Lerryn River and Tivoli Park lost gardens circular walk

Lerryn River and Tivoli lost gardens

A woodland and riverside walk at Lerryn - thought to be the inspiration for the book The Wind In The Willows - and the lost pleasure gardens of Tivoli Park

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The walk starts by crossing the river and follows the riverside path to Ethy Wood. The walk climbs to the top of the woods and circles the wooded valley of a small creek via Ethy Mill. The walk returns along the main river and crosses to the opposite side, following Piggy Lane into Lerryn Wood where the remains of the Tivoli Park are hidden in the trees. The return route is along Lerryn Quay.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 3.7 miles/5.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version)

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


  • Views over the creeks
  • Mature broadleaf woodland with ancient oaks
  • Lost gardens of Tivoli Park

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Ship Inn

Adjoining walks


  1. From the car park, follow the path signposted to the toilets to reach the road and turn left towards the bridge. Follow the road over the bridge until you reach a small lane on the left just past Bridge House.

    The Bridge at Lerryn dates from mediaeval times. There is a record that in 1573 Queen Elizabeth ordered a levy on the rates for the "erecting and re-edifying the decayed bridge called Laryon between St Vepe and St Winnow". The bridge originally consisted of 3 arches but one has been removed, probably as the river narrowed due to silting from the mining activity upstream.

  2. Turn left onto the narrow lane and follow it to a T-junction.

    In 1982, a person with a metal detector found a hoard of 103 Roman coins at Lerryn on the foreshore between the car park and the bridge. The coins date from the 3rd century AD, each featuring the Emperor of the time including Gordian III, Valerian II and Tentricus II. The coins were purchased by the Royal Institution of Cornwall.

  3. Turn left at the junction to reach the river. Follow the byway along the river to reach The Granary.

    The source of the River Lerryn is near West Taphouse and it flows across the Bocconoc Estate where it is joined by a number of small streams, draining from the valleys of the estate. More streams join near Couch's Mill and the river then flows another mile and a half to Lerryn where it enters the ria (flooded river valley) that gives rise to the tidal creeks leading up to Lerryn and St Winnow from the sea at Fowey. At one time, the 4 miles of creek to Lerryn was navigable from the sea by cargo barges. Since then, mining activity in the river valleys has caused the creek to silt up so that it is now only navigable by small boats.

  4. Follow the path past The Granary, pass the gate and continue into the woods until you pass another wooden gate and reach steps leading up to a smaller pedestrian gate.

    Liverworts grow on the damp, shady wall behind The Granary.

    Around 400 million years ago, green algae made its way from the sea to the land and the first liverworts appeared. These ancient, very simple plants are still around today. DNA studies suggest that all land plants and mosses may have originally evolved from early liverworts.

    Liverworts are found in damp, shady places but form flat structures that almost resemble soft corals. Their name is based on the appearance of the leaves which was thought to resemble an animal liver. Like mosses, liverworts don't produce flowers but instead reproduce via spores.

  5. Climb the steps on the right and go through the pedestrian gate. Follow the path up into the woods and along the top of the woods to reach another pedestrian gate.

    Primrose seeds are quite large and therefore, due to their weight, don't travel far from the plant. This causes a clump of primroses to spread out very slowly over time and means it takes a long time for primroses to colonise new areas. This makes large carpets of primroses a very good indicator of ancient woodland where they would have had many hundreds of years to spread out.

    Autumn colours are the result of two processes. The first is that a normal healthy leaf contains chemicals which are both green (chlorophyll) and yellow (carotene). If chlorophyll stops being produced, leaves turn yellow. This happens when sunlight is reduced either temporarily (e.g. accidentally leaving something on the lawn) or in autumn when there is less sunlight overall and when cold temperatures also speed up the breakdown of chlorophyll. When a tree prepares to shed a leaf, it creates a barrier of cells to close the leaf off. Sugars produced from photosynthesis which normally flow back into the plant instead build up in the leaf and react with proteins in sap to form red anthrocyanin compounds. Sunny autumn days produce more sugars and result in more red leaves. Frost causes the leaves to drop off quickly so mild, sunny autumns produce the best colours.

    The Cornish name for the bird is rudhek from rudh = "red" (in Cornish, "dh" is pronounced like the "th" in "with"). Cornish place names like Bedruthan, Ruthern and Redruth are all based on the colour red.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the path until you descend to reach a junction of paths immediately after a waymark post.

    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.

    Heather plants have a symbiotic relationship with fungi which grows inside and between some of the plant root cells. Up to 80% of the root structure can be made up of fungi. The fungi are able to extract nutrients from poor, acidic soils that plants struggle with. In return, the plant is able to generate other nutrients (e.g. sugars by photosynthesis) that are useful to the fungi. A similar partnership between plants and fungi occurs in lichens.

