Circular walk Luxulyan Valley to Prideaux

Luxulyan Valley to Prideaux

Temporary closures to the the path along the Fowey Consols leat will occur whilst repair work is being carried out. You can bypass this by continuing up the incline from direction 3 and taking the higher path along Carmears Leat to rejoin the route just after direction 7

A circular walk through the World Heritage site of the Luxulyan Valley and surrounding countryside, over the massive viaduct supporting a horse-drawn tram route to Newquay and along the leat that fed Charlestown Harbour.

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The route follows the trackbed of a horse-drawn tramway then follows the access path of the leat which was used to drive the waterwheels of the Fowey Consols mines before crossing the immense Treffry Viaduct spanning the Luxulyan Valley. From here, the route follows the leat that once carried water to the harbour at Charlestown then joins the Saint's Way. The walk continues along the Saint's Way past the Iron Age settlement at Prideaux to St Blazey. From here the route follows the towpath of the Par Canal back to Ponts Mill.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 4.8 miles/7.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots; wellies after prolonged wet weather

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version)

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


  • Pretty walk along the leat in the Luxulyan Valley
  • Victorian industrial heritage including the massive Treffry Viaduct, tramways, leats for mine waterwheels and the Par canal
  • Wildlife in lush broadleaf woodland both at Luxulyan and around Prideaux
  • Riverside wildlife including dragonflies and damselflies along the Par Canal


  1. Take the path next to the bridge out of the car park and follow this to a gate. Pass through the pedestrian gate on the right of the main gate and follow the path until you reach a bend where a path leaves to the right, up some steps.

    By 1934, the whole of the Luxulyan Valley had been acquired by English Clays, Lovering, Pochin & Co. which was later renamed to English China Clay. After the site was redundant for industrial purposes, English China Clay decided to dedicate it as a public park. Initially they approached the National Trust, who declined it, and so instead offered it to the Council. In 1992 the viaduct was given to the Cornwall Heritage Trust and the surrounding land to Cornwall Council.

    The valley is now looked after by The Luxulyan Valley Partnership which includes The Friends of Luxulyan Valley - a conservation group established in 1997. They are always happy to have new members. They can also be supported via Amazon shopping via Amazon Smile (search for "luxulyan valley" in the list of charities).

  2. Turn right up the steps and go through the kissing gate. Follow the trackbed up the incline to eventually reach a railway bridge, then continue for a couple of hundred metres beyond this until you reach a wooden post on the left at a junction of paths.

    The inclined plane was part of the horse-drawn tramway which originally ran from the canal at Ponts Mill to Molinnis (near Bugle). The incline was originally nearly 900 metres long and rose around 100 metres. Wagons coming downwards contained granite and china clay whilst traffic upwards consisted of imported lime and coal, landed at Par docks. The wagons were hauled up and down the incline using water power.

  3. Turn left onto the path marked with the wooden post and follow it alongside the leat until you reach a flight of steps on the right, next to a huge wheel pit.

    The Wheelpit was constructed in 1841 and brought into service in 1842 when the leat above it was completed. The original wheel was 30 feet in diameter and used for hauling wagons up the inclined plane until the 1870s.

    When the Cornwall Minerals Railway was built, the tramway fell into disuse and the waterwheel was repurposed to grind chunks of quarried china stone (partially decomposed granite) to yield a powder similar to china clay. The wheel was replaced with an even larger one of 40ft diameter and grinding pans were constructed beside it. The remains of the grinding pans can be seen today. Once ground, a suspension of the china stone in water was pumped down a pipeline along the side of the inclined plane to the clay driers at Ponts Mill.

    The waterwheel ran until 1908 and remained derelict until it was demolished during the Second World War.

  4. Continue ahead alongside the leat and follow the path for about a mile until it passes under a huge viaduct and there is a flight of steps on the left.

    Joseph Treffry had the 2 mile long watercourse constructed in the 1820s to supply water to his Fowey Consols copper mines on Penpillick Hill in order to drive water wheels to pump out the mine. The water is taken from the Gatty's Stream using a sluice gate near Gatty's Bridge. The leat passes through a tunnel, bored through a granite outcrop which blocks its path. Before the tunnel was constructed, the leat was run around the outcrop, through channels on a wooden gallery which was hung off the granite.

