right onto Market Place, towards the main village. Cross the road at the traffic lights so that you are on the same side of the road as the Mason's Arms. Continue up the street until you reach the alleyway marked "Riverside walk" immediately before the Needle and Thread shop.

    Camelford is a market town on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Camelford gained its status as a town in 1259 after being granted its first Charter by King Henry III. In the town centre, the library was once the Town Hall; the cobbled area that it stands in used to be the market square. Camelford Town hall was erected in 1806 over the Market House, where in the early 1800s, a wife could be bought for 2-3 shillings!

    More about wife selling in Cornwall.

  2. Turn left down the alleyway marked "Riverside walk" and follow the footpath along the river to a footbridge.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay, making it the longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar.

    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".

  3. Cross the bridge and follow the path on the other side of the river to another footbridge.

    There are a few different species of buttercup. One of most common is meadow buttercup (unsurprisingly found in meadows!) which is the tallest member of the family. Another common one is creeping buttercup which as the name suggests spreads through rhizomes so is more likely to be found in dense clumps in damp places. Its leaves are also more golden and glossy.

    Wagtails are easily recognised from the tail pumping behaviour that their name suggests. Despite being very conspicuous, the function of this curious behaviour is not well understood. It is possibly a signal to predators that the wagtail has seen them, so there's no point trying anything.

    Two of the wagtail species are easy to confuse as they are both grey and yellow.

    Grey wagtails nest close to fast-running streams as they feed on aquatic invertebrates. They have pink (skin-coloured) legs.

    Yellow wagtails are more often found in open fields and have black legs.

    The third kind of wagtail more often seen in urban environments - the pied wagtail - is easy to distinguish due to the lack of yellow: it's entirely black-and-white.

  4. Cross the bridge to return to the other side of the river and continue downriver to a pedestrian gate.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

    Kingfishers are found near slow-moving or still water where they dive to catch fish, as their name implies, but they also eat many aquatic insects, ranging from dragonfly nymphs to water beetles.

    The Kingfisher is able to switch between light receptors in the main central area of its eye and a forward-facing set when it enters water, allowing it to judge distances accurately underwater. It is estimated that a female needs to eat over twice her own body weight in order to increase her condition sufficiently for egg laying.

    The unmistakable metallic blue and orange birds fly fast and low over the surface of the water so may only be apparent as a blue flash. The pigment in their feathers is actually brown but the microstructure of their features results in light interference patterns which generate the brilliant iridescent blue and orange colours. Unfortunately the result, during Victorian times, was that kingfishers were extensively killed for display in glass cases and for use in hat making. The population has since recovered and is now limited by the availability of suitable waterways.

  5. Go through the pedestrian gate and pass a bridge. Continue downriver past the water treatment works to reach a bypassed iron kissing gate.

    Mosses' lack of deep roots mean they need to store their own supply of water during dry periods which is why they are found in shady places that are not dried-out by the sun. This also applies to moss on trees - it rarely grows on the south-facing part of the trunk which can be used as a crude form of compass when navigating.

  6. Pass around the gate to enter the meadow and follow the path to reach a wooden kissing gate.

    From April to June, white flowers of Greater Stitchwort can be seen along hedgerows and paths. The petals are quite distinctive as each one is split almost all the way to create pairs - most of the flowers typically have 5 pairs. The name comes from alleged powers to cure an exercise-induced stitch. Other common names include Star-of-Bethlehem (due to the shape and perhaps Easter flowering time) and Poor Man's Buttonhole for budget weddings. It is also known as Wedding Cakes but that may be more due to the colour than anticipation of what a buttonhole might lead to. The seed capsules can sometimes be heard bursting open in the late spring sunshine which gives rise to another name: Popguns.

    Trout are members of Salmon family who all have an extra tiny (adipose) fin on their back towards their tail, that most other fish don't have. No-one is quite sure what the purpose is of this fin but a neural network in the fin indicates that it has some kind of sensory function.

    The native trout in the UK is not the trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock (the Rainbow Trout, which has red flush along its side and is native to North America), but the Brown Trout which has well-defined dark red spots along its sides. You can often make out the spots when you see them lying in pools. Rainbow Trout are often stocked in fishing lakes so do sometimes escape into the wild.

