Polyphant circular walk


A circular countryside walk to the mills in the Inny Valley from Polyphant, Cornish for "toad pool", to Gimblett's Mill where the bridge was rebuilt after a wall of water swept down the valley in 1847 destroying nearly everything in its path.

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The walk begins beside the Methodist Chapel and heads to the centre of the village then follows footpaths through the mediaeval farmsteads of Trerithick and Trethinna to briefly join the Inny Valleys circular trail to Gimblett's Mill. The route then climbs to the opposite side of the valley to join the pathway from Laneast church to the church at Trewen. The walk crosses back over the river at Trewen Mill and follows a footpath through the fields and woods to complete the circular route.


  • Some of the stiles on the route are fairly athletically-demanding (stone footholds over walls etc).

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots. Wellies after prolonged wet weather.

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 109 OS Explorer 109 (laminated version)

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


  • A pretty, tranquil area of Cornwall away from the summer crowds
  • Pretty riverside scenery at Gimblett's Mill and Trewen
  • Mediaeval church of Trewen
  • Pleasant winding country lanes and footpaths with colourful wild flowers in spring and summer
  • Rich wildlife including birds, butterflies and deer

Adjoining walks


  1. Make your way out of the car park and turn right onto the track. Follow it past the chapel until it ends at a crossroads.

    The Wesleyan chapel was built during the 19th Century.

    Methodist services were held in the cottages which was attractive to women who needed to look after young children, and in the many villages where the parish church was more than a mile away or at the top of a steep hill. This helped to make Methodism very popular in Cornwall and through the late 18th and the 19th Century, many chapels were built in the centre of the villages.

  2. Cross the road to the lane opposite, signposted to Lewannick. Follow the lane to the junction opposite the phone box stopping at a track on the right immediately before the tarmacked section of road.

    Polyphant lies in the parish of Lewannick and the walk to the parish church may have fuelled enthusiasm for the adoption of methodism in Polyphant. However, in mediaeval times a (Catholic) chapel was recorded as being present in Polyphant.

  3. Bear right onto the track and follow it past the bench to reach the "3 cows on't green" store.

    The settlement of Polyphant was first recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 which notes it had "land for 3 ploughs; woodland 4 acres; pasture 10 acres". It was recorded as Polefand which comes from the Cornish words pol and lefant and means "toad pool".

  4. Turn right, indicated by a Public Footpath sign, to pass between the "3 cows on't green" and the large barn to its right. Follow the track uphill to merge onto another tarmacked track. Continue following the track to reach "One Way" and "Way Out" signs on the right.

    Where the Domesday survey mentions "land for one plough" this was a measurement of land taxation rather than a measurement of actual land area.

    In Norman times and before, ploughing was done with oxen. A single oxen could plough 15 acres in a season so "land for one plough" was loosely based on this. With 8 oxen, around 120 acres could be ploughed in a season which represented enough to support a (manorial) household (a peasant household would get by on a lot less!). The unit of land tax known as a "hide" was based on this (effectively "land for 8 ploughs").

    In both cases, the actual area of land for each taxation unit varied with the productivity of the land so the lower income that the land was, the larger the area a taxable unit covered. More-or-less, they were the Norman version of Council Tax bands.

  5. Continue ahead a short distance to reach an unsurfaced track on the right just before a granite trough. Bear right onto the track and follow this a short distance to a crossing with a tarmacked driveway.

    Polyphant is perhaps most famous for a type of greenstone quarried in the area, known simply as "Polyphant stone". The rock is quite soft and polishes to a very attractive dark green shiny surface. It is a superb medium for carving and famous sculptors including Barbara Hepworth have produced pieces of their work in it. It has been worked since Norman times and is mentioned in the Doomsday survey of 1086. Many churches in East Cornwall have interior features made of it. It does not weather well for exterior stonework because it is both soft and porous, and therefore susceptible to frost damage.

  6. Cross the tarmac to the gravel track ahead and follow this until a grassy path departs ahead just before the track goes through the gateway to a stable block.

