Blisland and Pendrift Downs

A circular walk from Blisland through the De Lank granite quarry, used for many famous buildings including Royal Opera House, between the moss-covered boulders and trees of the De Lank river valley and across the Pendrift Downs, passing Jubilee Rock - a huge granite boulder, decorated with carvings.

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The walk begins on lanes from Blisland to the farmstead at Pendrift. The route descends into the wooded valley along the De Lank river, crossing the river to the Delank granite quarries. The walk skirts the edge of the quarry pit, before crossing the Pendrift Downs to Jubilee Rock. The walk then returns via lanes and fields to the Blisland village green with its Inn and impressively ornate church.

The paths either side of the Delank Quarry are uneven due to granite boulders.

Reviews

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/6.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Blisland village green
  • Parking: On the edge of the village green PL304JA
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Pretty Saxon village of Blisland
  • Moss covered boulders and ancient twisted oaks on Pendrift Downs
  • Panoramic views from Jubilee Rock - a huge granite boulder carved with insignia
  • Impressively ornate 15th Century church
  • Local food and real ales at Blisland Inn - winner of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Blisland Inn

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way downhill past the Blisland Inn to the junction. Turn right up the lane signposted to Tregenna and follow the lane past the national speed limit signs until you reach a junction on the right, opposite a gate.

    The Blisland Inn lies on the north side of the village green of Blisland, located on the western flank of Bodmin Moor. The pub is renowned for real ales, winning the CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2001; there are at least 6 real ales on tap at any one time. The landlord has had his own wooden barrels made by a retired cooper, which he sends to the local brewery to fill.

  2. At the junction, turn right and follow the lane to a crossroads.

    The farmstead on the lane now known as Lanxon was first recorded in 1302 as Langeston. The name is a mediaeval attempt to spell "long stone".

  3. At the crossroads, turn left and follow the lane until it forks, just past the cattlegrid in Pendrift.

    Pendrift is a small hamlet on the edge of Blisland. The name Pendrift (first recorded as Pendref) contains the place-name elements pen (meaning top) and dre (aka. "tre", meaning place/farmstead/village); the phrase pen an tre thus means "top of the village".

  4. Keep left at the fork; continue straight ahead and past the houses to a wooden gate across a muddy track.
  5. Go through the gate and follow the track into a field, then follow the right hedge to a waymarked gateway.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  6. Go through the gateway into the next field and follow the right hedge to a stile.

    Notice that many of the fields here are long, thin strips.

    In mediaeval times, the Anglo-Saxon "stitch meal" technique was adopted in some parts of Cornwall. This involved dividing arable and meadow land into long strips called "stitches". Villagers would be allocated a (usually disconnected) set of strips so that the "best" fields were shared around as evenly as possible. The long, thin shape was ideal for ploughing with oxen. A typical stitch was one furlong in length and one acre in area, which could be ploughed by a team of oxen in a day.

    A similar, but not identical, system of strip fields known as "burgage" plots was also used in mediaeval times but these were associated with a row of houses along a road in a settlement. The burgage plots were effectively very long, thin back gardens that also contained about an acre of cultivatable land.

  7. Cross the stile and follow the path to the valley floor.

    The open fields beside the undergrowth in the valley provides a good habitat for foxes to hunt for rabbits.

    The Red Fox has been present in Britain since the last Ice Age and is our most widespread and numerous predator. Foxes are omnivores: as well as hunting small mammals and birds, they will eat fruit and anything else they can scavange, in fact a major component of their diet is earthworms. This flexibility has allowed them to adapt to farmed and urban environments but also varied natural environments including the coast. In the wild, a lucky fox can live an age of about 8 but the lifespan of most foxes is typically only 1.5 - 2 years. One reason for this is that around 100,000 foxes are killed on roads every year.

