Circular walk from Newmills to Tregadillett near Launceston

Newmills to Tregadillett

If you want to do the walk when the railway is not open, we suggest parking in Tregadillett and starting the walk at direction 14 then once you pass direction 29, restart the walk from direction 3.

A circular walk in the Kensey valley from the end of the steam railway at Newmills, through the bluebell woods at Trebursye, to the Eliot Arms in Tregadillett and returning to Newmills via the remains of a prehistoric fort, to catch the steam train back to Launceston.

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Following a journey on the steam railway from Launceston to Newmills, the route follows a footpath through broadleaf woodland to reach the hamlet of Trebursye. From here, the route follows a footpath across fields to Tregadillett, where a visit to the Eliot Arms is an option. The return route is on footpaths via Kestle, passing the prehistoric fortified settlement of Kestle Rings on the way down the valley and following a lane alongside the River Kensey to Newmills.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 112
  • Distance: 3.7 miles/5.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 112 OS Explorer 112 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Follows on from a ride on the Launceston Steam Railway
  • Pretty countryside and woodland with plenty of potential picnic spots
  • Passes close to the Eliot Arms - the historic pub in Tregadillett

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Eliot Arms

Directions

Allow 2.5-3 hours for this walk plus any extra time you want to spend in the pub. If you're arriving on the steam railway, before you set out, check when the last train leaves and ensure you start with a suitably early train to give yourself enough time.

  1. Continue along the platform onto a path which leads through a wooden pedestrian gate towards a railway bridge. Go through the gate just before the bridge and follow the track to the left to a lane. Bear left onto the lane and follow this until it ends at a T-junction.

    The Launceston Steam Railway is a narrow gauge railway stretching about 2.5 miles along the trackbed of the former (standard gauge) North Cornwall Railway. The narrow gauge was in use in the welsh quarrying districts and many of the steam locomotives on the Steam Railway have their origin there. It began when a steam locomotive, known as Lilian, was restored by Nigel Bowman in the 1960s. After a number of years searching for a place to run it, he finally settled on Launceston. The first quarter of a mile of track opened in 1983 and it was progressively extended, reaching Newmills in 1995. Over the years, Lilian has been joined by a number of other locomotives including Dorothea which was restored over 22 years by Kay Bowman.

  2. Turn right onto the lane and follow it a short distance in the direction of Egloskerry to a footpath sign, just before a junction on the left.

    The North Cornwall Railway was a venture backed by the London and South Western Railway to compete with the Great Western Railway for services to Cornwall. The North Cornwall line ran from Halwill in Devon to Padstow via Launceston, Camelford and Wadebridge and was built for economy rather than speed, including climbs and curves to avoid costly construction work. The line was opened in sections at the end of the 19th century, reaching Padstow in 1899. There was an aspiration to connect Wadebridge to Truro, but this was never realised. Due to holidaymakers increasingly travelling by car in the 1960s, demand for passenger services dwindled and the line was closed as part of the cuts in 1966.

  3. Cross the stile in the bushes opposite the footpath sign, into the field above. Bear left up the field to a gate in the top hedge.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleating, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic.

    If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause a miscarriage. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.

    Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path through the woods until it ends in a stile.

    There are several species of Woodrush in the UK that all look fairly similar. They are most noticeable in woodland where they often form dense mats - hence the name.

    Woodrush has green pointed leaves which can be mistaken for bluebell leaves when there are no flowers to provide an obvious difference (woodrush flowers are unexciting small brown things that look a bit like grass seed). To tell the leaves apart, woodrush leaves taper steadily to a sharp point whereas bluebell leaves are relatively straight for most of their length and only taper near the end (like a broadsword). Bluebell leaves are also slightly blue-green whereas woodrush is a glossy vibrant green.

  5. Cross the stile into the field and bear left slightly, up the hill, to a stile on the corner of the hedge.

    Tannins are natural preservatives. The reason why red wine keeps much longer than white is that the grape skins that give the red colour also contain tannins. Oak leaves, wood and acorns all contain a high level of tannins. When wine is aged in oak, the wooden barrels release more preservative tannins into their contents.

  6. Cross the stile and follow the path between the hedge and fence to reach a pedestrian gate into the woods.

    The holly bushes along the edge of the paths are likely to be in berry in the run-up to Christmas.

