Feock to Devoran circular walk

Feock to Devoran

A circular walk to the Victorian-engineered town of Devoran which was once the largest mining port in Cornwall, and along Restronguet Creek on the route of the railway that lead from the ore bins and smelting houses to the mines of Redruth

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The route passes St Feock's Holy well and follows tracks to the creek at Penpol. From here, the walk follows bridleways and footpaths above Restronguet Creek to reach Devoran. The walk then follows the route of the tramway that carried tin ore from the mines to the smelters on Point Quay, with an optional low-water route across the creek. The final part of the route is to Feock Church via the old postal route which used to terminate in a boat crossing from Restronguet Point.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 6.1 miles/9.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version)

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


  • Church and holy well of St Feock
  • Historic mining port of Devoran
  • Bird life along the creeks

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Old Quay Inn


  1. Bear right out of the car park past the Parish Council sign and onto the road; then follow it a short distance to Creek House where a track departs from the left, marked as a Public Footpath.

    The earliest known record of Feock is in a twelfth-century document where the settlement is referred to as "Fioc"; it is also recorded in 1264 as "Ecclesia Sancte Feoce". The name is taken from a Celtic saint to whom the parish is dedicated, but little is known about, although is generally assumed to be female.

  2. Bear left up the track and follow it until, just after Meadowside, you reach a Public Footpath sign to La Feock with a wooden gate on the left just before a waymark.

    There are two types of ivy leaf. Those on creeping stems are the classic ivy leaf shape with 3-5 triangular lobes - they grow towards shade to find a tree to climb up. However, more mature ivy plants grow aerial shoots with a completely different (teardrop) leaf shape. These are the shoots that bear the flowers and fruits and are typically located in a sunny spot such as on an upright ivy bush or top of a rock face. The reason for the different shapes is that the larger, multi-lobed leaves are able to catch more light in shady areas whereas the smaller, stouter leaves are more resistant to drying out.

  3. Go through the gate into the field and turn right. Then follow the right hedge to a gate in the corner.
  4. Go through the gap next to the gate and bear left onto the waymarked path between the hedges. Follow this to emerge onto a driveway. Follow the driveway around a bend to the right and continue until it ends on a lane.

    St Feock's Holy well can be found on the track to La Feock Grange. Beside the track is a cast-iron pump and bucket stand dating from Victorian times and a flight of granite steps lead down the Holy Well, set into the bank of the neighbouring field. The well is thought to date from mediaeval times but was remodelled to add the stone house with a slate roof, some time around the late 19th Century.

  5. At the end of the driveway, turn right onto the lane and follow it to a junction.

    Before Christianity, the Pagan Celtic people of Cornwall worshipped wonders of the natural world. Where clean, drinkable water welled up from the ground in a spring, this was seen as pretty awesome. The sites were seen as portals to another world, and is why fairies are often associated with springs. Where the springwater dissolved minerals, for specific conditions (e.g. deficiency in a mineral) or where the minerals present had antibacterial/fungal properties, the water appeared to have healing powers.

  6. Follow the path across the middle of the island to a gate on the opposite side of the road. Climb the steps over the wall beside the gate and follow the left hedge of the field to a waymarked stile in the corner.

    The trees along the edge of the field provide perches for crows to survey the area for food.

    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.

  7. Cross the stile and continue straight ahead to follow the path down the field to the far hedge. When you reach the hedge, follow the path along this to reach a gate.

    The Carnon river has its source near the A30 and passes as a small stream through Chacewater before joining a tributary from the Poldice valley at Twelveheads. The Great County Adit drains from the mines into the river here and further drainage from Wheal Jane enters downstream. As a result, the river is still quite polluted with dissolved metals from the mines including cadmium, arsenic, copper and zinc which are toxic to most aquatic invertebrates and fish. The river currently fails the Water Framework Directive for invertebrates which is likely linked to the high levels of metals within the river. However, aquatic vegetation is diverse as this is less sensitive to dissolved metals.

