Baker's Pit and Rogers' Tower circular walk

Baker's Pit and Rogers' Tower

A circular walk from the Bakers Pit nature reserve to an Iron Age hillfort where the remains of prehistoric roundhouses were seen as a convenient source of stone for a folly built in the era when the Poldark novels are set.

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The route begins at Baker's Pit nature reserve. The route then crosses the downs to the Castle-an-Dinas Iron Age hillfort and Rogers' Tower. The return route is across the fields with views to the hills above St Ives and then follows the Red River back to its source at Baker's Pit.

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Super views from Rogers Tower.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 3 miles/4.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots; wellies after prolonged wet weather

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 102 OS Explorer 102 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Panoramic views from Castle-an-dinas
  • Rogers' Tower
  • Baker's Pit nature reserve

Directions

  1. Go through the gate into the Nature Reserve. Keep following the track to pass the engine house and continue until you reach another metal gate across the track.

    The engine house was used for pumping clay from the pit and the building alongside was a boiler house. Unusually the beam engine was inside of the engine house but in later years the building was greatly modified to house an electric winder. Within the undergrowth on the opposite side of the lane are the set of mica drags and settling pits.

  2. Go through the metal gate across the main track (ignore the waymarked wooden gates to the right) and keep left at the fork to keep following the rough track between the two hedges. Continue for some distance until you eventually reach a pedestrian gate. Go through the gate and continue a short distance to reach a gravel path.

    The settlement of Chysauster is less than a mile to the right (but there is no right of way to it from here).

    Chysauster is one of the best-preserved ancient villages in Britain and is now owned by English Heritage. The settlement of Chysauster dates from the Iron Age but the current remains are from the period when Britain was under Roman rule but Cornwall continued in a Celtic way of life. The village was surrounded by a network of small fields. It is thought that the Castle-an-Dinas hillfort may have been associated with the village and served as an administrative centre a bit like a Town Hall.

    If you'd like to visit it afterwards, the easiest way is to drive via Badger's Cross from Nancledra. Note that English Heritage charge an entrance fee for non-members.

  3. Turn right onto the path and follow it for roughly 200 metres until you reach a waymark beside some steps over the wall on your left.

    Bramble roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!). In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers.

  4. Once you reach the waymark on the left, climb the stile over the wall and continue ahead to reach a gap in the embankment (rampart) ahead.

    The wood anemones and bluebells that grow here suggest that the area surrounding (and within) the hillfort may once have been under tree cover.

    Wood anemones can be recognised by their white star-like flowers growing in shady locations during the spring. Hoverflies are important pollinators of the plant so you may also see these nearby. Avoid touching the plants as they are poisonous to humans and can cause severe skin irritation.

    The anemones grow from underground stems (rhizomes) and spread very slowly - to spread by six feet takes about 100 years! This makes it a good indicator of ancient woodland.

  5. Go through the gap and continue ahead past the trig point to reach Roger's Tower.

    As you approach the tower, there are nice views ahead over Mount's Bay.

    The Castle-an-Dinas hillfort consists of four ramparts, with the outermost accompanied for much of its length by a ditch. The position is not easily defensible but it does have a very good view.

    In the 18th Century it was recorded that the centre still contained the stone foundations of Iron Age roundhouses but the stone has since been robbed and probably now forms part of Roger's Tower.

  6. At Roger's Tower, turn right and follow between the ramparts of the hillfort. Continue to reach the path where you entered the castle.

    Rogers' Tower is a folly built in the late 1700s as a destination for family outings by the Rogers family who owned nearby Treassowe Manor. It quickly fell into disuse: by 1817 was already in a state of decay and it was a ruin by the end of the 19th Century. Some repair work was done in 1960 and further restoration was carried out in 2002-3.

    More about Rogers' Tower

  7. Turn left to retrace your steps across the downs to the stone wall.

    The word granite comes from the Latin granum (a grain), in reference to its coarse-grained structure. Granite forms from a big blob of magma (known as a pluton) which intrudes into the existing rocks. The huge mass of molten rock stores an enormous amount of heat so the magma cools very slowly below the surface of the Earth, allowing plenty of time for large crystals to form.

  8. Climb the wall and turn right onto the stony path to retrace your steps initially, but then continue following the path until it ends in a gate.

    Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids arising from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  9. Go through the gate and turn right and follow the path alongside the fence until it eventually ends on a track with a metal gate to the right.

    The hills ahead lie behind the flat area of coastal land that St Ives and Zennor occupy. The hill directly ahead is Trink Hill whilst the largest of the ones further left is Trendrine Hill. Rosewall Hill lies between the two.

  10. Turn left onto the track and follow it a short distance to a wooden gate on the right.

    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.

  11. Go through the gates and bear right slightly across the field to the gate opposite.

    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, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    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.
  12. Go through the gate and follow the path between the wall and fence to a bypassed stile.