  8. Bear left along the path and follow this to where it passes around a hawthorn tree.

    In Mediaeval times, bringing hawthorn blossom into the house was thought to bring death and it was described as smelling like the Great Plague. The explanation for this is thought to be that the hawthorn blossom contains trimethylamine which is one of the first chemicals formed when animal tissue decays. Young leaves of the plant can be used in salads as the chemical is not present in the leaves so these taste nutty rather than of death.

  9. Continue on the main path across the meadow to reach a footbridge.

    The De Lank River springs from Rough Tor Marsh, between the two highest peaks on Bodmin Moor and joins the River Camel near Blisland. It is an important wildlife habitat, noted for diverse and abundant flora and fauna and its surrounding banks, woodlands and marshes have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Together with the River Camel, the De Lank is an important habitat for the otter which is present along the whole length of the river.

    The name is reported as being from a Cornish name which is recorded as Dinlonk. The Cornish word lonk means gully. The name of the riverside settlement Lank is almost certainly related.

  10. Cross the footbridge and turn left. Follow the path past the pumphouse and then uphill, through a gate, to a second gate.

    We are so used to seeing sediment in rivers that we've come to accept it as normal but no river should be brown. Sediment is often a product of human activity including eroded river banks, runoff from ploughed farmland and even cattle poaching. It can smother riverbed gravels that are essential for fish spawning. It can also act as a carrier for other pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides. As well as being toxic, the smell of these chemicals can prevent salmon from detecting their home spawning grounds. That may all sound a bit doom and gloom but the good news is that this damage can be reversed. Pilot schemes of washing and returning gravel to the rivers have had spectacularly promising results, with breeding salmon becoming re-established within just a few years. The Westcountry Rivers Trust are also working with farmers on improving drainage systems to steadily reduce the amount of new sediment and chemicals entering rivers.

  11. Go through the gate and turn left onto the track. Follow this to the gateway then take the path uphill to the right of the gate and follow this until you emerge onto the drive to a house.

    Navelwort grows on the pile of granite rocks.

    Navelwort is a member of the stonecrop family which are able to survive in barren locations by storing water in their fleshy leaves. In dry conditions, the plant takes emergency measures to conserve water, producing fewer green chloroplasts (so it goes red) and loses it succulent fleshiness. Leaves with red tinges are therefore not the ones to forage.

  12. Turn left on the drive and follow it away from the house, to a track. Then turn left on the track, and follow it over a cattlegrid to a farm gate on the right.

    Buzzards were once thought to a threat to game birds and were actively shot. During the 1950s-60s, the combination of myxomatosis nearly wiping out one of their main food sources and use of pesticides such as DDT caused further decline in the buzzard population. Since then the population has gradually recovered and buzzards are now the commonest and most widespread bird of prey in the UK.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the track uphill until you reach a stile on the right, just after the track bends to the left.

    Water pepper, as the name implies, grows on wet ground such as on the margins of lakes. The plant has a number of common names including "smartarse". As Emma Gunn points out in her foraging book "Never Mind the Burdocks", this is nothing to do with being clever: in the past, the dried leaves were added to bedding to drive away fleas etc. and the name comes from rolling over on a leaf in the wrong way. The leaves can be used as a herb and have have a lemony flavour similar to sorrel followed by heat which is a little like chilli.

  14. Cross the stile on the right and follow the footpath uphill to a junction of paths at the top of the incline.
  15. At the junction, turn right and follow the path to emerge in an open area near some quarry buildings.

    The De Lank quarries are on Bodmin Moor between Blisland and St Breward. The quarries lie along the bed of the De Lank river, which runs through a culvert beneath the quarry workings. Buildings and monuments that have incorporated silver-grey granite include Tower Bridge, The Royal Opera House and monuments to Churchill and Marx. At the Eden Project, "The Seed" in "The Core" was quarried from here.

  16. In the quarry, bear left to a public footpath sign and cross the quarry in the direction indicated to a second footpath sign. Turn left at this to reach a waymarked path into the bushes on the right just before the small building.

