Lesnewth to Tresparrett in the Valency Valley

A circular walk in the upper reaches of the River Valency above Boscastle, where author Thomas Hardy lived and met the love of his life, starting from the ancient Celtic church of Lesnewth to St Juliot church which Hardy restored.

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The walk descends from Lesnewth into the Valency valley where it crosses the river at Trefalgar. It then climbs the opposite side of the valley to St Juliot Church. The route heads up the valley, once overlooked by an Iron Age settlement at Cargurra, and on to Tresparrett where the Horseshoe Inn offers refreshment. The return route passes through the wooded valleys of the tributaries of the River Valency, before looping back to Lesnewth.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5 miles/8 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Lesnewth church
  • Parking: On the edge of the lane near the church PL350HR
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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Highlights

  • Panoramic views across the Valency Valley
  • Pleasant woodland alongside the River Valency
  • Ancient churchyard at Lesnewth dating back to Celtic times
  • Local food and drink at the Horseshoe Inn at Tresparrett
  • St Juliot Church - restored by the novelist Thomas Hardy

Directions

  1. From Lesnewth church, take the footpath opposite the church, signposted by a stone marker to Halamiling Farm. Walk down the track until you reach a gate.

    St Michael & All Angels Church in Lesnewth is in a lovely location, just next to a deep-sided stream, marked by an ancient Celtic wayside cross. The original Saxon church was said to be built here in the dip to hide it from marauding Vikings at sea, but they found and pillaged it nonetheless. Sadly, little remains of the Norman church that followed; the present church is mostly Victorian, dominated by an impressively tall 15th century tower. On one of the walls inside is a nicely inscribed slate memorial with a carved coat of arms.

  2. Go through the gate to Halamiling Farm. Follow the track down the Trebiffin Valley until a track departs to the left just before the garage with the deer antlers above the door.

    In much of Cornwall, many of the place names are based on words from the Celtic language. The following prefixes are common:

    • Tre - settlement or homestead
    • Lan - originally monastery but later used for an enclosure or church (this has been replaced with "St" in a number of cases)
    • Nans - valley (occasionally corrupted to "Lan" e.g. Lanteglos)
    • Pen - hill or headland
    • Pol - pond, lake or well, also cove or creek
    • Fenter - spring
  3. Bear left onto the gravel track indicated by the white arrow on the post. Follow this until it bends to go through a gate.
  4. At the bend, follow the grassy track ahead to a waymarked kissing gate.
  5. Go through the gate and bear right to reach a footbridge over the Valency river.

    The steep Valency Valley acted as a funnel for the dramatic flash flood in 2004 that put Boscastle on (and nearly wiped it off) the map. Over 1.4 billion litres of rain fell in the course of 2 hours which is thought to have been caused by the Brown Willy effect, where the high tors on Bodmin Moor cause the repeated formation of rainclouds which blow along the prevailing wind and then dump their rain. Around 50 cars were swept into the harbour, the bridge was washed away and roads were submerged under 9ft of water. A total of 91 people were rescued in the largest peacetime rescue operation ever carried out in the UK.

  6. Cross the footbridge and head towards the gap in the hedge ahead.

    Streams from the marshes of the Otterham Downs give rise to the River Valency which is then fed by five more rivers on its way to Boscastle. The name "Valency" has been explained as a corruption of the Cornish Melinjy (i.e. Melin-Chy = Mill-house) from the mill which existed in Boscastle in mediaeval times.

  7. Go through the gap and then follow the right hedge to the top of the field to reach a signpost to St Julietta's church.

    It is probable that the original patron of St Juliot, Lanteglos church and Tintagel Castle's chapel (all dedicated to St Julitta) was St Juliana, mentioned in the 12th-century Hartland list of the children of Brychan. Other than that mention, little is known - even the gender is a bit sketchy, with the picture of St Julitta in Tintagel Church depicting a man, but many assume from the name that the saint was female.

