Golitha Falls and Siblyback Lake

A circular walk through the Golitha Falls National Nature Reserve along ancient rights of way to pass around Siblyback Lake where the remains of a mediaeval field system rise from the water when reservoir levels fall.

Get the app to guide you around the walk

Phone showing walk for purchase
Download the (free) app then use it to purchase this walk.
Phone showing Google navigation to start of walk
The app will direct you via satnav the start of the walk.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app leads you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
Person looking a directions on phone
Each time there is a new direction to follow, the app will beep to remind you, and will warn you if you go off-route.
Phone showing walk map page in the iWalk Cornwall app
A map shows the route, where you are and which way you are facing.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
Detailed, triple-tested directions are also included.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk includes lots of information about the history and nature along the route.
Person look at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need a phone or wifi signal for the walk.
Phone showing walk stats in the iWalk Cornwall app
The app counts down distance to the next direction and estimates time remaining based on your personal walking speed.
Person repairing footpath sign
We keep the directions continually updated for changes to the paths/landmarks - the price of £1.99 for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
Loading...
The walk starts from Draynes Bridge and loops through the Golitha Falls nature reserve. The route then crosses the Bulland Downs to the hamlet of South Trekieve to follow the remains of an ancient walled trackway which now fades out at the reservoir dam. The walk then follows the path around the perimeter of the lake before returning to the Golitha Falls car park.

The path around the lake is closed during high winds for safety (high dam). This is announced on the Siblyback Lake facebook page.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.1 miles/9.8 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Golitha Falls car park
  • Parking: Golitha Falls car park PL146RX
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • National Nature Reserve at Golitha Falls with beautiful woodland and riverside scenery
  • Panoramic views of the lake and surrounding hills from the ancient trackway from South Trekieve
  • 3 mile lakeside path around Siblyback

Directions

  1. Walk out of the entrance to the car park and bear right a short distance along the road to the end of the white line. Cross to the wooden gate and go through the gap to the left of the gatepost. Follow the gravel path past the welcome sign and continue on the path until you reach a junction of paths at a dog waste bin.

    At the Golitha Falls National Nature Reserve, the River Fowey cascades through a pretty valley covered in a mixture of ancient woodland and a beech avenue.

    The name is slightly misleading as there are no major waterfalls but rather a series of cascades and rapids. Once expectations are managed that something rivalling Niagara won't be encountered then it's a pretty spot to unwind and enjoy the riverside scenery and wildlife, and journey back through Cornwall's history from 20th Century china clay and Victorian mining to Celtic times where the last king of Cornwall drowned here in the river.

    In spring, the valley is carpeted with bluebells and in autumn, the trees are vivid colours and there are lots of fungi. In summer, look out for woodland butterflies such as the orange and black silver-washed fritillary; the males are attracted to orange items including car indicators!

  2. Just before the dog bin, take the stony path to the right leading uphill and follow this through the woods until the path ends in a junction with another path with a waymark post on the right.

    Golitha Falls is pronounced by most (even many Cornish) people as "Gol - eye - tha". However it is pronounced "Goleetha" by the local farmers in the immediate area and this considered the correct pronunciation. It was spelt Galetha in the 19th century and Goletha in 1949 so may have originally been pronounced to rhyme with "let" rather than "leet".

    It is thought that name may derive from an old Cornish word for obstruction, similar to the Welsh word gorlifo meaning "to overflow". Another possibility is the name is based around the Cornish word leth meaning "milk" which could have been used to describe white water on the rapids. The go- prefix means "slight" in Cornish so go-leth-a (literally "little milky place" could mean "small rapids").

  3. From the waymark, follow the stony path leading downhill towards the river. When you reach the wooden railings, keep left to continue downhill to the water's edge. Then turn left and wind between the boulders alongside the river to reach a clearing with some fallen tree trunks.

    During Victorian times a mine, appropriately named Wheal Victoria, operated in the woodland here. The wheel pit beside the wooden fences contained a 30ft waterwheel and the sunken path running above it was once a leat that carried water to it. The mineshaft is some distance away from the waterwheel so it is thought that power was transmitted mechanically via a system of rods between the two.

    The simplest design for a waterwheel is known as an undershot wheel where the paddles are simply dipped into flowing water. This works well in large rivers where there is a strong current.

    However, in hilly areas with smaller streams (such as Cornwall), the overshot design is more common where the water is delivered via a man-made channel (leat) to the top of the wheel where it flows into buckets on the wheel, turning the wheel through the weight of the water.

  4. From the clearing, continue ahead to follow along the brook on your right. As a wooden footbridge on the left comes into view, make for this.
  5. Cross the bridge and turn left. Walk upstream on the island between the brook and main river to reach another footbridge beneath the remains of an elevated pipeline.

    The River Fowey rises close to Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and is fed by 7 tributaries along its 25 mile course, many of which also start on Bodmin Moor. It is the third longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar and Camel.

    The name is from Fowydh, based on the Cornish word for tree, gwydh, and more specifically beech, fawen.

