Lesnewth church to Hallwell Woods circular walk

Lesnewth Church to Hallwell Woods

A short circular walk in the tributary valleys of the River Valency through bluebell woodland beside a stream, and across meadows rich in wildflowers to the ancient Celtic churchyard of Lesnewth.

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From Lesnewth, the route begins along country lanes and follows a stream along a wooded valley before climbing up onto a hill overlooking the Valency valley, then descending through fields to Lesnewth church.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 2.2 miles/3.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Pretty woodland walk with bluebells in spring
  • Profuse wildflowers along the lanes and paths in spring and early summer
  • Panoramic views across the Valency Valley
  • Ancient churchyard at Lesnewth dating back to Celtic times

Directions

  1. With the church behind you, turn right along the lane, passing some houses on your left, to a junction where another lane departs to the right (signposted "Treworld").

    A problem with rhododendrons is that they kill bees. Rhododendron nectar is highly toxic to honeybees, killing them within hours. Some other bee species such as mining bees are also adversely affected. Bumblebees seem to be unaffected though.

    Either side of the Old Rectory there are some nice examples of herringbone walling.

    The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage.

    It is known locally as "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave", based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. It is also sometimes known as "Jack and Jill" which is likely to be based on the falling down part of the nursery rhyme.

  2. Turn right at the junction (signposted "Treworld") and follow the lane to reach a ford.

    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.

    The genus name for campions - Silene from the often-drunk Greek woodland god Silenus whose name derives from the Greek word for saliva. The name is thought to be based on the froth on the female flowers to trap pollen although its habitat preference including semi-shade within woodland also fits fairly well.

  3. Cross the ford (usually barely a trickle) and continue on the lane up the hill, then down the other side to reach the driveway for Tregrylls on your right.

    The bright yellow flowers in the weeds growing along the middle of the road are birdsfoot trefoil. Red clover flowers also add to the display.

    The Birdsfoot Trefoil has yellow flowers tinged with red that look like little slippers and appear in small clusters. They are followed by seed pods that look distinctly like bird's feet or claws. Common names referring to the flowers include "Butter and Eggs", "Eggs and Bacon" and "Hen and Chickens", and to the seed pods, the delightful "Granny's Toenails".

    It is a member of the pea family and is poisonous to humans (containing glycosides of cyanide) but not to grazing animals and can be grown as a fodder plant. It is the larval food plant of many butterflies and moths including the common blue and silver-studded blue, and an important nectar plant for many bumblebee species.

    At the top of the hill, there are nice views to the right over the Trebiffin Valley.

    A pair of buzzards have a territory which includes a number of possible nesting sites which can be as many as 20. They move nesting site each year which prevents build-up of nest parasites such as bird fleas. The new nest is decorated with fresh green foliage.

  4. Turn right onto the driveway and follow it through the gate marked Tregrylls to a waymark on the right, just before a bridge.

    Although primroses flower most intensely in March and April, some primroses can begin flowering in late December. The name "primrose" from the Latin for "first" (as in "primary"), alluding to their early flowering.

    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.

    In much of Cornwall, many of the place names are based on words from the Celtic language. The following prefixes are common:

    • Tre - settlement or homestead
    • Lan - originally monastery but later used for an enclosure or church (this has been replaced with "St" in a number of cases)
    • Nans - valley (occasionally corrupted to "Lan" e.g. Lanteglos)
    • Pen - hill or headland
    • Pol - pond, lake or well, also cove or creek
    • Fenter - spring
  5. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path to another waymark before the gate. Bear left onto the waymarked path and follow this through the woods, keep left at any forks to stay on the most well-worn path. Continue on the path to descend into the woods and reach a footbridge.

    There are lots of bluebells here in the spring.

    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.

    Autumn colours are the result of two processes. The first is that a normal healthy leaf contains chemicals which are both green (chlorophyll) and yellow (carotene). If chlorophyll stops being produced, leaves turn yellow. This happens when sunlight is reduced either temporarily (e.g. accidentally leaving something on the lawn) or in autumn when there is less sunlight overall and when cold temperatures also speed up the breakdown of chlorophyll. When a tree prepares to shed a leaf, it creates a barrier of cells to close the leaf off. Sugars produced from photosynthesis which normally flow back into the plant instead build up in the leaf and react with proteins in sap to form red anthrocyanin compounds. Sunny autumn days produce more sugars and result in more red leaves. Frost causes the leaves to drop off quickly so mild, sunny autumns produce the best colours.

