Crowan to Clowance Estate circular walk

Crowan to Clowance Estate

A circular walk in the parish of Crowan from the church to the Clowance Estate - the mansion of the St Aubyn Baronets until the fifth Baronet failed to produce a legitimate heir due to his 15 children all being born to women not married to him.

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The walk leaves Crowan alongside the old Helston railway and passes through Crenver Grove to reach the 18th Century wall surrounding the Clowance Estate. The route follows the wall past Clowance Wood and then skirts along the edges of estate woodlands to reach the mansion and gardens before returning to the church.

Considerations

  • After prolonged wet weather, the track to South Trenoweth Farm can flood to a depth where wellies are needed.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103,104
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots in summer; wellies in winter (to wade through flooded track)

OS maps for this walk

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Highlights

  • A pretty, tranquil area of Cornwall away from the summer crowds
  • Woodland wildlife

Directions

  1. With your back to the church, bear right onto the road. Follow this downhill until just past Manor Mill Cottage you reach a public footpath sign on the left, before the road passes under a railway arch.

    The church at Crowan dates from Norman times although only a few bits of the original Norman stonework remain. The church was rebuilt in the 15th Century. In the 18th Century, so many miners had moved to the parish that the church needed an extension and the south aisle was built. In the 19th Century, the church underwent a fairly heavy restoration resulting in what can be seen today. The bowl of the font is from the original Norman church. The base of the font (with lion feet) dates from mediaeval times.

    The small stream that powered Manor Mill is the beginnings of the River Hayle. The river's source is on the downs just outside Crowan.

  2. Turn left at the footpath sign and cross the stile into the field. Follow all the way along the right hedge to a stile in the opposite corner.

    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.
  3. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to a wooden gate in the opposite hedge.

    The reason that you can cut yourself on a blade of grass is that grass leaves contain minute particles of silica (glass). As well as deterring some animals from grazing, these particles also help to give the stems more rigidity.

  4. Go through the gate and bear right to meet the right hedge and follow this to a wooden stile in the opposite hedge.

    Crows are omnivores and their ability to eat anything from animal feed to potato chips has allowed them to capitalise on food sources created by humans. Their problem-solving skills also allow them to access food that less savvy animals cannot, for example tugging on bin liners and tucking each fold under their feet to raise the contents of waste bins in motorway service stations.

  5. Cross the stile and follow the path to meet a track. Turn right onto the track and follow it under the bridge. Continue to reach a gate into a farmyard.

    The Helston Railway was completed in 1887, connecting Helston to the West Cornwall Railway from Penzance to Truro. The railway closed for passengers in 1962 and was used for goods for two further years until it closed entirely. The track was lifted within a year of it closing.

  6. Go through the gate into the farmyard and continue ahead to the gate and stile on the far side. Cross the stile and follow the track until it ends on a road.

    The first record of the settlement of South Trenowth is from 1302 as Trenowyth Tyrel. The meaning of the second part isn't obvious - it could be a personal name - but it does indicate that there were already two Trenowth settlements in the 14th Century that needed a suffix to distinguish them. Trenowth means "new farm" in Cornish, although it was probably "new" some time over 1000 years ago in the Early Middle Ages.

  7. Carefully cross the road to the other side signposted "Drym" and "Horsedowns" and bear right to the wooden gate into the woods. Go through the gap on the right of the gate and follow along the fence on the left to reach an information board about the woods.

    Crenver Grove is thought to have been planted around 1785 at the same time the estate wall was built. A map from 1748 shows the area still as rough ground without trees and the mix of trees (including beech, chestnut and oak) is also typical of Cornish parklands in the 18th Century. It is possible that the grove was planted to blot out the workings of the mines just beyond so their unsightly appearance would not interfere with the view from the Clowance Estate!

    Crenver Grove is now managed by the Sustainable Trust - a small charity based in West Cornwall formed in 2002. The woodland at Crenver Grove is used to train Forest School practitioners.

  8. Pass through the gap between the gate and information board and keep right at the fork to enter an area with benches and follow the middle path leading ahead. Make your way through the woods on the major paths, keeping left at any junctions to aim for the back-left and reach the only exit - an arched gap in the stone wall with a metal bollard.

    The 18th Century estate wall is five miles long and was built (probably by miners) during a period of famine arising from the "boom and bust" mining economy. The estate included a deer park so as well as the wall being a status symbol, part of its role would have been to contain the deer.