  6. Cross the bridge and bear right beneath the pipeline. Follow the rocky path to reach a small brook joining the river then keep this on your right. Keep following along the brook, passing over or around a step formed by tree roots. Continue along the brook to merge onto a wider path and then reach a fork in the path.

    The raised pipeline crossing the Fowey valley is more recent than the mining activity near Golitha Falls. The pipeline was used to transport china clay slurry from the pit north of St Neot at Parsons Park to the Moorswater works on the edge of Liskeard. The old china clay pit is now used as a reservoir for the public water supply, known as Park Lake.

    At Park Lake a floating pump is used to extract water from the surface of the lake without disturbing clay sediment. Due to the relatively flat profile of the lake, dropping the water level by up to 7 metres requires the pump to be on a floating pontoon 100 metres out from the shore. However, the wet surrounding moorland is able to replenish the water in the pit at several million litres per day.

  7. At the fork, follow the path uphill to the left through the gap in the bank. Bear right to reach a junction of paths with the dog waste bin on your left and a granite block and footbridge to your right.

    It is thought that the path running between the raised banks was once part of the leat that channelled water all the way down to the waterwheels encountered earlier on the walk.

  8. Turn right and cross the bridge to reach the main river. Bear left to head upriver and follow the path to return to the lane.

    Fungi are often most noticeable when fruiting, either as mushrooms or as moulds but their main part is a network made up of thin branching threads that can run through soil, leaf litter, wood and even living plant tissue.

    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.

  9. Turn right onto the lane and follow it over the bridge to a junction. Turn left in the direction signposted to Bolventor. Follow the lane uphill past one old public footpath sign on the right opposite the cottages on the left. Continue uphill to a second (newer) public footpath sign on the left behind a braced telegraph pole pointing at a gate on the right.

    From Golitha Falls to its source on Bodmin Moor, the river Fowey lies within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    There are 33 regions in England designated Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which were created in 1949 at the same time as the National Parks. In fact the AONB status is very similar to that of National Parks. There is a single Cornwall AONB which is itself subdivided into 12 sections. 11 of these are stretches of the coastline and the 12th is Bodmin Moor.

  10. Go through the gate on the right and follow the track ahead, keeping right at the junction of paths along the track leading down into the valley. Follow the path past a waymark on the left to reach a waymark in the middle of the path.

    In autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. The sloe gin produced from sloes in September and October seems just as good but possibly requires a little more sugar to compensate.

  11. From the waymark, follow the path between the gorse and tree to reach one waymark and continue a little further to reach a second waymark in a clearing.

    Gorse, also known as furze, is present as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century).

  12. Continue ahead along the bracken on the right and follow the path into the woods. Follow the path until you reach a stone stile crossing a wall ahead.

    The stream is a tributary of the River Fowey which it joins near Draynes Bridge at the start of the walk. The stream is fed by a number of moorland springs around Common Moor and Higher Gimble.

  13. Cross the stile over the wall and follow the fence on the right to reach the stream. Follow along the stream to reach a gate in the fence ahead.
  14. Go through the gate and follow along the wall on the left, past the wooden gate, to reach a gap at the top of the fence on the far side of the field.

    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 the lambs to be stillborn. 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.

  15. Go through the gap and follow the path between the fence and wall to reach a metal kissing gate.
  16. Go through the gate and downhill a short distance to a grassy track. Then bear left to follow track along the edge of the gorse until you see a waymark on the right. Then make for this.
  17. At the waymark, cross over the stream then follow the wall on the right to a waymarked stile. Cross this and follow the path alongside the stream to reach a final stone stile with a Public Footpath sign.
  18. Turn left and follow the lane around the bend until you reach a track on the left with a public footpath sign, just past the sign for Rosemorran Bowjie.

    The first record of the settlement of Trekieve is from 1401 but given the Cornish place name it is thought to date from early mediaeval times. By 1665 it had been subdivided into separate "North" and "South" settlements. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish word kyf, meaning "stump".

  19. Turn left onto the track and follow it to where it ends in a gate into a field and a grassy path departs to the right.
  20. Bear right onto the grassy path between the walls and follow this until it ends in a gate.
  21. Go through the wooden gate on the right of the main gate and bear left past the concrete structure passing one gate on the right towards three more metal gates. Go through the middle one leading onto a track between two walls (with a pair tall posts to the right of it). Follow the track until it ends in a kissing gate.

    There are nice views to the right across the lake to Tregarrick Tor.

    The tor and surrounding Craddock Moor contain many prehistoric remains including standing stones and hut circles remaining from settlements. Somewhat more recently, the shots of Ross Poldark riding a horse in opening titles of the BBC's Poldark Series were filmed on Craddock Moor.

  22. Go through the gate and continue ahead towards the dam, visible just above the brow of the hill. As you cross the field, follow the line of the rocky gully to reach a kissing gate in the hedge front of the dam.