    Mosses are close relatives of the first plants to colonise the land 500 million years ago. They descended originally from freshwater algae but evolved an outer coating that protected them from the temperature changes and UV radiation that made life on the land more of a challenge than in the water. There are now estimated to be over 10,000 species of moss.

  7. Turn right at the junction and follow the path to reach a crossing of paths.

    Holly was known in Cornwall as the holm (bush) and is the origin of the Holmbush area of St Austell and Holmbush Mine in Kelly Bray.

  8. Turn left at the crossing and follow the path downhill to emerge, via a wooden fence, onto a track.

    Ferns produce neither flowers nor seeds and rely on the tiny spores for their reproduction which are most commonly distributed by the wind. This allows them to colonise some quite random places such as rocky ledges that heavier seeds might not reach. Since the spores come from just one parent fern, the offspring is a genetic clone.

  9. Turn right onto the track and follow this downhill to a bridge and uphill from this between the buildings to reach a waymarked junction at the top of the concrete section.

    The mill is recorded in the 1880s but how long it was here before that is not known. One source suggests as early as 1331 but this may arise from confusion with other mills in the area that were around at the time. The mill was still working in the 1940s but by the late 1970s it was dilapidated although still contained millstones and machinery.

  10. At the junction turn left and follow the track to a barrier entering the Forestry area. Pass around the right side of the barrier and continue along the track to where it bends sharply to the right. Continue a few paces further to where a stony path departs to the left.

    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.

    Ethy woods near Lerryn is part-owned by the National Trust and partly by the government's Forestry Commission. In 2011, the government announced that it would be selling off the woods and there was local concern about the future of the woodland and public access. The government decision was reversed and the woods remain open to the public.

  11. Turn left onto the stony path, almost doubling-back on yourself, and follow this downhill to reach a bridge crossing the stream at the head of the creek.

    You may remember from school geography lessons that the faster-flowing water around the outside of the bend causes a meander in a river to slowly grow as the outside edge is eroded and sediment is deposited on the inside by slower-moving water. At this point, your school geography teacher probably got excited about ox-bow lakes and never got around to explaining exactly why the water flows faster on the outside in the first place. So that you don't go to your grave feeling short-changed, an attempt at an explanation follows...

    Flowing water piles into the outside of the bend and creates a higher pressure there. Close to the riverbed, water is moving very slowly so the high pressure pushes water across the bottom from the outside to the inside. This drags the faster-moving water across the top of the river to the outside to take its place. This spiralling current both erodes the outside edge with faster-moving water and also transports the sediment back across the bottom to the inside

  12. Cross the bridge and the stone stile then follow the path along the edge of the creek to a junction with a waymark.

    In 2000, an earthenware jar was found beside the creek near Ethy which contained over 1,000 silver Roman coins. It dates from the 3rd Century AD and is now held at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.

  13. Turn right at the junction and follow the path to where a path descends to the right onto the riverbank. Keep left to follow the main path and reach a stone pillar.

    The little egret - a white member of the heron family - can be seen on many of the creeks in Cornwall and yet is only a very recent settler in Britain. The birds first appeared in Britain in any number in 1989 and the first to breed was in 1996 in Dorset.

  14. From the stone pillar, continue following the riverside path which gradually turns into a lane as you retrace your steps past the quays. Continue until you reach an area with a bench and stone pillars on the right where the lane bends sharply away from the river.

    Beside the footpath in Ethy Woods, just as you approach the point, is a worn stone column, covered in lichen. Despite the wear and tear, it is still possible to make out a fluted design and the base for a capital (the tapered head piece that sits between the pillar and the load that it holds). The column is thought to date from mediaeval times and be from an important building such as a church, chapel or manor. At some later point, it was re-used as a gatepost which is why it is flat down one side.

  15. If the tide is out, you can optionally cross via the stepping stones to the car park then head out of the exit to reach Lerryn River Stores and turn right to face uphill on the road. Alternatively you can retrace your steps by following the lane around the bend, turning right at the junction and right again to cross the bridge and follow the road to the River Stores.

    Keep an eye out for kingfishers flying along the river. We saw one here when we were testing the walk.

    Kingfishers are found near slow-moving or still water where they dive to catch fish, as their name implies, but they also eat many aquatic insects, ranging from dragonfly nymphs to water beetles.

    The Kingfisher is able to switch between light receptors in the main central area of its eye and a forward-facing set when it enters water, allowing it to judge distances accurately underwater. It is estimated that a female needs to eat over twice her own body weight in order to increase her condition sufficiently for egg laying.

    The unmistakable metallic blue and orange birds fly fast and low over the surface of the water so may only be apparent as a blue flash. The pigment in their feathers is actually brown but the microstructure of their features results in light interference patterns which generate the brilliant iridescent blue and orange colours. Unfortunately the result, during Victorian times, was that kingfishers were extensively killed for display in glass cases and for use in hat making. The population has since recovered and is now limited by the availability of suitable waterways.

