Circular walk from Jacobstow to Poulza

Jacobstow to Poulza

A circular countryside walk around the Saxon area of Jacobstow near Bude where an ancient mediaeval altar was removed from the church during the 16th Century and used as a footbridge over a stream, then used as a churchyard seat in Victorian times, and finally returned to the church in the 1970s.

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The walk begins at Jacobstow then follows country lanes and tracks to the farm hamlet of Poulza. A footpath departs from the farm tracks, through woodland and meadows, then meets a lane to reach South Dinnicombe with views across the fields to Week St Mary. The return route is along a country lane with nice valley views towards Jacobstow.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 3.4 miles/5.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots; wellies in winter

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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


  • Panoramic views of the rolling hills from Poulza and South Dinnicombe
  • Winding country lanes and tracks lined with wild flowers in spring and summer
  • Historic buildings including Jacobstow church
  • Woodland rich in wildlife at Poulza
  • Local food and drink at the nearby Old Wainhouse Inn


  1. From the Parish Hall, turn right onto the lane and follow it downhill to a junction opposite a cottage with a wagon wheel on the wall.

    Jacobstow is thought to have arisen from a Celtic religious settlement in early mediaeval times. It's likely that it would have originally had a Cornish name, quite possibly starting with "lan" to indicate a religious enclosure.

    The Saxons had a stronghold in northeastern Cornwall, which is reflected in many of the place names (-stow, -bury, -ton, -worthy, -cott, -ham, -ford etc). As you move further west, the Celtic place names (Tre-, Pen-, Lan-) become more common.

  2. Turn right and follow the lane to a ford at the bottom of the valley.

    The river is the same one you'll cross towards the end of the walk. North of Wainhouse Corner, the valleys on this side of the A39 all feed water into a major tributary of the river at Bude, which merges with the River Strat at Helebridge. Jacobstow is in the upper reaches of this catchment area.

  3. At the ford, cross via the footbridge on the left or the path on the right to rejoin the track. Follow the track uphill until you reach a barn on your right.

    The first record of Poulza is from 1179 and the meaning of the name is not known. In 1421, a chapel dedicated to St James was recorded here. No mediaeval buildings remain but some of the farm buildings in Lower Poulza date from the 18th Century or before. By Victorian times, the settlement had been divided into Lower and Higher Poulza.

  4. Continue past the barn and follow the track around a bend to the left to reach a fork.

    Being somewhat away from civilisation, originally, post wasn't delivered to Poulza, but instead to a farm off the Headon Cross main road, consequently known as "Lower Poulza Post". Although no longer the postal hub for Lower Poulza, Lower Poulza Post carved a new niche for itself as Britain's only naturist farm campsite. Don't bother packing your binoculars - this walk doesn't pass very close.

  5. At the fork, bear left to stay on the track and keep following it until you see a waymark on the left about 50m before the track ends at a gate.

    Oak was often associated with the gods of thunder as it was often split by lightning, probably because oaks are often the tallest tree in the area. Oak was also the sacred wood burnt by the druids for their mid-summer sacrifice.

  6. Turn left at the waymark and follow the footpath into the woods, keeping right along the wall until you reach a stile.

    The woods contain plant species such as wood sorrel which are indicators that the woodland here is ancient. Mixed deciduous woodland such as this is an important habitat supporting a lot of wildlife.

    As the name suggests, Wood Sorrel grows in shady places and as it spreads slowly it is used as an indicator of ancient woodland. It is recognisable by a carpet of bright green leaves that look a bit like clover. It is said that St Patrick used the three-lobed leaves to illustrate the Holy Trinity and therefore it's one of the plants dedicated to him and collectively known as "shamrock". Around Easter, wood sorrel produces delicate white flowers which gives rise to its European common name of Alleluia.

    The leaves and flowers fold up at night and reopen each morning, and they do the same during rain. This is a protection mechanism to avoid damage to the leaves when there is no solar power available, or pollen being knocked out of the flowers by the rain.

    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.

  7. Cross the stile and continue ahead to the gates out of the pen. Go through these (by removing the metal pole in the centre if closed) then follow the right hedge to a gate in the far corner.

    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. Go through the gate and turn left onto a track. Follow the track until it emerges onto a lane.

    In June, there are foxgloves along the track and lane which attract bumblebees.

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. Partly, as an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

    In situations where ducks need to watch out for predators, they can sleep one half of their brain at a time, keeping one eye open for danger. In safer circumstances, ducks will sleep fully.

  9. Continue ahead to join the lane and follow it, passing South Dinnicombe farm, until it ends at a T-junction opposite "Little Dinnicombe".

    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.

  10. At the T-junction, turn left and follow the lane back towards Jacobstow until it also ends at a T-junction.

    At the bottom of the valley, the lane crosses a stream, alongside which, wild garlic grows.

    Despite the pungent smell, the leaves of wild garlic are quite delicate in flavour so can be used quite large quantities in cooking or more sparingly within salads. They are at their most fiery early in the season.

    As well as forgetting where they buried some of them, squirrels may also lose a quarter of their buried food to birds, other rodents and fellow squirrels. Squirrels therefore use dummy tactics to confuse thieves by sometimes just pretending to bury a nut.

  11. Turn left at the junction, signposted to Jacobstow, and follow the lane to the church.

    The stream just before you reach the church starts from a spring near the A39 which rises through a holy well which is dedicated to St James. It is thought that its proximity to the A39 (which was already a main road in mediaeval times) caused it to be adopted by passing pilgrims as a shrine to St James of Compostela in Northern Spain. This is likely to have resulted in the dedication of the church and the Saxon name for the settlement.

  12. From Jacobstow church, follow the lane uphill to return to the Parish Hall.

    Jacobstow parish church is dedicated to St James and there is evidence of a former Saxon church on the same site. An ancient altar stone is in the south aisle chapel: it was the main altar stone up to about 1550, in the reign of Edward VI. At this time, the Church of England was becoming more Protestant and an Act required that all altar stones should be removed. This one became a footbridge over a stream. It was found and moved back to the churchyard as a seat in the 1800s, and installed in the south aisle chapel in 1972.

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