  8. Go through the gate and when you reach the track, bear left a short distance to reach a stile on the right. Cross the stile and follow the path between the fence and the hedge to reach a stile in the far hedge.

    Arsenic is a chemical element that is part-way between a metal and non-metal, known as a metalloid. In the natural environment it reacts with oxygen to form an oxide which readily dissolves in water to form arsenic acid. This is able to leech into groundwater and cause contamination. Deeper in the ground where sulphur is more available than oxygen, arsenic is found as sulphide compounds.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the path through a gap in a wall and between fences to emerge onto a driveway.

    Blackberries are closely related to raspberries and technically neither is a berry but an aggregate of many individual tiny fruits, each containing a tiny stone like a miniature cherry.

    Plants such as gorse and heather which are able to grow in soils contaminated with heavy metals such as mine waste tips are known as metallophytes.

    There was a concern that if the plants accumulated the metals, whilst themselves being unharmed by them, these might still pass into the food chain e.g. via rabbits eating the plants and then onto buzzards eating rabbits etc.

    However, a study of plants from the Carnon Valley found that gorse and heather do not accumulate large quantities of trace metals or arsenic in their tissue. A separate study for a PhD thesis found that for some metals such as zinc, the amount in the plant's tissues (though far lower than in the soil) increased steadily with the levels in the soil. However for certain heavy metals such as lead and copper, the amount measured in gorse tissues appeared to barely increase at all with increasing levels in soil.

    Therefore it's thought that there are unlikely to be harmful effects of rabbits eating gorse and heather both directly to the rabbits themselves and indirectly to the food chain of other wildlife.

  10. Follow the driveway ahead until it ends at a T-junction then turn left down the lane and follow it past Trevallion Park until it ends in a T-junction at the bottom of the hill.

    During the 18th Century in Oxford, the Wesley brothers began practising their rigorous holy lifestyle which was mockingly referred to as Methodism by their peers due to their methodical practices. John Wesley began open-air preaching to recruit followers to his movement and formed small classes for each community where followers would receive ongoing religious guidance. Wesley always advocated the practise of Methodism as an extension of the Anglican faith and encouraged his followers to attend the parish church regularly. Nevertheless, senior figures within the Church of England feared the effects (or perhaps popularity) of Methodist practices, suggesting that an overdose of the Holy Spirit might be unhealthy for weak minds.

  11. Cross the lane to the bridge opposite the junction. Follow the small lane over the bridge and uphill until you reach a track on the left marked with a Public Bridleway sign.

    The settlement of Penpol at Feock was first recorded, spelt as it is today. The name is from the Cornish words common in place names, pen and pol, and taken together mean something along the lines of "head of the creek".

  12. Turn left onto the bridleway and follow it to a fork.

    During winter, from November to March, winter heliotrope is visible along the edges of roads and paths as carpets of rounded heart-shaped leaves.

    The name of the plant is Greek for "sun direction" because the flowers turn to follow the winter sun.

  13. Bear right to follow the lane uphill past Rope End and reach a Y-shaped junction.

    Crocosmia (also known as Montbretia) is a garden plant in the iris family with bright orange flowers in summer. It has South African origins and was bred in France as a garden plant, then introduced into the UK in the 1880s.

    It has spread into the wild, particularly along the west coast of Britain and is extremely invasive. It is now a criminal offence to cause it to grow in the wild.

    Crocosmia means "saffron scent" and alludes to the smell of the dried leaves (the crocuses which produce saffron are also members of the iris family).

    Where tracks met in a T-junction, this presented a challenge for horses and carts as these didn't have a tight turning circle. The triangular islands often visible on junctions of tracks and small lanes today were formed by the cartwheels cutting the corners of the junction. Eventually these cut corners were formalised as surfaced tracks with a grassy triangular island in the centre.

  14. Follow the right-hand fork of the junction to the public footpath sign opposite. Follow the path, which opens out into a grassy track, until it ends at a junction of tracks.