  8. Turn right through the gateway and head to the right of the telegraph pole in the hedge on the opposite side of the field to a stone stile.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales and was viewed as the father of the Celtic saints.

    Several mediaeval manuscripts state that he was married three times but the numbers of children vary from 12 to 63 with 24 being the most commonly reported number. There is also little agreement in the lists of names between Cornish and Welsh manuscripts. It is through that the list of his children may have grown over time as more people claimed themselves or their local saint to be descended from what was seen as the holy family.

  9. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow the right hedge past the gateway to a stile in the far corner of the field.

    A well-known country remedy for the stings of nettles is to rub the sore area with the leaf of a dock plant. A common misconception is that dock leaves are alkaline and neutralise the acids in the nettle sting but, in reality, docks contain a mild (oxalic) acid. Also the formic acid in nettle venom is at a concentration that is too low to cause a sting, and it is instead a combination of neurotransmitters (histamine, serotonin and acetlycholine) in the venom which causes skin irritation. Although dock is claimed by some to contain a natural antihistamine, no scientific evidence has been found for this. It is thought that it is simply the rubbing and moisture in the leaf which provides a short-term relief/distraction whilst the sting itself is diminishing over time. The most effective relief is likely to be from an antihistamine cream but only if applied quickly enough. Alternatively, almost any moist leaf should provide a little relief, with the exception of another nettle leaf!

  10. Cross the stile and keep to the right hedge through this field to a stile in the bottom right hand corner.
  11. Cross the stile and bear left, up the stone steps leading to the churchyard with a Celtic wayside cross by the steps.

    Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross (a crucifix with a circular ring) developed from the sun cross (a cross inside a circle), a common symbol in artefacts of Prehistoric Europe, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. When Christianity came to the celtic regions, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol, to remind them of the cross on which their new Saviour was crucified.

  12. Walk around the church to the right to reach the churchyard gate.

    St Juliot's Church is signposted on the right from the road from Boscastle to Crackington. The church is situated is a beautiful location with its door facing out across the Valency valley. Formerly there was a chapel on the site, dating back to mediaeval times. This was later replaced with a church with a tower dating from the 14th Century and south aisle from the 15th Century. The church was renovated by the author Thomas Hardy. The tower was in such a state of collapse that it needed to be entirely rebuilt, but the 15th Century aisle survived and now forms the nave and chancel.

  13. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane until you reach a junction signposted to Boscastle.

    A Lunula - a gold ornament of the Bronze Age, dating from about 2000BC - was found in the 1800s by some labourers who were working in a field at St Juliot. It is now in the Truro museum. Only 3 other have been found in Cornwall - two at Harlyn Bay near Padstow and one at Penwith.

  14. At the junction, turn right through the gate in front of the public footpath sign (as the stile is blocked). Then follow the right hedge to a gate.

    Lunulae were neck ornaments and have been found dating from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Four have been found in Cornwall and are all made of very thin gold. The crescent shape of lunulae is thought to indicate a symbolic meaning, representing the crescent horns of the moon, and they may thus have been objects of ceremonial significance. A number of similar lunulae have been found in Ireland and also Brittany. It is thought the four found in Cornwall were all made from Irish gold and manufactured either in Ireland or Brittany and brought along the trade route between the two passing through Cornwall.

  15. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge/fence to a stile in the right hand corner.
  16. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a tarmacked track on the far side.

    The fields here are sometimes used for cereal crops such as oats

    Oats were originally a grassy weed that occurred amongst wheat and barley crops. They were eventually domesticated as a crop in their own right in Bronze Age Europe as they are more tolerant of cool, wet summers than wheat and barley. This is also likely to be the origin of their popularity in Scottish cuisine. Nowadays, the highest levels of oat production take place in southern Britain and at similar latitudes including Canada, Poland and Russia.

  17. Join the track and follow it past the cottage and around a bend to the left until you reach a fork in front of Over Park.

