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

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 2.2 miles/3.5 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Lesnewth church
  • Parking: On the edge of the lane near the church PL350HR
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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Highlights

  • Pretty woodland walk with bluebells in spring
  • Panoramic views across the Valency Valley and surrounding coastline
  • Ancient churchyard at Lesnewth dating back to Celtic times
  • Winding country lanes with pretty flowers in spring and summer

Directions

  1. With the church behind you, turn right onto the lane, passing a couple of houses on your left, to a junction where another lane departs to the right (signposted to a ford).

    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 "Jack and Jill", "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave". The latter two names are based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. On a long wall, the herringbone sections are often between "towers" of flat-laid slate (built from the larger and squarer stones) which helped to prevent the wall slumping sideways. Traditionally, hedges (stone boundary walls) were built with whatever was cleared out of the fields, whilst buildings were constructed from stone that was quarried and cut.

  2. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane to reach a ford.

    The red campion produces a blaze of pink flowers along hedgerows in the spring with the main flowering period occurring between May to October. In the mild Cornish climate, a few plants can often be seen flowering throughout the year. The plant is known by a few local names including Johnny Woods, Ragged Jack, Scalded Apples, and particularly in the southwest as Red Riding Hood. Another name - Batchelors’ buttons - suggests it was once worn as a buttonhole by young men.

    The roots 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.

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

    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. Walk down the driveway through the gate marked Tregrylls to a waymark on the right, just before a bridge.

    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 on the path as it descends into the woods and follow it until you 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.

  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 reach another gate across the path.

    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. Go through the gate and continue on the path until you reach a wooden stile.

    There are nice views along the Trebiffin valley from the steps leading into the fields on the left.

    The steep Valency Valley acted as a funnel for the dramatic flash flood in 2004 that put Boscastle on (and nearly wiped it off) the map. Over 1.4 billion litres of rain fell in the course of 2 hours which is thought to have been caused by the Brown Willy effect, where the high tors on Bodmin Moor cause the repeated formation of rainclouds which blow along the prevailing wind and then dump their rain. Around 50 cars were swept into the harbour, the bridge was washed away and roads were submerged under 9ft of water. A total of 91 people were rescued in the largest peacetime rescue operation ever carried out in the UK.

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

    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 gamebird 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.

  10. Cross the stile and head straight across the field towards the church, to a stone stile in the hedge.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  11. Cross the stile and the next field towards the bottom-left corner, still heading for the church, to another stone stile.

    The association of good luck with four-leafed clover was first recorded in Victorian times (1860s-1870s) so may be a relatively recent invention. Perhaps something that occupied children for hours was seen as good luck in Victorian times!

    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.

  12. 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.

    Orchids grow amongst the grass in the field and can be seen flowering 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 medieaval times, the plant was known as bollockwort.

  13. 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.

  14. Follow the path to the left of the church, which heads uphill to a gate 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.

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.

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