    All parts of the alexanders plant can be eaten and it is a good source of iron and vitamins A and C. The flavour has been described as somewhere between parsley and angelica. However, foraging alexanders is not recommended unless you are experienced at identifying it because novices can confuse it with hemlock (the most poisonous plant in the UK - just a few leaves from this can kill you).

    Most waymarks you'll encounter are yellow, which is the convention for marking public footpaths, of which there are over 2000 miles in Cornwall. Permissive paths often use other colours such as black, white or green. Red and blue are reserved for byways and bridleways, respectively.

  15. Continue ahead on the track leading downhill to reach another junction of tracks.

    The settlement of Chycoose was first recorded in 1378, spelt "Chiencoys". The name is from the Cornish word chy for cottage and cos for wood. It's possible that the mediaeval version was an attempt to write down chy-an-cos which literally means "cottage of the woods".

  16. Continue ahead a few more paces on the tarmac and then follow the stony track ahead leading uphill past The Old Carthouse and between the hedges. When the track approaches a wooden gate, keep right to stay on the track and continue to reach an iron gate across the track.

    The ferns with solid leaves are appropriately called hart's tongue as the leaf resembles the tongue of a deer. It's an evergreen so leaves can be seen all year round but there's usually a flurry of new growth in mid March when new leaves can be seen gradually unfurling over a number of days. The Latin name for the species means "centipede" as the underside of the leaves have rows of brown spore cases that form a pattern resembling centipede legs. The plants thrive in shady places and are tolerant of the lime used in mortar so are sometimes found growing in old walls.

  17. Go through the gate and keep left to follow the track along the left hedge of the field to reach a gate in the corner, marked "Public footpath - no horses".

    The large holly tree has some good examples of leaf shapes of varying spikiness levels.

    Anyone who has sat on a holly leaf will know how prickly they can be but the leaves particularly on larger holly bushes often vary considerably with less spiky leaves nearer the top.

    Holly is able to vary its leaf shape in response to its environment through a chemical process known as DNA methylation which can be used to switch genes on and off. If its leaves are eaten by grazing animals or trampled by walkers, the holly will crank up the methylation level to produce really spiky leaves on these stems. Conversely on the stems where the leaves are able to grow old in peace, the holly will produce versions that are flatter and therefore more efficient at catching the light. An individual leaf can last up to five years.

  18. Go through the gate and turn right at the waymark. Follow the path uphill along the right hedge to reach a gate and stile at the top of the field.

    Lichens grow on the branches of the trees on the left.

    Lichens often grow on sick or dying trees so some gardeners assume that the lichen might be harming the tree. In fact, it's purely because these trees have fewer leaves so there is more light available for the algae inside the fungus to photosynthesise. It's too dark under many healthy trees for the lichen to grow.

  19. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track. Follow the track until it ends at a gate.

    The word "bramble" comes from bræmaz - a word of Germanic origin meaning "prickly". The study of brambles is involved enough to be considered a discipline of its own and is known as batology (from baton - the Ancient Greek word for blackberry).

  20. Go through the gate and continue for a few paces. Then bear left to follow the path downhill across the middle of the field to a waymarked stile in the middle of the hedge ahead, in front of the telegraph poles.

    Ahead is the Bissoe Valley, through which the River Carnon runs.

    During the 1760s, the Poldice Deep Adit was extended to drain more of the mines in the Gwennap area and by the 1770s the network was known as the Great County Adit. Further branches were added during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It eventually consisted of nearly 40 miles of underground tunnels, providing drainage to over 60 mines. In 1839, it discharged over 14.5 million gallons per day into the Carnon River. Although it is unmaintained, it still drains many of the abandoned underground workings today; in the summer of 1980, the flow was measured at half a million gallons per day.

  21. Pass the stile and follow the path through the woods, keeping ahead when you reach a path to the left with a waymark. Continue through the woods to reach a wall with a stile. Ignore the stile and follow the path along the wall on your right until you reach a stream.

    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.