    There is a bracket fungus growing on the trunk of the oak tree by the entrance to the stables.

    Bracket fungi can be recognised by tough, woody shelf-like growths known as conks. Bracket fungi can live for a very long time and are often coloured with annual growth rings. Many begin on living trees and can eventually kill a branch or whole tree by damaging the heartwood and allowing rot to set in. They can continue to live on the dead wood afterwards.

  7. Keep right to follow the grassy path ahead to a metal gate.

    Dandelions are dispersed very effectively by the wind. The tiny parachute-like seeds can travel around five miles. Each plant can live for about 10 years and produces several thousand seeds each year.

    Plants contain chlorophyll (the green stuff) which is able to use energy from sunlight to break down a water molecule. The breakdown of water is why plants release oxygen. Some photosynthetic bacteria break down hydrogen sulphide instead of water.

    The electrons and protons remaining from the water after oxygen has been formed are funnelled away by bio-molecules in the plant. These are used to drive another chemical reaction to convert a bunch of carbon dioxide and water molecules into a simple sugar molecule such as glucose.

    Sugar is effectively a store of energy, and the reaction can be run in reverse to generate energy when needed. At night, when there is no sunlight, plants run off their sugar reserves, consume oxygen and emit carbon dioxide - just like we do.

    There quite a few different simple sugars - fructose, maltose etc - but they all have the same chemical formula as glucose (they just have their bits arranged in different orders). Simple sugars are polymerised (chained together) into sucrose (glucose attached to fructose) for medium-term storage and also starches (mega-long sugar chains) for longer-term storage in a root or seed. Sugars are also used to create cellulose - the building material used by plants.

  8. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge to reach a track leading into the farmyard.

    Blackberries are closely related to raspberries and technically neither is a berry but an aggregate of many individual tiny fruits, each containing a tiny stone like a miniature cherry.

    As well as through pollen being transferred by insects from other plants, if there are not many insects around (e.g. in cold or wet weather), bramble flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen).

  9. Join the track and follow it a short distance to the farmyard then turn right and follow the concrete track past the cottage and a metal barn to reach an open area on the left between the metal barn and concrete buildings.

    The name of the settlement of Bowden is thought to be from the Old English word dun meaning hill and overall to mean either hill shaped like a bow or the top of a hill.

    There are records of the estate at Bowden Derrers from 1755 which had become known as Bowden Derra by 1884 and was occupied by the local squire. The house was remodelled in 1886 in High Victorian Gothic style and included a wing for servants.

    Bowden Farm dates back to at least Victorian times - it is recorded as a tenement in the 1840s as as a farm in the 1880s.

  10. Turn left and walk through the open area to a metal gate at the far end. Go through the gate and cross the field to the two metal gates opposite.

    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.


    • 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).


    • 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.
  11. Go through the gate on the left into the field ahead and bear right slightly across the field to a stile in the opposite hedge.

    Cow pats can often be spotted (and therefore avoided) by the tuft of ungrazed grass surrounding the cow pat know as the "ring of repugnance". If it is left undisturbed, cows will avoid the area around a cow pat for a couple of years, allowing a bright green (well-fertilised) hummock of grass to form.

    The biological reason that the repulsion exists is to prevent cows from ingesting parasites from other cows. The reason that we find it repulsive too is due to our biological "wiring" to protect us from parasites.

  12. Cross the stile and hedge and follow along the fence to reach a metal gate.

    Buzzards can often be seen circling the valley and use the trees such as those opposite as perches.

    A pair of buzzards have a territory which includes a number of possible nesting sites which can be as many as 20. They move nesting site each year which prevents a buildup of nest parasites such as bird fleas. The new nest is decorated with fresh green foliage.

  13. Go through the gate and cross the field passing to the right of the tree in the field to reach a metal gate onto a track lined with trees.
  14. Go through the gate and follow the track, bearing right past an old stile to reach another stile in wooden fence.
  15. Cross the wooden stile and the wall and bear left onto the lane. Follow this to reach a concrete track to the right immediately before the house with a Public Footpath sign opposite.

