Millook to Trebarfoote

A circular walk through Woodland Trust reserves of the ancient Millook woods, meadows to the former smuggling den and 1920s wild party venue of Trebarfoote, and along the coast from Cancleave Strand to Millook Haven where colliding continents have melted and folded the rocks like toffee.

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The walk starts at Millook Haven and follows Millook Water upstream, then climbs through Trebarfoote Wood to Trebarfoote Manor, overlooking the valley. The route descends further upstream to The Den, crossing meadows and climbing through Landy Wood, on the other side of the valley, before reaching the coast near Cancleave Strand, where a steep path with ropes leads to the beach. The return is via the coast path across Millook Common, passing Gull Rock and Broad Strand, before returning to Millook Mouth.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 3 miles/4.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots; wellies in winter

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Pretty wildflowers, including orchids, in the meadows along the valley
  • Ancient woodland around Millook Valley, with bluebells in spring
  • Spectacular coastal views from Millook Common
  • Delicate honeycomb reefs and geological origami at Millook Haven
  • Nice views across Millook Wood from Trebarfoote

Directions

  1. From Millook Haven, head up the road towards Crackington (to the left if you are facing the beach) until you reach a gate on the left, next to a pair of white doors. Go through the gate and follow the track to a signpost opposite a house.

    Millook Haven is a pebble beach at mid-high tide, though there is some sand at the very lowest part of the tide. The cliffs behind the beach have impressive zig-zag folding patterns, formed 320 million years ago. The rocks are part of the "Crackington Formation": thin layers of sandstones and shales, deformed by the tectonic plate collision at the end of the Carboniferous period, that crumpled the earth's crust, giving rise to the tors of Bodmin Moor.

  2. At the signpost to Poundstock, continue straight ahead along the track until you reach a waymark on the left where it emerges from the trees into a meadow.

    Millook was a notorious spot for smuggling.

    In the 1780s, Britain was in financial crisis after losing the American War of Independence. High levels of duty were imposed on luxury goods in order to recoup the national debt and this included the curing salt vital to the pilchard industry which was taxed at around 4000%! Consequently many Cornish fishermen that were previously legally employed by the trade were driven into illegal smuggling. Towards the end of the 18th Century, nearly half a million gallons of brandy and more than a quarter of a million pounds of tea were being smuggled into Cornwall each year. This continued until the 1840s, when Britain adopted a free-trade policy that slashed import duties. Within ten years, large-scale smuggling was just a memory.

  3. At the waymark, turn left and walk to the footbridge.

    The local dialect in Cornwall included a number of words related to smuggling. For the purveyors themselves there was:

    Troacher - a hawker of smuggled goods.

    ..and a word specifically for smuggled liquor:

    Custom (pron. "coostom") - raw, smuggled spirits. "A drap o' coostom."

    ...and also the barrels to transport it:

    Anker - a small keg or cask of handy size for carrying by hand, or slung on horse-back.
  4. Cross the bridge and bear left onto a track from the ford. Head to the right, along the track, climbing up through the woods to a gate.

    Millook water is fed by a network of small streams running down the valleys covered by Millook woods, finally reaching the sea through the pebbles on Millook Haven. The longest of the tributary streams has its source at Wainhouse Corner. Part-way along its course within the woodland are the ruins of a mediaeval corn mill, first documented in 1516 as Bastard Mill and still appears with this name on modern OS maps.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path through the woods until it emerges into a field. Then follow the path through a ditch along the left edge of the field until it emerges into another field where there is a waymark.

    A bird you're likely spot easily in the woods is the robin.

    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.

  6. From the waymark, continue straight ahead towards two gateways in the corner of the field.

    It may be an urban myth that Eskimos have a large number of words for "snow" but it's cast iron fact that there are at least this many words for "hill" in Cornish:

    • Meneth was often used to refer to Cornwall's higher peaks, or (outside of Cornwall) to mountains.
    • Tor was used for hills with rock outcrops protruding (and for the rock outcrops themselves)
    • Brea was used to refer to the most prominent hill in a district.
    • Ryn refers to a "hill" in the sense of projecting ground, or a steep hill-side or slope.
    • Garth was used to refer to a long narrow hilltop.
    • Ambel refers to the side of a hill.
    • Mulvra refers to a round-topped hill.
    • Godolgh is a very small hill.
    • Bron means "breast" as well as hill.
  7. Go through the gate on the right and bear right slightly up the field, passing Trebarfoote Manor on your left, to a gate to the right of the tree.

    Trebarfoote is situated on a hill near Poundstock, overlooking the Millook Valley. The manor house at Trebarfoote has had a colourful history, being used by smugglers, attacked in the Civil War and its ballroom the venue of wild parties in the 1920s. It has even been reported as being haunted by the ghost of the daughter of the squire of Penfound Manor, who was shot 400 years ago whilst trying to elope with the squire at Trebarfoote. Today it seems a little more sedate - for now anyway.

  8. Go through the gate and turn right onto the stony track. Follow this all the way down the bottom of the valley to reach a wooden signpost on the left.

    In late spring, foxgloves flower along the track.