    Trees need a lot of water. A large oak tree can absorb around 450 litres of water per day, most of which is released into the atmosphere as water vapour through transpiration. Trees therefore help to reduce flooding from heavy rain in low-lying river floodplains and also reduce erosion from runoff.

  22. At the stream, turn right to follow the bank to a crossing and follow the path over the stream to a crossing over a wall between two large trees. Cross over the wall and head across the field to the gate directly opposite.

    The stream is called Tallack's Creek and collects water from Carnon Downs. The first mention of the name Carnon Downs was in 1683, after a period when both Cornish and English were spoken in the county. The name reflects this as the first word, "Carnon", is from the Cornish meaning "rocky". In earlier times, a Cornish word such as ros, hal or goon would have been used rather than the English word "downs".

  23. Go through the gate and turn right. Follow the right hedge to a gate onto a lane.

    Although it's obvious that you should ensure any gates that you open, you also close, what about gates you find that are already open?

    If the gate is fully open then leave it alone as it may well be providing livestock access to a water supply, and by closing it you could end up killing them.

    If the gate is ajar or swinging loose and not wedged or tied open then it's likely that the gate was left open by accident (possibly by another group of walkers). Properly closing the offending gate behind you will not only bring joy to the landowner but you can feel good about saving lives in a car swerving to avoid a cow in the road.

    If you encounter a gate doubly-secured with twine that can be untied or a chain that can be unfastened, it's normally there because naughty animals have managed to undo the gate themselves at some point (e.g. by rubbing against the bolt), so retie/fasten it afterwards.

  24. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow it alongside the field on the left until a waymarked path departs from the lane on the far side of the field.

    Sycamores leaves can sometimes be seen with black dots. This "tar spot" fungus reduces the efficiency of the leaves slightly but overall seems not to harm the tree significantly. The fungus overwinters on fallen dead leaves and its spores are released in spring to infect new leaves.

    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.

  25. Bear left onto the path and follow this between the hedge and fence to emerge onto a track next to a gate.

    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. Other common names include sticky willy.

    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. The plant is in the same family as coffee and the seeds have been dried and roasted to make a (lower caffeine) coffee substitute.

  26. Continue ahead on the track to pass the barn and then follow the path between the hedge and fence to reach a gap in the hedge leading into the next field.

    Since the 1960s, consumption of milk in the UK has fallen from around 5 pints per person per week to around 3. The recent rise in popularity of veganism has also contributed to a drop in demand for dairy products. However, these downward trends have been partly offset by milk solids used in processed foods including chocolate and also a growth in cheese consumption in recent years.

  27. Go through the gap and follow the path between the hedge and fence to a gate in the corner.
  28. Go through the gate and turn left onto the path. Follow the path into a field and along the left hedge to a gap next to the gate.

    The settlement at Devoran dates back to mediaeval times and the first record of it is from 1278 when it was spelled Deffrion. However, until the end of the 18th Century, Devoran consisted only of a few farms and tin streaming works. Stemming from its location on the confluence of two rivers, the name is thought to based on the Cornish word for water - dowr.

    During the 19th Century, Devoran was engineered as an industrial settlement based around a port at the terminus of a new railway. A town was planned and built which included the Church, built in 1855. A major part of the trade was the export of minerals from the Redruth and Camborne area and the import of coal and timber for use in the mines. During the winter of 1876, a drainage system connecting several deep mines, which had fallen into disrepair, clogged and burst. The deluge caused unrecoverable silting of Devoran harbour and ended its days as a port.

  29. Go through the gap and turn right onto the track. Follow it downhill to merge onto a lane and continue to reach a crossroads beside the main entrance to the churchyard.

    Devoran church was built during Victorian times as the hamlet expanded into a small industrial town. The school, built in 1846, was soon in use for church services which continued for nearly 10 year until the church was opened in 1856. The bell was replaced in 1889 after the original was cracked during an over-enthusiastic New Year celebration.