    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. Pass the stile and follow between the wall and fence to a gap with a chain across next to the 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, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas (reflecting more heat than carbon dioxide) and there are around billion cows in the world, this has led to concern about the contribution that methane belched out by livestock is making to global warning. However, since methane is quite a short-lived greenhouse gas (about 12 years) and since the number of cattle hasn't changed that quickly over time, atmospheric methane levels are fairly stable. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, lasts hundreds of years in the atmosphere so this is much more able to build up over time. One other factor is that pastureland is able to absorb triple the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide as grain fields so grass-fed cattle are preferable to grain-fed.

  14. Unhook the chain (it lifts over the peg on the right) and turn immediately left to pass through a gap with another similar chain. Follow the path around the perimeter of the field to a gate.

    Crocosmia (also known as Montbretia) is a garden plant in the iris family and bright orange flowers. If has South African origins and was bred in France as a garden plant, then introduced into the UK in the 1880s.

    It has spread into the wild, particularly along the west coast of Britain and is extremely invasive. It is now a criminal offence to cause it to grow in the wild.

    Crocosmia means "saffron scent" and alludes to the smell of the dried leaves (the crocuses which produce saffron are also members of the iris family).

    Rabbits also make the most of the grazing land here.

    The first record of slang word "bunny" being applied to rabbits in from the late 17th Century. Prior to this it was in use as a term of endearment, recorded in a 1606 love letter as "my honey, my bunny...". The origin of this pet name is thought to be a dialect word "bun" which was a general term for small furry creatures which did include rabbits but also applied to squirrels. The use of the word "rabbit" for chattering is from the Cockney rhyming slang for "talk" (rabbit and pork).

  15. Go through the gate and follow the track downhill to where it ends in a T-junction with another track.

    In spring, whilst foxgloves seeds are germinating, the established foxglove plants from the previous year start producing their characteristic flower spike. Once these have been fertilised and the seeds have been produced then the plant dies. One foxglove plant can produce over 2 million seeds.

    Foxgloves have a life cycle which spans two years. The seeds germinate in spring and during their first year they produce a "rosette" of large, velvety green leaves with toothed edges. These are particularly noticeable from October onwards once other vegetation has died back. The leafy foxglove plants remain dormant throughout the winter, ready for a quick start in the spring.

  16. Take the small path ahead on the opposite side of the track and follow this until it emerges onto a lane.

    During late winter or early spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks. Once you're familiar with their narrow, ridged leaves, you'll be able to spot these emerging from late October onwards.

    The plants get their name due to their triangular flower stems. As the name also suggests, they are members of the onion family and have a small bulb. In fact, in New Zealand they are known as "onion weed". They are also known as "snowbell" due to their white bluebell-like flowers.

    The genus name for hawthorn - Crataegus - is derived from krátys the Greek word for "hard" or "strong". Hawthorn wood is fine-grained, dense and most definitely hard. It has traditionally been used for things that benefit from these properties such wooden mallets and the teeth of rakes and mill wheels.

  17. Turn left onto the lane and follow this to a junction opposite Amalebra Stamps.

    In order to be processed, ore-bearing rock mined from mineral veins needed to be crushed to a powder. In earlier times, millstones were used to grind down lumps of ore but later it was done using a process known as "stamping" where the ore was crushed by dropping heavy granite or metal weights to pound it against another hard surface (often a piece of granite known as a mortar stone - as in "pestle and mortar"). The crushing was automated first with waterwheels and later with steam engines. The process was far from quiet and could often be heard from a number of miles away.

  18. Turn left and follow the road until you reach a track on the left with a sign for The Moors.

    The stream is one of several in Cornwall known as the Red River and meets the sea at Marazion. It has a population of small trout.

    Trout are members of Salmon family who all have an extra tiny (adipose) fin on their back towards their tail, that most other fish don't have. No-one is quite sure what the purpose is of this fin but a neural network in the fin indicates that it has some kind of sensory function.

    The native trout in the UK is not the trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock (the Rainbow Trout, which has red flush along its side and is native to North America), but the Brown Trout which has well-defined dark red spots along its sides. You can often make out the spots when you see them lying in pools. Rainbow Trout are often stocked in fishing lakes so do sometimes escape into the wild.

    Small trout typically feed on invertebrates whereas larger trout generally feed on other fish but have been known to eat anything of a suitable size unlucky enough to fall into a river. In fact in New Zealand, mouse-shaped lures are sold for trout fishing!

  19. Bear left onto the track and follow this until you reach a crossing of tracks.

    There are two types of ivy leaf. Those on creeping stems are the classic ivy leaf shape with 3-5 triangular lobes - they grow towards shade to find a tree to climb up. However, more mature ivy plants grow aerial shoots with a completely different (teardrop) leaf shape. These are the shoots that bear the flowers and fruits and are typically located in a sunny spot such as on an upright ivy bush or top of a rock face. The reason for the different shapes is that the larger, multi-lobed leaves are able to catch more light in shady areas whereas the smaller, stouter leaves are more resistant to drying out.