    Park is the Cornish word for "field" and during mediaeval times the words, over and nether were used to denote "higher" and "lower".

  18. At the fork, keep left and go straight ahead across the intersection of tracks and paths through a gate into a field. Once in the field, follow the grassy track leading ahead where the main track bends, to reach a wooden gate on the far side.

    Through the gateway to the left is a circular mound on the far side of the field. This earthwork is the remains of an Iron Age settlement.

  19. Go through the gate and continue ahead to an opening in the far right corner.

    The fields are hedged with blackthorn, so if you want to make sloe gin, this is a good place for picking in autumn.

    Blackthorn trees were planted as hedges to keep out cattle and they are still common in Cornish hedgerows today. In Celtic tree lore, blackthorn was associated with evil and in the Celtic language of Ogham was known as Straif. This is thought to be the origin of the English word "strife" and a bad winter is sometimes known as a Blackthorn Winter.

  20. Go through the gap and follow the right hedge to the next gateway.

    To make sloe gin, wash your sloes and prick each one with a fork. Put your pricked sloes into a container with a lid and a suitably large neck so you can pour them out later - 4 litre milk containers, washed out very thoroughly, are ideal. Fill about 80% of the way to the top with the cheapest gin you can find (don't waste your money on expensive gin as you are about to transform it into something altogether different). Fill the remaining 20% with white sugar (it looks a lot but sloes are incredibly bitter and this offsets it) and leave to infuse for a few months; agitate gently occasionally to help the sugar dissolve without mashing the sloes which would make your drink cloudy. Drain the beautiful red liquid into a decanter to admire before consumption.

  21. Go through the gateway and continue along the right hedge to a gate.

    Once you've made your sloe gin, don't throw away your gin-soaked sloes! Instead buy some cheap sweet "cooking" cider (the kind that comes in 2 litre plastic bottles preferably with words like "value", "basic" or "economy"; do not commit heresy and waste good quality drinking cider) and replace the gin with this. Ensure your lid is on tight so your cider doesn't lose its fizz. Leave to infuse for a few more months for your cider to become ozmotically fortified. The resulting delightful drink is known as "slider" (after several glasses anyway); based on "experience", small-sized glasses are recommended.

  22. Go through the gate and continue along the right hedge to a gateway with wooden fences either side.

    After following the right hedge through so many gateways and reading about all the drinks you can make with sloes that grow there, you might be feeling thirsty at this point! Fortunately there is a pub in Tresparrett and there is only 1 more field to cross after this one...

  23. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge to a metal gate with a roadsign ahead.

    The settlement dates back to mediaeval times and was known originally as Paruet or Rosperuet. In 1086 there were 6 households recorded here.

  24. Go through the gate and walk to the signpost then join the lane ahead signposted to Marshgate. Follow this to a junction on the right beside the phone box.
  25. Turn right in front of the phone box and follow the road down the hill and around the bend to the left to reach Old Smithy Cottage on the left with a track departing to the right.
  26. Turn right onto the track marked with the public footpath sign and follow it to where a path leads off from the left just before it ends at a gate.

    A little further along the lane is the Horseshoe Inn, if you want to stop for refreshment.

    The Horseshoe Inn, in Tresparrett, has only been a pub since 1977. Prior to that, it was a house & blacksmiths (hence the name) which were knocked together into one to become the village shop. It took many years to obtain a license to turn it into a pub due to opposition from some villagers. The pub is only open all day on Sundays during the summer, otherwise it opens at 12pm and closes at 3pm so bear this in mind if you are planning on stopping there.

  27. At the end of the track, bear left down a path to the bottom of the valley to a footbridge.
  28. Cross the footbridge and stile, and continue ahead up the field to an opening approximately 50m from the top corner of the field, to the right of a large tree.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  29. Go through the opening and cross the middle of the field to the left of two openings in the far hedge (with a large wooden post, approximately 10 metres down from the top of the far hedge).