    A short distance to the northeast, almost adjoining the De Lank quarries, is Hentergantick quarry.

    The London Stock Exchange and the Tate Gallery are built from Bodmin Moor granite extracted at Hentergantick quarry.

  17. Follow the path up and then along the valley, to reach a waymarked stile on the edge of a field.

    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.

  18. Cross the stile, turn right and follow the waymarked path to emerge at a junction of paths with a gateway to the right.

    The Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Tortoiseshell butterflies are all quite closely related and specialised for overwinter hibernation. Their wings, when closed, have a jagged outline and camouflaged colours that allows them to blend in with dead leaves. Their feet contain chemoreceptors (taste buds) which allows them to detect nectar-bearing flowers when they land.

  19. Bear right through the gateway and follow the path to the pedestrian gate. Go through this and follow the path which later enters some woods to reach another wooden gate across the path in the wooded area.
  20. Go through the gate and follow the path until it emerges through a gateway into a field.

    Oak was often associated with the gods of thunder as it was often split by lightning, probably because oaks are often the tallest tree in the area. Oak was also the sacred wood burnt by the druids for their mid-summer sacrifice.

  21. Once in the field, turn right and follow the right hedge to a waymarked stile.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  22. Cross the stone stile and bear left into the field. Then follow the path along the right hedge. Keep following the path until it ends on a track. Turn right to follow the track for a few paces to where a small path departs to the right just before a ford.

    The bramble is a member of the rose family, and the roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!) and can root to form daughter plants. In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers. The flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen) as well as through pollen being transferred by insects from other plants. The word "bramble" comes from bræmaz - a word of Germanic origin meaning "prickly".

  23. Bear right onto the small grassy path to reach a stile about 5 metres to the right of the ford. Cross the stream and take the small path straight ahead, for about 50 metres, until you pass through some embankments and reach a path departing to the right beneath some trees.

    Looking across the barren granite landscape of Bodmin Moor, it may seem strange that so many settlements can be found here from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. About 10,000 years ago, Bodmin Moor was almost entirely covered in forest, and the Neolithic tribes would have lived in forest clearings. During the Bronze Age, the majority of forest was cleared for farmland. The burning and grazing, over several thousand years, has resulted in poor soils which are naturally quite acidic due to the granite rocks. This, together with the exposure to the wind, is why the few trees on the moor today are generally stunted.

  24. Bear right beneath the trees and follow the path alongside the banks until the path eventually ends in a T-junction with another path.

    Gorse, also known as furze, is present as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century).

  25. Turn right and walk a few paces to where the path forks. Take the right-hand (less defined) path at the fork and keep following this to reach Jubilee Rock.

    Located near Pendrift on the northern edge of Blisland, Jubilee Rock is a large natural granite boulder which originally supported another large balancing rock (known locally as a logan stone). It is now a Grade II listed monument as it is covered with carvings of Britannia, royalty, and Coats of Arms. It was originally carved in 1809-10 for George III's Golden Jubilee by Lieutenant John Rogers. It was updated with new carvings in 1859 and 1887 for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and the carvings were restored for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. A brass plate now in Bodmin Town Museum was originally fixed to the rock containing lines of verse composed by John Rogers. In 2010, the plate was temporarily reattached to the rock for a 200 year celebration which involved attempts at singing the verses John Rogers had composed.

  26. From the top of Jubilee Rock, follow the grassy path to reach a track. Bear left onto the track and follow it uphill to the corner of a hedge and then around the bend to where the track ends in a gate.

    Royal Jubilees began with George III celebrating 50 years on the throne in 1809 with a Golden Jubilee, followed by Queen Victoria in 1887. Victoria was the first monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Elizabeth II celebrated a 25 year Silver Jubilee in 1977, a Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

  27. As the track bends to go through the gate, continue ahead to depart the track and follow the path ahead between the patches of bracken. Follow this broadly parallel to the wall on the right to reach a gap in the hedge ahead, leading onto a lane.

