Lanhydrock to Restormel circular walk

Lanhydrock to Restormel

The lane passing the Dutchy Nursery can get a lot of traffic at peak holiday times.

A circular walk from the mediaeval bridge at Respryn along the River Fowey through the bluebell woodland of the Lanhydrock Estate to the circular Norman castle at Restormel which had a pressurised piped water system 700 years ahead of its time.

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The walk follows the River Fowey from Respryn bridge through the grounds of the Lanhydrock estate to Restormel Castle. The route then crosses over the river at Restormel Manor into the woodland owned by the Duchy. The return route is on lanes passing the Duchy Nursery before descending, with views over Restormel Castle and the neighbouring valleys, to Respryn.

Considerations

  • The last 2 miles of the walk are along lanes that get a lot of traffic of traffic at peak holiday times, particularly the one passing the Duchy Nursery.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 5.3 miles/8.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Ancient woodland along the River Fowey, rich in wildlife
  • Restormel Castle - a circular Norman keep
  • Pretty meadows and woodland surrounding Restormel Manor
  • Café and a plethora of flora at Duchy Nursery
  • Huge amounts of wild garlic in Spring near Fairy Cross

Directions

  1. Make your way towards the car park exit and follow the gravel path to the left to reach the lane. Bear left to follow the lane over the bridge until you reach a path with wooden posts on the right.

    Respryn Bridge is a five-arched mediaeval bridge constructed of granite and rubble spanning the River Fowey at Lanhydrock. The central pointed arch dates from the 15th century; the other arches are more recent. Before this, there was a 13th Century bridge on the site. The place name indicates a ford was here before the bridge, on an ancient trackway between Bodmin and Looe. A chapel was also documented as being located by the river in the 12th Century. In the Middle Ages, chapels were quite common at fords, so the prospective crosser could pray that they were going to make it to the other side, or in the other direction (only, if successful!) give thanks for a safe passage.

  2. Pass between the posts and follow the path indicated by the orange waymark arrows. Continue until you eventually reach a footbridge over the river.

    The River Fowey rises close to Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and is fed by 7 tributaries along its 25 mile course, many of which also start on Bodmin Moor. It is the third longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar and Camel.

  3. Cross the footbridge over the river and bear left to reach the wooden post with an orange waymark.

    In summer, dragonflies and damselflies can often be seen whirling above the river.

    Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, around 300 million years ago in the "age of amphibians" before the dinosaurs. Fossils of early dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet across.

    During mediaeval times, whilst the land at Lanhydrock was owned by the priory of St Petroc, it was let out as a small manor farm (sometimes known as a "barton"). The farmhouse was thought to be located approximately where the northern range of Lanhydrock House is situated today. It is recorded that in 1545, the tenant farmer was evicted for allowing the house to fall into decay and for stealing apples.

  4. Turn left onto the path and follow it along the river to where the path crosses over a small stream with a wooden bench to the left beside the main river.

    Lanhydrock lies just south of the A30 below Bodmin near Bodmin Parkway station. The Lanhydrock estate originally belonged to the Augustinian priory of St Petroc at Bodmin, but the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Tudor times saw it pass into private hands. It was bought in 1620 by wealthy merchant Sir Richard Robartes, who began building the house in 1630 but died only 4 years later. The building was finally completed in 1651 by his son and the estate remained in the Robartes Family until the 20th Century.

    The Robartes family declined significantly during the First World War, losing the heir who was killed during the Battle of Loos in France whilst trying to rescue a colleague from no-man's land. The estate passed to his younger brother, Francis, who became 7th Viscount Clifden. In the Second World War, the house was used to accommodate evacuees. After the war, in 1953, the house and approximately 400 acres of parkland were given to the National Trust by the ageing Viscount. On the death of his younger brother Arthur, the barony and viscountcy of Clifden and barony of Robartes became extinct. Only one descendant of the family survives, living in a cottage on the estate.

  5. Continue following the main path into the woods until it ends in a pedestrian gate.

    The Great Wood alongside the parkland at Lanhydrock has been designated as an Important Plant Area by the organisation Plantlife for its ancient woodland and lichens. Trees include beech, oak, sycamore, ash, sweet chestnut, holly and a number of Scots Pine. Since the clearance of invasive Rhododendrons from the Great Wood, fantastic displays of bluebells can be seen in the spring. Lanhydrock is also home to kingfishers, dormice and 12 species of bat.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the path over a stream then turn immediately left to the red gate with a "Footpath to Restormel Castle" sign. Go through this and follow the path between the fields to reach another gate.

    In woodland, the Victorians used a horse-drawn roller to control bracken. The hollow roller was made from a frame of iron bars which crush bracken stems but allow springy tree saplings to ping back. This horse-drawn method still survives in Cornwall and is sometimes hired by the National Trust for their woodlands.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path across the middle of the field to the gateway opposite.