    The association of holly with winter celebrations predates Christianity: druids were known to use holly wreaths which, it is likely with some discomfort, they wore on their heads.

    From Roman times, holly trees were planted near houses as it was believed to offer protection from witchcraft and lightning strikes. There is some scientific basis for the latter at least: the spines on the leaves can act as lightning conductors. The sharp points allow electrical charge to concentrate, increasing its potential to form a spark.

  7. Go through the gate and walk a few paces to a junction of paths by a larger gate. Turn right and follow the woodland path to reach a gate back into the fields.

    Some plant nutrients such as phosphorus tend to be more abundant near the surface of the soil were decaying organic matter collects. Bluebell seedlings start life at the surface so these are OK but as bluebell plants mature and send their roots deeper into the soil to avoid winter frosts, they have a phosphorus problem. They have solved this by partnering with a fungus that extends from their root cells, drawing in minerals from the soil in return for some carbohydrates from the plant.

    Some of the earliest bee hives were made of wicker and covered in mud. During the Middle Ages, woven domes were made from grass known as skeps and the bee colony was kept in this. These provided no internal structure so bees would create their own honeycomb. Also since there was only one chamber, the bees were usually killed to harvest the honey and wax. In the 18th Century, multi-tier structures were developed where the honey could be harvested from one tier whilst the colony could live on in another tier. Also in the 18th Century, the first internal frames began to appear, allowing honey to be harvested more easily. During the 19th Century, the modern style of bee hive was developed.

  8. Go through the gate into the field and follow the left hedge to a gate.

    The reason that you may see scruffy sheep with wool falling off is that due to cheap man-made synthetic (plastic) fibres, demand for wool declined through the late 20th and early 21st centuries resulting in many sheep not being shorn due to the low wool price.

    As well as being environmentally-friendly, wool fibre has a number of technical properties that synthetic fibres lack including fire-resistance and the ability to absorb and release moisture. Some novel high-tech uses are now being found for it including biodegradable ground cover matting to control soil erosion. As concerns grow over the effects of plastics in the environment, this may also lead to a renaissance in natural fibres including wool. It may therefore not be too long before demand increases and fields are once again full of neatly-shorn sheep.

  9. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow the track until it ends at several gates.

    Meadowsweet grows on damp ground and is particularly noticeable in July from its froth of cream-coloured flowers. As the name suggest, the flowers have a pleasant scent.

    Other names include "bridewort" as it was used in wedding garlands. It was also used for potpourri and as a "strewing" herb for floors in the 16th Century to reduce smells and infections.

    The flowers of meadowsweet are sometimes used in wine, beer and vinegar, or to give jams a subtle almond flavour. One of its names - "mead wort" - likely arose as a result of it being used to flavour mead.

    Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid and has been used in anti-inflammatory herbal remedies. However when extracted into a concentrated form to make into a drug, salicylic acid was found to cause stomach upsets. It was therefore synthetically altered to reduce the level of digestive upset and then marketed as "aspirin" based on the old Latin name for meadowsweet - Spiraea.

    As you join the track, there is a large manor house a short distance away on the left surrounded by tall trees. This is Old Tree House - once a nursing home and birthplace of the author, who stubbornly refused to be born on Devon soil on account of cream tea heresy and was deported back to Cornwall.

    The Devonshire method for preparing a cream tea is to saw a scone in half, paint each half with clotted cream, and then shovel strawberry jam on top. In Cornwall, things are done a little differently!

    • No scone: in Cornwall, a cream tea is traditionally served with a "Cornish split", a slightly sweet white bread roll, rather than a scone.
    • Butter: a warm split is first buttered.
    • Jam before cream: the buttered split is then spread with strawberry jam, although raspberry jam is also traditional.
    • No spreading of cream: the jam is finally topped with a spoonful of clotted cream.

    Many commercial cream teas in Cornwall resemble Devonshire cream teas, using scones and no butter, with a token reversal of jam and cream. Fortunately, armed with a few splits from a traditional bakery or by baking your own, you can prepare your own cream teas to exacting standards.

