Inny Valleys from Altarnun

A circular walk around the valleys of the River Inny and Penpont Water to the mediaeval church at Laneast and the old bridge at Gimlett's Mill from the 15th century "Cathedral of the Moors" in Altarnun, set beside a 6th Century Celtic cross where churches and chapels had been throughout the Dark Ages.

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Starting from the church at Altarnun, the walk crosses the river valleys of the Inny and Penpont Water, with some nice views of Bodmin Moor. In spring and summer, there are spectacular wildflowers all the way around the route. The gradients are relatively gentle but there are some steep and awkward stiles which is why it is graded at moderate-strenuous.

Some of the stiles on the route are fairly athletically-demanding (stone footholds over walls etc)


Brilliant! Me and my husband used this iwalk app for the first time today- the directions were very clear and having the routemap is very helpful. Will definitely recommend and use more. Thanks!
Inny Valley from Altarnun, went on this lovely walk yesterday with its 35 stiles, some quite challenging and all different in their own way! Some lovely countryside and wildlife.
Superb walk as usual.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 6.6 miles/10.6 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Altarnun village hall
  • Parking: By the church hall, taking care not to block access PL157SJ. Turn beside Altarnun church and keep right to pass the bridge and reach the church hall
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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


  • Pretty village of Altarnun
  • Spectacular St Nonna's church known as "cathedral of the moors"
  • Pleasant winding country lanes and footpaths with wild flowers in spring and summer
  • Woodland rich in orchids and other woodland wildflowers around the river crossing at Laneast
  • Ancient church and Celtic cross at Laneast
  • Tranquil setting of Gimbletts Mill and Bridge


  1. Starting from the church at Altarnun, turn left from the churchyard onto the road and head uphill until you reach a junction by the Treween sign.

    Altarnun is a pretty village to the north-east of Bodmin Moor. The name "Altarnun" is a corruption of "Altar of St Nonna" although the village was originally known by the Cornish name Penpont (hence the name of the river - Penpont Water). The Old Rectory near the church was featured by Daphne Du Maurier in "Jamaica Inn".

  2. Turn right and follow this lane for half a mile until it ends at a Y-shaped junction.

    Wild garlic grows along the lane here, which is evident in spring and early summer.

    Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are generally used rather than the bulb, which is very small. Note that there are some lillies that look very similar and are poisonous! If it doesn't smell strongly of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic and should be avoided. A schoolboy error is to rub the leaves between fingers where the smell lingers so a subsequent poisonous lilly leaf could be misidentified.

  3. At the junction, ignore the footpath ahead and turn left. Follow the lane a short distance until you reach a stile on the right marked with another Public Footpath sign. Climb the stile and cross the field to a stile in the middle of the far hedge.
  4. Cross the stile and follow the path through a copse to another stile.

    The plants produce flower spikes with small green bells from June to September. When the flower spike is first forming it is a rather beautiful structure and is a perfect subject for macro photography.

  5. Cross the stile onto a track and cross the sequence of 2 stiles opposite. Then bear right slightly across the field to a stile in the far hedge near the corner.

    In farms around Cornwall, harvest was celebrated with traditions such as "crying the neck".

    Neck - a miniature sheaf of wheat with four plaited arms, intertwined with everlastings and the more durable of flowers. The stalks of wheat brought down by the last sweep of the scythe are brought home in thankful triumph, and woven as described. In the evening, the sheaf or zang is taken into the mowhay, where are assembled all the harvest party.

    A stout-lunged reaper proclaims: "I hav'en! I hav'en! I hav'en!"
    Another loud voice questions: "What hav'ee? What hav'ee? What hav'ee?"
    "A neck! A neck! A neck!" is the reply;
    and the crowd take up, in their lustiest tones, a chorus of "Wurrah".

    General merriment follows and the draughts of ale and cider are often deep. The neck may be seen hanging to the beam of many of our farm-houses between harvest and Christmas eve, on which night it is given to the master bullock in the chall. "Hollaing the neck" is still heard in East Cornwall, and is one of the cheerfullest of rural sounds.