    Elephant grass (Miscanthus) has been described as a "revolutionary" biofuel crop due to its rapid carbon sequestration and its high yield.

    At St Mabyn, it is used to produce an eco-fuel for wood burners (google "Burlyburn logs") which as well as being carbon-neutral are roughly the same price as coal briquettes but very low in sulphur (which corrodes the metal stove and flue when coal-based fuels are burnt).

    The elephant grass leaves are also used to produce an eco-friendly animal bedding ("Burly bed"). This rots down easily, storing some of the captured carbon in the soil in the form of humus.

    Once the crop has been planted, it lives for around 20 years, can be harvested every year and doesn't need pesticides or fertilisers once established. Also because it is a sterile hybrid, it's non-invasive.

  8. Go through the gateway and follow the track between the fences until you reach the main gate of the water works on your left.

    The Fowey is used as a conduit for the public water system to feed water from the Siblyback and Colliford reservoirs on Bodmin Moor down to Restormel where it enters the water mains. The increased demand for water from summer visitors has the effect of buffering the river levels in the drier months from the reservoirs.

  9. From the water works entrance, continue on the lane until you reach a fork at a sharp bend with a no-through road sign and a wooden gate ahead.

    To your right slightly, the hill behind the one ahead was the location of a Roman Fort.

    In 2007, the remains of a small Roman fort (known as a fortlet) was discovered upon a promontory overlooking the River Fowey near Restormel. It's likely this was a satellite of the slightly larger fort at Nanstallon, and the two were strategically positioned to cover the Camel and Fowey river trade. Their position also allowed them to cover the main land route, which ran past these two points on the upland ridge along the Cornish peninsula. It's thought that this might have originally been an Iron-Age fort which was then repurposed by the Romans. Finds of pottery suggest it was occupied continuously for most of the Romano-British era (from mid-first to early-fourth centuries). It has been postulated that although it might have started as a military encampment, it may have evolved into a defended settlement towards the end of this period.

  10. Bear left off the lane and go through the pedestrian gate on the left of the gate ahead. Follow the lane until you reach some buildings.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

    Where tracks met in a T-junction, this presented a challenge for horses and carts as these didn't have a tight turning circle. The triangular islands often visible on junctions of tracks and small lanes today were formed by the cartwheels cutting the corners of the junction. Eventually these cut corners were formalised as surfaced tracks with a grassy triangular island in the centre.

  11. Bear right to follow the lane between the buildings and continue following the lane to reach a pair of gates by a large barn.

    There are 2 sparrow species in the UK but only the house sparrow is common in Cornwall. Since the 1970s the UK house sparrow population has declined to less than half with an even greater loss in urban areas. Consequently the house sparrow is now red-listed as a species of high conservation concern. The exact causes for the decline are not known although a number of likely factors have been identified. In the countryside a reduction in aphid populations due to changes in farming practices is thought to be significant whereas in urban areas a loss of suitable nesting sites and a more intense level of predation by cats may be significant. Since 2008 the population seems to have stabilised but no-one is quite sure why.

  12. The entrance to Restormel Castle is up the lane to the right which you may want to visit then return here. To continue the walk, keep left to follow the lane through the gate in the direction signposted for the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery to reach a public footpath sign on the left.

    Restormel Castle is one of the four chief Norman castles in Cornwall and is notable for its perfectly circular design; the 13th century circular shell-keep still encloses the principal rooms of the castle. The mound on which it is built is the site of an earlier castle, probably originally built at the start of the 12th Century, shortly after the Norman conquest of England, as a motte and bailey castle. The castle is strategically positioned, overlooking the primary crossing point over the River Fowey and was located in the middle of a large deer park. The castle had an early form of pressurised tap water, piped into the buildings from a natural spring.

  13. At the footpath sign, turn left into the drive of Restormel Manor and follow the drive to a gate with a public footpath sign on the left.

    Restormel Manor was built in the 1760s and replaced an earlier building documented on the site in 1649 as Trinity House. It is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and sometimes used by the Royal Family on visits to Cornwall.

    A 12th Century chapel known as the hermitage of the Holy Trinity was recorded as being near a river crossing below the castle, although exactly where is unknown. One possibility is that if the bridge across the river was located more-or-less where the current one is then it could have been on the site of Restormel House. So far, no evidence on the ground has been found to confirm if this was the origin of the previous name of the house.

    Restormel Manor and the adjoining woods are now owned by the Duchy.

  14. Go through the gate and turn right and follow the drive in the direction indicated for the Nursery to reach three gates. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left and follow the track until you reach a gate onto a bridge over the river.

    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.

  15. Go through the pedestrian section of the gate on the right and cross the bridge. Follow the track to a railway bridge.

    Whilst moles look a little like mice, they are not rodents and are highly adapted to digging and living in tunnels. Using their curved claws, they can dig 15 feet of tunnel in an hour and typically extend their network by around 60 ft per day. Moles also have twice as much blood as mammals of a similar size and a special form of haemoglobin that allow them to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide in the low-oxygen environment within their tunnels.

