Circular Walk from Lerryn to St Winnow

Lerryn to St Winnow

At the peak of exceptionally high tides, the path along the creek edge at St Winnow can be underwater and there is no alternative path. Check the tide times and particularly tide heights to look out for high spring tides.

A circular walk to the creekside church of St Winnow along the River Fowey and Lerryn where hoards of Roman coins have been found on the river banks, and overlooked by the manor house that is thought may have been the inspiration for Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows.

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The walk follows a byway from Lerryn along the former quays of the Lerryn River into Ethy Woods. The route then follows paths through the woods along the edge of the River Lerryn and up the River Fowey to St Winnow. The walk passes through the churchyard and then follows footpaths across the fields to Ethy Mill where the walk re-enters the woods to reach the parkland surrounding Ethy House. The final section is across the former grounds of the house to reach Lerryn.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof 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
  • Pretty creekside churchyard of St Winnow
  • Mature broadleaf woodland with ancient oaks
  • Farm museum at St Winnow

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Ship Inn

Adjoining walks


  1. Make your way out of the car park to 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 down the 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 behind The Granary and along the edge of the creek until you eventually reach a junction of paths at a waymark.

    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.

  5. Turn left to cross through a wall and over a bridge to the other side of the creek. Follow the path until it emerges onto a track.

    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.

  6. Turn left onto the track and follow it a short distance to reach a small path departing from the left immediately after a waymark post.

    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.

  7. Bear left down the steps and follow the path down to the creek, across the stream, and up the other side until it re-emerges on the track.

    The grey heron is an unmistakably massive bird with a 6ft wingspan and yet weigh in at only 1-2kg. The call of the heron is equally unsubtle - a loud croaking "fraaank" noise that is more like grating metal than the sound of birdsong. Herons are are most commonly seen in or near freshwater where they hunt for fish. The number of breeding herons has been steadily growing in the UK due to mild winters as they struggle to feed during cold weather when ice forms a barrier on the surface of water.

  8. Turn left onto the track and follow it until you reach a large green wooden sign, with "Forestry Commission Ethy Wood" on the other side.

    The path follows the River Lerryn to its confluence with the River Fowey and then follows the Fowey upriver.

    The name of the River Fowey is from Fowydh, based on the Cornish word for tree, gwydh, and more specifically beech, fawen.

  9. Continue ahead on the path and keep left to follow it parallel to the creek until it ends at a gate.

    Amongst the trees planted in the woodland are chestnut, and the nuts are apparent in autumn from their extremely spiky casings.

    To roast chestnuts, prick each of your chestnuts with a skewer or slit the shell with a knife - this is vital to stop them exploding (and disappearing into dust). Bake them in a hot oven for at least 10 minutes. Wild chestnuts are harder to shell than the shop-bought variety as the shells are much thinner and the nuts are often smaller. An easier way to separate the edible part from the shell is to simply slice the shell in half and then scoop out the contents with the point of a knife blade. Also this way, the bitter pith covering the outside of the nut is left behind in the shell. The contents of the nut should be fluffy and pale yellow; discard any that are brown. Separating the flesh from the shells is a fairly tedious process, but with a few friends armed with large cups of tea, a formidable amount of chestnut can be extracted which can be used to make stuffings, soups or whizzed into flour and added to bread recipes. It also freezes nicely so it can be stored up for Christmas recipes.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path along the treeline to reach another gate.

    Crows have a vocabulary of different calls with specific meanings and these can be varied to convey emotion like a human tone of voice.

    The sounds that crows make have also been found to vary with location rather like regional accents in humans. When a crow moves into a new area, it mimics the calls of the most dominant flock members to fit in with its peer group.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to reach a gate onto a footbridge.

    Great tits are most easily identified by their territorial call in spring which is like a whistle followed by two chirps. They have a range of other calls and one theory is that the variation is used to give the impression to rivals that their territory contains several other birds. This is supported by data showing males with the greatest range of calls have more mating success.

  12. Go through the gate and cross the footbridge then follow the path to emerge on the creek-side. Follow the edge of the creek past the church to reach a track by a small wooden pier.

    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.

    You may notice the occasional, and rather large, white shell in the creek-side mud. These are clam shells.

    Cockles and clams look fairly similar, but cockles have much thicker shells. There are a few different varieties of various shapes and sizes.

