Little Petherick Creek and the Camel Trail

It is important that you carefully time this walk with the tide times: the footpath along the edge of the creek is underwater at high tide. Once you reach the slate tips at Sea Mills, there is no time pressure from this point on. The edge of the creek is quite muddy so ensure you have appropriate footwear.

A circular walk via the Victorian obelisk overlooking Padstow, the creek-side church at Little Petherick and the tidal enclosure of Sea Mills, returning via the Camel Trail bridge which carried the railway that brought the first Victorian tourists to Padstow and Cornish fish to London.

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From Padstow, the route climbs Dennis Hill to the obelisk where there are panoramic views of the area. It then follows the Saint's Way up Little Petherick Creek through meadows and woodland to reach Little Petherick's gothic church. From there the path follows the other side of the creek to reach Sea Mills. The return route is through fields and down a small track then along the Camel Trail over the old railway bridge spanning Little Petherick Creek.


  • The footpath on the foreshore passes over an area of bedrock which is slippery when wet.
  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.


A lovely peaceful walk along the creeks. The app told me the history of the area which is very helpful. Lovely views and wildlife. The last mile is along the Camel Trail. Beware of the tourists
Beautiful walk yesterday along Little Petherick Creek - thanks @iwalkc for the inspiration!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 5.3 miles/8.6 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots; wellies in winter

OS maps for this walk

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


  • Historic fishing village and harbour at Padstow
  • Panoramic views of the creeks and estuary
  • Wildflowers in the woodland along the creeks
  • Ornate gothic church at Little Petherick
  • Remains of a tidal mill enclosure at Sea Mills
  • Wading birds such as curlews and egrets
  • Local Cornish food in Padstow

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Golden Lion Hotel
  • The Harbour Inn
  • The London Inn
  • The Old Customs House
  • The Old Ship Hotel
  • The Shipwrights


It is important that you carefully time this walk with the tide times: the footpath along the edge of the creek is underwater at high tide. Once you reach the slate tips at Sea Mills, there is no time pressure from this point on. The edge of the creek is quite muddy so ensure you have appropriate footwear.

  1. Facing the National Lobster Hatchery, turn right and follow the path to the no entry signs. Follow the lane between the buildings until you reach the start of the Camel Trail.

    The National Lobster Hatchery, located on the quayside at Padstow, are aiming to create a sustainable shellfish fishery in Cornwall by providing a predator-free environment for lobsters to grow past the zooplankton stage where they normally mostly perish. The lobsters are reared in captivity until they are 2-3 months old - the age when they set up home in a burrow. They are then released at different points around the coast to replenish stocks caught by fishermen. There is a visitor centre there where you can find out more about what they do and meet the lobsters.

  2. Keep right to follow the main trail ahead until you reach another Camel Trail signpost with a "Newquay 18" sign.

    Lobsters are among the planet's oldest inhabitants with fossil remains dating back more than 100 million years. They are also extremely long-lived with some individuals reaching ages in excess of 80 years. A specimen of over 50 years old was caught in Cornwall in 2012 and was given to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay; it was a metre long and weighed 4kg. The heaviest lobster recorded was caught in 1934 and weighed an immense 19kg!

  3. From the signpost, continue ahead on the trail towards Wadebridge and Bodmin a short distance further until you reach the remains of a bench on your left, opposite a path into the bushes on the right.
  4. Go down the path between the bushes on the right and descend the steps towards the lake. At the bottom of the steps, turn right and follow along the edge of the lake to reach a lane.

    Padstow is a very old port town facing into the Camel Estuary (formerly Petrockstow after St Petroc). Possibly from as early as 2500 BC, Padstow has been used as a natural harbour, linking Brittany to Ireland along the Saints Way from Fowey. In the Middle Ages, it was known as Aldestowe (the "old place", to contrast with Bodmin, which was the new place). The Cornish name Lannwedhenek or Lodenek derives from the Lanwethinoc monastery that stood above the harbour in Celtic times.

  5. Turn left onto the lane and follow it a short distance to two tracks on the left. Take the second one marked with a Saint's Way sign and follow this a short distance to a waymark in front of the gate.

    Cornwall was a popular tourism destination in Victorian times, but until the railway was extended from Wadebridge to Padstow in 1899, Padstow was scarcely known to holiday makers and remained undeveloped. Initially the focus of tourism in the area was Trevone Bay, and it wasn't until the 20th Century that tourism finally caught on in Padstow. Despite the late start, tourism quickly became Padstow's dominant industry, though a number of the older industries such as farming and fishing still survive. Padstow now gets hundreds of thousands of visitors per year.

