Holywell to St Piran's Oratory circular walk

Holywell to St Piran's Oratory

A circular walk from Holywell Bay along the rugged coastline to Perran Beach and across the dunes to the mediaeval relics of St Piran's Oratory, Church and Cross, returning via the Penhale Sands nature reserve which is carpeted in cowslips during spring.

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The walk starts from Holywell Bay where the sacred spring forming limestone cascades can be seen at low tide. The route follows the rugged coast around Penhale Head and Hobyln Cove to reach Ligger Point where there are panoramic views over Perran Beach and the St Agnes coastline. The walk follows the beach then climbs the dunes to St Piran's Oratory, thought to be the oldest religious building in mainland Britain. The return route is across Penhale Sands which is nationally important for wildflowers and butterflies.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104
  • Distance: 7.4 miles/11.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 104 OS Explorer 104 (laminated version)

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


  • The Holy Well - an amazing natural series of basins created from dissolved minerals
  • Long, sandy beaches at Holywell Bay and Perranporth
  • Rugged coastline around Hoblyn's Cove
  • Panoramic views from the coast path
  • St Piran's Oratory - thought to date from the early mediaeval period
  • St Piran's Cross - thought to be over 1000 years old
  • Remains of St Piran's Church, itself nearly as old
  • Penhale Sands - the tallest dunes in Britain and largest in Cornwall

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Treguth Inn


  1. From the car park, cross the road to the information board with a map. Follow the path to a fork at the end of the fence/wall on the right.

    Holywell Bay unsurprisingly gets its name from a holy well, but there are 2 rival holy wells contending for this! The first is in the valley at Trevornick (near the 18th hole of Holywell Golf Course). The second, and more likely the original, is a freshwater spring in a sea cave at the north end of the beach. In Cornish, the name is Porth Elyn, meaning "cove of the clear stream" which could either be a reference to the spring in the cave, or simply the stream running across the beach which runs some distance over the sand dunes before reaching the beach.

  2. Keep left at the fork and follow the path along the fence until you reach a waymark carved onto a large piece of slate.

    At low tide, if you walk to the north end of Holywell beach (along Kelsey Head), you can find a sea cave containing a freshwater spring. Calcium carbonate dissolved in the springwater has created a spectacular series of natural basins fed by the well. The source of the calcium carbonate was originally thought to be the fragments of shell in the sand dunes as there are few sedimentary rocks in this part of Cornwall. However, there are thin bands of limestone in this particular area and current thinking is that the source may be one of these, but it is not known for certain.

  3. At the slate waymark, bear left and follow the path to a pedestrian gate.

    From this point, until you reach Perran Beach, it is important that you stick to the path. As well as the risk of being blown up by military ordnance, there are also disused mineshafts to fall down.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path around the headland to a kissing gate through a wooden fence.

    In 1991, sloes were found in the stomach contents of a 5,300 human mummy in the Alps, indicating that they were part of the Neolithic diet. Alone they are extremely bitter but with enough sugar, they can be made into a range of preserves.

    Blackthorn wood is very tough and hard-wearing. In order to form its thorns, the tree allows the tips of the tiny stems that make up the thorns to die. The dead wood in the thorn tip is harder and therefore sharper than the living wood.

  5. Go through the gate and pass one waymark to reach a second waymark between the fenced-off areas.

    The pair of rocks off Penhale Point at Holywell Bay are owned by the National Trust and are known either as Carter's or Gull Rocks. It has been reported that some locals refer to them as "Fishtail Rocks", which nicely describes their shape.

  6. Follow the path past more waymarks until you reach a waymark which appears to point left towards the MOD driveway, despite the path continuing ahead.

    Penhale Camp was established in 1939 as a World War II emergency measure to train anti-aircraft gunners On 7 June 1940, the camp was bombed by a single German bomber, thought to be looking for the nearby St Eval airfield and 22 men were killed. After the war, the camp was used for training. A 40-acre area (containing the camp) was sold by the MoD in 2010, however nearly 950 acres of the Penhale Dunes were retained for training and this provides a large undeveloped area of the important dune habitat in which wildlife can flourish.