    Dissolve 10g fresh yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 350ml of warm milk. Whizz together 500g flour (roughly 50:50 mix of strong bread flour and plain flour), 10g salt and 80g butter in a food processor. Combine dry and wet ingredients and make into a dough. Kneed, prove in a warm place until doubled in size, shape into golf-ball-sized balls and return to a warm place to rise. Bake at 180°C (160°C fan) for around 15 minutes until golden.

    Pop a few strawberries, some sugar and some lemon juice in a bowl large enough that it won't froth over when it boils madly. Microwave for 5 minute intervals until jammy.

  10. Cross the stile on the left of the gate ahead and follow the path between the hedge and fence to reach another stile.

    The hedgerows contain hawthorn trees which are in blossom in May.

    The flowers of the hawthorn are known as "May Blossom" and were traditionally used as decorations in May Day celebrations. Now, however, the hawthorn generally doesn't flower until the middle of May. The reason for this is that May has moved! Until 1752, Britain used the Julian Calendar which had leap years every 4 years but no other corrections. This results in a length of day that is fractionally too long, so the first of May gradually slipped forwards over the centuries. By the 1700s, the first of May was 11 days ahead of where it is today.

    The vetches are a family of wildflowers that is a sub-group within the pea and bean family. Their pretty purple flowers are quite like mini sweetpea flowers. The leaves are also very distinctive, organised in a neat row either side of the stem. Common vetch is a wildflower but is also sown by farmers in some grazing fields to improve the nutrition for ruminants and to introduce more nitrogen into the soil.

    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.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge past the gateway to reach a gap in the far right corner of the field.

    Blackthorn and hawthorn trees both grow in similar places but in each season there are different ways to tell them apart.

    In spring, blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower. The white blossom appears before the leaves in April. In warm weather, the leaves may quickly catch up and this is when it can get mistaken for hawthorn, which produces leaves before flowers. However, there are a few other ways to distinguish the flowers: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black. Hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy".

    In summer, the leaf shape can be used to tell them apart. Blackthorn leaves are a classic leaf shape with slightly serrated edges. Hawthorn leaves have deep notches dividing the leaf into several lobes a bit like oak.

    In autumn, pretty much all hawthorn trees have small red berries, even the windswept specimens on the coast. Blackthorns trees may have purple sloes, but not all the trees fruit each year. Some years seem to result in a lot more sloes than others.

    Hawthorn trees are often a little bigger than blackthorn, especially in harsh environments such as on the coast. Blackthorn tends to form thickets whereas hawthorn are typically distinct trees. Hawthorn bark is usually shiny whereas blackthorn is dull. The thorns on hawthorn tend to be shorter (less then 2cm) and point slightly forwards on the stem. Blackthorn has longer spikes that stick out at right angles.

  12. Go through the gap into the field on your right and then follow the left hedge to reach a kissing gate.

    Research has shown that crows have a much higher density of neurons in their forebrains than primates do (the density if neurons in this region is thought to correlate with intelligence).

    The brain of a crow accounts for 2.7 percent of the bird's overall weight whereas an adult human's brain represents 1.9 percent of their body weight. This is even more impressive when considered in context: birds need to be as light as possible in order to fly.

    Ravens are considered the most intelligent crow species, outperforming chimpanzees in some tests. Consequently an academic is quoted as saying that crows are "smarter than many undergraduates, but probably not as smart as ravens."

  13. Go through the kissing gate and follow the track until it emerges onto a lane.

    The lane runs through the settlement of Tredagillett.

    The settlement of Tregadillett is first recorded some time around 1150 when it is spelt Tregudilet. This is based on a family name Cadyled so the overall place name means simply "Cadyled's farm".

  14. At this point the walk continues along the lane to the right, but beforehand you may wish to make a diversion to the pub. To reach the pub, turn left, and keep left when you reach a junction; once refreshed, retrace your steps to this junction. Follow the lane a short distance further until you reach a gravel track on the left, just past Springfield Barn where there is a public footpath sign.

    The Eliot Arms was constructed in the 14th Century and became a coaching inn during 1625, known as The Square and Compass. By the 19th Century the building had fallen into disarray and became a blacksmith's shop for a while. In 1840 it was restored and once again became a Public House and it was at this point that "Eliot Arms" was added to the name.

  15. Turn left down the gravel track and follow it until you see a path on the left just before the track goes through a gateway.

