Giant's Quoit and Pendarves Wood

After very prolonged heavy rain, the bridleway crossing the river on the loop into Pendarves Woods can be too deep to cross safely but the rest of the route can still be done as a circular walk.

A walk from a tiny village designed by Victorians, through ancient woodland that was once part of the Pendarves Estate to the prehistoric tomb that, despite two collapses over the centuries, is once again standing.

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From the Victorian settlement of Treslothan the walk passes through Stennack Woods and then climbs Copper Hill where an Iron Age Settlement once stood. The route descends through fields with views to St Ives then follows wooded paths to Carwynnen. From here there is a loop through Pendarves Wood before the route continues to Carwynnen Quoit before returning through Stennack Woods.

Considerations

  • Need to duck under wooden pole (around 3ft above the ground).
  • The stream crossing to Pendarves Wood is across uneven stepping-stones without any hand-holds. A walking pole may help with balancing.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104
  • Distance: 4.4 miles/7 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots, or wellies after prolonged wet weather

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 104 OS Explorer 104 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Carwynnen Quoit aka Giant's Quoit
  • Bluebells in Stennack woods
  • Treslothan church with Victorian mausoleum
  • Bluebells and rhododendron flowers in Pendarves Woods in early spring

Directions

  1. With the church on your right, walk away from the war memorial, past Treslothan House to reach a track on the right with a public footpath sign and well house.

    Treslothan as a parish was created out of Camborne parish in the 19th Century and the buildings you can see today are a Victorian-modelled village from the 1840s including a church, vicarage, well house and schoolmaster's house.

    Treslothan existed before all this though - it has mediaeval origins. According to the Cornwall Historic Environment Record, the first mention of it is in 1282. However, it's likely from the Cornish name that it dates from the Dark Ages before the Norman Conquest. In 1319, it was recorded as Tresulwethan which is thought to simply mean "Sulwethan's farm".

  2. Turn right onto the track and follow this past the buildings to where a small path continues ahead.

    Despite its minuscule size, the organisation of Treslothan around a church makes it technically a village rather than a hamlet.

  3. Join the path ahead and follow this over a stone coffin stile into a field. Follow the path between the fence and wall to reach another coffin stile in a gap leading into the woods.

    Periwinkle, also known as myrtle, is a native plant in Europe and both the greater (Vinca major) and lesser (Vinca minor) forms are common, both with blue-purple 5-petal flowers that resemble turbine blades.

    The "greater" form has wider teardrop-shaped leaves whereas the leaves of the "lesser" form are thinner and lance-shaped. The flowers on the lesser form are also smaller.

    The name may be from the Russian name for the flower - pervinka - which is based on the word pervi, meaning "first", as it is one of the earliest spring flowers. Some flowers start appearing in November.

    The spore from a fern doesn't grow into a fern. Instead it grows into an organism resembling a liverwort (i.e. a small green blob). Instead of producing spores, these produce eggs and also sperm which they interchange with neighbouring blobs to get a new mix of genes. The fertilised egg grows into a new fern and so this alternating process of ferns and blobs repeats.

  4. Go through the gap into the woods and take the second path on the left (to avoid fallen trees across the first path on the left). Follow the path to where it reaches the main path, just after the fallen trees, and merge onto this. Continue on the main path to where it merges with another path beside a large boulder on the left.

    Some plant nutrients such as phosphorus tend to be more abundant near the surface of the soil were decaying organic matter collects. Bluebell seedlings start life at the surface so these are OK but as bluebell plants mature and send their roots deeper into the soil to avoid winter frosts, they have a phosphorus problem. They have solved this by partnering with a fungus that extends from their root cells, drawing in minerals from the soil in return for some carbohydrates from the plant.

    Fungus is the Latin word for mushroom but is derived from the ancient Greek word for sponge since this is what they were thought to resemble. Biologically, this isn't so far off either as fungi are more closely-related to animals than plants.

  5. Continue uphill on the path until it ends in a gap in the wall next to a 30 mph sign.

    Squirrels assess each of their acorns before burying them. If an acorn is too light (which suggests it might have a hole), the squirrel will eat it immediately rather than risking it going mouldy.

  6. Go through the gap, turn right onto the lane and walk a few paces to a junction. Turn right and walk a few more paces to another junction.