    The common name "foxglove" dates back many hundreds of years but the origin is unknown. The "gloves" almost certainly refers to the shape of the flowers, and the Latin name Digitalis (finger-like) is along similar lines. The curious part is the "fox" and many different suggestions have been made as to where it came from. It is likely that it is a corruption of another word; possibly "folks" which was once used to mean "fairies".

    The Woodland Trust was founded in 1972 and is dedicated to providing a UK rich in native woods and trees. They summarise themselves as "the RSPCA of trees" and have set themselves the ambitious target of doubling native tree cover throughout the UK over the next 50 years. They now look after more than 1,100 woods and over 110 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are committed to providing free public access wherever possible.

  9. At the signpost, continue to follow the track in the direction of Dizzard over a stone footbridge and past a private gate on the right to reach a grassy path departing from a wooden post. Follow the path past the house until you reach a waymark next to a kissing gate.

    Blackbirds are one of the most common birds in the UK with a population of somewhere between 10 and 15 million. However, blackbirds were in steady decline from the 1970s through to the mid-1990s. The population has only relatively recently recovered.

  10. At the waymark, turn right through the kissing gate and cross the meadow to a footbridge into Landy Wood.

    The meadow has a spectacular display of wildflowers during the spring which attract nectar-feeding insects such as butterflies and bumblebees.

    During flight, bumblebees beat their wings around 200 times every second. However, the buzzing sound they make is not from the beating wings but from the bee's vibrating flight muscles. On cold days, by using their flight muscles, the bees are able to warm up their bodies to temperatures as high as 30 Celcius.

  11. Cross the bridge and bear left up the steps to a waymark at a fork in the path. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path through the woods until it emerges at a stile into a field.

    The Millook Valley, above Millook Haven, contains an area of ancient woodland. The broad-leaved woodland is now owned by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are primroses in spring, wildflowers including orchids in summer and blackberries and sloes in autumn. Fauna includes dormice, otters and smooth snakes.

  12. Cross the stile into the field and follow the right hedge to a waymarked gate.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 (a lot of moo is needed for the cheese and clotted cream produced in Cornwall) 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.

    Do

    • 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).

    Don't

    • 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.
  13. Go through the gate onto a track and immediately through another waymarked gate on the left into a field. Bear right across the field to the waymarked metal gate in front of the house.

    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.

  14. Go through the gate on the right of the house and follow a short track to reach a lane.

    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.

  15. Turn right on the lane. Follow the lane along the length of a large field ahead on the left until you reach a gate on the left, just the other side of the hedge.
  16. Go through the gate on the left into the field. Follow the left hedge to the bottom of the field then continue along the bottom of the field with the hedge on your left to reach a waymark where a path emerges from the bushes.

    The trees in the hollow on the left side of the fields extend out onto the cliffs and around the headland.

    The woods on the cliffs of Dizzard are more than 6,000 years old. The trees include sessile oak and wild service trees, stunted by the salty winds. Wild service berries were used to make a strong alcoholic liqueur. The berries and associated spirit are known in some areas as "chequers" and this is thought to be the origin of a number of pubs with this name.

  17. At the waymark, continue to follow along the left hedge to a little waymark. From here, keep left along the edge of the field, above the cliff edge, to reach a fence in front of a house.

    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.

  18. Follow the coastal path along the fence past a footpath to the beach to reach a stile. Cross the stile and follow the coast path through gates and over stiles for about half a mile until it eventually emerges onto a lane.

    The rocky beach at the bottom of the cliff on your left is Cancleave Strand.

    Cancleave Strand is a rocky beach to the west of Millook Haven. The foreshore of Cancleave Strand consists of impressively folded rock strata which have been upended and eroded by the sea creating a maze of rocky ridges. The offshore island on the right side of the beach is, like many other offshore rocks in Cornwall, known as Gull Rock. There are quite good views of the beach from the coast path at low tide, but if you're feeling brave and the tide is out, it is possible to reach the beach. However note the warning on the sign beside the path which offers the words of encouragement: "informal access to beach via roped descent on eroding cliff face".

  19. Turn left and follow the lane downhill to Millook Haven.

    At low tide, a series of delicate reefs is revealed.

    Honeycomb Worm reefs are fascinating structures, built out of sand on the lower shore. The large golden hummocks have an intricate honeycomb structure up to several metres across and a metre deep. Filter-feeding worms, about 3-4cm long, live in tubes, fanning out plankton from the passing water and capturing particles of shell and rock to build their tubes. Each worm can live for 3-5 years, although the overall reefs last much longer. Although quite brittle, the reefs provide a habitat for a number of other species including anemones, barnacles, limpets, winkles, whelks, mussels and crabs.

    The worms need hard rock to build on, and sand to build with, so their requirements are very specific: there must be enough wave action to bring a supply of sand to the rocky areas, but not so much that the worms are blasted off the rocks. The formation of reefs is assisted by a clever biological mechanism. Honeycomb worm larvae drift around in seawater and could settle anywhere to grow into adults. However, the presence of existing worm colonies, or their dead remains, strongly stimulates any passing larvae to settle out at that location, helping to ensure that the reef continues to grow.

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