  7. Continue ahead on the path, ignoring the initial confusing waymark and then following the waymarked path parallel to the fence until it reaches a gate entering a fenced section of path.

    Penhale is from the Cornish words pen meaning top or head and heyl meaning estuary or bay. Unsurprisingly it crops up in a few places in Cornwall including house names (typically situated overlooking a bay).

  8. Go through the gate and follow the path along the fence until you reach a gate.

    Along the cliffs of Penhale Point and around Hoblyn Cove are the remains of lead mines that date back at least to the 16th century, and mining continued through much of the 19th century. Little remains of the mine buildings as they were cleared to build Penhale Camp, but a number of mineshafts still exist on the cliff edges. The sea cave beneath the fault in the rock near Hoblyn's Cove is reported to be the result of mining.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the path along the fence then along the line of waymarks. Continue on the path all the way to the top of the headland to reach a metal post where the path bends.

    Thrift is tolerant of metals such as lead and particularly copper in soil so it is able to colonise coastal mine tips. It has been suggested that the heavy metal tolerance may be partly down to not transporting much dissolved metal up the shoot of the plant (since thrift grows in a desiccating salty environment, there is less water to transport it than in many other plants). However thrift also has mechanisms to sequester metals and excrete them through its roots and leaves.

    In Cornwall, cliffs erode at an average rate of between roughly 3cm - 30cm per year depending on the hardness of the rocks and location. In reality this often happens in infrequent sudden collapses rather than as a steady, gradual process. It was found that one massive storm in 2014 caused around 100 times the average amount of erosion. There are obvious implications from climate change leading to more frequent or more intense storms.

  10. From the post, bear left and follow the waymarked path until you eventually reach a stile.

    The prolific yellow flowers along the coast in the late spring and early summer are those of the kidney vetch.

    The carpets of yellow flowers on the coast in June and July are Kidney Vetch. The flowers are red when they open and then turn yellow, and appear to be on a woolly cushion. The plant gets its common name as it was used to treat kidney troubles. Its other name - woundwort - is because it was also used to treat wounds. It is the food plant of the small blue butterfly, which is consequently quite common on the coastal heath.

    The 10ft long Porbeagle shark caught and released off Boscastle in May 2012 was estimated at 550lb which would make it the largest shark ever caught in British waters. The Porbeagle feeds on a variety of fish and is fast enough to chase mackerel, herring and pilchards which shoal around the Cornish coast hence is sometimes known as the "Mackerel Shark". Despite its size, there are very few reported attacks on humans (and these are questionable). The reverse however cannot be said: the Porbeagle has been overfished to the point of being endangered and continues to be caught both intentionally and as by-catch. Strict regulations and greatly reduced fishing quotas introduced in 2000 have begun to reverse the stock decline, though recovery is projected to take decades.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the path to a fork with an information board on a stone support. Follow either path (as they rejoin) and continue to a waymark at another fork in the path.

    The hill is known as "Gravel Hill" and the name may have arisen because there was a quarry in the gully to the left which extracted elvan.

    Elvan is very hard volcanic rock formed where magma intruded into other rocks to form a (vertical) dyke or (horizontal) sill that cooled fairly quickly, resulting in fairly small crystals. Elvan can be seen in many of the churches across Cornwall where it is often used for intricate parts of buildings, such as doorways, so they can be finely carved.

    The term "white elvan" is sometimes used for those which are chemically very similar to granite (but in the case of granite, slower cooling resulted in large crystals) i.e. formed of mildly acidic compounds.

    The term "greenstone" is used by quarrymen to describe igneous rocks that, unlike granite, are rich in (basic) iron and magnesium compounds and these often give it a blue-green colour. When greenstone is formed as a sill or dyke it is sometimes called "blue elvan". This is also fairly common in Cornwall and has been quarried for a long time: in the Neolithic period, stone axes made from blue elvan were exported from Cornwall to various parts of Britain.

  12. Turn right at the waymark (yellow arrow) and follow the waymarked path until, just after a waymark pointing to the right, the path forks.