    Beech bark is very delicate and does not heal easily. Consequently some graffiti carved in beech trees is still present from more than a century ago. This is a practice that should be strongly discouraged as it permanently weakens the tree, making attack by insects more likely which can prematurely end its life.

  6. Cross the two footbridges over the stream, then turn right where the path joins a track and follow it to a stone cross.

    The mediaeval wayside cross was found in 1988 being used upside down as a gatepost with the cross head buried in the ground, which is why there is an iron hinge attached to the shaft. In 1997 it was given a new stone base and moved to this location. It is now a scheduled monument.

  7. At the stone cross, turn right back over the stream, then follow the path to the left of a gate until you eventually reach a fence across the path with a wooden stile leading ahead (not the ladder stile into the field part-way along).

    The stream is a tributary of the River Valency.

    Streams from the marshes of the Otterham Downs give rise to the River Valency which is then fed by five more rivers on its way to Boscastle. The name "Valency" has been explained as a corruption of the Cornish Melinjy (i.e. "Melin chy" = Mill-house) from the mill which existed in Boscastle in mediaeval times.

  8. Cross the two wooden stiles either side of a track and follow the path to a stone stile.

    The campion flowers along the paths provide an important nectar source for bees and butterflies.

    Almost 90% of plants depend on pollinating insects. In the UK it has been estimated that honeybees pollinate crops worth about £200 million a year, and their total contribution to the economy may be as high as £1 billion.

    There are often pheasants along these paths or in the hedges, which will become obvious from the sudden cacophony if one decides to panic and fly off.

    The pheasant is named after the Ancient town of Phasis (now in West Georgia) and the birds were naturalised in the UK by the 10th Century with introductions both from the Romano-British and the Normans. However, by the 17th Century they had become extinct in most of the British Isles.

    In the 1830s, the pheasant was rediscovered as a game bird and since then it has been reared extensively for shooting. The pheasant has a life expectancy of less than a year in the wild and it is only common because around 30 million pheasants are released each year on shooting estates.

  9. Cross the stile and head straight across the field towards the church. Once a stone stile (slightly to the right of the church) comes into view, head to this.

    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.
  10. Cross the stile and head across the next field towards the church to another stone stile.

    A survey of over 5 million clover leaf found that the frequency of four-leaf clovers is about one in 5,000 (twice as common as originally thought).

    The world record for collecting four leaf clovers in one hour was set at 166 (in 1998). One very determined collector managed to amass 170,000 four-leafed clovers in a lifetime.

  11. Cross the stile carefully (the far side of which is much lower and steeper) then bear right across the field, heading towards the church, to a gate into the churchyard.

    Butterfly orchids grow amongst the grass in the field and their white flower spikes can be seen in early summer.

    The orchids are one of the largest families of plants with over 28,000 recorded species, many of which live in the tropics. It is thought that the first orchids evolved somewhere between 80 and 100 million years ago. The word "orchid" comes from the Greek word for testicle on account of the shape of the plant's tuber. Consequently, in mediaeval times, the plant was known as bollockwort.

    The footpath to the church is a "coffin path", used to visit church on Sundays including one final time. There is a coffin rest where the path enters the churchyard. Presumably gates in the fields would have been opened for the bearers to avoid traversing the high stone stiles.

  12. Go through the gate into the churchyard and across the bridge to the church door.

    St Michael & All Angels Church in Lesnewth is in a lovely location, just next to a deep-sided stream, marked by an ancient Celtic wayside cross. The original Saxon church was said to be built here in the dip to hide it from marauding Vikings at sea, but they found and pillaged it nonetheless. Sadly, little remains of the Norman church that followed; the present church is mostly Victorian, dominated by an impressively tall 15th century tower. On one of the walls inside is a nicely inscribed slate memorial with a carved coat of arms.

  13. Follow the path to the left of the church, which heads uphill to a gate onto the lane. Turn right onto the lane to complete the circular walk.

    Lesnewth is a small hamlet and civil parish situated two miles east of Boscastle. The name for Lesnewth in Cornish was Lysnowydh which means "New Court", which is a chieftan's estate. The farmhouse of Penpol dates back over 400 years, although there is believed to have been a settlement in this area for over 1000 years.

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