Ladock Woods circular walk

Ladock Woods and Holy Well

A circular walk from the woodland of The Duchy to the Holy Well of St Ladock in the river valley where in 1802 a gold nugget was found that contained enough gold to make an elegant necklace which is now in Truro museum.

Get the app to guide you around the walk

Phone showing walk for purchase
Download the (free) app then use it to purchase this walk.
Phone showing Google navigation to start of walk
The app will direct you to the start of the walk via satnav.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app guides you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
The walk route is described with detailed, regularly-updated, hand-written directions.
Person looking a directions on phone
Each time there is a new direction to follow, the app will beep to remind you, and will warn you if you go off-route.
Phone showing walk map page in the iWalk Cornwall app
A map shows the route, where you are at all times and even which way you are facing.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk is packed with information about the history and nature along the route, from over a decade of research than spans more than 3,000 topics.
Person looking at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need wifi or a phone signal during the walk.
Phone showing walk stats in the iWalk Cornwall app
The app counts down distance to the next direction and estimates time remaining based on your personal walking speed.
Person repairing footpath sign
We keep the directions continually updated for changes to the paths/landmarks - the price for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
The walk passes through St Enoder Wood and then follows small lanes to Trendeal. From here a bridleway leads to the ruins of Bessigga and a footpath leads past the holy well to Ladock Church. After passing the pub at Ladock the final stretch is along a footpath leading back into Ladock Wood.


  • The bridleway at direction 12 becomes waterlogged after prolonged periods of heavy rain so tall, waterproof boots are recommended during winter months.
  • The path at the start gets some summer vegetation growth. If you have secateurs, take them along to snip off any brambles.

Buy walk

Sign in to buy this walk.

This walk is in your basket. Proceed to your basket to complete your purchase.

My Basket Remove from basket

You own this walk.

An error occurred while checking the availability of this walk:

Please retry reloading the page. If this problem persists, please contact us for assistance.

Reload page

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105,106
  • Distance: 4.9 miles/7.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or shoes in summer; wellies after wet weather

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version) OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

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


  • A varied country walk through woodland and fields
  • Wildflowers in spring and early summer

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Falmouth Arms


  1. In the car park, make your way back towards the road but stop short of the exit and go through the pedestrian gap in the fence beside the post on the right (on the opposite side of the car park to the stile). Follow the path until you reach a junction of paths.

    Ladock woods are owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. During the 19th Century the woods were coppiced; by cutting the trees down to a stump and allowing them to regrow, straight poles of oak or ash could be produced. During the 20th Century, the woods were planted with conifers. From the mid-1980s, broadleaf species were introduced including cherry, chestnut, beech and lime. In 1997, the Duchy committed to forestry principles which rely, wherever possible, on nature to achieve sustainable and diverse woodlands.

  2. Continue ahead at the junction and follow the path to reach another junction of paths, with a plantation of conifers ahead.

    For many centuries, it was traditional for landowning families to create trusts from the land and assets so future generations could live off the income, but were unable to dispose of the assets so these would be available for future generations. The Duchy estate is an example of this and was created in 1337 by Edward III to provide his son (and future Princes of Wales) with an income. Consequently, unlike other Royals, the Prince of Wales and his family are not paid for by the taxpayer via the Civil List; instead their living costs and all their charitable activities (such as The Prince's Trust) are funded by income from the Duchy estate.

    Only 13% of the Duchy land is in Cornwall; the rest is dotted over 23 other counties with some in London but most is in the South West of England, with nearly half on Dartmoor.

  3. Turn right at the junction and follow the path along the edge of the plantation until it ends in a track.

    Some of the most mature broadleaf trees in the woodland occur alongside the path here. Over time, more of the smaller broadleaf trees will grow up to replace the conifers as they are gradually removed.