    Skylarks can be heard singing above the dunes in spring and summer.

    Skylarks are the most common member of the lark family in Britain and are often known simply as "larks".

    Lark shooting was a popular sport in Victorian times. Revolving mirrors were used to attract the migrating birds, which would hover over the mirror. There are records of over 1,000 birds being shot at a single mirror in a day. Despite being flagged as high conservation concern on the the IUCN Red List, at the time of writing in 2020, skylarks can still be legally shot in France and still are in large numbers.

    The small islets you can see off the coast at the far end of the beach are known as Bawden Rocks. They are located just off St Agnes Head.

  13. At the fork in the path, keep left to follow the (less steep) path ahead. Follow it to where it ends on a track.

    Tree mallow is a coastal plant noticeable both by its large purple flowers from early summer and because it can grow to around 6ft tall. It has adapted to be able to grow on the coast by excreting salt from its leaves. This even allows it to grow where its only supply of water is pure seawater. The seeds also have a waterproof casing and remain viable even after an extended period in saltwater, allowing it to colonise via the sea rather like coconuts.

    During the Second World War, the beach at Perranporth was fenced-off with three rows of barbed-wire, and landmines were laid in the dunes. An account from the St Agnes Institute records several soldiers from Penhale Camp being killed by these when returning across the dunes from recreation at Perranporth.

  14. Turn right onto the track and follow it to the end. Follow the path from the bottom to the beach.

    The pool (known locally as "dead man's pool") and the holes directly above it in the cliff are the remains of the Gravel Hill iron mine. The mine is known to have been active before the 18th century and thousands of tonnes of ore were extracted in the 19th century. The mine worked a huge lode of iron, known by the utilitarian name of The Perran Iron Lode, which meets the cliffs here. This extends for about 3 miles inland and there were a number of mines along it.

  15. Turn left and walk along the top of the beach for half a mile until you reach a path leading from the beach just past a rock fall.

    At high tide, there are two distinct beaches within Perran Bay: the long, thin Perran Beach (also known as Perran Sands) to the north, between Carn Clew and Ligger Point, and the smaller Perranporth beach to the south between Cotty's Point and the river beside Chapel Rock. At low tide, the beaches combine into a 2.2 mile stretch of sand between Droksyn Point and Ligger Point, up to a quarter of a mile wide. There is a tidal swimming pool on the seaward side of Chapel Rock (the one with the flag on). The northern end of the beach is generally much quieter due to the town of Perranporth and associated holiday parks being at the southern end of the beach, and much of the dunes to the north (known as Penhale Sands) being military land with no public access. Even when the tide is too far in to walk along the beach, most of the time it's still possible to reach the other half via the coast path.

  16. Bear left to follow the path up from the beach and along the front of the dunes until you reach a crossing of paths.

    In March 1901, the Dutch ship Voorspoed ran ashore on Perran Beach in a northerly gale, on its way from Cardiff to Bahia. The wreck was looted by the local population, who used horses to cart away the cargo. The captain commented:

    I have been wrecked in different parts of the world, even the Fiji islands, but never amongst savages such as those of Perranporth.
  17. Continue ahead and follow the path until a path leads off from the left.

    Dunes (called towans in Cornish) form when dry sand from the beach is blown by the wind, and initially lodges against an obstruction, eventually forming a ridge. More sand can then accumulate against the ridge and vegetation such as marram grass can then take hold, preventing the resulting sand hill from washing or blowing away.

  18. Turn left follow the path up the valley until you reach a wooden post protruding through the vegetation at the top.

    Spurges are small plants with bright green, fleshy leaves with pointed tips that can be found on sand dunes in Cornwall. They do well in areas of fairly bare sand without much other vegetation so can be found along the edge of paths where other vegetation has been worn down.

    Sea spurge has quite spiky leaves and grows up to a foot tall. It's particularly noticeable in December and January when other vegetation has died down. The stems are red at the base and green at the top and have leaves all along their length.