  30. Continue ahead at the crossroads, down the hill, to reach a phone box at the bottom.

    In the early 1820s, a young man called John Taylor obtained the lease on abandoned mines in the Gwennap parish, and after re-working some of the old deposits, discovered what was at the time the richest copper deposit in the world. Initially, the ore was shipped from Portreath but the transportation fees started to grow as news of John Taylor's good fortune spread. This greed backfired, as in 1824, John Taylor built his own tramway through the Carnon Valley to Devoran, and Devoran began to take over from Portreath for servicing the mines in the Redruth and Camborne area.

  31. Turn left at the phone box and follow the long, straight lane past the village hall to a bend in the lane with wooden signpost with a number of footpath signs.

    The Redruth and Chasewater Railway was an early industrial line which evolved from John Taylor's tramway and eventually served many of the mines in the Camborne-Redruth area. The line ran to Devoran and Point Quay on Restronguet Creek and initially used horse traction. Later, steam locomotives were used but these terminated at Devoran. For shunting at Devoran and for the extension to Point Quay, trains were still hauled by horses. It was a single railway line all the way from Redruth with passing places. If two trains met between passing places, the drivers drew lots to determine who had to reverse.

  32. If the tide is out and you want to brave the stepping stones over the creek, you can follow the footpath signposted to Point on the track ahead, following the path which leads off it from the left. Otherwise, follow the lane around the bend to the left and another to the right then carry on following the Old Tram Road. Continue along the foreshore or lane until reach the remains of an engine house where the footpath across the creek rejoins the lane at a footpath sign.

    A short one-way path to the right also leads to the right onto Narabo quay, if you want to explore this before continuing.

    Behind Narabo Quay in Devoran are a series of walls which are now used to store small boats. Originally these were ore bins, and the railway ran over the top of them. The wagons discharged their cargo through the bottom, directly into them.

  33. From the ruins of the mine, continue ahead on the tram road to reach Point Quay.

    The Restronguet creek contains deposits of alluvial tin, buried beneath the mud on the surface of the creeks. This has been worked for centuries and this escalated to an industrial scale in the late 18th Century. Large opencast works were carried out on the surface between 1785 and 1812 and submarine mining also began around this time too. The remains of the engine house near the mouth of Tallack's Creek is from a mine that operated for just 5 years in the 1820s but yielded a profit of nearly £30,000 which is equivalent to around £3 million at the time of writing. In 1833, another mine was opened a short distance downriver in the Carnon shipyard, and another mine was opened in the centre of the creek in 1871 to extract tin ore that lay below 60 feet of surface mud. There are still substantial tin reserves beneath the mud and tin dredging was considered during the 1980s until the price of tin fell.

  34. At Point Quay, continue following the lane until you cross a bridge over the river and reach a footpath on the right.

    Until the port of Devoran was built in the 19th Century, Point Quay was the main docking point in the area and was the site of a customs house. A map of 1841 shows that the wharf had a smelting works so that ore could be converted to ingots for more efficient transport. The smelting process required a source of carbon to act as a chemical reducing agent and strip the oxygen from the oxide ores to produce the elemental metal. In the early days, charcoal was used for this, but by the 19th Century, coal was being imported in large quantities to fuel the steam engines in the mines, so it largely replaced charcoal for smelting. Smelting technology had also moved on by the 19th Century so that the traditional waterwheel-driven bellows of the "blowing houses" were replaced by reverberatory furnaces where the ore didn't come into contact with the fuel.

  35. If the tide is out, you can follow the footpath and the foreshore to reach a boatyard. Otherwise, continue on the lane to reach a narrow tarmac path on the right and follow this to a lane, turn right and follow the lane uphill to the junction with Trevallion Park and turn right into Trevallion Park to reach the boatyard.

    At the head of the creek are the remains of a tidal mill.

    A tidal mill is an ancient form of tidal power based on a water mill. As the tide comes in, it enters a reservoir created for the mill through a one way gate, which closes automatically when the tide begins to fall. When the tide is low enough, the stored water can be released to turn a water wheel.