  9. Exit the woods through the archway and turn right onto the road. Follow it until you reach a junction to the right with a weak bridge sign.

    During the 19th Century, and quite probably before, the area of mine workings operated on the apposite side of the road from Crenver Grove.

    Crenver Mine and adjacent Wheal Abraham operated together between 1815 and 1870 and over 100,000 tons of copper ore were extracted in this period. The mines were owned by the St Aubyn family from the Clowance Estate.

    The first record of the place name Crenver is from 1284 as Kaergenever. The first part of the name is from the Cornish word for fort and no-one is sure what the rest of the name refers to. There are well-preserved Iron Age hillforts nearby so it seems likely that one of these is the origin of the name.

  10. Turn right onto the lane and follow it for just over three quarters of a mile - down the valley and up the other side, Continue until you reach Clowance Wood Farm (on the left) with wooden gates opposite (on the right).

    One of the houses by the junction was originally the mine offices.

    Most 19th Century mines had an office building for the accountant (purser) and the managerial staff. The purser was often one of the mine's investors (known at the time as "adventurers", and today as "venture capitalists"). The office building was known as a "count house" (from "account houses") and is where shareholder meetings and sometimes extravagant dinners were held and, on a more day-to-day basis, the workers were paid.

  11. Go through the rightmost of the gates on the right and follow the grassy track which narrows into a page between hedges. Continue on the path until it ends in a field.

    Green dock beetles can sometimes be seen on dock plants. They have a metallic shimmer which can produce colours of gold, blue, purple, violet or red in sunlight. The sheen is produced by a stack of microscopic reflective layers which create interference patterns in light causing different colours to appear at different angles. As the beetles mature, melanin (the "sun tan" chemical produced in humans to protect skin from the sun) pigments the layers and causes them to become reflective.

  12. Once in the field, turn right and follow the right hedge past a gateway with granite posts to reach an opening leading into the woods.

    There are nearly 400 miles of public bridleway in Cornwall, marked with blue waymarks, which are also open to horses and cyclists, although there is no obligation to make them navigable by any means other than on foot. The general public are also legally entitled to drove livestock along public bridleways, and although Cornwall has more than its share of eccentrics, this is something we've yet to see.

  13. Go through the gap and follow the track ahead leading along the edge of the woods until it emerges on another track by a field entrance.

    The high levels of tannins in oak make large amounts of oak leaves or acorns poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep, and even goats, but not to pigs as they were domesticated from wild boar which were adapted to foraging in the oak forests, like deer. Acorns were also eaten by people in times of famine. The acorns were soaked in water first to leech out the bitter tannins and could then be made into flour.

  14. By the field entrance, bear left to follow the track a short distance to a junction of tracks with a metal gate ahead leading into a field. Continue ahead into the field and follow along the left hedge to reach a gateway at the far side.

    To discourage herbivores from eating them, nettles leaves have tiny spikes which inject a stinging venom. The myth that nettle stings are caused by acid is one that needs debunking as the formic acid in nettle venom is at a concentration that is too low to cause a sting. It is actually a combination of neurotransmitters (histamine, serotonin and acetylcholine) in the venom which causes skin irritation. The most effective relief is likely to be from an antihistamine cream but only if applied quickly enough.

  15. Go through the gateway and follow along the left hedge to reach a grassy opening on the left roughly 50 metres before the far hedge.

    Rhododendron is a member of the Ericaceae family to which heathers also belong and like its cousins, it is tolerant of acid soils. The word rhododendron is from the Ancient Greek for "rose tree" due to their spectacular flowers. As a result of these, rhododendrons have been popular ornamental plants for over two centuries and the species that we now call the common rhododendron was introduced in 1763. The plants thrive in the UK climate and were once native but were wiped out by the last Ice Age. Being a vigorous plant, common rhododendron was often used as a root stock onto which more fragile but exotically-coloured hybrids were grafted.

  16. Go through the gap and walk a few paces to reach a track. Turn right onto the track and follow this to a gateway into a field.

    The buzzard family is quite closely related to hawks and consists of a number of different species which occupy different habitat niches (e.g. colder countries further north). The buzzard species we see in the UK is the common buzzard. This is one of the largest birds of prey in Britain with a wingspan of over 4 feet.

  17. Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge of the field to reach a gateway.