    Portland spurge is less of an upright plant. Its stems are red and bald for most of their length which is the easiest way to tell it from sea spurge. It was named after first being identified on Portland where it turns out to be not that common. However it does seem to be pretty common at Perranporth if a more appropriate name is desired. It flowers from April to September. The leaves at the end of the stems form little cups with a tiny yellow flower in the middle.

    The plants are related to petty spurge (milkweed) found in gardens. Milkweed is also known as radium weed as the sap is said to kill rapidly-replicating cells and so it has been used as a traditional medicine for skin cancers.

  19. From the top of the valley, continue on the path ahead to the top of the ridge.

    St Piran was born in Ireland in the 6th century. According to legend, he had miraculous powers and a group of kings grew afraid of his powers. They, somewhat unsportingly, tied a millstone round his neck and threw him into the sea. However due to his powers, the millstone floated and he was washed ashore at Perranporth.

    Saint Piran is the patron saint of tin-miners and is generally regarded as the national saint of Cornwall. St Piran's flag - the white cross on a black background - is said to represent the black tin ore and white molten metal. Celebrations on St Piran's Day (5th March) involve lots of alcohol and gave rise to the expression "drunk as a Perraner".

  20. Follow the path down the other side to reach a gate.

    Some time in the 6th Century, St Piran was thought to have landed near Perranporth, where he built a tiny chapel (also known as an Oratory). This is thought to be the oldest Christian site in Cornwall. The original chapel was probably built of wattle and daub. A little later, this was replaced by a stone building. This small chapel was finally abandoned in the 10th century, due to the encroaching sand.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the path ahead. Continue on the path until you emerge close to a mound with a large cross then climb the mound to the base of the cross.

    Rabbits keep the grass mown on the dunes.

    If a rabbit is placed on its back and its legs are stroked, it appears to go into a relaxed trance and many owners of pet rabbits thought this was a cute thing to do that was enjoyable for the rabbit. It's now understood that this reaction, known as "tonic immobility", occurs when the rabbit is extremely stressed because it thinks it is about to be eaten by a predator! It is effectively a "playing dead" reaction to lull a predator into a false sense of security so the rabbit can make a sudden escape when the predator isn't paying attention.

  22. From the cross, with your back to the sea, bear left and follow the path to the concrete structure surrounding St Piran's Oratory.

    St Piran's oratory lay buried under the sand dunes near Perranporth for nearly a millennium, until 1835 when some stones were noticed, sticking out from the dunes. It was excavated and found to be in remarkably good condition. The building is thought to be from around the 11th Century although burials on the site suggest a previous building might have existed in the 9th Century. Within the oratory, one of the walls contains a stone inscribed with upside-down Roman capitals which is thought to date back to the 6th or possibly even the 5th century but where this came from originally is unknown.

    After it was excavated in Victorian times, quite a number of the stones were stolen as "souvenirs" and it suffered constant erosion by wind, sand and rain; eventually two of the walls collapsed. In 1910, an ugly concrete bunker was built over the oratory to protect it. In the 1980s, the bunker was removed and the remains of the oratory were reburied beneath the sand to protect it from both the elements and vandals. The oratory once again lay beneath the sand with a small mound marking it. Steps led to the top, on which a small granite stone sat, inscribed with the words St Piran.

    In 2000 a trust was set up to re-excavate the Oratory. Work began in October 2013, and the Oratory is now uncovered.

  23. Bear right from the oratory to follow the path past the information board to a white stone on the top of the hill. From here, bear right slightly to follow the well-worn path and reach a footbridge.

    There was once a churchyard in the dunes surrounding St Piran's Oratory and Church, just north of Perranporth. As the sands shift, or during excavations, human bones have occasionally been exposed. Near the Oratory doorway, the skeleton of a woman was uncovered with a child in her arms. Other skeletons discovered in the early 20th Century were all laid out East-West with their legs crossed.

  24. Cross the bridge and take the path ahead. Follow this until you can see a stone Celtic cross on the skyline. Make your way to this.