    Bone mills used the power from a waterwheel to crush animal bones and produce bonemeal. The bonemeal was primarily used as a fertiliser to release phosphorus into the soil, which is a vital mineral for healthy crops. In the 20th century, fertilisers based on phosphate minerals, which could be mined cheaply, made bone mills uneconomical. However, the known phosphate reserves are expected to run out within a few decades and so organic phosphorus sources such as animal bones, and even urine, may become increasingly important for farmers.

  36. From the boatyard, follow the lane ahead between the wooden posts and continue until you reach a junction of tracks with various footpath and bridleway signs.

    Despite the illusion of being a French word, Restronguet is pronounced as if it contained no "u" and it was like any other Cornish place name: "re-stron-get", with the emphasis on the middle syllable. The reason is that it was originally a Cornish name, starting with ros, meaning "promontory". The other part has been suggested as coming from tron (literally "throne", also used to mean "elevated") and koes (meaning "wooded"). Alternatively it could be from the less glamorous stronk, meaning "dirty water". It's possible that the spelling gained its French appearance after the Norman invasion.

  37. Follow the track ahead, signposted as a footpath to Harcourt, until you reach Penolva where a path departs to the left.

    The tall trees along the left side of the lane are oaks.

    The older an oak tree becomes, the more acorns it produces. A 70-80 year old tree can produce thousands. Acorns are high in carbohydrates and as well as being a staple food for squirrels, they are also a really important food for deer and make up a quarter of their diet in the autumn.

    Wood from the oak has a lower density than water (so it floats) but has a great strength and hardness, and is very resistant to insect and fungal attack because of its high tannin content. This made it perfect for shipbuilding.

  38. Bear left onto the path and follow it over a stile into the woods. Continue until the path emerges onto a track.
  39. Follow the track ahead until you reach Harcourt House where a waymarked path departs to the left, just past the garage.

    Native oyster beds lie directly ahead in the main estuary.

    Native oysters were overfished in the 20th century, and in the 1960s, pacific rock oysters began to be imported into Britain. Native oysters can be distinguished from imported pacific oysters by the shape of their shell. Pacific oysters have pointed shells (a bit like knobbly mussel shells) whereas the shells of native oysters are round.

  40. Turn left onto the waymarked path and follow it to reach a driveway. Bear right to follow the driveway to a road.

    The settlement of Harcourt was first recorded in around 1160 and was spelt "Harecrake". Also the quay on Restronguet Point now known as Marble Head Quay was originally known as Haracrack Quay, which is documented in a sale catalogue of 1783. It has been suggested that the name may be from the Cornish words ar meaning "beside" and crak meaning "sandstone".

  41. Turn left onto the road and follow it to a junction.

    The road to the right leads to Restronguet Point.

    Restronguet Point still has the remains of two quays. The quay facing into Restronguet Creek known as Marble Head Quay was used to ship copper ore, brought from the Redruth area to Devoran on the railway and then moved along the creek using horses. Copper was shipped to the coalfields of South Wales to be smelted as 16 tonnes of coal were needed for every tonne of ore. A second quay, on the tip of the point, was used for a ferry service across the creek to both Weir Beach and the Pandora Inn. A ship's bell was used to summon the ferry from the other side of the creek.

  42. Turn right down the lane signposted St Feock Church and follow the lane to the small opening into the churchyard beside the tower in the churchyard.

    The church at Feock dates from the 13th Century although may well be on the site of an earlier religious site. The bell tower is the only original part of the thirteenth century church and now contains three bells which were recast from one large mediaeval bell. The church was one of the last to give services in the Cornish language which was recorded as still being the case in 1640. The present church was rebuilt rather than restored in 1874, suggesting that it was in a derelict state and beyond repair by the 19th Century. However, the 13th Century font and some woodwork from the 16th century were salvaged from the previous church.

  43. Follow the path through the churchyard, keeping the church on your right, to emerge onto the lane. Continue a short distance on the lane to reach the car park.

    The wheel-headed cross in Feock churchyard is though to date to the 13th Century, when the Gothic style was being developed as it is more ornate than earlier crosses but less so than those that came later.

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