  20. Go through the wooden gate (the rope loop and chain slides over the gatepost) and follow along the left hedge to a stone stile in the corner marked with a post with a white top.

    Common gorse flowers have a coconut-like scent but rather than fresh coconut, it is reminiscent of desiccated coconut or the popular brand of surf wax, Mr Zoggs. However, not everyone experiences the smell in the same way: for some people it's very strong and for others it quite weak. One complicating factor is that Western Gorse flowers don't have any scent, so you need to be sniffing a tall gorse plant to test yourself.

    Flower scents are volatile organic compounds which drift though the air and has evolved as an advertisement to pollinating insects that nectar is available. Squeezing the flowers releases these compounds onto the surface where they can evaporate and therefore intensifies the smell. Similarly the warming effect of sunlight helps the compounds to evaporate faster and so the smell is more intense on sunny days.

    Gorse seeds each contain a small body of ant food. The seeds also release a chemical which attracts ants from some distance away. The ants carry the seeds to their nests, eat the ant food and then discard the seeds, helping them to disperse.

  21. Cross the stile and follow the path between the hedge and fence to a step over a wall.

    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.

  22. Step up onto the wall and unhook/re-hook the electric fence via the insulating handle. Then head towards the bush in the middle of the field, passing to the left of the reeds. After the reeds, bear right to a gap in the hedge. Once through the gap, turn left to keep the hedge on your left and reach a stone stile with wooden fencing in the corner of the field.

    Beard-like lichens (known as Old Man's Beard) are very sensitive to sulphur dioxide in the air. Where the air quality is poor, at best they only manage to grow a few millimetres and may not survive at all. Long beards are therefore an indicator of clean air.

  23. Cross the stile and footbridge and follow the path along the stream until it emerges onto the gravel track leading to Tredorwin.

    The stream is a tributary of the Red River, fed by the springs draining from the marshes. The main stream has its source in the Baker's Pit nature reserve.

    Snowdrops are one of the earliest plants to flower. They use energy stored in their bulbs to generate leaves and flowers during winter, whilst other plants without an energy reserve cannot compete. The downside to flowering so early is that pollinating insects are more scarce, so rather than relying exclusively on seeds, they also spread through bulb division.

    Periwinkle, also known as myrtle, is a native plant in Europe and both the greater (Vinca major) and lesser (Vinca minor) forms are common, both with blue-purple 5-petal flowers that resemble turbine blades.

    The "greater" form has wider teardrop-shaped leaves whereas the leaves of the "lesser" form are thinner and lance-shaped. The flowers on the lesser form are also smaller.

    The name may be from the Russian name for the flower - pervinka - which is based on the word pervi, meaning "first", as it is one of the earliest spring flowers. Some flowers start appearing in November.

    Foam on the surface of a river can look like pollution but, as with sea foam, it's normally a natural phenomenon. When water plants such as algae die and decompose, organic matter is released into the water. If the water is agitated, proteins in the water can form a froth, just like whisking egg whites. Plant nutrients entering the water will increase the amount of algae, making foam more likely or prolific so a very foamy river can be an indicator of nitrate or phosphate pollution.

  24. Turn left onto the track and follow it a short distance towards the chimney to where a narrow path departs to the right beside a wooden post, just before the track bends.

    The chimney is part of the remains of the Baker's Pit China Clay works.

    The first record of the workings is from 1758 and the area was worked until 1942. The site was given by Imerys to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2000. The habitats include heathland and wet willow woodland (with some consequently boggy paths in winter!). The wildlife is reported to include some less common birds of prey such as merlins and hen harriers. The flooded quarry pool has a population of freshwater fish such as small roach and rudd.

    Once clay was extracted from a pit, kaolin needed to be separated from the other components of granite in the clay slurry. In earlier times, the slurry was flowed through three stepped tanks: in the first tank sand was deposited, in the second a mixture of fine sand and mica, in the third tank mica alone was deposited.

    The introduction of mica drags made the process of separating the clay from the unwanted sand and mica far more efficient. Rectangular stone tanks with a very shallow gradient were divided into a series of long narrow channels. The slow flow rate down the shallow gradient caused the heavier sand and mica to be deposited in the bottom of the channels.

  25. Turn right onto the small path and follow this until it emerges onto the stony track to Baker's Pit.

    The ruins surrounding the chimney are the remains of a pan kiln for drying china clay.

    Up until about 1850 china clay was dried in open-sided sheds known as air drys. This was a slow process: in winter, it could take as long as eight months.

    From 1845, pan kilns were developed and became standard in the 1860s and 70s. Flues led beneath a floor of porous tiles on which the cream-like clay slurry was dried. The moisture was drawn down into the hot fumes and vented from a chimney.

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