    After St Piran's Oratory, in the dunes near Perranporth, was abandoned in the 10th century due to the encroaching sand, another church was built a little further inland beside the Celtic cross. Known as St Piran's Church, this was built around 1150 and then enlarged in the 15th century. It was abandoned in 1804 and much of the stone and fittings were moved to a new site, further inland at Perranzabuloe, leaving just the foundations that you see today.

  25. From the cross, turn right and take the path marked with a white stone. Keep right at at the fork and follow the main path to pass a waymark post on your right and follow a line of white stones to reach a second waymark post with a black arrow.

    St Piran's cross stands close to the remains of St Piran's church, on the dunes near Perranporth. This is one of two three-holed crosses in Cornwall (the other is near Wadebridge), but it may simply be the 4th hole just wasn't finished in both cases. The cross is certainly likely to be as old as the church and probably older. It may well be the one referred to in a charter of AD 960 as "cristelmael".

  26. At the waymark, follow the path ahead with a white stone. Where the main path forks, keep left to follow the path uphill to another fork. Again keep left and follow the path to reach a fence. Continue on the path alongside the fence to reach fork in the path just after a waymark post on the left.

    In 2014, the skeletons of 2 adults and 10 children were excavated which have been dated to the 8th or 9th Century. These predate the St Piran's Oratory building and it is thought that they may relate to an earlier building on the site.

  27. At the fork, turn left (ignoring the direction of the arrow) and follow the path along the fence until you reach another waymark at a junction of paths.

    Hawthorn berries have traditionally been used to make fruit jellies as they contain pectin and have an apple-like flavour. A reason for making seedless jellies is that the seeds in hawthorn berries contain a compound called amygdalin, which is cyanide bonded with sugar. In the gut this is converted to hydrogen cyanide.

    Hawthorn has many folk names which are spread across quite a diverse range of features. Names such as "maytree" or even just "may" are references to when it flowers. However "whitethorn" is not about the blossom but a reference to the lighter bark colour than blackthorn. The name "bread and cheese" derives from the very young leaves being edible. It is also sometimes called "thornapple" due to the apple-like shape of the fruits. This is not a coincidence as both the hawthorn and apple are members of the rose family.

  28. At the waymark, turn left to join the waymarked path along the wall and follow it to a kissing gate.

    An impressively purple blackberry, pear and ginger chutney can be made with blackberries stashed in the freezer. Simmer 500g blackberries, a few chilli flakes, 4 chopped pears and a finely-chopped 8cm piece of fresh ginger until the liquid reduces. Add 150ml distilled or white wine vinegar, and sugar to taste (amount will depend on tartness of the blackberries). Reduce a bit longer until the desired "gloopy" consistency is achieved and finally season with a little salt to taste to balance the sweetness.

    Bramble roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!). In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers.

  29. Go through the kissing gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane for a mile until a track departs to the left where the main road bends sharply at the bottom of a valley.

    Although nearly all foxgloves are purple, a fairly rare white form does occur and an even more rare pink form sometimes occurs along with this.

    Mount Farm often has swedes for sale on the road during the autumn and early winter.

    The vegetable now found in supermarkets as a swede was originally known as a Swedish turnip as it was introduced from Sweden in the 18th Century. It originated from a cross between a turnip and a cabbage!

    In Cornish dialect, the word "turnip" was (and in many cases, still is) used for either a Swedish or regular turnip but any pasty recipes that mention "turnip" always use swede. Consequently there are endless "swede vs turnip" wars on facebook in Cornwall.

    In some areas of England, swedes are also known as "neeps" from an Old English word. The word "turnip" also derives from this.

  30. Turn left onto the track and follow the path to the right of the metal gates to reach a field gate. Go through the gate and follow the path along the right hedge until it splits.

    Penhale Sands, located between Holywell Bay and Perranporth, is the largest dune system in Cornwall and the highest in Britain, rising to 90 metres. In places, the sand is nearly 50 metres deep. The area has been designated an Important Plant Area by Plantlife due to the rare plant species and lichens. The soil here is, unusually for Cornwall, alkaline which is why rare plants can thrive here. This is due to the high density of shell fragments in the sand, which are composed of calcium carbonate (limestone). The area has also been designated a Special Area of Conservation due to the range of butterfly and moth species which live on the plants here.