  6. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path uphill to a waymarked gate.

    The settlement of Dinas, to the south of Padstow, was first recorded in 1327 when it was spelt Dynays. The name Dinas (the Cornish word for fort) is thought to have arisen because the neighbouring Dennis Hill (which is likely to have once been called Dinas Hill) has a natural geological formation which resembles an Iron Age hillfort.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a stile at the top of the hill.

    Many place names in Cornwall containing "Dennis" are corruptions of Dinas which is the Celtic (Cornish and Old Welsh) word for a fort or citadel. The boy's name Dennis has an altogether different origin, from Dionysus - the god of wine. St Dennis (in Cornwall) and the shortened version of it in Australia - Sydney - are both of the latter origin.

  8. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge downhill to an opening into a large field.

    The obelisk was erected on Dennis Hill to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887; it is a magnificent viewpoint. To reach it, go through the green metal gate on your right. Once you're done, retrace your steps to the stile.

    Royal Jubilees began with George III celebrating 50 years on the throne in 1809 with a Golden Jubilee, followed by Queen Victoria in 1887. Victoria was the first monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Elizabeth II celebrated a 25 year Silver Jubilee in 1977, a Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

  9. Bear right across the field to the bottom hedge to reach a waymark post beside a path leading into the woods.
  10. From the waymark, follow the path down into the woods to a footbridge.

    Wild garlic grows alongside the path, which is noticable in spring and early summer.

    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.

  11. Cross the bridge and follow the waymarked path up the steps to emerge in a field at a waymark.
  12. Follow the right hedge of the field to reach a stile and gateway.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay, making it the longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar.

    The name "Cam-El" is from the Cornish meaning "crooked one". It is documented that only the upper reaches of the river, above Boscarne, were originally known as the "Camel". The section from Boscarne to Egloshayle was known as the "Allen" and below this, it was known as "Heyl".

  13. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a stile in the far hedge near the corner of the field.

    The sea fish known traditionally in the UK as bass, but internationally as the "European seabass" (to distinguish from river species particularly in North America), is a member of the perch family. Given they are normally found in the sea, bass are surprisingly tolerant of freshwater and sometimes venture quite a long way upriver. Bass is very nice to eat but is a slow-growing species and therefore threatened by overfishing. Since 2010, two-thirds of the population has been wiped out in what has been described as "an unfolding environmental disaster" and although there are emergency EU measures in place to restrict both commercial and recreational catches, there is evidence that commercial catches are still well above sustainable levels.

  14. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to another stile.

    The Camel Estuary is a nursery ground for bass and is a designated conservation area. Young bass spend their first 3-4 years in estuaries and then move into inshore waters. At 6-7 years the bass are sexually mature and migrate out into the Atlantic into deeper water to breed during the winter, returning each summer to coastal waters. Fishing for bass is illegal in the estuary during the summer and autumn to help protect the breeding population.

  15. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a waymarked path, leading into the woods.
  16. From the waymark, bear left down the path into the woods and follow it to a stile.

    The pockets of woodland along the creek provide a habitat for bluebells.

    According to folklore, it's unlucky to bring bluebells into a house and also unlucky to walk through bluebells as it was thought that the little bells would ring and summon fairies and goblins.

  17. Cross the stile and follow the wooden walkway; then keep right around the top of the creek to reach a footbridge and stile.
  18. Pass the stile and turn left to follow the path into a small meadow. Follow the right hedge to the top corner of the meadow where a path leads into the woods.
  19. Follow the path from the top corner of the meadow, through the woods, until it emerges into a field. Then head for a waymark by the gateway ahead.

    The path through the woods is the remains of an old "sanding" track leading up from Credis Creek. Sand from a nearby beach was unloaded from boats and hauled up the track to the fields, where it was spread as a fertiliser both to increase the pH and improve the drainage of the heavy clay soil.

  20. Turn left at the waymark and follow the hedge to the corner.

    A small copper mine was located in the field above Credis Creek, near Little Petherick, and was worked in the 1820s. The shaft was no more than thirty fathoms deep yet over £9000 of copper ore was raised and the mine employed around forty men. Mining stopped soon after the 1820s to avoid litigation with a neighbouring landowner and the mine appears to have finally closed in the late 1860s; a reopening was proposed in 1872 but never took place.