    The first record of the settlement of Clowance is from the start of the 13th Century as Boscus Klewint. The first part is a latinised version (Latin was trendy in mediaeval times) of the Cornish word for dwelling (bos). Clowance is thought to be from the Cornish name of a river, perhaps the upper reaches of the River Hayle which runs through the gardens of the Clowance Estate.

  18. Go through the gateway and follow the path to emerge at a T-junction with a tarmacked track.

    Note that dogs are not permitted to roam free in the grounds of the Clowance Estate but provided they are kept under close control solely along the lines of the Public Rights of Way, they are deemed a "usual accompaniment" to a walker.

    There are three wayside crosses within the gardens of the Clowance Estate, moved from elsewhere in the 19th Century. One of these is on the island in the middle of the lake which was moved from Boldgate (on the edge of the estate) in 1850. Another also came from nearby at Binnerton Cross. The third came from further afield via a more circuitous route. In 1836 it stood at Nine Maidens. A few years later it had been relocated to Hangman's Barrow. It came to Clowance in 1883. At some point in its life it had also been drilled and used as a gatepost. The base of the cross made a separate journey from elsewhere in the Crowan parish.

  19. Turn right onto the track and follow this until you reach a junction of paths with a green-and-white sign.

    There are records of a mansion at Clowance from the 13th Century and in the 14th Century this became the home of the St Aubyn family who added a chapel. Nothing remains of the original house or chapel as the house has been rebuilt many times. The present house dates mainly from the 19th Century. In 1836, a fire destroyed the wings of the house.

  20. At the junction, follow the track ahead signposted "Best Gate Lodge" and continue until it ends at a gate.

    The gardens of the Clowance estate are thought to have been designed in the early 1700s. A landscape gardener, John Nicholls, known for his work in the style of Capability Brown may have been involved in later work to the gardens as his daughter became the mistress of John St Aubyn.

  21. Go through the (larger) gate and carefully cross the road to the footpath sign opposite. Cross the stile and bear right to cross the field diagonally, keeping the church tower to your left to meet the wall on the opposite side, then follow along wall on your right and follow to a gate into the next field.

    During Mediaeval times, migration wasn't understood so the vanishing of swallows in winter was a bit of a mystery. The accepted theory to explain this was therefore that swallows spent the winter buried beneath the mud of ponds and lakes!

    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.

  22. Go through the pedestrian gate with the red sign and follow the left hedge to a metal gate in front of a coffin 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 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.

  23. Go through the gate and cross the coffin stile and follow the path between the fence and hedge to exit the field via another coffin stile.

    Meadow buttercups spread across a field relatively slowly as most seeds fall quite close to the parent and although it has a creeping root system capable of propagating new plants, this only extends a fairly short distance from each plant (unlike creeping buttercup which has a much more extensive root system). Because grazing animals avoid buttercups due to their acrid taste, this allows them to accumulate over time. The combination of these factors allows the number of meadow buttercups in a field to be used an indicator of how long it's been used for grazing.

    The stiles in Cornwall that consist of rectangular bars of granite resembling a cattle grid are known as "coffen" (coffin) stiles. These often occur on footpaths leading to churches such as the Zennor Churchway. The mini cattle grids are fairly effective at containing livestock and were significantly easier for coffin-bearers to navigate than stiles crossing walls. They are more frequently found in West Cornwall but there are a few in East Cornwall too such as those on either side of Advent Church.

  24. Cross the stile and follow the path between the trees until it ends in front of the church.

    Bluebells are also known by folk names based on their shape including Lady’s Nightcap and Witches’ Thimbles.

    Other common names for the bluebell include "wild hyacinth" and "wood hyacinth" as they are related to the hyacinth family. Their Genus name Hyacinthoides also means "hyacinth-like".

    The plant with sticky green seeds is known as cleavers due to the ability to attach to clothing or animals. The use of "to cleave" meaning "to adhere" has Saxon origins but has become less common in recent years perhaps due to the confusion of having a more well-known meaning which is virtually the opposite. A Cornish dialect name recorded as cliders in Victorian times is likely to be a corruption of this.

    Goosegrass is another common name of the plant due to its attractiveness to poultry as a nutritious food. It contains tannins which make it too bitter for humans. Other common names include sticky willy.

  25. Follow the track towards the church and then around the bend to the right to complete the circular walk.

    Rooks nest in colonies and are one of the most social members of the crow family. Scientists have found that rooks are happy to work cooperatively to solve problems (e.g. each pulling on a separate string to release food).

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