    The rocky gully once connected with the walled footpath earlier on the route as part of an ancient trackway. The isolated large tree in the field is also located where one of the walls was originally. This is thought to be mediaeval or older, possibly even prehistoric. The remains of banks within the field also suggest that there was a prehistoric enclosed settlement here which may possibly have been associated with the trackway.

  23. Go through the gate and take the path to the right, leading around the lake. Follow this to a gate.

    In windy weather, if the path across the top of the dam is closed but the path to the right is still open then it's possible to follow the route as far as direction 27 to reach the café, then backtrack to here to continue the walk from direction 30.

  24. Go through the gate and follow the path to a lane. Cross the lane to the pedestrian path on the far side and follow this along the line of posts. Continue past the car park to the end of the line of posts near a postbox.

    The remains of an early mediaeval field system is submerged beneath Siblyback lake. After long periods of dry weather, remains of some of the stone walls can be seen.

  25. Bear left to cross back over the lane and pass through the pedestrian gap on the left of the gate. Follow the pedestrian walkway alongside the lane to reach the car park.

    In the 1990s, a process was put in place to transfer the leisure activities managed by South West Water to a new charity. The South West Lakes Trust was formed in 2000 and looks after the following lakes in Cornwall: Argal, College, Crowdy, Porth, Siblyback, Stithians and Tamar. The trust now also includes the Wheal Martin china clay museum.

  26. Walk through the car park towards the buildings to reach a gravel path departing to the left beside some signs.

    The reason moles create tunnels is that these act as worm traps. When a worm drops in, the mole dashes to it and gives it a nip. Mole saliva contains a toxin that paralyzes earthworms and the immobilised live worms are stored in an underground larder for later consumption. Researchers have discovered some very well-stocked larders with over a thousand earthworms in them! To prepare their meal, moles pull the worms between their paws to force the earth out of the worm's gut.

    Moles have a special form of haemoglobin that allow them to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide in the low-oxygen environment within the tunnels. In wetland areas where there is no gradient available to retreat uphill, moles construct a large mound protruding around half a metre above the ground to act as an emergency flood shelter.

  27. Turn left and follow the path to a fork. Keep right to pass the post and continue to reach a junction with a tarmac path leading from the buildings.

    Boards with vertical sails were in use by Polynesians for short trips between islands. The idea of using a universal joint to connect a sail to a board was conceived in 1948 by Newman Darby in the USA who spent the next two decades perfecting the approach. The first boards went on sale during the 1960s and the sport of windsurfing was popularised in the 1970s.

  28. Cross the tarmac path and follow the lakeside path past the bench. Continue on this, passing most of the way around the lake, to reach the dam.

    During the 1960s, possible schemes were explored for creating a reservoir in the upper reaches of the Fowey valley above Golitha Falls. Initially the plan was to dam the main Fowey valley which would have created a large lake but obliterated a number of farms. Therefore plan B was chosen - to dam a tributary valley and the result is Siblyback lake. The dam was completed in 1968 and at full capacity the lake holds over 3 billion litres of water. The reservoir is used to buffer the water levels in the River Fowey in the summer. The water is collected downriver for domestic drinking water at the Restormel treatment works. Siblyback is now managed by the South West Lakes Trust.

  29. Cross the top of the dam to reach a circular gravel area at the far end.

    Geese migrate to warmer climates for the winter and fly in a V-shaped formation known as a skein or wedge (on the ground, a collection of geese is known as a gaggle). The V-formation allows birds behind the leader to fly more efficiently as the rising air from flapping wings of the bird ahead helps to support the weight of the one behind. This can increase the range that the bird can fly by over 70%. The birds each take it in turns to do the harder job of flying at the front.

  30. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right beside the gate with a cattlegrid and follow the track downhill to emerge onto another track.

    Whilst it's fairly obvious why cows are reluctant to cross a cattlegrid, you might be surprised to learn that cows will also not cross a "virtual" cattlegrid composed of dark and light lines painted on a completely solid surface. This even works with wild cattle who have never encountered a "real" cattlegrid before and so is unlikely to be learned behaviour. It is thought that the reason is due to the limitations of cows' vision, specifically their limited depth perception means that they cannot discriminate between bars over a pit and a series of light and dark lines.

  31. Bear left onto the track and follow this to where a stony track departs to the right just before the main track reaches a cattlegrid.
  32. Bear right onto the stony track and follow this to a wooden gate.
  33. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane for roughly three quarters of a mile to return to the junction with the Golitha Falls sign.
  34. Turn right across the bridge to complete the circular walk.

    Inkies started in 2014, initially catering at events and won the southern heat of the British Street Food awards in 2015. In 2016, Inkies moved to the Golitha Falls car park after acquiring a lease from Cornwall Council and refurbishing the toilets which had been closed for 5 years. Initially the smokehouse was just a converted horsebox in the car park. A crowdfunding project raised money to build the log cabin.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

Please recycle your ink cartridges to help prevent plastic fragments being ingested by seabirds. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?