    There are 33 regions in England designated Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which were created in 1949 at the same time as the National Parks. In fact the AONB status is very similar to that of National Parks. There is a single Cornwall AONB which is itself subdivided into 12 sections. 11 of these are stretches of the coastline and the 12th is Bodmin Moor.

  28. Go through the gap and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane until you reach Torr House on the left.

    Ferns evolved a long time before flowering plants and dominated the planet during the Carboniferous period. The bark from tree ferns during this period is thought to have been the main source of planet's coal reserves.

    Ferns lack seeds as well as flowers and reproduce via tiny spores which are most commonly distributed by the wind. This allows them to colonise some quite random places.

  29. Turn left onto the driveway of Torr House and cross the stile beside the gate. Following the track past the houses to a waymark on the far side of a gravel parking area.

    Acidic soils lead to blue flowers whereas alkaline soils lead to pink flowers. This is the opposite way round to the "universal indicator" used in school chemistry lessons which is pink in acids and blue in alkaline solutions.

    Since Victorian times, it's been common practice for gardeners to use aluminium sulphate as a source of mild sulphuric acid to decrease the acidity of the soil and turn hydrangeas blue. In large quantities this is extremely harmful to aquatic life, as the twenty tonnes accidentally deposited into Camelford's drinking water supply and flushed into the Camel river system demonstrated in 1988.

  30. From the waymark, follow the path denoted by several more waymarks to reach a stile.
  31. Cross the stile and bear right slightly across the field to a gate on the opposite side.

    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.

  32. Go through the gate and cross the field towards the buildings, heading to a waymarked gate straight ahead.
  33. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track, then left when it joins another track. Follow the track a short distance to a waymarked gate on the left, marked "footpath".

    Staddle Stones (also known as Mushroom Stones) were originally used to raise granary barns off the ground. These had two purposes: the first was that the elevation above the ground kept out the damp which would spoil the grain. The second was that the overhanging stone cap made it an extreme rock-climbing expedition for any mice and rats wishing to enter the barn.

  34. Go through the gate on the left marked as a footpath. Bear right across the field to a gateway to the left of a large tree.
  35. Go through the gateway and cross the field to a gate in the opposite corner.

    Crows can often be seen perching in the tall trees.

    Birds of the crow family are considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals, displaying a high learning ability and are able to use logic for solving problems. Researchers have found some crow species capable of not only tool use but also tool construction. Crows have also demonstrated the ability to distinguish individual humans apart by recognizing facial features. If a crow encounters a cruel human, it can also teach other crows how to identify that individual.

  36. Go through the gate and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane back into Blisland until you reach a junction at the village green.

    Blisland is a small village which lies on the western flank of the Bodmin Moor, perched above the valley of the River Camel. Unlike most other Cornish villages, the houses of Blisland are grouped around a village green indicating Saxon origins. On the corner of the green is Blisland Manor which is much more recent, dating from the 16th Century. There are 7 wayside crosses in Blisland (out of 360 in Cornwall) including one near the village post office.

  37. Cross to the green and turn right to return to the Blisland Inn.

    The church is on the far side of the green on your left. If you wish to have a quick look before finishing the walk, follow the path across the green and bear left to reach the church.

    The parish church of Blisland is located at the south edge of the village green, which lies on the west flank of Bodmin Moor. Blisland church is impressively ornate: thought to be on the site of a Saxon church, it was a slate and granite Norman building, but was rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style in the 15th century (and restored in the 19th). It is unique in being dedicated to St Protus (known locally as St Pratt) and St Hyacinth who were brothers martyred in the late 3rd century AD. No one knows why this church was dedicated to them in the 15th century. If you have the chance to visit on 22nd September, there is a feast day procession to St Pratt's Cross and Holy Well.

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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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