    Small trout typically feed on invertebrates whereas larger trout generally feed on other fish but have been known to eat anything of a suitable size unlucky enough to fall into a river. In fact in New Zealand, mouse-shaped lures are sold for trout fishing!

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path to the remains on an iron kissing gate.

    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.

    Willow trees are usually found in wet places including riverbanks and waterlogged ground. Common species include grey willow and goat willow but these often hybridise so they are more often known by the more broad-brush collective term "pussy willows" (due their catkins). In January the fluffy, grey male catkins appear and and turn bright yellow in March when they release their pollen. Then in April, the fertilised female catkins develop into woolly seeds. In early May, air can be filled with the downy seeds that look a bit like dandelion seeds.

  8. Go through the remains of the gate and continue on the path through the meadow (the path along the riverbank rejoins it further along). Continue on the path until it ends in some steps up to a road beside an iron railing.

    The yellow water iris (also known as yellow flag) is a native plant but can become invasive and have a negative effect on biodiversity due to its ability to out-compete many other water plants. It is thought by some to be the original plant on which the "fleur-de-lis" heraldic symbol is based.

    If heavy metals are present in the soil, the plant is quite effective at absorbing these. This together with its aptitude for growing in pools of shallow water makes it potentially useful for detoxifying mine drainage.

    Common valerian is a tall, upright plant with pink flowers that likes damp ground. It can reach 5-6ft high in sheltered places but in harsher environments such as the coast it's generally 2-3ft tall. The flowers have a pleasant scent and their nectar attracts butterflies.

    Due to some very unfortunate naming, there is potential for confusion with red valerian which is both more common in Cornwall and, despite its name, is most often actually pink (although sometimes red or white). If it grows in a wall or hangs out from a verge, or has profuse flowers, or is in flower before June, it's red valerian (even if it's pink or white). If it grows in a damp place and is upright with pale pink flowers in spaced-out flattish clusters a bit like cow parsley, then you've found some not-so-common common valerian.

    Valerian root has been used for centuries in herbal remedies to promote sleep. Some scientific analysis has been done on a subset of the broad range of chemical compounds that it contains and an effect is considered plausible although there is not yet any strong clinical evidence to support this. However, the smell of valerian's essential oil is less likely to promote sleep, described as "unwashed feet" or "well-matured cheese".

    Valerian root also seems to be an attractant to cats in a similar way to catnip. Perhaps it should be called "catnap"?

    Water pepper, as the name implies, grows on wet ground such as on the margins of lakes. The plant has a number of common names including "smartarse". As Emma Gunn points out in her foraging book "Never Mind the Burdocks", this is nothing to do with being clever: in the past, the dried leaves were added to bedding to drive away fleas etc. and the name comes from rolling over on a leaf in the wrong way. The leaves can be used as a herb and have have a lemony flavour similar to sorrel followed by heat which is a little like chilli.

    The species of duck that you're most likely to encounter is the mallard. Mature males have striking iridescent green heads and dark bodies whilst females look totally different - a brown and white pattern which offers much better camouflage. However, both have a common feature that is unique to mallards - an iridescent blue patch on their wings.

  9. Turn right and follow the lane uphill until you reach a set of steps on the right with an iron railing.

    Fenteroon Bridge is a very sturdy version of an ancient form of bridge known as a Clapper Bridge built out of granite slabs spanning piers in the river. The exact age is not known though it is estimated to be some time in the 17th or 18th centuries as the engineering is impressively heavyweight and this has allowed it to be adapted for use as a road bridge. The strong bridge would have allowed heavy loads to be brought from the moorland villages into Camelford for sale in the market.

  10. Climb the steps and follow the driveway ahead, marked with a public footpath sign, to reach a pair of waymarked steps on your left just past the field gate.

    In spring, the woods either side of the lane are carpeted in wild garlic

    Like its domesticated relatives, wild garlic grows from a bulb. To distinguish it from other wild plants from the onion/garlic family (such as the three-cornered leek), the species sometimes just called "wild garlic" (Allium ursinum) is often known by the name ramsons or broad-leaf garlic. The scientific name (meaning bear leek) is because the bulbs are thought to be a favourite food of brown bears on the European mainland.

    In the other direction, the lane leads up onto the edge of Bodmin Moor where streams and Crowdy Reservoir feed into the River Camel.