    Since the 20th century, the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies has been reviving this tradition; the ale part sounds good.

  6. Cross the stile and head across the field, aiming for a stile roughly 50 metres to the right of the house.

    The Harvest Festival was invented in Morwenstow in 1843 by Rev. Hawker. He invited his parishioners to a Harvest service, as he wanted to give thanks to God for providing such plenty. The service took place on the 1 October, and bread made from the first cut of corn was taken at communion. It quickly caught on and spread throughout Cornwall and beyond. In the Port Isaac Harvest Festival celebration, fish, nets, oars and lobster pots took the place of the more conventional flowers and fruit.

  7. Cross the stile and head across the field to another stile slightly to the right of the house.

    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.

  8. Cross the stile onto the lane and take the track opposite, signposted "Public Footpath". Follow the track past some houses and towards the grain silos, to a fork at a waymarked post.
  9. Bear right at the fork and follow the track to a barn where the track bends to the right.

    The farmstead at Tregunnon was first recorded in 1189 as "Gunan" and is from the Cornish word goon meaning "downs". By 1231, the settlement had split into Higher and Lower Tregunnon which in 1231 were referred to using the Middle English for "higher" and "lower": Overgunan and Nithergunan.

  10. Opposite the barn, there is a gate on the left. Go through the gate and head for the stile on the opposite side of the field, in the middle of the hedge.

    Evidence of windmills in England dates from around the 12th century and in Cornwall there are records of windmills as far back as 1296. Wind turbines may be viewed as the modern successor but actually themselves date back to Victorian times: the first large windmill to generate electricity was built in 1888 in the USA, and in Cornwall, a private house was lit using electricity generated by a wind turbine in 1890.

  11. Climb the (somewhat epic) stile. Then cross the next field to a stile roughly in the middle of the far hedge (bear left slightly as you head downhill).

    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.
  12. Cross the stile onto a track; cross over the track to a waymark and follow the path down into the valley to reach another waymark.
  13. From the waymark, go down the steps and follow the path past another waymark, to a stile.
  14. Cross the stile and turn right on the lane and follow it over a bridge and up the hill until you reach the church (on your left).

    The River Inny is a tributary of the Tamar and is approximately 20 miles long, supporting populations of trout, salmon and sea trout as well as otters and kingfishers. The name of the river was recorded in the 1600s as Heanye and may be from the Cornish word enys - for island. Penpont Water is its main tributary and has a status of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Area of Great Scientific Value and Area of Great Historical Value. The source of the Inny is very close to the Davidstow Cheese factory, from a spring in the field opposite Pendragon House.

  15. After the church, follow the lane for a short distance to a bend with a public footpath sign pointing into a farmyard on the right.

    The name Laneast is thought to mean "church to the East" (of the older one at St Clether). The church building dates from Norman times with additions in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the 15th Century, the tower and south aisle were completed. The church was restored in the mid-1800s but much of the 15th Century woodwork and stained glass remains.

  16. Turn right and follow the right wall of the farmyard to a stile. Cross the stile and follow the path over another stile to a grassy area. Then bear right to reach a waymarked stile beneath a tree.
  17. Cross the stile into the field and follow the right hedge to a waymarked gateway.

    Laneast Holy Well is located on private land within the meadow to the right.

    The Holy Well, known locally as "Jordan Well" or "Wishing Well", is covered by a slate-roofed granite building dating from the 16th Century which is now Grade II listed. Water from the well was still used for baptisms until relatively recently.

  18. Go through the gateway and head to the tree in the middle of the field. Then head to the left of the tall trees to a rough stone bridge over the stream beside the holly bush.

    The berries of holly contain a chemical compound very similar to caffeine. Only in very small doses is this a stimulant; in larger doses it is toxic. It is for this reason that you see holly berries on bushes rather than being inside the nearest bird. The birds have learned to wait until after the frosts have reduced the toxicity of the berries before eating them.

  19. Cross the stream and a stile and continue ahead a few paces into the field. Then bear right along the edge of the field for about 20 metres to reach another stile.