    The trees overhanging the track are sycamore.

    Sycamore seeds contain a biochemical compound known as hypoglycin A which is poisonous to horses. If a horse eats large numbers of sycamore seeds, this can cause a muscle condition known as Atypical Myopathy. In the most extreme cases, the horse can die from a heart attack.

  16. Bear left to the waymark then turn right. Follow the path along the fence until you reach a wooden footbridge facing a large tree. Bear right at the tree and follow the waymarked path up the bank to reach a stile.

    Yellow Archangel is a native plant and member of the dead nettle family (and it's also known as the Golden Dead Nettle). The flowers are pale yellow, hence the first part of the name. The second part of the name (including the angelic association) is because it looks quite like a nettle but doesn't sting.

    A garden variety of yellow archangel known as "aluminium plant" (due to silvery metallic areas on its leaves) has escaped into the wild where it is spreading rapidly. It has been deemed so invasive that it is illegal to plant in the wild.

  17. Follow the path past the stile and bear left around the tree then along the fence to reach another stile.

    Beech bark is very delicate and does not heal easily. Consequently some graffiti carved in beech trees is still present from more than a century ago. This is a practice that should be strongly discouraged as it permanently weakens the tree, making attack by insects more likely which can prematurely end its life.

  18. Cross the stile and bear left slightly to a stile in the hedge opposite.

    There are several quite common plants (catsear, hawkbit and hawksbeard) which all have yellow flowers similar to dandelion. Their main flowering period is later in the summer (late June and through July) than dandelion which itself peaks in April-May. If you want to have a crack and figuring out exactly which you are looking at, the leaves offer a good clue.

    Catsear is the most common, especially along the coast, and is the easiest one to tell apart as the leaves are hairy (hence the name).

    Hawkbit and hawksbeard both have non-hairy, deeply toothed leaves like dandelion but the leaves are narrower than dandelion. Hawksbeard has very well-defined "shark teeth" along most of the stem leading to the solid patch of leaf on the tip that all three have - these teeth are as wide as the widest part of the leaf. In hawkbit, these teeth are so tiny that the stem is nearly bare for about half its length.

    One other plant with flowers similar to the dandelion is the sow thistle but this is easily recognised by its spiky thistle-like leaves.

    Some perennial grasses spread via underground stems, cloning genetically-identical copies of themselves. This way, a single plant can spread to cover an area of over a hundred metres across and live for hundreds of years.

  19. Cross the stile and bear left up the field towards the large tree to reach a gate onto a lane in the corner.

    Despite how tough mature dock plants are, at the seedling stage docks are very poor competitors with other plants such as grass. On grazing land, farmers can use docks as a warning sign that there have been bare patches of earth. This could have been caused by livestock damage or uneven spreading of manure which has killed patches of grass by blocking sunlight.

  20. Go through the gate and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane until it ends at a junction of tracks.
  21. At the junction of tracks, turn right onto the concrete track and follow it a short distance to where a gravel track signposted to "South Fort Farm" departs to the right.

    The earliest recorded use of concrete was around 6500 BC in Syria and Jordan which was put to a number of uses including creating level floors. The Romans made concrete blocks from volcanic ash, lime and seawater.

    In 1793, John Smeaton discovered a way of producing hydraulic lime for cement by firing limestone that contained clay. He used his cement for constructing the Eddystone lighthouse.

    In 1824, Portland cement was invented by burning powdered chalk and clay together which were both readily available. During the 19th Century, this began to be used in industrial buildings.

  22. Bear right onto the gravel track and follow this until it ends in a yard.

    Red campion is also known as "red catchfly". The flowers are an important nectar source for larger pollinating insects including butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Much smaller flies drawn to the nectar can become stuck in the froth on the stigmas of the female flowers but this is not intentional by the plant (it doesn't eat them).

    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.

    Exactly why butterflies were associated with butter is a bit of a mystery. One theory is that they were seen hovering over pails of milk and thought to be stealing or protecting the butter. Another is that the yellow brimstone was the species for which this name was first devised.

    The two most common pigeon species are the wood pigeon and feral pigeon (domesticated rock dove). Wood pigeons are larger than rock doves. Rock doves have an iridescent green/purple patch on their necks whereas adult wood pigeons have a white patch on their neck (although this is not present in young birds).