  16. From Lerryn River Stores, follow the road past the pub to a junction. Continue past the junction a few more paces in the direction signposted for St Veep to reach an opening through Bluebell Cottage marked with a Public Footpath sign.

    Lerryn's most obvious lime kilns are located on the opposite side of the road from the River Stores but another has been converted into a residence near the end of the walk.

    There were four lime kilns at Lerryn, the most obvious of which is beside the road opposite the public toilets. The coal and limestone for these was brought up the creek from the port of Fowey on cargo barges, when the creek was less silted than it is today.

  17. Turn right and follow the track (Piggy Lane) until it ends at some houses.

    Snowdrops are one of the earliest plants to flower. They use energy stored in their bulbs to generate leaves and flowers during winter, whilst other plants without an energy reserve cannot compete. The downside to flowering so early is that pollinating insects are more scarce, so rather than relying exclusively on seeds, they also spread through bulb division.

    Internally, a lime kiln consisted of a conical stone or brick-lined chamber which was loaded from the top with alternating layers of limestone and carbon-rich fuel such as charcoal, peat or coal. At the side of the kiln was an alcove known as an "eye" which was used to access the kiln and remove the quicklime from a hole at the bottom of the chamber. The kiln was often run continuously with more layers of fuel and limestone added to the top as the previous layers worked their way down through the kiln. Air was drawn in through the bottom of the kiln and heated up as it passed through the quicklime (also cooling the quicklime) before it reached the level where combustion was taking place.

  18. As you reach the end of the track, keep left towards "Woodleigh" and follow the path along the left side of the building. Continue downhill to reach a junction of paths with a bridge to the left.

    The effect of ivy on buildings is controversial as it depends a lot on the properties of surface it adheres to. The rootlets wedge into any cracks in the surface and so on surfaces that are fragile, ivy will cause damage. A study for English Heritage found that on hard, firm surfaces, ivy did little damage. The blanket of leaves was also found to have beneficial insulating effects and protect the masonry from water, salt and pollution.

  19. Keep left to cross the bridge then bear right to reach a track. Turn left then immediately right to join the waymarked path opposite and follow this uphill, past a gate and between two tall hedges to an area beside a gate marked Private Property.

    Celandine roots have numerous knobbly tubers and when these break off, a new plant can regrow from the tuber. Digging animals such as rabbits and squirrels can therefore help to spread celandines. In some parts of the world they have become an invasive problem where their dense mat of leaves chokes out native species which have not evolved to compete with them.

    Lerryn is thought of as a village, despite neither of the churches for the two parishes either side of the river actually being within the settlement.

    For a settlement to be considered a village rather than a hamlet it needs to have both a place of worship and a meeting place such as a pub or village hall. There's no clear definition of when a village is considered a town. Many once had markets but now the size of population or presence of a town council can be triggers. However, there are also exceptions to both - one village in England has a population of over 17,000! There are also exceptions to a city needing a cathedral (e.g. Plymouth) - one can instead be created by the Queen.

  20. Continue ahead through the woods to where a small path departs through an opening in the bushes to the left.

    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.

  21. After having a look through the bushes to the left (there is a fountain/cascade in there), continue on the main path to reach the remains of a fountain and pass to the left of the arches to reach a fork in the path.

    Tivoli Park was an area of landscaped created in the 1920s by a China Clay magnate from the village. It was used as the venue for the Lerryn Regatta until 1968 and then the gardens were abandoned. The gardens included a cascading water feature and a bandstand although by the 1930s this was deemed impractical and planted with roses instead. There was also a 200 yard running track, and changing rooms so visitors could wear swimwear to paddle in the fountain. The structures are all built from crude 1920s concrete, decorated with pieces of quartz and broken granite.

  22. Keep right at the fork to take the path that is not waymarked. Follow this to a gate in a fence.

    The word "beech" is thought to have the same origins as "book" as beech (most probably the bark) was used as a writing material in which to carve runes by Germanic societies before the development of paper. This is still apparent in modern German where the word for "book" is buch and "beech tree" is buche.

  23. Go through the gate, turn right and follow the path downhill to emerge onto a track. Turn right and follow the track until it forks at Grebe Cottage.

    The species of duck that you're most likely to encounter is the mallard. Mature males have striking iridescent green heads and dark bodies whilst females look totally different - a brown and white pattern which offers much better camouflage. However, both have a common feature that is unique to mallards - an iridescent blue patch on their wings.

  24. Keep left at the fork to cross the bridge and reach a gravel track departing to the right. Continue on the main track ahead to return to the car park unless it's underwater. In this scenario, follow the track to the right to emerge on the road via an arch and turn left past Lerryn River Stores for a drier end to the walk.

    The moon's gravity pulls the water in the oceans towards it causing peaks in the ocean both directly under the moon but also on the opposite side of the Earth so sigh tides occur every 12-13 hours when the moon is either directly overhead or is on the opposite side. There are therefore just over 6 hours between low and high tide.

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