    From Tudor times onwards, the majority of farming in Cornwall was based around rearing livestock with dairy cattle being predominant. This is reflected in traditional Cornish dairy produce including clotted cream and, later, ice cream and in the North Cornwall dialect where the pejorative for "farmer" was a fairly graphical description of the act of milking before the introduction of milking machines which rhymed with "bit fuller".

    Since 1984, the European Common Market agricultural policy - to restrict milk production - has reduced dairy herds and prompted shifts to beef and lamb production, and arable crops - particularly maize and oilseed rape. Two large buyers of Cornish milk - Rodda's for their clotted cream and Diary Crest for the production of Davidstow and Cathedral City cheeses - have helped to buffer the Cornish dairy industry from this to some degree. Post-Brexit, there is speculation that Britain may become more agriculturally self-sufficient and this could change the dynamics once again.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the right-hand hedge of the field uphill all the way to the farm, where there is a stone stile.

    Some of the large trees along the right hedge are beech which scatter beechnuts along the path in early autumn.

    The fruit of the beech tree is known as "mast" or, less crypically, "beechnuts". The small triangular nuts are encased in spiky husks which split and drop from the trees from late August to early October. The kernels of these are edible and are similar to hazelnuts. They were once used as a source of flour, which was ground after the tannins had been leached out by soaking them in water. If you find them too bitter, you might want to try this trick, although toasting them in a hot pan is also a good option.

  21. Cross the stile and turn left on the farm lane. Just before the barn, cross the stone stile on the right and follow the right hedge of the field to a stile next to a gateway at the corner with the far hedge.
  22. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) onto a track and turn left. Follow the left wall of the track past a waymark and a house until the track ends at a gate.

    The settlement of Trespearne was first recorded in around 1200 as Trespernan. The name is Cornish and means "thorn tree farm". It is thought that the settlement dates from the Dark Ages.

  23. Go through the gate and turn right onto a lane. Follow it downhill to the bridge at Gimblett's Mill.

    Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.

  24. Follow the lane over the stone bridge to a footpath signposted to the left, at a bend to the right.

    Gimblett's Mill, on the River Inny near Altarnun, dates from about 1800. The bridge over the river was built in 1847, following the great flood which swept away almost all the crossings along the river.

  25. Turn left onto the path and follow it to a stile.

    In July 1847 a large waterspout came in off the Atlantic and collapsed over Davidstow Moor where the sources of both the River Camel and River Inny rise. A wall of water 12-18 feet high swept down the Camel Valley demolishing all but two of the bridges. The solidly-built mediaeval Helland Bridge survived despite tree trunks piling against it. Wadebridge survived by being secured with ropes and chains by (brave) men in boats. Many years after the flood, pieces of hay and straw could still be seen in the trees 20 feet above the river at Dunmere.

  26. Cross the stile and follow the path ahead between the lines of trees to a gateway.

    Waterspouts are funnels of spray caused by a rotating vortex of air over the sea or a lake caused by warm air spiralling as it rises. Massive waterspouts can be caused by tornadoes but they can also occur on a smaller scale in stormy weather. Eventually the rising column of air collapses and the spray (and frogs or fish that ventured too close to the surface) falls as rain. The author has witnessed two waterspouts over the Atlantic in North Cornwall in recent years.

  27. From the gateway, bear right across the field to a ladder stile in the top corner of the far hedge.

    It may be an urban myth that Eskimos have a large number of words for "snow" but it's cast iron fact that there are at least this many words for "hill" in Cornish:

    • Meneth was often used to refer to Cornwall's higher peaks, or (outside of Cornwall) to mountains.
    • Tor was used for hills with rock outcrops protruding (and for the rock outcrops themselves)
    • Brea was used to refer to the most prominent hill in a district.
    • Ryn refers to a 'hill' in the sense of projecting ground, or a steep hill-side or slope.
    • Garth was used to refer to a long narrow hilltop.
    • Ambel refers to the side of a hill.
    • Mulvra refers to a round-topped hill.
    • Godolgh is a very small hill.
    • Bron means 'breast' as well as hill.
  28. Cross the stile into the next field and bear right towards the pylon in the far hedge, beneath which is the stile.
  29. Cross the stile and bear right across the field to an opening beneath the tall trees in the top right corner of the field.
  30. Go through the gateway and follow the path to reach a track (if the path is inaccessible due to mud or vegetation, the field on the left has a gate at the start of the track). Follow the track until it finally emerges onto a lane.