  16. Cross the railway and follow the track until you reach a gate with a Nursery sign.

    The main line railway through Cornwall was originally conceived as a means to link the port of Falmouth to London. However, whilst funds were being raised for the railway, much of Falmouth's Packet trade was transferred to Southampton. The line was built to Truro instead but initially failed to make money and was bought up by Great Western. Once established, the new railway allowed rapid exports of perishables to London including fresh flowers and fish. It also made large-scale tourism possible and the term "Cornish Riviera" was coined.

  17. Go through the gate ahead and follow the track up the hill until you reach a hairpin bend with a signpost for the Duchy Nursery.

    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.

    Rosebay willowherb is known as fireweed in USA as it's found on burnt sites after forest fires. For similar reasons it was known as London's Ruin after the Great Fire. In the Second World War it was also known as bombweed due to its rapid colonisation of bomb craters.

    It is fairly well-known that conifer plantations support less biodiversity than native broadleaf woods but there are a number of different reasons for this. One is that many of the conifer species are introduced from abroad and the insects that normally accompany them in their native habitat are not present. Another factor is the commercial nature of plantations: some insect species which would live on the trees cause damage to the tree growth and are actively removed as pests. Similarly, plants that compete with the newly-planted trees are removed to allow the commercial crop to succeed. Also the harvesting process means that dead trees do not fall to the forest floor and provide the rotting wood that a range of insects and fungi require.

  18. At the bend turn left onto the track for the Nursery and follow it to reach a junction with a path to the left.
  19. Keep right to follow the track uphill a few paces and reach a smaller path departing from the right. Bear right onto this and follow it uphill until it ends in a junction with another track.

    Unlike many birds that just sing in spring, robins sing nearly all year round. In fact during winter if you hear birdsong, it's most likely to be a robin. Despite how cute robins look, they are actually very territorial and the chirp is an aggressive warning to any would-be intruders not to even think of trying it. When robins don't sing, this a sign that their body fat reserves are low and they are conserving what little they have left until food becomes more plentiful.

  20. Turn right to follow the track uphill until you reach another signpost for the Nursery.

    A mature tree can absorb tens of kilograms of carbon dioxide each year adding up to a tonne over a number of decades. However, burning one litre of petrol produces just over 2kg of carbon dioxide so it takes about half an acre of trees to absorb the average amount of carbon dioxide produced by one car in a year. When trees die and decompose, the majority of the carbon is gradually released back into the atmosphere depending on how fast the various bits of tree rot (the woody parts take longer).

  21. Turn left at the signpost and follow the small path until it ends in a pedestrian gate opposite the Nursery entrance.

    The "greenhouse effect" is often thought as trapping heat from the sun reflected from the surface of the earth but most heat rises from the earth's surface in convection currents (thermals). It's quite high in the atmosphere where heat starts to be radiated away into space as infrared. Up here it's pretty chilly as greenhouses go - around minus 18 Celcius! "Greenhouse gasses" are chemicals that absorb the (quite long) infrared wavelengths that are being emitted by this cool matter. They then re-emit this in all directions but some of that ends up going back down towards the earth, reducing the rate at which heat escapes.

  22. Go through the gate to reach the lane. The walk continues on the lane to the left. There is a café and toilets in the Nursery opposite. Follow the lane uphill for half a mile until you reach a junction.

    As you approach the junction, there are nice views across the valley to Restormel Castle.

    A bailey was essentially a fortified settlement, typically on the top of an embankment and surrounded by wooden pallisades. If breached, the motte provided an even more fortified position for retreat and defence during a siege.

  23. At the junction, bear left and stay on the lane and follow it for another mile and a half it until it eventually ends at a junction beside a cottage with a wayside cross in the garden.

    Wild garlic grows alongside the lane beneath the tree cover.

    Unlike their more versatile narrow-leaved cousins the three-cornered leeks, ramsons grow mainly in shady places such as woodland. Their broad leaves are solar panels that have evolved to capture the weak winter light early in the year before the trees are in leaf. They are an indicator that woodland is ancient and has provided a shady environment over a long period to colonise.

    The south-facing fields in the valley have been used for a solar array. A few sheep are also let in to mow around the solar panels.

    Solar panels are usually able to process 15% to 22% of the sun power into usable energy and have a lifetime of about 25 years. Improving efficiencies and the falling costs of production has made solar power one of the cheapest forms of energy.

  24. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane over the two bridges to return to the car park and complete the circular walk.

    The cottage with the large wayside cross planted in the middle of the front garden is appropriately named Cross Cottage.

    There are over four hundred complete stone crosses in Cornwall and at least another two hundred fragments.

    In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path to mark the route to the parish church. Farms and hamlets were usually linked to the church by the most direct and level route. Crosses were also placed along routes of pilgrimage. Both of these have evolved to become some of today's Public Rights of Way.

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