    In marshes, micro-organisms thrive in the wet mud and use up the supply of oxygen. To survive being partially buried in mud with low oxygen levels, many marsh plants have therefore evolved snorkels: air channels in the stem which allow oxygen to reach the base of the plant. This is why the leaves of reeds feel spongy.

  7. Bear left at this (second) junction and follow the lane to reach a junction on the right with a no-through road sign.

    Cow parsley, also known by the more flattering name of Queen Anne's Lace, is a member of the carrot family. Over the last few decades, cow parsley has substantially increased on roadside verges: there is more than half as much again as there was 30 years ago. The reason is thought to be to an increase in soil fertility caused by a few different factors. In the more distant past, verges were grazed or the grass was cut and used for hay. Now when it is cut by mechanical devices, it is left to rot in place forming a "green manure". In the last few decades there has also been an increase in fertilising nitrogen compounds both from farm overspill and from car exhausts. Whilst this extra fertility is good news for cow parsley and also brambles and nettles, it is causing these species to out-compete many other wildflowers along hedgerows.

    Since the multi-lobed leaves are found in shade, whist the teardrop leaves are found in sun, this allows the leaves of ivy plants growing up trees to be used as a compass. Unless something is in the way then the sunniest side of a tree is to the south and the shadiest is to the north.

  8. Turn right onto the narrow lane and follow this to where a track departs to the right.
  9. Keep left and then left again at the next fork then follow the track to where it ends beside a barn with a small path leading ahead.

    In the small triangle of common land between the tracks is a well with a crude granite well house. It's thought that the well dates from mediaeval times. Although the well house has probably been rebuilt over the years, it's thought that the original structure is also likely to have been mediaeval.

  10. Continue onto the path leading ahead from the track and follow this alongside the barn. Continue to a bend where a footpath joins from the left and keep right around the bend to where the path emerges on the road.

    Like other members of the pea family, gorse produces its seeds in pods. The seeds are ejected with a popping sound when pods split open in hot weather. This can catapult the seeds up to five metres. The plants are able to live 30 years and survive sub-zero temperatures, the seeds can withstand fire and remain viable in the soil for 30 years.

  11. Turn left onto the road and follow it uphill to a wide T-junction.

    A project to analyse blackberries picked from busy urban roadsides vs quiet rural lanes found that there was a slightly elevated level of lead in the blackberries from busy roadsides which is thought to have accumulated in the soil when leaded fuel was in common use. Surprisingly, commercial blackberries from supermarkets also showed higher levels of lead than the wild blackberries from rural lanes.

    As well as through pollen being transferred by insects from other plants, if there are not many insects around (e.g. in cold or wet weather), bramble flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen).

  12. Turn right (with a no-through sign) and follow the lane to where it ends with a footpath departing between the 2 leftmost gates.
  13. Join the footpath and follow this between the wall and fence to a stile.

    Blackthorn and hawthorn trees both grow in similar places but in each season there are different ways to tell them apart.

    In spring, blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower. The white blossom appears before the leaves in April. In warm weather, the leaves may quickly catch up and this is when it can get mistaken for hawthorn, which produces leaves before flowers. However, there are a few other ways to distinguish the flowers: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black. Hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy".

    In summer, the leaf shape can be used to tell them apart. Blackthorn leaves are a classic leaf shape with slightly serrated edges. Hawthorn leaves have deep notches dividing the leaf into several lobes a bit like oak.

    In autumn, pretty much all hawthorn trees have small red berries, even the windswept specimens on the coast. Blackthorns trees may have purple sloes, but not all the trees fruit each year. Some years seem to result in a lot more sloes than others.

    Hawthorn trees are often a little bigger than blackthorn, especially in harsh environments such as on the coast. Blackthorn tends to form thickets whereas hawthorn are typically distinct trees. Hawthorn bark is usually shiny whereas blackthorn is dull. The thorns on hawthorn tend to be shorter (less then 2cm) and point slightly forwards on the stem. Blackthorn has longer spikes that stick out at right angles.

  14. Cross the stile and continue between the wall and fence, over another stile, to reach a stile into an overgrown field.