    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 the planet's coal reserves.

  16. Turn right at the Footpath sign and follow the track indicated uphill until you reach a gate by a barn. Then turn left to follow along the side of the long barn on your right. At the end of the barn, turn right and follow the track uphill a short distance to a waymark at a junction of tracks.

    The settlement here, now known as Trerithick, was recorded in 1350 as Treydock. It is thought to be based on a personal name, i.e. "Ydock's farm" and date from the early Middle Ages.

  17. Go through the metal gate ahead indicated by the waymark and follow the left hedge of the field to reach a stile.

    Spring is the best time to harvest nettles. They should not be harvested when flowering (the flowers look like small catkins hanging down from the stems), as during flowering they produce microscopic rods of calcium carbonate (limestone) which can interfere with kidney function.

    To prepare them, wearing gloves, strip off the young tender leaves, discarding any large coarse leaves and stems. Use lightly boiled, steamed or wilted as if it were spinach (though not raw unless you want to live dangerously!). All the usual spinach flavour combinations apply (e.g. with ricotta).

    Nettles are often found near human habitation, much to the displeasure of many humans. Humans generally remove dense vegetation such as tree cover, leaving open ground that fast-growing nettles can rapidly colonise. Food waste from humans and droppings from livestock boost phosphate levels in the soil which nettles require to thrive. Grazing animals also leave nettles alone, munching away competing vegetation instead.

  18. Cross the stile and turn left onto the lane to reach the signpost. Turn right towards Trethinna and follow the lane downhill to reach a track on the left between Trethinna House and a double garage.

    Penpont Brewery is located up the lane on the left.

    Penpont Brewery was established in 2008, in a converted farm building at Trenarrett near Altarnun. They use their own spring water (from a spring that feeds Penpont Water) to make their beer, using locally produced ingredients where possible. Their beers are available at the Rising Sun Inn, near Treween.

  19. Turn left onto the track and follow it around the S-bend and continue to where the track splits to go into a yard on the left.

    The small settlement is called Trethinna. The place name has changed little since the Middle Ages - it was recorded as Trethynna in 1350. Other than indicating a farm, the meaning of the name is not known.

  20. Continue ahead on the main track until you reach a gate across the track where the track widens to go through gateways into fields.

    Gates on public rights of way are normally not locked or tied shut, but farmers may occasionally need to do so to prevent animals from manipulating the latches or in the sad cases where walkers have repeatedly left gates open.

    If a gate is chained, check if there is a carabiner (oval link with a push-in sprung section) which is sometimes hidden behind the gate.

    If a gate is tied shut and straightforward to untie and retie, then do so, leaving it as you found it. Tie it in a way that is secure but not a nightmare for the next person to untie either. If you're not confident with knots, a double bow used for shoelaces is one knot that everyone knows (but make sure it's double as a single bow can be pulled open by livestock).

    In cases where opening the gate is non-trivial and thus it is necessary to climb the gate, ensure you climb next to the hinges to reduce the risk of bending the gate.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the grassy track ahead between the wooden posts (if the track is inaccessible due to mud or vegetation, the field on the right has a gateway at the start and end of the track) to reach a gateway into a field.
  22. Go through the gateway and bear right slightly across the field to the stile directly below the electricity pylon in the opposite 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.

  23. Climb the stile over the wall and then bear right slightly across the field to reach a ladder stile located mid-way between the two large trees in the hedge opposite.

    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.

    During Victorian times and earlier, small amounts of land in Cornwall were measured by the goad - a unit of nine feet in length, derived from the name of the staff used to drive oxen.

    An English acre was less generous (at 43,560 square feet) than a Cornish acre (51,840 square feet). Although both were defined as 160 smaller land units, the English equivalent to the Cornish goad was a perch but this was 5.5 yards (16.5 ft) rather than the two-goad length used in Cornwall of 6 yards (18 ft). It is thought that the reason the perch ended up as a non-round number of feet is that it was originally measured from 20 averaged-sized human feet in Saxon times when nutrition wasn't great.