  4. Turn right onto the track and follow it to a crossing of tracks.

    In order to later find the nuts that they've buried, squirrels need to be organised. Some species of squirrel have been studied and found to structure their hoards by type of nut e.g. burying all their acorns under one tree and all their conkers under another. This is equivalent to us organising all the veg onto one shelf of the fridge to make it easier to remember where to look for them.

  5. Turn left at the crossing and follow the track a short distance to a clearing where more tracks and paths lead off in various directions.

    Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant with a spike of pink flowers in late summer which can often be seen beside paths and tracks. Their long leaves have a distinctive thin, white vein along the centre.

    It is a pioneer species which is good at colonising disturbed ground as its seeds travel long distances in the wind and remain viable in the soil for many years. It was considered a rare species in Britain in the 18th century but spread along the corridors cleared for railways in Victorian times.

    When a tree is injured, it exudes resin - a thick, sticky liquid which hardens and seals up the wound. The resin also contains anti-fungal and insecticide chemicals to protect it from parasites and pathogens. Frankincense and myrrh are both examples of resins.

  6. Take the leftmost path from the clearing and follow this for just over half a mile to where a track departs into the trees to the left, opposite a small path to the right.

    Blobs of resin from conifers can fossilise along with the trees themselves in low oxygen environments to form amber. Over time, the volatile organic compounds that make the resin sticky are lost as the molecules left behind join up into polymers. After a few million years, the result is something very similar to a hard piece of clear plastic. Amber's ability to survive for hundreds of millions of years also suggests that man-made plastics created from organic polymers could persist in the environment a very long time.

  7. Turn left and follow the track uphill to a crossing of tracks.

    Conifers can produce an economic yield of timber up to 6 times faster than broadleaf trees. Imported species such as Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce are amongst the more common used for timber production.

  8. Continue ahead onto the track uphill and follow this to another crossing of tracks.

    To support their massive weight, trees produce a biochemical compound called lignin which has a cross-linked polymer structure that makes it very rigid. Because it's so tough, most fungi and bacteria are unable to break it down. The main fungus that has worked out a way to do it is known as white rot.

  9. Again continue ahead and as the path starts to bend to the left, walk about 10 metres to reach a small gap on the right, immediately after a holly bush.

    The formation of most of the world's coal deposits from wood occurred during a single geological period suitably-named the Carboniferous. It was postulated that this might be because white rot hadn't evolved by then so dead wood just accumulated. However, it's now thought more likely to be due to the formation of particularly deep swamps from the crust-buckling collisions of tectonic plates in this period which allowed wood both to accumulate in a low-oxygen environment and then be compressed into coal.

  10. Go through the gap and carefully descend to the lane. Then turn right and follow the lane until you reach a junction on the right, opposite a signpost to Mitchell.

    Pheasants are often encountered on the lanes and in the surrounding fields.

    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.

  11. Turn right and follow the lane for about one-and-a-quarter miles to reach a junction signposted to Summercourt and Newquay. Continue ahead (signposted to Ladock and Truro) until you reach track on the right on a bend after the last of the buildings. There is a bridleway signpost for Bessigga opposite but this may be obscured by vegetation.

    The settlement of Trendeal was first recorded in 1201 with the name Dintel. It is thought the dyn, meaning "fort", in the name may refer to an earthwork which may have once existed in the field on the right. The field was also recorded with the name "Castle Moor", which supports this.

    Trelassick was also recorded in mediaeval times, spelt Treloysech in 1279. It is thought that both settlements predate the Norman conquest as their names contain elements from the Cornish language that were used in place names from the early mediaeval period.

  12. Turn right down the track and follow it to reach a waymarked stile and gate on the right.

    During Victorian times, the building of railways allowed primrose flowers picked in the Westcountry to be on sale in London the next day. Picking was done on a large scale but eventually became unfashionable, being seen as environmentally destructive. However all the evidence gathered suggests as long as the flowers were picked and the plants were not dug up, the practice was sustainable.