  21. At the corner of the hedge, turn right and follow the hedge to a stile.

    The Saints' Way runs for 30 miles from Padstow to Fowey, and follows one of the likely routes of early Christian travellers making their way from Wales and Ireland to the Continent during the Dark Ages. Rather than risk a premature martyring on the rocks around Land's End, they would disembark their ships on the North Devon and Cornish coast and cross the peninsula, on foot, to ports on the south coast such as Fowey. The Bush Inn at Morwenstow is thought to be one of the stopovers from the North Devon ports. The route from Padstow to Fowey was in use before the Dark Ages which is evident from Roman coins found along the route. However it is thought that it was likely to have been in use even earlier still, in the Iron Age.

  22. Cross the stile and keep right along the path through the woods, passing through a gate, and eventually descend from the woods to emerge beside a small boathouse at a waymark.

    The woods are carpeted with contrasting celandines and bluebells in spring.

    The name celandine is thought to be derived from the Greek word for swallow, based on the arrival of swallows being a sign of spring. Lesser celandines are one of the first flowers to appear in springtime, and start flowering in March before the bluebells come out in April. They continue flowering through the bluebell period into May so they are often seen together.

    The growing conditions for trees varies from year to year (e.g. there might be a drought one summer). The "bad years" and "good years" are reflected in the widths of the rings. The pattern of good and bad summers is the same (more-or-less, depending of the location) for every tree so this forms a calendar - the known sequence of wide and narrow rings can be used to assign an exact year to each ring. This can also be done with dead and even fossil trees both to date them and get an idea of what the climate was doing at the time.

  23. Bear left onto the track and follow it through the gate. Continue on the track until it eventually ends on a lane next to the church.

    In early spring, the small stream at the start of the track is surrounded by an impressive array of snowdrops.

    Snowdrop bulbs are poisonous but contain a chemical compound which is used in the treatment of early Alzheimer's, vascular dementia and brain damage. The plant produces another substance in its leaves which inhibits the feeding of insect pests. This is being researched to see if this substance can be introduced into other plants to reduce the use of pesticides.

    A flower is effectively an advert to insects that nectar is available and the reason that flowers are coloured and scented is so these adverts get noticed. The basic idea with most flowers is to lure the insect in with a bribe of nectar and then whilst they are there, unload pollen they are carrying from another flower, stick some pollen to them from this flower, and send them on their way.

  24. Turn left beside the church and follow the lane over the bridge until you reach a track on the left.

    The church at Little Petherick was built originally in the 14th century and was rebuilt in 1745. Since then it has been restored twice, each time by a famous Gothic architect: initially in the 1850s by William White, and the second time in 1908 by Ninian Comper. The result is impressively ornate.

    The church is dedicated to St Petroc who, according to legend, came this way when he fled to Bodmin from Padstow. The parish is known as St Petroc Minor to distinguish it from Padstow (formerly Petrocstow) - "Petherick" is derived from "Petroc".

  25. Turn left down the track and go through the kissing gate on the left of the gate. Follow the track to another kissing gate.

    Originally, the religion of the Cornish Britons was Celtic polytheism - a pagan, animistic faith, assumed to be led by Druids. Celtic Christianity was introduced to Cornwall in the year 520 by Saint Petroc, a Brython from the kingdom of Glywysing, and other missionaries from Wales, as well as by Gaelic monks and holy women from Ireland.

  26. Go through the gate and follow the track past the entrance of the water works until you reach wooden fence with a path leading ahead through a gap.

    During Victorian times, Little Petherick Creek was used for trading, and along the left-hand side of the creek (looking down the creek from Little Petherick) are remains of quays where grain was loaded and a limekiln was also located. The Old Mill (which is now a bistro) near the bridge was a corn mill dating from before 1840 and still has a waterwheel. The tidal mill at Sea Mills, and Melingey Mill upstream of Little Petherick were both also used to grind corn.

  27. Go through the gap and follow the path to a footbridge. Cross the bridge and walk across the top of the creek to reach a stile into a field.

    Lichens grow on some of the small trees on the path down and also dead trees at the edge of the creek.

    Lichens often grow on sick or dying trees so some gardeners assume that the lichen might be harming the tree. In fact, it's purely because these trees have fewer leaves so there is more light available for the algae inside the fungus to photosynthesise. It's too dark under many healthy trees for the lichen to grow.

  28. Cross the stile into the field and follow the left hedge to a small opening in the bushes leading to a stile and footbridge. Follow the path through the opening to the stile.

    The creek provides a habitat for a range of wading birds, the larger of which can often be spotted from the fields alongside the creek.