  5. Continue ahead beneath the viaduct and follow the path until you reach a footbridge on the right.

    The viaduct was constructed between 1839 and 1842 from local granite to link Joseph Treffry's horse-drawn tramway between Molinnis (the location of the Bugle Inn) and Ponts Mill. This later became part of a larger scheme to create a horse-drawn tramway between Par and Newquay.

    It was the first stone viaduct built in Cornwall and is an engineering masterpiece consisting of 10 arches spanning 200 metres which rise 27 metres from the valley floor. The viaduct also doubled as an aqueduct - it has a water channel beneath the railway track which was precisely sloped to create a steady flow of water and feed Carmears leat.

    More information about the Treffry Viaduct from the Cornwall Heritage Trust.

  6. Cross the footbridge and follow the path up the bank to emerge onto a track.

    In the woods beyond the track to the left is a boulder known as "Elephant Rock" or simply "Big Rock" which is reputedly the largest free-standing boulder in Europe and is estimated to weigh well over 1000 tonnes.

  7. At the top of the steps, turn right onto the track and follow it to the bridge. Turn right and cross the bridge. Continue a couple of paces on the other side until you can see a wooden flight of steps leading up to a gate on the left.

    In 1873, Treffry's tramways were taken over by the Cornwall Minerals Railway (CMR) and converted for use by steam locomotives. The project also involved building an extra section of line to link the tramways in the Newquay area with those in the Par/Bugle area. The section through the Luxulyan Valley was bypassed as this involved an inclined plane driven by a waterwheel. The railway originally extended to Fowey but the section of line from Par to Fowey was closed in the 1960s and converted to a private road haul route for china clay.

    Collapses in mineral prices caused financial difficulties and lead to attempts to encourage passenger traffic associated with tourism. The struggling CMR was eventually purchased by Great Western Railway in 1896. The section between Par and Newquay remains as a branch line of the national rail network.

  8. Climb the steps on the left and go through the gate. Follow the path towards the field but turn left before you reach the grassy area of the field. Follow the path into the trees along the edge of the field to a waymark where the path enters the trees.

    When photographing bluebells, the flowers that look blue to your eye can end up looking purple in photos.

    The first thing to check is that your camera isn't on auto white balance as the large amount of blue will cause the camera to shift the white balance towards reds to try to compensate.

    Another thing to watch out for is that the camera's light metering will often over-expose the blue slightly to get a reasonable amount of red and green light and the "lost blue" can change the balance of the colours. You can get around this by deliberately under-exposing the photo (and checking there is no clipping if your camera has a histogram display) and then brightening it afterwards with editing software.

    Generations of plants and algae alternate between two different kinds of life form. One generation produces spores and these grow through cell division into a new organism. This then produces eggs and sperm which combine to grow into the first kind of organism again.

    In the case of flowering plants, the organism that produces the eggs and sperm is only a tiny beast consisting of a few cells that is contained entirely within its parent. In mosses, it's the other way round: the organism that produces the eggs and sperm is the main one and the spore-producer is a smaller plant, reliant on its parent. In the case of algae, both are independent organisms in their own right.

    The evolutionary advantage is that the overhead of sexual reproduction can be deferred for a generation, so the spore-bearing generation can be optimised to produce loads of clones cheaply with the safety net that next time around the genes will get a mix-up. That gene mix up from the sexual reproduction phase provides insurance in case something in the environment changes or there is some dodgy genetic copying that would scupper ongoing generations of clones.

  9. From the waymark, follow the path through the woods (past one bypassed kissing gate and the ruins of another) until you reach a waymark at a junction of paths.

    A leat in the Luxulyan Valley was constructed in the late 1790s to supply water to Charlestown Harbour, 10km away. Its source is at the Cam Bridges on the River Par and the system included some large storage ponds in the valley just above Charlestown harbour. The water supply was used to keep ships afloat within the gated dock at low tide (which gradually leaked water) and to periodically flush out the harbour. Waterwheels on the leat provided a source of power for a number of industries in Charlestown including a china stone mill and a coal tar refinery.

    The leat system was cleaned regularly to remove debris such as leaves and branches and re-tar the wooden boards which carried the leat. This work was often done in January and February once all the leaves had finished falling. The work also included crawling in the water though the underground tunnels to clear these which must have been chilly.

  10. When you reach the waymark, turn right and follow the winding path uphill until you reach a kissing gate leading into the field above.

    To support their massive weight, trees produce a biochemical compound called lignin which has a cross-linked polymer structure that makes it very rigid. Because it's so tough, most fungi and bacteria are unable to break it down. The main fungus that has worked out a way to do it is known as white rot.