    An acre is a unit of area dating back to mediaeval times, based on the amount of land that could be ploughed with a yoke of oxen in one day. It was standardised in 1824 as a rectangle of 4 rods (66 feet) by one furlong (660 feet). The 10:1 "letterbox" aspect ratio comes from the long, thin field shapes in mediaeval times to minimise the awkward process of turning the oxen around. In fact the name "furlong" comes from the Old English for "one furrow long". The acre has since lost its prescribed shape and now just means 43,560 square feet.

  13. Go through the gate and cross the field to the gate in the trees ahead.

    There are nearly 400 miles of public bridleway in Cornwall, marked with blue waymarks, which are also open to horses and cyclists, although there is no obligation to make them navigable by any means other than on foot. The general public are also legally entitled to drove livestock along public bridleways, and although Cornwall has more than its share of eccentrics, this is something we've yet to see.

  14. Go through the gate and follow the path beneath the trees to a pedestrian gate ahead beside a waymark.

    Some plant nutrients such as phosphorus tend to be more abundant near the surface of the soil where decaying organic matter collects. Bluebell seedlings start life at the surface so these are OK but as bluebell plants mature and send their roots deeper into the soil to avoid winter frosts, they have a phosphorus problem. They have solved this by partnering with a fungus that extends from their root cells, drawing in minerals from the soil in return for some carbohydrates from the plant.

    Wood pigeons are one of the birds you're likely to encounter here.

    There is no biological distinction between "pigeon" and "dove" although "dove" seems to now be used for the more elegant species and "pigeon" for the more unexciting ones. Due to the Norman ruling classes, it's relatively unusual in the English language for the French/Latin word to be the vulgar form and the Norse/Germanic word to be the "posh" form. It's is likely that the reverse was true in mediaeval times: pigeon meat was considered super-posh and the French word was used for the young, tender birds of the species that were eaten.

  15. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge of the field; on the far side of the field keep close to the hedge to follow the path into the trees and reach a pedestrian gate.

    Buzzards can often be seen circling over the valley.

    A large proportion of buzzards diet is earthworms and carrion and consequently they have a reputation for being lazy and scavengers. However, when they need to be, buzzards are formidable predators. Diving on rabbits and small mammals from a slow or hovering flight, or from a perch, they nearly always make the kill on the ground.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a gate at a junction of tracks.

    Just before the gate are some overgrown remains of buildings on the left. These were stone-and-cob cottages in the settlement known as Bessigga which is reported as being abandoned in the 1960s and has since fallen into ruin.

  17. Go through the gate and bear left. Follow the track until it ends on a road.

    Cow parsnip can be mistaken for giant hogweed as the leaves are similar in shape and flowers look similar. The most obvious way to tell them apart is size. Cow parsnip reaches a maximum of 6-7 feet tall whereas even by the end of May, giant hogweed is massive and can reach 15ft tall by July. Another distinguishing feature is that cow parsnip has a groove in the top of the stem holding each leaf but you should not touch the plant to examine it.

    Giant hogweed is regarded by some as the most dangerous plant in the UK (although hemlock is also a good contender). If you encounter giant hogweed, avoid touching it and children and dogs should be kept away from it as the sap contains a chemical which is extremely phototoxic. When activated by sunlight, this binds to the DNA in skin cells and kills them. Skin reaction starts as an itchy rash and can develop into third degree burns and scarring. It also makes the affected areas susceptible to severe sunburn for several years.

    The plant gets its name as it can grow more than 10 feet tall, topped with white umbrella-shaped flowers. Due to the similar style of flowers, is also known as giant cow parsley although the giant hogweed leaves are much more solid with a toothed edge, more similar to cow parsnip (normal hogweed). It is typically found near water or on waste ground.

    The plant was introduced to Britain by Victorian botanists in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and has escaped from gardens into the wild. It has been spreading across the UK (as one plant produces 50,000 seeds) but is still very rare in Cornwall. A project to eradicate it along the Tamar River system is helping to stop further spread into Cornwall.