  24. Cross the stile and cross the field to a gateway just below the large trees in the hedge opposite, approximately half way down the hedge.

    Cornwall has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • tenow - valley floor
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream (from Old English)
  25. Go through the gateway and follow the path along the line of trees to reach a stile.

    Waterspouts are something most people associate with tornadoes and you may be surprised to discover that one is an important part of the history of the Inny Valley.

    Waterspouts are funnels of spray caused by a rotating vortex of air over the sea or a lake caused by warm air spiralling as it rises. Massive waterspouts can be caused by tornadoes but they can also occur on a smaller scale in stormy weather. Eventually the rising column of air collapses and the spray (and frogs or fish that ventured too close to the surface) falls as rain. The author has witnessed two waterspouts over the Atlantic in North Cornwall in recent years.

  26. Cross the stile and follow the path to emerge onto a lane.

    In July 1847 a large waterspout came in off the Atlantic and collapsed over Davidstow Moor where the sources of both the River Camel and River Inny rise. A wall of water 12-18 feet high swept down the Camel Valley demolishing all but two of the bridges. The solidly-built mediaeval Helland Bridge survived despite tree trunks piling against it. Wadebridge survived by being secured with ropes and chains by (brave) men in boats. Many years after the flood, pieces of hay and straw could still be seen in the trees 20 feet above the river at Dunmere.

  27. Turn right onto the lane and follow it down to the bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the lane around the bend and up the hill for nearly half a mile until you reach Trespearne Barn at the top of the hill and then continue a short distance to Trespearne Farm on the right.

    Gimblett's Mill, on the River Inny near Altarnun, dates from about 1800. The bridge over the river was built in 1847, following the great flood which swept away almost all the crossings along the river.

  28. Pass the entrance to the farm and bear right down the unsurfaced track beside the wooden gate. Follow the track through the metal gate and continue until you reach a gateway on the right.

    The settlement of Trespearne was first recorded in around 1200 as Trespernan. The name is Cornish and means "thorn tree farm". It is thought that the settlement dates from the Dark Ages.

  29. Go through the gateway on the right and bear right to follow along the fence on the right then depart towards the pedestrian gate in the hedge opposite.

    Yellow buttercups can be seen in the fields around here during 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!

    Over 99% of a protein molecule is made up from just 4 chemical elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Except in times of drought, hydrogen and oxygen are readily available from water. Plants can get carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide via photosynthesis. That leaves nitrogen. Some plants are able to get this from the air but most plants need to get this from the soil in the form of nitrate or ammonium compounds. This is why cow manure, composted plants and even dried blood (which all contain nitrogen compounds) have been used to improve soils.

  30. Go through the gate, cross the stile over the hedge and go through next gate. Then cross the field towards the trees straight ahead to reach a sloping wooden fence and stile.

    Grasses have evolved to grow new leaves from the base of the stem which makes them able to withstand grazing (and mowing). However too much grazing, particularly when grasses are in the process of producing seed, or too much trampling can damage the grass. In the wild, predator species play an important role by chasing herbivores to a new location which gives the grass a chance to recover.

  31. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a waymarked pedestrian gate beside the barn.

    The fields here are used in a crop rotation which includes barley some years.

    Barley was one of the first domesticated crops and has been dated back over 10,000 years. Consequently beer made from barley is likely to have been one of the first alcoholic drinks consumed by the Neolithic tribes.

  32. Go through the gate and bear left to follow the track through the metal farm gates. Join the surfaced track and follow this downhill past Trekenna Court to where it opens out beside Trekenner Cottage and Trekenner Farmhouse.

    The settlement of Trekenner was first recorded in 1207 as Trekinener. It is thought that it might be based on a personal name i.e. "Kinener's Farm".