  31. Where the path splits, take the right path (along the hedge) and continue on the main path until you reach a tree where a small path departs to the right towards a waymark. Turn right onto this and walk past the waymark to reach a kissing gate beneath the trees.

    The calcium carbonate from seashells has been a key factor in Cornwall's natural and industrial history due to the shortage of lime-rich rocks. The golden colour of the sand on the beaches is due to the small fragments of shell and in the past this was transported around Cornwall using horses, donkeys, canals and even by railway. You may be wondering where the shellfish themselves got the calcium carbonate from in the first place, since it was so scarce. As well as the "salt" (sodium chloride) that you can taste, sea water contains a range of other dissolved salts and around 1% of the dissolved material is calcium. Molluscs are able to extract the calcium ions from the seawater which they use to construct their shells.

  32. Go through the gate and follow the path over a number of boards crossing the marsh until you reach a full-size footbridge.

    Marsh marigold is a plant with large, glossy leaves that is indeed found in marshes but is actually a member of the buttercup family rather than a marigold. The name is more likely to do the size of the striking yellow flowers in spring.

    In shape, the flowers are fairly buttercup-like and have been likened to a goblet made from gold, giving rise to the alternative common name "kingcup" and also the Genus name (which based on the Greek for goblet).

    Like other members of the buttercup family, the plants are poisonous and can cause skin irritation in some people.

    The yellow water iris (also known as yellow flag) is a native plant but can become invasive and have a negative effect on biodiversity due to its ability to out-compete many other water plants. It is thought by some to be the original plant on which the "fleur-de-lis" heraldic symbol is based.

    If heavy metals are present in the soil, the plant is quite effective at absorbing these. This together with its aptitude for growing in pools of shallow water makes it potentially useful for detoxifying mine drainage.

    Ivy is rarely a threat to healthy trees. Ivy is not a parasite. Since it has its own root system, it absorbs its own nutrients. It simply uses a tree for support. The main risk to trees is during strong winds when the surface of the ivy can act as a sail which, together with the extra weight from the ivy, can cause a tree to fall.

  33. Cross the footbridge and follow the path directly ahead between two rows of trees, and uphill until it ends in a gate onto a track.

    There are several species of dock but two of the most common found in fields are the broad-leaved and curly dock. Broad-leaved docks are the ones with the big leaves that are usually grabbed after a stinging nettle encounter. They can live for at least 5 years and normally don't produce seeds until their second year. Curled docks have more slender leaves which often have more wavy edges. They are shorter-lived and can flower only 9 weeks after germination but often die after flowering if not cut.

    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.

  34. Go through the gate and turn left onto the track and then keep left, following it until it ends at a gate.

    Ash trees are often easy to spot by the knobbly twigs all over the ground beneath the trees. They also have distinctive rows of quite small leaves. Ash trees can live for over 400 years and the life of the tree can be prolonged further by coppicing. Ash was traditionally coppiced to provide wood for firewood and charcoal. However, the name is nothing to do with this. It is from æsc - the old English word for spear. This comes about because ash is one of the toughest hardwoods and absorbs shocks without splintering. It is still used for making tool handles and sports equipment, including hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars.

    Ash trees in Britain are now under threat from a highly destructive fungal pandemic similar to Dutch Elm Disease, known as chalara or "ash dieback". Rather than being spread by beetles, this one is simply carried by the wind. Work is underway to try to find genetic factors which allow some trees to resist infection in order to breed a new generation of disease-tolerant trees.

    The Living Ash project started with over 150,000 seedlings gathered from a wide range of areas, planted during 2013 in locations with the most ash dieback. In 2018, grafts were taken from the 575 trees which appear to have resisted infection and planted alongside 420 grafts from trees in woodlands and hedgerows which also seem to have survived infection. The idea is that these can all cross-pollinate to maximise genetic diversity and it is hoped this will eventually become a source of seeds of disease-resistant trees.

