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.

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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.


We did the Ladock woods iwalk today (4.6 miles.) It was great to find a Holy well enroute that we have never heard of!
Great walk around Ladock Woods. Nice and shady for the dog.
Good walk. Did it several years ago. The woods are beautiful.
Lovely walk, one of our first using your app and repeated often since xx.

Vital statistics

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

OS maps for this walk

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.

    By using their tail as a parachute, squirrels are able to survive falls from high trees. This allows them to attempt risky jumps between treetops that don't always work out. They are one of the few mammals that can (but not always) survive an impact at their terminal velocity i.e. if a squirrel jumped out of an aeroplane, it may well survive.

  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.

  6. Take the leftmost path from the clearing and follow this for about half a mile until you reach a crossing with paths leading either side between the blocks of trees.

    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.

  7. Turn left and follow the path to reach a crossing of paths.

    As the dense arrays of conifers are replaced by more randomly-arranged broadleaf trees, bushes such as holly can grow in the lighter areas, forming an understory.

    The association of holly with winter celebrations predates Christianity: druids were known to use holly wreaths which, it is likely with some discomfort, they wore on their heads.

  8. Continue ahead at this crossing to another crossing of paths.

    Flowering plants have evolved a complex double-fertilisation process where one sperm fertilises the egg whilst a second sperm combines with other nuclei in the cell to create a nutrient-rich tissue. This gives the seed a head start so it can out-compete others (e.g. conifers which don't have this). This also allows flowering plants to produce viable seeds more quickly: whilst conifers take around 18 months to produce a new batch of seeds, many flowering plants produce a batch of seeds each year and some can produce seeds more than once a year.

  9. Again continue ahead and keep following the path until it reaches a small opening in the hedge on the right leading onto the lane, opposite a yard with several large barns.
  10. Check for traffic and carefully descend onto 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 a bridleway signpost for Bessigga.

    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 indicated by the bridleway sign 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.

  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.

    Bluebells are extremely poisonous, containing a number of biologically-active compounds and were used (probably with varying success) in mediaeval plant medicine. The sap was used as a glue for book-binding as its toxicity repelled insects. It was also used to attach the fletchings onto arrows.

    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.

    The majority 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.

    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 a public footpath sign to Ladock church.
  19. Go through the iron kissing gate below the sign and 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. On the far side of the field, keep right to join the grassy track. Follow the track ahead up the hill towards a barn, turning right in front of the barn to a gate.

    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. Go through the gate and then head through the gate on your left into the churchyard. Continue ahead to reach a surfaced path and turn right onto this to follow it to a fork in front of the church.
  22. Keep left to pass the church on your right then turn right just before the wall to pass the church entrance and reach the main churchyard gate onto the lane.

    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.

  23. Turn right onto the lane and follow it 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.

  24. Cross the road to the lane opposite and follow this up the hill until you reach a national speed limit sign and continue until you reach a public footpath to Westgate.

    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.

  25. Turn right off the road onto the track and keep left along the track to reach a gate.
  26. 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 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 them: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black; hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy"; hawthorn leaves have bits sticking out like oak whereas blackthorn is a classic leaf shape with a serrated edge.

    A cordial can be made from blackthorn blossom by dissolving 100g of sugar in 1 litre of warm water mixing one large handful of blossom, scaled up to produce the quantity you require.

  27. 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. 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 ants caught on the barbed end of their long tongue. In fact, their tongue is so long it needs to be curled around their skull to fit inside their head.

  28. 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.

    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. 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.

  29. 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."

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
  • Please let us know if there are nice autumn colours on this walk

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