  33. Pass to the right of the barn indicated by the waymark and follow the track to reach a pedestrian gate on the right of a farm gate. Go through the gate and continue ahead to a similar gate. Go through this and turn right to follow along the top hedge to reach a third similar gate.
  34. Go through the gate and bear left to the footbridge.

    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 uncomfortable 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.
  35. Cross the bridge and follow the path into a field. Follow along the right hedge to reach a stile in the top-right corner of the field.

    This is one of two small tributary streams that feed into the River Inny just below Gimblett's Mill so the river is carrying more water by the time it reaches the mill further along the walk at Trewen.

    The River Inny is a tributary of the Tamar and is approximately 20 miles long, supporting populations of trout, salmon and sea trout as well as otters and kingfishers. The name of the river was recorded in the 1600s as Heanye and may be from the Cornish word enys - for island. Penpont Water is its main tributary and has a status of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Area of Great Scientific Value and Area of Great Historical Value. The source of the Inny is very close to the Davidstow Cheese factory, from a spring in the field opposite Pendragon House.

  36. Cross the stile, descend the steps and follow the grassy path to reach a gravel track.
  37. Turn left onto the track and follow it to merge onto a lane. Follow the lane until it ends in a junction beside a church.

    The corridors of trees along the field boundaries provide a habitat for squirrels.

    Compared to red squirrels, grey squirrels are able to eat a wider diet (including acorns), are larger so can survive colder winters, and are better able to survive in the fragmented habitats created by urbanisation. They are also thought to be carriers of a squirrel pox virus which they usually recover from but has been fatal to red squirrels, although red squirrels are now also developing some immunity.

  38. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane past the church and Barn Court to a junction on the right beside Innyside House.

    Trewen church dates from Norman times but all that remains from this period is the font. The church was rebuilt in the 15th Century and the church bell dates from around 1400. The church was restored in 1863 and the piscina was found in a hedge in 1978.

  39. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane downhill to the mill and bridge, and up the other side of the valley until you reach a Public Footpath sign on the left.

    The first record of Trewen Mill is from 1880 where it appears on a tithe map. It was used to grind corn and was powered from a leat taken from the Inny some way upstream.

    Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.

  40. Cross the stile below the footpath sign and follow the left hedge to reach the remains of stile in the far hedge.

    There is a huge rabbit warren nearby and large numbers of rabbits can often be seen in this field.

    Since rabbits' unfussy diet includes pretty much anything grown by farmers, in the 1950s, the disease myxomatosis was deliberately spread in the UK to curb rabbit numbers. Over 99% were wiped-out and they almost became extinct. The few survivors that were genetically more resistant to the disease multiplied and so the survival rate has now increased to around 35%. Escaped pet rabbits inoculated with a live virus have the potential to transfer the vaccine into the wild population which may further increase resistance. Consequently the peak rabbit population gradually recovered to around half the size of the UK human population.

  41. Climb the wall then bear right slightly across the field to a gateway in the corner.
  42. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the farm gate and join a track. Follow the track past a gate on the left to a bend where it goes through a gate on the right. Continue on the grassy track leading ahead from the bend to reach a gate and stile after the woods.

    There is a good display of bluebells in the spring.

    Bluebells are extremely poisonous, containing a number of biologically-active compounds and were used (probably with varying success) in mediaeval medicine. The sap was used as a glue for book-binding as its toxicity repelled insects. It was also used to attach the fletchings onto arrows.

    The rate at which a tree grows varies through the year depending on the amount of light and moisture available. This is visible in a sawn tree trunk as a ring where the wider lighter area wood is laid down more quickly in spring-early summer and then the narrow darker area more slowly in late summer-autumn. Each ring corresponds to a year and so the age of the tree can be worked out by counting the rings.

  43. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the track ahead to complete the circular route and return to the car park.

    Across the fields to the right is the remains of an Iron Age settlement, now mainly defined by a line of trees planted along its embankment. It originally consisted of a single defensive oval rampart surrounding the settlement. It is located on the ridge overlooking the River Inny.

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