    In the cockle department, you're most likely to encounter dog cockles which get their name because they are tough if overcooked; however if cooked correctly they are very good to eat and taste of almond (and are known as Amande de Mer). They have an almost round, slightly ringed shell which is smooth on the outside but has some grooves on the inside edge. The common cockle has a heavily ridged shell, but do not seem to live up to their name in Cornwall.

    Clams generally have smoother, more delicate shells. Venus clams have a porcelain-like shell with rings and are about the size of a golf ball. The surf clam is larger, often around the size your hand and has the patterning resembling a mussel.

    Cockles and clams can be collected by raking them from the sand at low tide. The Magna Carta grants every English citizen the right to collect up to eight pounds of cockles/clams from the seashore per day.

  13. Turn right and follow the track a short distance to a metal gate into the churchyard with a Public Footpath sign. Go through the gate and follow the path past the church to reach a gate on the far side of the churchyard.

    St Winnow was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Sanwinnel, and early maps indicate that the churchyard was originally oval in shape, typical of Celtic religions enclosures know as a lann. It is therefore thought that the churchyard may be on the site of the 7th Century chapel of St Winnoc. A stone church was built in the 12th Century and a few traces of this remain in the current church which was built in the 15th Century and restored in the 19th. Much of the stained glass added in the Tudor period survived and can still be seen in the church.

  14. Go through the gate and walk uphill past the cottage to a track on the right marked with a Public Footpath sign. Turn right down the track and go through the gate. Follow the track until you reach a pair of gates.

    Searches with a metal detector in the fields around St Winnow have unearthed a number of historic artefacts including prehistoric flints, pieces of bronze, Roman brooches and coins, lead seals and musket balls. One of the Roman coins found has been dated to 146 BC, which is a year before the Roman conquest of Britain. It may possibly be from earlier trade links with the Romans.

  15. Go through the leftmost gate (ahead) and follow the track until it emerges at a junction of tracks at a gateway.

    During the Iron Age and even during Roman times, bronze was still used particularly for items such as jewellery. There were two reasons for this: unlike iron, bronze does not quickly corrode in air and water and the colour and lustre of polished bronze was more attractive than rusty iron.

  16. Cross the stile ahead then head across the diagonal of the field to reach a stile just to the left of the gateway.

    The Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.


    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).


    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  17. Cross the pair of stiles into the field and follow all the way along the left hedge to a gateway in the corner with the far hedge.

    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.

  18. Cross the stile on the left of the gate and bear right across the field to the gateway in the middle of the hedge on the right.

    Grasses have evolved to grow new leaves from the base of the stem which makes them able to withstand grazing (and mowing). However too much grazing, particularly when grasses are in the process of producing seed, or too much trampling can damage the grass. In the wild, predator species play an important role by chasing herbivores to a new location which gives the grass a chance to recover.

  19. Go through the gateway and then bear left slightly to reach a stile in the bottom corner of the field.

    A beef cow produces around 30kg of dung per day. As dairy cows need to eat more to produce milk, they also produce roughly double the amount of dung which adds up to around 20 tonnes per year.

    Cow dung is high in nitrogen compounds which makes it a useful fertiliser but depending how this is spread on the fields (e.g. sprayed as a liquid), harmful ammonia can be released into the air and run into watercourses. Large tanks of slurry can also decay anaerobically releasing methane so storage mechanisms are being re-examined in light of climate change.

  20. Cross the sequence of 2 stiles then follow the left hedge to reach another stile.

    Hedgerows provide an important habitat for blackbirds.

    In the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas", the line "four colly birds" is thought to be from 18th Century slang meaning "black as coal" and was a popular nickname for the blackbird. Whilst many people today sing and write "four calling birds", this is thought to be a modern misunderstanding of what was originally written.

  21. Cross the stile and follow roughly half-way along the right hedge to where it bends, to reach a stile in the corner of the fence at the bottom of the slope.

    Anyone who has sat on a holly leaf will know how prickly they can be but the leaves particularly on larger holly bushes often vary considerably with less spiky leaves nearer the top.