    Staddle Stones (also known as Mushroom Stones) were originally used to raise granary barns off the ground. These had two purposes: the first was that the elevation above the ground kept out the damp which would spoil the grain. The second was that the overhanging stone cap made it an extreme rock-climbing expedition for any mice and rats wishing to enter the barn.

  31. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to a T-junction.

    The small settlement is called Trethinna. The place name has changed little since the Middle Ages - it was recorded as Trethynna in 1350. Other than indicating a farm, the meaning of the name is not known.

  32. Turn left at the junction and follow it a short distance until you reach a stile on your right.
  33. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to the corner of the field. Then go through a gap and continue ahead downhill a short distance to a gate.

    In summer you may need to bear left around the patch of nettles along the line of trees on the right, but the route to the gate should still be clear.

    Nettles are extremely nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin A and C, large amounts of iron and even a significant amount of protein. The idea of eating something that can sting you seems wrong until you realise that nettles lose their sting as soon as you cook them, and they taste like spinach. Wearing gloves, strip off the young tender leaves, discarding any large coarse leaves and stems. Use lightly boiled, steamed or wilted as if it were spinach (though not raw unless you want to live dangerously!). All the usual spinach flavour combinations apply (e.g. with ricotta).

  34. Go through the gate to reach a waymark. Turn right at the waymark, past a gate to reach another waymark. Follow the track from the waymark until it ends in 2 gates.

    The settlement here, now known as Trerithick, was recorded in 1350 as Treydock. It is thought to be based on a personal name, i.e. "Ydock's farm" and date from the early Middle Ages.

  35. Take the left gate into a field. Bear right across the field to a stone stile roughly 20 metres to the left of the gateway.
  36. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a gate leading to a ladder stile.
  37. Cross the stile and cross the field to another gate in front of a ladder stile opposite.
  38. Cross the stile and cross the field to a gateway, to the right of the telegraph poles.
  39. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge to another gate.
  40. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a gate onto a track.
  41. Go through the gate and follow the track until it ends in a gate.

    The settlement of Trenarrett is likely to date from the early mediaeval period. It was recorded in 1363 as Tregnaret and is thought to be based on a personal name, i.e. "Naret's farm".

  42. At the end of the track, go through the gate keep right to follow the track uphill to a telegraph pole with a waymark opposite.

    Penpont Brewery was established in 2008, in a converted farm building at Trenarrett near Altarnun. They use their own spring water (from a spring that feeds Penpont Water) to make their beer, using locally produced ingredients where possible. Their beers are available at the Rising Sun Inn, near Treween.

  43. Turn left at the waymark and follow the track past the house to a waymarked junction.
  44. At the junction, turn left and follow the track downhill until it ends at some gates into a house. Then follow the waymarked path leading downhill from this until it ends in a gate.
  45. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow the fence on the left to a gate at the bottom of the field.
  46. Go through the gate and head to the bottom-right corner of the field, to a footbridge over the river.

    The Cornish language has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream
    • tenow - valley floor
  47. Cross the bridge and follow the right hedge to a waymarked stone stile at the top of the field.
  48. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge uphill, passing to the right of the rocks once they come into view. Continue uphill past the farmhouse to reach a gate at the top of the field.

    Unlike many of the place names along the walk which date from the early Middle Ages and are based on the Cornish language, Oldhay is an English name. The first record of it is slightly later than many of the surrounding farms, in 1436, when it was spelt Oldheye. This was Middle English for "old enclosure".

  49. Go through the gate and turn right, following the right-hand hedge to an opening into the next field.
  50. Go through the gap in the hedge and follow the right hedge to a pedestrian gate near the right corner of the field.