    Similarly to Dutch Elm Disease, the chalara fungal disease that causes ash dieback is originally from Asia and the ash species there have co-evolved to be tolerant. In case attempts to breed disease resistant native ash trees are unsuccessful, work is underway to create hybrid species that closely resemble the Common Ash but with the disease resistance from an Asian parent plant.

  35. Go through the gate and cross the field to a stone stile directly opposite.

    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 a miscarriage. 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.

  36. Cross the stile and bear right slightly across the field to the gate, to the right of the house.

    Researchers have found a recessive gene which appears to turn normal 3-leaf clovers into the 4-leaf version. Normally this is masked by the 3-leaf gene but environmental conditions can promote the 4-leaf form. Some domestic varieties have also been selectively bred to increase the proportion of 4-leaf plants. Genetically-engineered four leaf clovers are now a possibility with some farms in the USA reportedly already using genetic modification to churn-out thousands of plastic-sealed "lucky" charms per day.

  37. Go through the pedestrian gate to the right of the farm gate. Then turn left and follow the left hedge to a larger wooden gate.

    Another place that alexanders are commonly found is near the sites of mediaeval settlements, in particular religious settlements where they were cultivated by monks as a vegetable. In mediaeval cuisine they were used as an alternative to celery (which was a more bitter plant back then). It was traditionally one of the "pot herbs" that were added to stews and the dried seeds can also be used as a spice. Alexanders were particularly useful during lean winters as its new growth is available in the late Autumn, before many other spring greens.

  38. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to another gate.

    The first record of the settlement of Ellenglaze is the manor of Elil - presumed to be Ellen(glaze) - recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086. At this point there were 20 households and land for 8 ploughs. The name is thought to be from the name of the stream which also features in the original name for Holywell Bay (Porth Elyn). The -glaze part of the name is the Cornish word for a colour which can mean either green, blue or grey (i.e. colours of the sea). The overall gist of elynglas is thought to mean "clear blue stream". The name is quite fitting as the sandy soil here filters the water running into the stream which means it is absent of muddy sediment.

  39. Go through the gate and follow the track leading ahead (the second left) round a bend to the left to reach a gate on the right with a waymarked path to Trevornick.

    A mill was recorded at Ellenglaze in 1538 which was owned by the monks of St Petroc's. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, a mill for animal feed was also recorded and two pairs of grinding stones were found in a survey in the 1970s. The mill was still extant in 1880s but had been demolished by the first decade of the 20th Century.

  40. When you reach the gateway on the right, stay on the track and follow it a little further until it ends and a small path leads off to the right, to the left of a wooden gate.
  41. Turn right onto the path along the fence and follow it alongside the river for just under half a mile, passing through a kissing gate on the way, until it emerges onto a lane.

    You may expect such a sandy river to be barren of life but in fact the clear water supports a surprisingly large population of small trout. If you creep up quietly to the stream you can often see them swimming against the current.

    Trout are members of the Salmon family who all have an extra tiny (adipose) fin on their back towards their tail, that most other fish don't have. No-one is quite sure what the purpose is of this fin but a neural network in the fin indicates that it has some kind of sensory function.

    The trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock is the Rainbow Trout (which has a red flush along its side) and is native to North America not to the UK. Our native trout is the Brown Trout which has well-defined dark red spots along its sides. You can often make out the spots when you see them lying in pools. Rainbow Trout are often stocked in fishing lakes so do sometimes escape into the wild.

    Small trout typically feed on invertebrates whereas larger trout generally feed on other fish but have been known to eat anything of a suitable size unlucky enough to fall into a river. In fact in New Zealand, mouse-shaped lures are sold for trout fishing!

  42. Bear left onto the lane and follow it to the traffic island at the reception area.
  43. At the island, keep ahead past Reception and between two metal bollards to pass a Sports Court on the right. Follow the lane until it ends in a T-junction with the road.

    Rooks can be distinguished from other members of the crow family by their pale, hairless, pointy beak (other members of the crow family have black beaks and also a moustache on the top of their beak).

  44. Turn left onto the road and follow it back to the car park.

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