    In 1988 at the water treatment works at Crowdy Reservoir, aluminium sulphate (which is used in very small quantities to remove suspended particles as part of the water treatment process) was accidentally poured from a tanker into the wrong hatch. Rather than going into a storage tank it went directly into the drinking water for 20,000 - 30,000 people and resulted in Britain's worst mass poisoning incident. One the contamination was discovered, the water supply was flushed into rivers feeding into the River Camel which resulting in the deaths of 60,000 salmon and trout. Fortunately the fish population has recovered since then and the Camel river system now has very good water quality and fish stocks.

  11. Climb the steps and follow the path between the fences and then continue along the fence on the left to an iron kissing gate.

    The settlement of Fenteroon is likely to date from early mediaeval times and records have been found as far back as the 13th Century. The name is from the Cornish word fenten meaning "spring". The name today would strongly suggest an overall meaning of "moorland spring" but in 1292 it was recorded as Fentenwenweht which makes this less certain. The current house is thought to date from the 19th Century and is depicted on the 1st edition OS map from the 1880s

  12. Go through the iron kissing gate and cross the field to another iron kissing gate in the top corner of the hedge ahead.

    Climate change presents some problems for bees. High summer temperatures can cause bees to overheat and become lethargic, unable to cover such a wide range to reach nectar and pollen. In spring, there is a risk that warmer temperatures could cause the hatching of bees to fall out of sync with the flowering of certain plants so that important food sources are not available when they are needed.

    Clover is a native plant and a member of the legume (pea and bean) family. It is also sown as a fodder crop and as "green manure" as it improves soil fertility. The two most common species are known simply as white clover and red clover, based on the colour of their flowers, with the latter generally being a slightly larger plant. Red clover leaves also have a white V shape.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to the remains of an iron kissing gate.

    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.
  14. Go through the remains of the kissing gate and follow the left hedge to a gateway.

    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. The plant was known in Cornwall during Victorian times as "green sauce".

    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.

    The fields on the opposite side of Camel Valley are used for grazing.

    Since 1984, the European Common Market agricultural policy to restrict milk production has reduced dairy herds and prompted shifts to beef and lamb production, and arable crops such as maize and oilseed rape. Two large buyers of Cornish milk - Rodda's for their clotted cream and Diary Crest for the production of Davidstow and Cathedral City cheeses - have helped to buffer the Cornish dairy industry from this to some degree. Post-Brexit and also in response to the risk from pandemics, there is speculation that Britain may become more agriculturally self-sufficient which could change the dynamics once again.

    The rocky hill in the distance is Roughtor.

  15. Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge to join a path which emerges onto the road.

    Camelford's parish church is roughly a mile to your left, nearly half-way between Camelford and St Teath. This is likely to have been a contributing factor to the popularity of Methodism here in the 18th and 19th Centuries. By the mid-19th Century, Camelford had three active methodist chapels.

    Methodist services were held in the cottages which was attractive to women who needed to look after young children, and in the many villages where the parish church was more than a mile away or at the top of a steep hill. This helped to make Methodism very popular in Cornwall and through the late 18th and the 19th Century, many chapels were built in the centre of the villages.

  16. Turn right and follow the pavement back into Camelford to reach a junction with Anvil Road.

    Unfortunately Victorian Methodism didn't offer much improvement in terms of romance over buying wives in the market house.

    Documented in 1865, the following was supposedly an old Cornish tradition:

    To Choose a Wife: Ascertain the date of the month of the young woman's birth, and refer to the last chapter of Proverbs in the Bible. Each verse from 1st to the 31st is supposed to indicate, either directly or indirectly, the character, and to guide the searcher - the verse corresponding with her birth date indicating the woman's character.

    However, it's probable the rural traditions involving copious amounts of ale and cider have a much longer heritage and were possibly more conducive to wedlock.

  17. Cross over the junction and continue on the pavement down the hill and past the Mason's Arms to the pedestrian crossing. Cross here and turn right to return to the car park.

    By 1327 it is thought that there were probably three mills in Camelford including the corn mill on Mill Lane. Water was brought to this via a leat which survives as a large earthwork in the park. After powering the water wheel, water from the tail race was piped underground back the river near the bridge. The original mediaeval mill building is thought to have been rebuilt some time in the 18th or 19th Century.

    The long building opposite the car park now used for shops is reported to have had a number of uses. At one point it was the town jail. During the First World War, it was used as a cheese factory. Later during the 20th Century it was used as an army barracks and nursing home.

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