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 Trafalgar. 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
  • Distance: 5 miles/8 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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  • 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

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Horseshoe Inn


  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.

    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
  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.

    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 rain clouds 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.

  3. Bear left onto the gravel track indicated by the white arrow on the post. Follow this until it bends to go through a gateway.

    Halamiling was recorded in 1327 as Lamelyn which is thought to be a corruption of nansmelyn - the Cornish for "valley mill". The name gradually drifted further off the rails during Victorian times via "Allemelon" and "Hahamellin" to reach the current form.

  4. At the bend, bear right onto the grassy track and follow this to a waymarked kissing gate.

    The roots of red campion contain saponins (soapy compounds) which protect the plants against microbes and fungi. These compounds make it easier for large molecules such as proteins to enter cell membranes. This has the potential to increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy against cancer by allowing immunotoxins to enter the cancer cells more easily.

  5. Go through the gate and bear right to reach a footbridge over the Valency river.

    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. 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.
  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 gateway on the right with a signpost for New Mill.

    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 acetylcholine) 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.

    Swallows have evolved a long slender body and pointed wings that makes their flight more than twice as efficient as other birds of a similar size. Swallows forage for insects on the wing, typically around 7-8 metres above the ground. They can sometimes be seen skimming the surface of water either to drink or to bathe which they also do in flight.

  11. Cross the stile and bear left to a metal pedestrian gate. Go through this and up the stone steps then continue to the church door.

    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.

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

    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.

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

    The vetches are a family of wildflowers that is a sub-group within the pea and bean family. Their pretty purple flowers are quite like mini sweetpea flowers. The leaves are also very distinctive, organised in a neat row either side of the stem. Common vetch is a wildflower but is also sown by farmers in some grazing fields to improve the nutrition for ruminants and to introduce more nitrogen into the soil.

  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.

    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 others have been found in Cornwall - two at Harlyn Bay near Padstow and one at Penwith.

    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 (take care of the overhanging branches) and follow the right hedge to reach a tarmacked track on the far side.

    Clover is a native plant and a member of the legume (pea and bean) family. It is also sown as a fodder crop and as "green manure" as it improves soil fertility. The two most common species are known simply as white clover and red clover, based on the colour of their flowers, with the latter generally being a slightly larger plant. Red clover leaves also have a white V shape.

  17. Join the track and follow it past West Park and East Park and around a bend to the left until you reach a fork in the track 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 pass the tarmac driveway on the right. Follow the track through the metal gate and then bear right at the next fork into a field. Continue on the track to where it bends to the right and a grassy path continues ahead across the field.

    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. Depart from the track to follow the grassy path across the field to reach the wooden gate on the far side.
  20. Go through the wooden gate (or if overgrown, use the metal gates to the right to bypass this and enter the same field) and then cross the field to a metal gate in the far right corner.

    Where an electric fence crosses a footpath, it should either be covered by an insulating sheath (e.g. on stiles) or there should be a section that unclips with insulating plastic handles to allow access through. Ensure you re-clip this on passing through so animals cannot escape. The connecting cord/spring between the handles is often conducting so avoid touching this and be aware of any dangling rucksack straps.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to the next gate.

    The fields are hedged with blackthorn.

    Blackthorn wood is very tough and hard-wearing as therefore was used to make tool handles, walking sticks and as a traditional Celtic weapon for clubbing people to death! It is still regarded as the ultimate wood for making walking sticks. Once cut and trimmed, the wood needs to be dried for at least a year (often several) which allows moisture to escape and the wood to shrink and harden.

  22. Go through the gate and continue along the right hedge to another gate.

    Pineapple weed is related to chamomile and is consequently also known as false chamomile. It's able to colonise poor soils on waste ground including cracks between paving. The flowers resembling little yellow balls are also quite distinctive but even more so is the pineapple scent when is trodden on or squeezed. The leaves can be eaten in salads and the leaves and flowers can also be dried to make tea.

    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.

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

    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 osmotically fortified. The resulting delightful drink is known as "slider" (after several glasses anyway). Based on "experience", small-sized glasses are recommended.

  24. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge to a metal gate with a road sign ahead.

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

  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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 12 PM and closes at 3 PM so bear this in mind if you are planning on stopping there.

  28. At the end of the track, bear left down a path to the bottom of the valley to a footbridge.

    The stream is a tributary of the River Valency which rises at Marshgate (hence the name) and joins the main river roughly a quarter of a mile downstream from here. The point where the route first crossed the river is a about a mile below this confluence (so has the combined flow).

  29. Cross the footbridge and stile, and continue ahead up the field to an opening in the right hedge approximately 50m from the top corner of the field, just to the right of a large tree.

    The dandelion-like flowers along the coast are most likely to be catsear, also known as false dandelion. Catsear is very salt tolerant, not only growing along the coast but actually in sand dunes. The easiest way to recognise it is by the hairy leaves, hence the name. If you can cope with the texture, the leaves are edible and are much less bitter than dandelion leaves.

    Another way to tell them apart is when they are flowering. Although dandelion flowers over quite a long period, the most profuse flowering is in April and May whereas catsear's intense flowering period is in late June and through July. Catsear has neater flowers than dandelion with squarer edges to the petals (but still toothed). The stems supporting the flowers are also solid, in contrast with the hollow stem of the dandelion.

  30. Go through the opening and cross the field to a gateway in the far hedge approximately 10 metres down from the top 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.

  31. 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.

    There are chicken coups beside the track which are sometimes open to allow free-ranging.

