Luxulyan Valley to Prideaux

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.

Reviews

Lovely walk from Luxulyan Valley to Prideaux using the @iwalkc app today.
Luxulyan Valley to Prideaux walk done today. Such a great walk. We've walked around a bit of the valley before but only near the viaduct. This showed us a lot more of the valley and surrounding area. Didn't even know Par canal existed!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.8 miles/7.8 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Ponts Mill
  • Parking: Ponts Mill PL242RR. Half-way up the hill on the A390 out of St Blazey towards Lostwithiel, turn at the crossroads signposted Pontsmill (opposite Porcupine Road). The lane ends in the car park.
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots; wellies after prolonged wet weather

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • 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

Directions

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

  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 aquaduct - it has a water channel beneath the railway track which was precisely sloped to create a steady flow of water and feed Carmears leat.

  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 short distance on the other side until you can see some 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. Bear left after the gate and follow the path along the edge of the tree-line to reach 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.

  9. From the waymark, follow the path through the woods, passing one gate and through another, until you reach a waymark at a junction of paths.

    The leat was constructed in the late 1790s to supply water to Charlestown Harbour, 10km away. The water supply was used to keep ships afloat within the gated dock at low tide and to periodically flush out the harbour. Its source is at the Cam Bridges on the River Par.

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

    Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (lion's tooth), which is thought to refer to the shape of the leaves. The plant is a member of the sunflower family.

    Dandelions are dispersed very effectively by the wind. The tiny parachute-like seeds can travel around five miles.

    Every part of the dandelion plant is edible and is high in Vitamin A and higher still in Vitamin K. The leaves can be eaten in salads, though their bitterness is not to everyone's taste. However, the bitterness can be reduced by blanching: drop the leaves into boiling salted water and remove after a minute and quench in ice-cold water to prevent the leaves from cooking.

  12. Cross the stile 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 paralyzes 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.

    Moles have a special form of haemoglobin that allow them to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide in the low-oxygen environment within the tunnels. In wetland areas where there is no gradient available to retreat uphill, moles construct a large mound protruding around half a metre above the ground to act as an emergency flood shelter.

  13. Go through the gate and cross the field to the waymarked gate directly ahead.

    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 to a waymark on the left. Carefully unclip the fence at the waymark and cross into the field. Then turn right and follow the fence on your right alongside the track then past the barn and downhill slightly 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 the remains of a kissing gate leading into a field.

    The name Celandine is thought to come from the Latin word for swallow. It is said that the flowers bloom when the birds return in spring and fade when they leave in autumn.

  16. Go through the remains of 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.
  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.

    The manor at Prideaux dates from the 9th Century when the land was granted by William the Conquerer 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 "rebranded" 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.

  18. At the waymark, follow the track around the bend to the right to a gate into the farmyard. Cross the farmyard and go through the gate on the far side. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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 fruit of the beech tree is known as "mast" or, less crypically, "beechnuts". The small triangular nuts are encased in spiky husks which split and drop from the trees from late August to early October. The kernels of these are edible and are similar to hazelnuts. They were once used as a source of flour, which was ground after the tannins had been leached out by soaking them in water. If you find them too bitter, you might want to try this trick, although toasting them in a hot pan is also a good option.

  21. Cross the stile and turn right at the waymark. Follow the path downhill to reach a waymark beside a gate into the field.

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

    Holly has separate male and female plants, so not all holly bushes produce berries - only female plants. In less biologically-enlightened Pagan times, holly was though to be a male plant (the spikes symbolising aggression) whereas ivy was regarded as a female plant (symbolising attachment). The Christmas Carol "The Holly and the Ivy" is thought originally to derive from Pagan fertility myths onto which Christian symbolism has subsequently been added.

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

    Robins are able to hover like kingfishers and hummingbirds and use this skill when feeding from bird feeders, which they are unable to cling to. Robins are also able to see magnetic fields. Receptors in their eyes make magnetic fields appear as patterns of light or colour which allows them to use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation. The tradition of robins on Christmas cards is thought to arise from Victorian postmen wearing red jackets and been nicknamed Robins.

    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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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 rennovated 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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 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.

    The Latin name of the buttercup, Ranunculus, means "little frog" and said to be because the plants like wet conditions. It is thought it may have come via a derogatory name for people who lived near marshes!

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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