    In the 1800s, using turnips in a crop rotation was a popular means of enriching the nitrogen content of the soil. However, this crop also depletes the lime content of the soil and so the practice was less common in Cornwall than elsewhere in the country. Where turnips were grown, this could well have further fuelled the demand for lime-rich shell sand to be brought inland by horse, the railway along the Camel, or via Bude canal.

  30. Go straight ahead to the waymarked pedestrian gate and go through this to reach a track. Turn right onto the track to reach a fork. At the fork, follow the left track uphill for a short distance to a junction.
  31. At the junction, turn right down the track, then immediately left before the barn to reach the left of two gates.

    From Tudor times onwards, the majority of farming in Cornwall was based around rearing livestock with dairy cattle being predominant. This is reflected in traditional Cornish dairy produce including clotted cream and, later, ice cream and in the North Cornwall dialect where the pejorative for "farmer" was a fairly graphical description of the act of milking before the introduction of milking machines which rhymed with "bit fuller".

    Since 1984, the European Common Market agricultural policy - to restrict milk production - has reduced dairy herds and prompted shifts to beef and lamb production, and arable crops - particularly maize and oilseed rape. Two large buyers of Cornish milk - Rodda's for their clotted cream and Diary Crest for the production of Davidstow and Cathedral City cheeses - have helped to buffer the Cornish dairy industry from this to some degree. Post-Brexit, there is speculation that Britain may become more agriculturally self-sufficient and this could change the dynamics once again.

  32. Go through the waymarked gate and follow the right hedge to an opening in the far hedge.
  33. Go through the opening and follow the right hedge to a waymarked opening.
  34. Go through the opening and bear left to locate a gap between the gorse bushes leading down the bank (there is another gap further to the right but the one to the left is less steep and is the official right of way). Make your way down the bank to reach a path running along the bottom of the bank.

    Gorse, also known as furze, is present as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century).

  35. Turn left onto the path along the bottom of the bank. Follow the path until you can see a footbridge on the right, then follow the path down to the bridge and cross it.
  36. From the bridge, head to the waymark and then to another footbridge.
  37. Cross the bridge and continue ahead to a waymark. From the waymark, continue straight ahead between the trees until you can see a gate, then make for this.
  38. Go through the gate and continue ahead to another metal gate in the top-right corner of the field.
  39. Go through the gate ahead and follow the fence on the right to an abandoned stile at the end of the fence.
  40. Pass stile and bear right slightly to the ladder stile between the two gates.
  41. Cross the ladder stile (or go through the gate), then bear right to follow along the hedge keeping on your left to reach a pair of metal gates.
  42. Turn left through the gates and follow the track to a waymarked pedestrian gate on the right.
  43. Go through the gate on the right into a garden. Pass the house then bear right to go up the steps to the metal gates.

    Helsett Farm is located near Lesnewth on the slopes of the Valency Valley. The farming family at Helsett have a herd of pedigree Ayrshire cows which produce organic milk for their handmade dairy products which include yoghurt, creme fraiche and cream. However they are most famous for their ice cream which is sold by Waitrose, Selfridges and even Harrods.

  44. Go through the metal gates and turn right onto the track. Follow the track until it ends at a T-junction.
  45. At the junction, turn left onto the lane and follow it a short distance to the Well House sign, then bear right onto the track along the hedge to the gate indicated by the Public Footpath sign.
  46. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to a stone stile.
  47. Cross over the stile and follow the right hedge to a stile in the far corner.
  48. Cross the stile and the one opposite to reach a lane. Turn right and walk a short distance to return to the starting point of the walk.

    Lesnewth is a small hamlet and civil parish situated two miles east of Boscastle. The name for Lesnewth in Cornish was Lysnowydh which means 'New Court', which is a chieftan's estate. The farmhouse of Penpol dates back over 400 years, although there is believed to have been a settlement in this area for over 1000 years.

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

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