    Chickens are descended from junglefowl and those in Britain came originally from India. They evolved the ability to lay large numbers of eggs to take advantage of gluts of food that occur in their native forests. It is thought they were introduced to Britain by Iron Age tribes who bred them for fighting rather than meat and cockfighting remained Britain's national sport until 1835. During the mediaeval period, more placid forms of chicken were bred that were less hazardous to farm but it wasn't until the 17th Century that chickens and eggs were farmed on a mass scale. In Britain, over 10 billion eggs are now consumed every year.

  32. At the junction, turn right down the track, then immediately left before the barn to reach the left of two gates.

    The settlement of Trevilla is thought to date from early mediaeval times and there are records from 1284. It is thought to be based on an Old English (rather than Celtic) personal name, reflecting the proximity to the Devon border which was along the River Ottery (not Tamar) during mediaeval times.

    One of the buildings further downhill (on private land and not visible from the footpath) has the remains of an old waterwheel. This was fed from the pond which can be seen from the track via a sluice a leat leading downhill to the wheel.

  33. Go through the waymarked gate and follow the right hedge to an opening in the far hedge.

    From Tudor times onward, 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".

  34. Go through the opening and follow the right hedge to a waymarked opening.

    The salt-laden breeze coming off the sea dries out leaf buds and inhibits growth so the plants end up growing most vigorously in the lee of the wind. In the direction facing the prevailing wind, the growth is therefore more compact and stunted whereas in the lee of the wind, the branches are much more straggly. The result is that the trees appear to point away from the prevailing wind. Where there are no obstacles interfering with the wind direction, the shape of the trees can be used as a compass. Prevailing winds come from the southwest, so in general, trees in Cornwall point northeast.

  35. Go through the opening and bear left to locate a gap between the gorse bushes leading down the bank. Make your way down the bank to reach a path running along the bottom of the bank.

    Gorse 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).

  36. 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.
  37. Cross the bridge and head across the field to another wooden footbridge.

    The stream is the upper reaches of the River Valency. Its source is beside the A39 at Trewannion Gate near Otterham Station. The second bridge is over a stream which rises from a spring at Helsett Farm.

  38. Cross the bridge and follow the path to a waymark. Bear left at the waymark and follow the path to a gate into a field.

    In August, blackberries start to ripen on brambles.

    To make blackberry wine, combine 2kg blackberries + 4 litres of boiling water in a plastic container with a lid. Once the water has cooled to lukewarm, mash blackberries and add red wine yeast and pectic enzyme (blackberries are high in pectin so this is needed to stop the wine being cloudy). Cover for 4-5 days then strain through muslin.

    Transfer the liquid to a demijohn and add 1kg of sugar. Top up with a little more water to make it up to a gallon. After fermentation, the wine should clear by itself; in the unlikely event that it doesn't, use some finings. Rack off from the sediment and bottle; it's worth allowing the wine a year or two to mature as it massively improves with age. As a variation, you can add 500g of elderberries and increase the sugar content for a more port-like wine which will need a couple of years longer for the elderberry tannins to mellow out.

  39. Go through the gate and continue ahead to another metal gate in the top-right corner of the field.

    The standing stone in the centre of the field is more likely to be a cattle rubbing stone rather than a prehistoric structure. It is not recorded as an ancient monument.

    In pre-industrial times, cattle were allowed to roam over quite large areas and could therefore find a suitable tree to relieve an itch. In the Victorian period, farming became more intensive and cattle were moved into enclosed fields. It was quickly discovered that an itchy cow could wreak havoc with walls and fences so dedicated rubbing stones were positioned in the centre of some fields to minimise cow damage. In some cases, new stones were quarried specifically for the purpose and others, existing prehistoric standing stones or even Celtic crosses were unceremoniously re-used.

  40. Go through the gate ahead and follow the fence on the right to a stile over the fence.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomfortable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  41. Cross the stile and turn left to follow the fence on your left then bear right as you approach the hedge to the ladder stile to the left of the gate.
  42. Cross the ladder stile, then go through the gate on the right and turn left to follow along the hedge, keeping it on your left to reach a pair of metal gates.
  43. Turn left through the gates and follow the track to a waymarked pedestrian gate on the right.

    Water pepper and lady's thumb grow in the damp ground along the track.

    Lady's thumb, also known as "redshank", grows on moist, disturbed ground often along field edges and tracks. It is related to water pepper and has similar long leaves but the lady's thumb leaves have a dark blotch (hence the thumbprint basis of the name). Its flowers are also in bigger clusters of pink rather than the puny white strand that water pepper produces. It is edible but without the chilli-like heat of water pepper (which provides a more memorable way to tell them apart).

    The plant has a plethora of local names in different parts of the UK but East Anglia deserves a mention for its baffling "saucy alice" and - an alternative suggestion for how the leaves got their markings - "devil's arse-wipe".

  44. Go through the gate on the right into a garden. Pass the house then bear right to go up the slate steps to the metal gates.

    The settlement of Helsett was recorded in 1280 as Helliset but the origin of the name isn't clear. A manor was recorded here in the 15th Century so the name could possibly be based on hen-lys which is Cornish for "old court".

  45. Go through the metal gates and turn right onto the track. Follow the track until it ends at a T-junction.
  46. 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.
  47. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to a stone stile.

    As one would expect, Well House is located beside a spring. Another spring rises in the field, hence all the reeds.

    In marshes, microorganisms thrive in the wet mud and use up the supply of oxygen. To survive being partially buried in mud with low oxygen levels, many marsh plants have therefore evolved snorkels: air channels in the stem which allow oxygen to reach base of the plant. This is why the leaves of reeds feel spongy.

  48. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and follow the right hedge to a stile in the far corner.

    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.

  49. Cross the stile and the one opposite to reach a lane. Turn right and follow the lane to return to the starting point of the walk.

    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.

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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