    There are actually two different species of dog violet although they can interbreed to form hybrids. The common dog violet prefers shade whilst the heath dog violet prefers sunny spots and historically this is what kept them apart as separate species, although they are both relatively tolerant of a wide range of conditions. Human activity, particularly felling of woodland, has resulted in them ending up in each others' "territory" and they can sometimes even be seen growing side-by-side. The easiest way to tell them apart is from the shape of the leaves leaves which are heart-shaped in the common dog violet but upside-down teardrop-shaped in the case of the heath dog violet.

    The roots of red campion contain saponins (soapy compounds) which protect the plants against microbes and fungi. These compounds make it easier for large molecules such as proteins to enter cell membranes. This has the potential to increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy against cancer by allowing immunotoxins to enter the cancer cells more easily.

  15. Cross the stile and follow the winding path approximately parallel to the left hedge to reach a gap in a wall with a coffin stile

    An Iron age settlement existed on the hill from which two hut circles and a field system remain. Pottery found within the hut circles indicates occupation during the 2nd to 1st Centuries BC. One of the hut circles has been used as part of the foundations for the field walls.

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  16. Go through the gap via the coffin stile and continue following the winding path (again approximately parallel to the left hedge) to reach a wooden stile over the top of a coffin stile.

    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.

  17. Cross the stile and follow along the left hedge to reach a gap at the bottom of the field.

    On a clear day, you can see all the way to the north coast from here. The large coastal settlement is St Ives.

  18. Go through the gap and cross the field to the wooden fence under the large tree 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.
  19. Duck under the wooden bar and then descend to the sunken path. Turn right and follow the path to a wooden gate marked Rock Villa.

    The sign about explosives refers to the Holman Test Mine.

    A mine was created in a quarry in the 1880s by the Holman Brothers engineering firm to test and showcase their compressed air drills. From the 1920s, the mine was used by the Camborne School of Mines for teaching. This continued until 2017 and the above-ground facilities included a lecture hall. Since then it has found a use as a specialist underground test facility.

  20. Go through the gate and follow the path until it emerges onto a tarmacked driveway.

    Mosses don't have roots but instead have little rootlets known as rhizoids. Since there is no need to root into soil, mosses can grow on stones, tree trunks, buildings etc. This together with their wind-carried spores makes them excellent colonisers of barren land. The buildup of organic material from dead moss then provides an environment that other small plants can start to colonise.

  21. Bear left onto the driveway and follow it until it ends in a junction with a lane.

    Granite is the most common igneous rock found at Earth's surface and also the oldest - thought to be formed up to 300 million years ago.

  22. Bear left onto the track and follow it downhill a few paces to reach a Public Bridleway sign. Bear right off the track onto the leftmost (small) path (ignoring the larger grassy track to the right). Follow the path to where it joins another.

    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.

  23. Bear left and follow the stony path downhill until it ends on a lane.

    Sycamore timber was traditionally used for milk pails as it does not impart any flavour or colour. It is still used today for kitchenware and is recognisable by the light colour and fine grain.

  24. Bear right onto the lane and follow this a short distance to a junction.

    The settlement of Carwynnen was recorded in 1430. Different theories exist about whether the name was originally based on carn (meaning tor or rock outcrop) or caer (meaning fort). There is an area nearby known as "Carwynnen Carn" which might possibly relate to the former. Alternatively, the Iron Age settlement on the hill could possibly tie up with the latter. One suggestion for the second part of the name is the Cornish word wenen meaning "bees".

  25. Turn left and walk across the bridge. Continue a few paces further to a path on the right with a Public Bridleway sign. Turn right onto the bridleway and follow this to a stream crossing.
  26. Cross the stream via the stepping stones and continue on the bridleway alongside the stream and along the edge of the woods until it eventually emerges onto a track.

    Another name for celandine is pilewort as the tubers of the plant are said to resemble piles. Based on the "doctrine of signatures" (i.e. a plant that looks a bit like something must be a cure for it), the resemblance suggested to mediaeval herbalists that celandines could be used to cure haemorrhoids. This was done by applying an ointment containing crushed celandine leaves to the relevant area. Since celandine contains a poisonous compound, some attempts to ingest celandine in an effort to cure piles have not gone too well.