  11. Go through the gate and bear left across the gap to meet the hedge then follow the left hedge to reach a waymarked pedestrian gate in front of a stone stile, just before the main field gate in the corner of the field.

    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.
  12. Cross the stile and go through the gate then bear left slightly across the field to the left of the two gateways in the middle of the hedge opposite.

    The reason moles create tunnels is that these act as worm traps. When a worm drops in, the mole dashes to it and gives it a nip. Mole saliva contains a toxin that paralyses earthworms and the immobilised live worms are stored in an underground larder for later consumption. Researchers have discovered some very well-stocked larders with over a thousand earthworms in them! To prepare their meal, moles pull the worms between their paws to force the earth out of the worm's gut.

  13. Go through the gate and cross the field to the waymarked gate directly ahead, between the telegraph pole and the barn.

    A 70 ton boulder from the fields around Trevanny Farm lies in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in the form of the sarcophagus for the Duke of Wellington. The granite, known as Luxullianite, consists of pink feldspar, black tourmaline and white quartz which was highly valued for decorative work during Victorian times.

  14. Go through the gate and unclip the bungee spanning between two waymarked posts on the left. On through, turn right and follow the wire fence along the top of the field, which turns downhill as you approach the barn. Continue following the fence to reach a stile around 15m down the hedge at the far end of the field.

    The black cross on the waymark post indicates that this is the Saint's Way which forms the route all the way to St Blazey.

    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.

  15. Cross the stile and follow the path through the woods. As the path goes downhill, keep right to follow the path over a small stream to reach a stone stile. Cross this and continue on the path to reach a kissing gate leading into a field.

    Lesser celandines are common plants along woodland paths recognisable by their yellow star-shaped flowers. Despite their name, they are not closely related to the Greater Celandine. Lesser celandines are actually a member of the buttercup family and, like buttercups, they contain the poisonous chemical protoanemonin.

    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.

  16. Go through the gate and continue straight ahead to climb up the hill. When you cross the brow of the hill, head to the gateway to the left of the building.

    Over 99% of a protein molecule is made up from just 4 chemical elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Except in times of drought, hydrogen and oxygen are readily available from water. Plants can get carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide via photosynthesis. That leaves nitrogen. Some plants are able to get this from the air but most plants need to get this from the soil in the form of nitrate or ammonium compounds. This is why cow manure, composted plants and even dried blood (which all contain nitrogen compounds) have been used to improve soils.

  17. Cross the stile or go through the gate and cross the road to the track opposite. Follow the track past the house to a waymark at a sharp bend in the track.
  18. At the waymark, follow the track around the bend to the right and uphill to a gate into the farmyard.

    The manor at Prideaux dates from the 11th Century when the land was granted by William the Conqueror to "Pagan de Prideaux". It is thought that the actual name of the Lord was Paganus Pridias and he was probably a chieftain of Celtic descent, but was "re-branded" by the French invaders who wanted to be seen as being in power, whilst quietly negotiating a peaceful arrangement. The original building was built around a central quadrangle but this was replaced by the current house in the 14th century.

  19. Go through the gate into the farmyard and continue uphill to the gate on the far side. Go through this and continue a short distance until you pass a gate on the left and reach a waymark.

    Although it's obvious that you should ensure any gates that you open, you also close, what about gates you find that are already open?

    If the gate is fully open then leave it alone as it may well be providing livestock access to a water supply, and by closing it you could end up killing them.

    If the gate is ajar or swinging loose and not wedged or tied open then it's likely that the gate was left open by accident (possibly by another group of walkers). Properly closing the offending gate behind you will not only bring joy to the landowner but you can feel good about saving lives in a car swerving to avoid a cow in the road.

    If you encounter a gate doubly-secured with twine that can be untied or a chain that can be unfastened, it's normally there because naughty animals have managed to undo the gate themselves at some point (e.g. by rubbing against the bolt), so retie/fasten it afterwards.

  20. At the waymark, cross the stile or go through the gate if open then follow the left hedge of the field to the bottom to reach a kissing gate.

    As you walk down the field, in the field on the other side of the hedge on the left is the remains of Prideaux Castle - visible through the metal field gate part-way down as a semicircular bank on which trees are growing.

    Prideaux castle is thought to date from the Iron Age and originally had a series of 4 ramparts. Small hillforts with multiple ramparts such as this are thought to be settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis during the Iron Age. It is now thought that the construction of multiple earthworks may have been the Iron Age way of showing off to the neighbours, rather than purely for defence.