    In mediaeval times, the Anglo-Saxon "stitch meal" technique was adopted in some parts of Cornwall. This involved dividing arable and meadow land into long strips called "stitches". Villagers would be allocated a (usually disconnected) set of strips so that the "best" fields were shared around, as evenly as possible. The long, thin shape was ideal for ploughing with oxen. A typical stitch was one furlong in length and one acre in area, which could be ploughed by a team of oxen in a day.

  51. Go through the gate and cross the field to a waymarked opening in the hedge opposite roughly 20 metres from right-hand corner.
  52. Cross into the next field and head towards the gateway opposite to reach a stone stile just to its left.
  53. Cross the stile and follow the right-hand hedge to the large opening into the field ahead.
  54. Go through the opening and follow the right hedge to a stone stile.
  55. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to the corner, then bear left to the leftmost of the two gates in the far corner of the field.
  56. Go through the gate and turn right down the track, then immediately left to follow the track towards the house. Continue until the track emerges in a parking area by the houses.
  57. Take the concrete track from the opposite side of the parking area and follow this a short distance between the houses to reach a public footpath signpost.
  58. Keep right, in the direction indicated by the sign for "Altarnun 1/2", and follow the track until it ends in 3 gates.

    The settlement here, now called Tresmaine, was known during mediaeval times as Rosmaen, from the Cornish word ros, meaning "moor" or "hill-spur", and men, meaning "stone".

  59. Cross the stile next to the left gate, and follow the right hedge to a waymarked stile.
  60. Cross the stile and bear left, crossing the field to a stile in the middle of the far hedge.

    Rabbits thrive on the agricultural land.

    During mediaeval times, rabbit was decreed by Pope Gregory I as "not meat" so it could be eaten during Lent. This accelerated the spread of rabbits through European monasteries in the middle ages. In fact there are no barriers in the world's major religions to eating rabbit which is considered both halal and kosher. As the number of people in food crisis continues to grow rapidly above 100 million, rabbits may once again become an important source of protein. Whilst rabbits are cute and fluffy, they are also one of the most sustainable sources of meat. Rabbits do not require grain in their diet which is also very good news for biodiversity.

  61. Cross the stile and head for the bottom left corner of the field, to another stile.

    Cornish kilts and tartans were an invention of the 20th Century. Carvings depicting men wearing garments resembling kilts (such as in Altarnun church), which may have given rise to the notion, are now thought to be typical mediaeval tunics. The "official" Cornish tartan was created in 1963. The pattern is based on St Piran's flag with the surrounding gold of the ancient cornish kings, red to symbolise the legs of the cornish chough and blue to represent the sea.

  62. Cross the stile and go through a sequence of 2 gates ahead to reach the road.

    Altarnun church is located beside Penpont Water - a tributary of the River Inny - in the centre of the small village of Altarnun which is just to the north-east of Bodmin Moor. The 15th century church, dedicated to St Nonna, has an amazing collection of carved pew-ends from about 1520 (including one that mentions the artist - Robert Daye), a striking Norman font with the original colour still visible, and 15th century Rood screen. The church is known as "Cathedral of the moors" due to its impressive 109ft tall tower on which you can still see the deep padlocks that once held its scaffolding in place. A 6th century Celtic Cross stands in the churchyard, from the time before the Celtic Cornwall had been conquered by the Anglo Saxons.

  63. Turn right onto the road and follow it to return to the church.

    St Nonna's well is recorded as being used to cure the insane.

    The reputation of holy wells to cure madness stems from the mediaeval practice of "bowsenning" the "insane". This consisted of, without any warning, shoving the unfortunate person who was in a state of psychosis (and therefore already highly distressed) into the cold water. In many cases, this only increased the level of distress but the fatigue resulting from trying not to drown was mistaken for improvement. It is also possible that in a few cases that the shock caused a mental reboot which did bring a sufferer out of a mild psychotic episode, and these occasional successes fuelled enthusiasm for the practice. It is also possible that "insanity" was occasionally alcoholically-induced and similar improvement was noticed. For the very unfortunate sufferers that did not recover on first round of "treatment", the practice was repeated regularly.

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

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