    Holly was known in Cornwall as the holm (bush) and is the origin of the Holmbush area of St Austell and Holmbush Mine in Kelly Bray.

  27. Continue ahead onto the track and follow this to reach a gap in the wall on the right with a Pendarves Wood Nature Reserve sign, just before a gate leading to the main road.

    Pendarves woods were created in the early 19th Century as part of the grounds of the Pendarves Estate which included a lake and ornamental garden.

    Originally the ornamental gardens included many colourful rhododendron hybrids grafted onto root stocks of common rhododendron in the ornamental gardens. In the 1970s the multicoloured flowers were still evident. Since then, the root stocks have out-competed the grafts and killed them off so now only purple common rhododendrons remain.

    The woods are now owned by the Dutchy and have been managed as a nature reserve by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust since 1976.

  28. Go through the gap on the right and follow the main path to the left towards the cottage, then bear right over the bridge. Keep following the path through the woods to reach a wooden bridge over a stream leading from a lake.

    The trees with red trunks are a variety of rhododendron.

    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.

  29. Cross the bridge and continue following the main path until you reach a waymark at a fork in the path.

    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.

  30. The route continues on the "Bluebell path" to the right (if you want to nip around the short "Badgers' loop" to the left and return back here before continuing, you can do that first). Follow the Bluebell path to where it ends in a gap in the wall.

    When photographing bluebells, the flowers that look blue to your eye can end up looking purple in photos.

    The first thing to check is that your camera isn't on auto white balance as the large amount of blue will cause the camera to shift the white balance towards reds to try to compensate.

    Another thing to watch out for is that the camera's light metering will often over-expose the blue slightly to get a reasonable amount of red and green light and the "lost blue" can change the balance of the colours. You can get around this by deliberately under-exposing the photo (and checking there is no clipping if your camera has a histogram display) and then brightening it afterwards with editing software.

    A striking red fungus you may see in the woods that forms cup-like structures on decaying wood is appropriately named scarlet elf cup. There's also a very similar looking ruby elf cup but since telling them apart requires studying the hairs on the outer surface of the cups under 400 times magnification with a microscope or by DNA analysis, that's probably better left to the elves.

  31. Go through the gap in the wall to emerge on the bridleway and turn left to retrace your steps to the stream crossing. Continue on the bridleway until it emerges on the lane.
  32. Turn left onto the lane and follow this uphill to reach an area with gates on the left with a sign for Pip's Field.

    During late winter or early 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. Once you're familiar with their narrow, ridged leaves, you'll be able to spot these emerging from late October onwards.

    Three-cornered leeks are native to the Mediterranean and are first recorded as being introduced to the UK in 1759. By Victorian times, they had become well-established in the wild. They thrive in the moist, mild climate in Cornwall and are salt-tolerant so will grow almost anywhere, even on the coast.

  33. The walk continues on the lane but first you may wish to have a look at the Giant's Quoit in the field (there is a pedestrian gate on the far left). Once back on the lane, continue to reach a path on the left with a grey metal post immediately after Higher Carwynnen on the right.

    Carwynnen Quoit, also known as the Giant's Quoit, is a neolithic burial chamber. It was recorded as standing in 1700 but collapsed in 1842. It was re-erected but collapsed again in 1967. After several years of fieldwork and excavation, it was re-erected once more in 2014 by the Sustainable Trust.

    Dolmens, also known as quoits, are a type of megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone. These were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone "skeleton" of the burial mound remaining.

  34. Turn left and follow the path through the woods to reach the junction of paths where you entered the woods at the start of the walk.

    A well somewhere in the woods, named "silverwell", is recorded as being a lucky well into which pins were thrown.

    Superstitions involving pins are also associated with other wells including St Nonna's Well at Pelynt, where an offering of a bent pin is said to be needed to ward off piskies.

  35. Continue ahead over the coffin stile into the field to retrace your steps and turn left once you emerge on the lane to return to the church.

    The church was built in the 1840s following the establishment of Treslothan parish and the vicarage to accompany it (Treslothan House) was built in 1843.

    A chapel in Treslothan dedicated to St James was licensed in 1427 and it's possible the site is beneath the current church although opinions differ on the location. The font in the church is said to have been found at the site of the chapel (wherever it was).

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