    If you find giant hogweed in Cornwall (and are sure it's not normal hogweed), take a photo and report it to

    In 1802, the largest gold nugget at the time found in Cornwall was discovered in the tin streamworks on the River Ladock. It was made into a gold necklace which is now in Truro Museum. The necklace was presented to Sir Christopher Hawkins of Trewithen, who was a bachelor, which may explain why the necklace looks unworn. In 1808, a gold nugget of almost 2 ounces was found in the Carnon Valley which is also in the Truro museum.

  18. Carefully cross the road to the lane opposite. Follow the lane a short distance to an iron kissing gate on the right with the remains of a public footpath signpost.
  19. Go through the iron kissing gate follow along the right hedge of the field to the far side.

    Beechwood ageing is used in the production of Budweiser beer but beech is not the source of flavour. In fact beechwood has a fairly neutral flavour and in the brewing process it is pretreated with baking soda to remove even this. The relatively inert strips of wood are then added to the fermentation vessel where they increase the surface area available for yeast. It is the contact with yeast that produces the flavour in the beer, not the beech itself.

  20. As you leave the field, follow along the hedge on your left to join a track. Follow the track ahead up the hill to a barn and walk a few paces further to a wooden gate on the left into the churchyard.

    The wooden-fenced area beside the track contains the Holy Well.

    Ladock holy well, also known by its Cornish name Fentonladock, is associated with St Ladoca - an Irish Abbess who is recorded as coming to Cornwall in the 6th Century together with St Breage. The well house was built in the 19th Century but the arches set into the sides are from the 15th Century. In the early 19th Century, it was mentioned that there were the ruins of a mediaeval chapel nearby. It is not known if the arches were from this or were leftovers from the restoration of the church.

  21. Continue following the track until it ends on the lane beside the church.

    Ladock church is thought to be located on the site of a previous church which was built before Norman times. The current building dates originally from the 13th Century which was extended in the 15th Century, and during Victorian times there was a major restoration. The church sits within in a small church town consisting of a Rectory, School and Glebe Farm which is separated slightly from the main village.

  22. Once on the lane, turn right and walk between the bollards and down the hill to reach the road beside the pub.

    Ladock was first recorded in 1268 as Sante Ladoce. There was once a manor of Ladock which is recorded as being transferred between various landowning families, but there are no remains of any manor house. The pub dates back to 1620 and was known as the Old Temperance Inn during Victorian times, before becoming the Falmouth Arms.

  23. Carefully cross the road to the lane opposite and follow this up the hill until you reach a public footpath to Westgate just before the national speed limit signs.

    On the opposite side of the stream from Ladock was a separate settlement, known as Bissick. It was first recorded in 1275 as Batdek. During mediaeval times, Bissick was part of the estate of the Wolvedon family in Golden. By Elizabethan times, Bissick was recorded as having become an independent manor. The manor house, located on the right as you walk up the hill, is carved with the date 1503 and this is thought to be from when the house was first built.

  24. Turn right off the road onto the track and keep left along the track to reach a gate.

    The older an oak tree becomes, the more acorns it produces. A 70-80 year old tree can produce thousands. Acorns are high in carbohydrates and as well as being a staple food for squirrels, they are also a really important food for deer and make up a quarter of their diet in the autumn.

    Coppicing is a traditional form of wood production that became redundant when industrial sawmills could easily cut full-grown trees into a range of timber sizes.

    The approach with coppicing is, rather than simply planting trees and letting them grow to full size, that the trees are grown only until the trunks are suitable for use as poles and then they are cut to the ground and allowed to regrow.

    The cycle produces varied habitats of clearings, bushes and small trees which each support different types of wildlife. Coppicing has therefore been reintroduced in many places as part of a conservation woodland management scheme to promote biodiversity.