    Although herons primarily eat fish, they will eat frogs, rodents, moles, ducklings and even baby rabbits! They are quite brave birds and will venture into gardens and parks to eat the ornamental fish. They have also been known to visit zoos to steal fish during penguin and seal feeding.

  29. Cross the stile and footbridge, then follow the path up into a field. Follow the left hedge to a stile in the hedge opposite.

    The name "daisy" is thought to be a corruption of "day's eye" (or "eye of the day", as Chaucer called it). The name comes about because the flower head closes at night and opens each morning. In mediaeval times, it was known as "Mary's Rose". The Romans used to soak bandages in daisy juice as an antiseptic for sword wounds.

    Cornwall bounces by around 4 inches every time the tide goes in and out. As the tide rises, the extra weight of water on the continental shelf deforms the Earth's crust; as the tide goes out, it springs back. The tidal range is greatest on the southwestern side of the British Isles and so Cornwall is one of the bounciest places in Britain.

  30. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a stile in the corner of the far hedge.

    In 1991, sloes were found in the stomach contents of a 5,300 human mummy in the Alps, indicating that they were part of the Neolithic diet. Alone they are extremely bitter but with enough sugar, they can be made into a range of preserves.

  31. Cross the stile and the one ahead of it; then follow the path through the copse until you reach a stile on your left.

    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.

  32. Cross the stile and turn right along the creek. Follow along the edge of the creek until you reach a low wall.

    The walled enclosure in the river was for the tidal mill here.

    In 1602, tide mills were described by Richard Carew in his Survey of Cornwall:

    Amongst other commodities afforded by the sea, the inhabitants make use of divers his creekes for grist mills, by thwarting a banke from side to side, in which a flood-gate is placed, with two leaves; these the flowing tide openeth, and, after full sea, the waight of the ebb closeth fast, which no other force can doe: and so the imprisoned water payeth the ransome of driving an under sheete (i.e. undershot) wheel for his enlargement.
  33. Continue along the creek edge, keeping the slate tips on your right until the path eventually ends on a lane.

    The tidal mill in Little Petherick creek was first recorded in 1675 as "two salt water grist mills". The mill closed in 1899, apparently due to the restriction of the tidal flow in the creek, caused by the construction of the North Cornwall Railway across the mouth of Little Petherick creek. The mill building was demolished in the early 20th Century and the outbuildings have been converted into houses; the garden of one of these is where the mill used to be located. The enclosing wall of the mill pond is still mostly intact, although the interior is now filled with silt. Further along shore, there are slate tips and, behind this, the slate quarries that yielded the stone used to build the mill and retaining wall.

  34. Turn left onto the track and follow it through the gate marked "Private - Footpath only" until you reach a path on the right signposted as a public footpath.

    There is a story that a previous owner of Sea Mills near Little Petherick, who was a member of the Total Abstinence Society, tried to persuade the people of Padstow to abandon the drunken revelry of their "Obby Oss" celebrations by offering them a free ox to roast for the next seven years if they would cease the festival. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was not well-received by the Padstow residents, and despite other schemes by the society such as the creation of a rival "Blue Ribbon 'Oss", the ancient festival survived.

  35. Turn right down the path and follow it to a stile.
  36. Cross the stile and follow the path between the hedges to reach a stile.
  37. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to another stile.
  38. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge past the house until you reach a stile into the garden.
  39. Cross the stile and walk down the steps; then turn right and follow the drive away from the house to a gate. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane, following it until it ends beside the creek.
  40. Turn right along the edge of the creek and follow the path to a footbridge.
  41. Cross the bridge and head straight across the field to a stile next to the metal gate in the opposite hedge.
  42. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track. Walk a few steps to reach a kissing gate on the right and go through this into a field. Bear right slightly across the field to a stile in the bushes approx 50m to the left of the houses and gate.
  43. Cross the stile and bear right to a stile approx 5m to the left of the gateway.
  44. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track. Follow between the posts marked "no cycling" and continue following the track until it ends at the Camel Trail.
  45. Turn left onto the Camel Trail and follow it back to Padstow.

    The Camel Trail is a recreational walking and cycling track along the track bed of an old railway running from Wenfordbridge to Padstow. The railway, where the Camel Trail now runs, was originally built in 1831 by local landowner, Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, with a branch to Bodmin, was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. Later, the railway was used to ship slate and china clay from inland quarries to ships in Padstow and also transport fish, landed in Padstow, to London and other cities. The last passenger train was in 1967 and freight finally ceased in 1983, when a need to invest in new track forced closure of the line.

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