    Holly is able to vary its leaf shape in response to its environment through a chemical process known as DNA methylation which can be used to switch genes on and off. If its leaves are eaten by grazing animals or trampled by walkers, the holly will crank up the methylation level to produce really spiky leaves on these stems. Conversely on the stems where the leaves are able to grow old in peace, the holly will produce versions that are flatter and therefore more efficient at catching the light. An individual leaf can last up to five years.

  22. Cross the stile and make your way down to the track. Turn right onto the track and follow it downhill until you reach a fork with a National Trust Ethy sign on the left.

    The ferns with solid leaves are appropriately called hart's tongue as the leaf resembles the tongue of a deer. It's an evergreen so leaves can be seen all year round but there's usually a flurry of new growth in mid March when new leaves can be seen gradually unfurling over a number of days. The Latin name for the species means "centipede" as the underside of the leaves have rows of brown spore cases that form a pattern resembling centipede legs. The plants thrive in shady places and are tolerant of the lime used in mortar so are sometimes found growing in old walls.

  23. At the fork, bear left down the concrete track between the mill buildings and across the stream; then follow the track uphill to where a path departs from the left at a wooden fence.

    Ethy mill dates back to mediaeval times, and was first recorded in 1346, although the ruins you can see today are more recent.

    Overshot wheels can achieve higher efficiencies than undershot wheels and can operate using a smaller volume of water which explains why they were generally preferred, particularly in steep-sided Cornish valleys.

    A 2004 Civil Engineering publication concluded that high energy conversion efficiencies (of around 85-90%) were possible from overshot waterwheels and that if these can be manufactured cheaply, they could provide an environmentally sound means of small-scale electricity production.

  24. Bear left through the gap in the fence and follow the path to a crossing.

    The spore from a fern doesn't grow into a fern. Instead it grows into an organism resembling a liverwort (i.e. a small green blob). Instead of producing spores, these produce eggs and also sperm which they interchange with neighbouring blobs to get a new mix of genes. The fertilised egg grows into a new fern and so this alternating process of ferns and blobs repeats.

  25. Keep ahead at the crossing and follow the path uphill to reach a gate into a field.

    Wild garlic grows along the path here. There is also masses of it a short distance along the Lanreath road, near the pub in Lerryn.

    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 high levels of tannins in oak make large amounts of oak leaves or acorns poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep, and even goats, but not to pigs as they were domesticated from wild boar which were adapted to foraging in the oak forests, like deer. Acorns were also eaten by people in times of famine. The acorns were soaked in water first to leech out the bitter tannins and could then be made into flour.

  26. Go through the gate and continue ahead to pass to the left of a fenced copse. Then make for a gap in the middle of the fence.

    The settlement of Ethy dates from mediaeval times and was first recorded in 1196 as "Ewthy", which is likely to be a mangling of Cornish words describing the place (the second syllable was possibly chy, meaning "house"). The Ethy estate was owned by the Courtney family who are commemorated in the mediaeval stained glass in St Winnow churchyard. The current Ethy House was built in Georgian times and set in a 18 acre garden. The National Trust acquired over 300 acres of the Ethy estate in 1959, but Ethy House itself is privately owned. Together with Fowey Hall, Ethy House is thought to have provided inspiration for Toad Hall to the author of Wind in The Willows, Kenneth Grahame, who spent much time in Fowey.

  27. Go through the gap and turn left. Follow the left hedge a short distance to a gate. Go through the gate and keep following the left hedge to reach a waymark. At the waymark, continue ahead past the tree in the middle of the field towards the rightmost of the houses to reach a pedestrian gate.

    As you go through the field gate, note the holly bush on the other side of the gate on the left. In winter, rather than producing the usual bright red berries, the berries on this bush are bright yellow.

    The berries of holly contain a chemical compound very similar to caffeine. Only in very small doses is this a stimulant; in larger doses it is toxic. It is for this reason that you see holly berries on bushes rather than being inside the nearest bird. The birds have learned to wait until after the frosts have reduced the toxicity of the berries before eating them.

    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.

  28. Go through the gate and follow the path to a cul-de-sac. Turn left and follow the residential road until it ends at a T-junction.
  29. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane downhill to the junction outside Yonder Cottage that you emerged from near the start of the walk.
  30. If the tide is out, you can continue ahead at the junction and cross the river via the stepping stones to reach the car park. Otherwise, turn left at the junction to retrace your steps to the main road, then turn right to return via the bridge to the car park.

    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.

    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.

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