  21. Go through the kissing gate and cross the stile. Turn left at the waymark and follow the path along the fence, passing over a granite boulder perched on a low stile, to reach a wooden stile leading into the woods.

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

  22. Cross the stile and turn right to follow the path downhill to reach a waymark beside an old gateway with granite gateposts.

    As well as the usual bushes, there are some absolutely massive holly trees in the woodland here.

    Holly is able to adapt to a range of conditions but prefers moist ground. It is very tolerant of shade and can grow as a thicket of bushes underneath larger trees. However, given the right conditions, holly trees can grow up to 80ft tall!

  23. At the waymark, turn left to stay on the path and follow it through the woods to reach a kissing gate onto a lane.

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

  24. At the gate, go through and turn right onto the lane. Follow it downhill until it ends at a T-junction.

    As you walk down the hill, the woodland beyond the barrier on the left is known as Prideaux Wood.

    Prideaux Wood is owned by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and provides a roost for a colony of Greater Horseshoe bats. Roughly a quarter of the woodland is ancient but the rest was cleared and planted with conifers in the 1960s as a commercial forestry plantation. These have now been removed and are being replaced with broadleaf trees to restore the habitat. The area is dotted with uncapped mineshafts hidden beneath thin layers of vegetation or soil; sticking to the footpaths is therefore very highly recommended.

  25. At the junction, turn left onto the lane and carefully follow it downhill until it also ends at a T-junction.

    As you walk down the hill, you pass some holiday cottages named Wheal Rashleigh Dry. Further up the road, just above where you joined it, are two lakes in the valley which where part of the same workings.

    Within the woods next to Prideaux Road from St Blazey are a pair of lakes. The lakes are the remains of Wheal Rashleigh - a china clay pit owned by the Rashleigh family which operated from the 1860s. The clay slurry was piped downhill to dryers which were derelict until the early 21st century have since been renovated as holiday cottages. One of the chimney stacks still stands nearby.

    The lakes are now managed by Roche Angling Club and stocked with coarse fish but also provides a habitat for wild eels. Despite the lake being over 50ft deep in places, the fish seem to thrive and some very large carp have been caught. In the early 21st century, a regeneration scheme was carried out by the Club to remove rhododendrons to allow native trees to recolonise the valley.

  26. Turn left at the junction and follow the pavement towards the level-crossing, to the Kilhallon sign.

    Until the 16th Century, the valley below St Blazey was an estuary and St Blazey was at the lowest crossing point on the river. Tin streaming on the moors filled the estuary with sediment and, beside the river, what would have been the surface of the land in mediaeval times lies around 8 metres under the soil. A bridge was found buried 25 feet under the soil at Ponts Mill.

  27. Bear left down the path in front of the sign and follow it alongside the river to reach a tunnel beneath the railway. Go through the tunnel and onwards to a footbridge over the river.

    The Par river was diverted to create a canal from the Fowey Consols mine to Par docks by 1830. In 1835, this was extended to Ponts Mill to connect with the horse-drawn tramway being planned for the Luxulyan Valley. However due to the labour-intensiveness of transferring cargo between the trams and boats, the tramway was extended all the way to Par harbour in the 1850s, running alongside the canal.

  28. Cross the footbridge over the river and continue on the path to pass the sluices, then as the path opens out just after this, bear right across the section of old railway track to a gravel track. Turn left onto the track and follow this back to the car park.

    The field on the right has an impressive display of buttercups in May and early June.

    Meadow buttercups spread across a field relatively slowly as most seeds fall quite close to the parent and although it has a creeping root system capable of propagating new plants, this only extends a fairly short distance from each plant (unlike creeping buttercup which has a much more extensive root system). Because grazing animals avoid buttercups due to their acrid taste, this allows them to accumulate over time. The combination of these factors allows the number of meadow buttercups in a field to be used an indicator of how long it's been used for grazing.

    Today, more than 11,000 species of grass exist around the world. In the UK, around 160 species occur. The most widely sown grasses by farmers are ryegrasses (recognisable by the alternating spaced-out "ears of corn" pattern of seeds along the stem) as these are able to take up nitrogen fertiliser efficiently and also generate high levels of sugars. On dry land, cocksfoot (recognisable from distinct tufts of seeds) is often sown as this is the most deep-rooted of the grass species.

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