  25. Cross the waymarked stone stile to the left of the gate ahead and follow the path between the wall and fence to reach a pair of waymarked stiles.

    Blackthorn and hawthorn trees both grow in similar places but in each season there are different ways to tell them apart.

    In spring, blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower. The white blossom appears before the leaves in April. In warm weather, the leaves may quickly catch up and this is when it can get mistaken for hawthorn, which produces leaves before flowers. However, there are a few other ways to distinguish the flowers: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black. Hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy".

    In summer, the leaf shape can be used to tell them apart. Blackthorn leaves are a classic leaf shape with slightly serrated edges. Hawthorn leaves have deep notches dividing the leaf into several lobes a bit like oak.

    In autumn, pretty much all hawthorn trees have small red berries, even the windswept specimens on the coast. Blackthorn trees may have purple sloes, but not all the trees fruit each year. Some years seem to result in a lot more sloes than others.

    Hawthorn trees are often a little bigger than blackthorn, especially in harsh environments such as on the coast. Blackthorn tends to form thickets whereas hawthorn are typically distinct trees. Hawthorn bark is usually shiny whereas blackthorn is dull. The thorns on hawthorn tend to be shorter (less then 2cm) and point slightly forwards on the stem. Blackthorn has longer spikes that stick out at right angles.

  26. Cross the stiles and follow the path between the hedges to reach some stone steps.

    Woodpeckers can sometimes be heard hammering on trees in the woodland.

    Green woodpeckers are the largest and most colourful of the woodpeckers native to Britain and have a distinctive laughing "yaffle" call. The two species of spotted woodpecker are smaller and usually noticed from the drumming sound they make on trees although they can sometimes be heard making a short "cheep" sound.

    All of the woodpeckers bore holes in trees in which they nest, but only the spotted woodpeckers drill into trees in search of food, spending most of their time perched on a tree.

    Conversely, green woodpeckers spend most of their time on the ground, hunting for ants. The ants nests are excavated using their strong beak, and then ants are caught on the barbed end of their long tongue. In fact, their tongue is so long that it needs to be curled around their skull to fit inside their head.

  27. Climb the steps and continue, via pair of wooden stiles, to reach a waymark at a junction of paths where the fence ends beside the woods.

    One challenge for regenerating woodlands is preventing invasive species such as rhododendrons from racing into the spaces left behind.

    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.

    Rhododendrons are so successful in Britain that they have become an invasive species, crowding out other flora in the Atlantic oak woodlands. They are able to spread very quickly both through suckering along the ground and by abundant seed production. Many of the root stocks of ornamental specimens have suckered off some new common rhododendrons which have then out-competed the ornamental tree and killed it off!

    Conservation organisations now classify the rhododendron explosion as a severe problem and various strategies have been explored to attempt to stop the spread. So far, the most effective method seems to be injecting herbicide into individual plants which is both more precise and effective than blanket cutting or spraying.

  28. At the waymark, continue ahead to reach a stile into the car park to complete the circular walk.

    Birds are much less affected by the tree species in the woodland than insects or fungi. One reason is that birds can travel some distance for their food but also that they are able to eat a broad range of foods whereas herbivorous insects are much more specialised. Some of the tall conifer trees provide good nesting sites for members of the crow family.

    Research has shown that crows have a much higher density of neurons in their forebrains than primates do (the density if neurons in this region is thought to correlate with intelligence).

    The brain of a crow accounts for 2.7 percent of the bird's overall weight whereas an adult human's brain represents 1.9 percent of their body weight. This is even more impressive when considered in context: birds need to be as light as possible in order to fly.

    Ravens are considered the most intelligent crow species, outperforming chimpanzees in some tests. Consequently an academic is quoted as saying that crows are "smarter than many undergraduates, but probably not as smart as ravens."

either as a GPS-guided walk with our app (£2.99) or a PDF (£1.99)

Please recycle your ink cartridges to help prevent plastic fragments being ingested by seabirds. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.