  23. Turn right and walk through the yard to reach a gateway leading onto a grassy track.

    Electric fences are typically powered from a low voltage source such as a car battery which charges a capacitor to release a periodic pulse of high voltage electricity. This is often audible as a quiet "crack" which is a good indicator that a fence is powered. As with the high-voltage shock caused by static electricity, the current is not high enough to cause serious injury but touching an electric fence is nevertheless unpleasant. If you are answering the call of nature in the vicinity of an electric fence, be mindful of the conductivity of electrolyte solutions!

  24. Go through the gateway and follow the track to a gate.

    There are two very similar looking members of the daisy family that are both known as "chamomile". English chamomile (also known as Roman chamomile) has hairy stems and is the one used for chamomile tea. German chamomile has smooth stems and higher levels of essential oils so this one is used for chamomile-scented pharmaceuticals (shampoos etc). Pineapple weed is related and is sometimes known as "false chamomile" or more confusingly as "wild chamomile" (even though it isn't chamomile and normal chamomile is also wild!).

    English chamomile was once common in Britain but it has declined (due to land clearance and changes to farming practices) to now being classified as Vulnerable. The Southwest is now one if its last strongholds.

  25. Go through the gate and bear left to follow the field downhill. As the field opens out, follow all the way along the right hedge to reach a waymarked gateway in far hedge.

    The hedge opposite is planted on a bank which is the outer ramparts of the Kestle Rings. This encloses the grassy area through the opening on your right.

    Kestle Rings is a hill fort comprising of a main enclosure of around 1 hectare and a smaller annex of about half this area. Artefacts have been found here from the Iron Age but also earlier items from the Bronze Age and even earlier still from Neolithic times.

  26. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge alongside the woods until you reach a corner in the hedge, then make for a gateway ahead.

    The purpose of enclosures within ramparts varied quite considerably. Some were built as forts to defend from marauding invaders such as the seafaring Scandinavians. Others were defences built around small villages either as a status symbol/deterrent or for the more practical purpose of preventing domestic crimes such as theft of property by occupants of neighbouring villages. There were even some which were probably just a confined space used to stop livestock escaping!

  27. Go through the gateway and follow the track ahead to a pair of gates in front of some buildings.

    Buzzards use the trees either side of the fields as perches.

    In a natural habitat, buzzards perch at the top of trees to survey the surrounding fields. Their brown-and-white pattern camouflages them quite well so it's quite common for walkers to inadvertently disturb what turns out to be a huge flapping monster just feet away. Telegraph poles provide a perfect alternative to trees without any cluttering branches so buzzards can often be seen perched on the top, unfazed by cars passing beneath.

  28. Go through the gate and continue ahead across the yard to a pair of wooden gates between the buildings. Go through the gates and between the buildings to reach a lane.

    The settlement of Tankerslake is thought to originate from a Norman-French name Tancred, giving a clue to its age. The first record is from 1311 spelt Tankerardesmylle. A corn mill with a leat and pond is recorded on the 19th Century OS maps as Rings Mill. The "lake" in the name may refer to the millpond. Part of a millstone forms the step into the barn and another fragment is built into the wall by the road.

  29. Turn right onto the lane and follow it until you reach the junction on your left to Newmills where you started the walk.

    If Tankerslake was the "old mill" then Newmills was "new" a little later in mediaeval times. The first record of Newmill is from 1474. A corn mill was recorded as still extant on the OS maps of 1813 and 1888.

  30. Turn left towards Newmills and when you reach the Grit-Salt box (just before the railway bridge), bear right onto the grassy path to return to the steam railway.

    Launceston lies only a mile away from the Devon border and is sometimes known as the "gateway to Cornwall". The name is from the Cornish Lannstefan referring to St Stephen's Monastery which was located a few miles northwest of the town and the local dialect pronunciation, Lanson, is also a mangling of this. The town itself was formerly known by the Celtic name Dunheved. From the 13th century until early Victorian times, Launceston was the de facto county town of Cornwall, due to anywhere else in Cornwall being too difficult to reach. It was only when transport routes improved that the county town moved west, first to Bodmin and eventually to Truro when the railway was laid.

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