Poundstock to Penfound

A circular walk along country lanes, tracks and through fields to Penfound Manor - thought to be the oldest continually-inhabited ancestral home in England - from Poundstock church and gildhouse - the only surviving mediaeval church house of its kind in Cornwall.

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The walk starts next to the church in Poundstock and passes the Gildhouse where there is an array of mediaeval outfits that can be tried on when it's open to the public. The route follows lanes through the small hamlet of Treskinnick Cross and drops into the valley at Newmill where it follows the stream to Penfound Manor. The return route to Poundstock is via country lanes.

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Brilliant Walking App. Really enjoyed this walk and information that was given along the way. Was very impressed with the accuracy of the descriptions and notifications of the next point. I would recommend IWalk North Cornwall to anyone, great value per walk.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 3.2 miles/5.1 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Poundstock church
  • Parking: Poundstock church car park EX230AU. From the A39, turn down Vicarage Lane and the car park is on your left after the houses.
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots, ideally wellies (crosses through a stream)

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Wooded track from Newmill to Penfound
  • Historic Penfound Manor - the oldest inhabited house in England
  • Panoramic views of countryside and coast to the north between Penfound and Bangors
  • Poundstock Church and Gildhouse - a Mediaeval Church Alehouse

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. From the car park, turn left on the lane and follow it past the (new) cemetery until you reach a metal kissing gate on the left into the (old) churchyard.

    Poundstock is a small village just off the A39, near the rocky cove of Millook Haven. Poundstock is a Saxon name meaning "cattle enclosure". Poundstock was a centre for smuggling and piracy from 1300 until the Black Death wiped the village out in 1348. However, smuggling and wrecking continued after the village was refounded.

    The holy well at Poundstock includes an elaborate stone wellhouse and enclosure built in 1914. Since this was at the time when the church had been mistakenly re-dedicated to St Neot, the holy well is recorded as being associated with St Neot. Now that the church dedication has moved back to St Winwalloe then the well is sometimes associated with that saint instead. There are questions as to whether the well counts as a "true" holy well at all due to a lack of records of use before the 20th Century. What motivated the building of a well house in the woods remains a mystery.

  2. Go through the kissing gate on the left and follow the path to the church.

    Parts of the building are thought to date from the 13th and 14th Centuries with the majority including the tower dating from the 15th Century. A five year restoration project completed in 1896 after the church was recorded as being recorded as being in a "very feeble state" during the 19th Century. During the restoration, two large early 16th Century painting were discovered beneath the limewash.

    The church was thought to be dedicated to St Neot until some 14th Century records were found showing it had originally dedicated to St Winwalloe. The dedication was changed back to St Winwalloe in the 1970s.

  3. Turn left at the church and follow the path downhill past the gildhouse to exit onto a lane.

    Poundstock Gildhouse, located next to the church, is a well-preserved late mediaeval church house, the only surviving one of its kind in Cornwall. It has been used continuously since it was built, and is a Grade I listed building. Church houses were built with the aim of using them as extensions of the church, and the one in Poundstock is contemporary with the later phases of the mediaeval church building.

    The unique structure was built between the 15th and 16th centuries by skilled craftsmen using traditional techniques and materials such as cob, local stone and slate. In the beginning, the ground floor probably comprised a kitchen, bakehouse and brewhouse, a meeting place and a store room. The first floor was an open feasting hall where the Church Ales would have been held.

    Church Ales were celebrations held within the church calendar, particularly at Whitsuntide and May Day, when ales were brewed and sold in order to raise funds for the Church or for good causes in the parish. With the growth of Puritanism in the late 17th century, drinking was seen as sinful. Church Ales were considered to be nothing but drunken disorders and were suppressed. Church houses were gradually abandoned, demolished or put to other uses.

  4. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to a crossroads with the A39.

    The well opposite the churchyard date is recorded on 19th Century maps and the well house is thought to date from this period. The granite arch around the door is thought to have been re-used from a previous structure. Given the proximity to the church, it's possible that water from this well could have been for "holy" purposes as the recognised holy well is more inconveniently located a half-mile round-trip away in a wooded valley.

  5. Carefully cross the A39 and follow the lane a short distance to a junction left with a signpost indicating a cinema.
  6. Turn left at the junction just after the bus stop and follow the lane past the cinema to a dead end with a wooden stile on the right signposted as a public footpath.

    The Rebel Cinema at Treskinnick Cross was designed and built by a film producer and opened in 1988. It closed in 2007 but was reopened in 2011 and its one screen has 2 showings on weekday evenings and three at weekends. If it seems in the middle of nowhere, bear in mind the alternative for the residents of Bude is a 30 mile drive to Wadebridge!

  7. Turn right over the stile and follow the path along the right-hand hedge to an opening into the next field.

    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!

  8. Go through the opening and follow the track between the fence and hedge to a pair of gates at the far end.

    The trees on the left provide perches for crows to survey the landscape.

    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.

  9. Go through the right of the two gates and follow the left-hand hedge to a stile.

    Nettles are extremely nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin A and C, large amounts of iron and even a significant amount of protein. The idea of eating something that can sting you seems wrong until you realise that nettles lose their sting as soon as you cook them, and they taste like spinach. 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).

  10. Cross the stile and head to a gap between the trees roughly 10 metres from the bottom-left corner of the field.

    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.

  11. Go through the gap and turn left to follow the path through a gate. Continue on the track between the hedge and fence to a gate in front of a building.

    The settlement of New Mill was first recorded in 1713. Based on the map evidence, the grade-II-listed millhouse beside the farmhouse, although fairly old, is thought not to be in the location of the original mill building.

  12. Bear left (ignore the footpath to the right) to pass between the barn and the outbuilding and reach a metal gate. Go through this to reach a stile with a yellow spot.

    The simplest design for a waterwheel is known as an undershot wheel where the paddles are simply dipped into flowing water. This works well in large rivers where there is a strong current.

    However, in hilly areas with smaller streams (such as Cornwall), the overshot design is more common where the water is delivered via a man-made channel (leat) to the top of the wheel where it flows into buckets on the wheel, turning the wheel through the weight of the water. An overshot design also allowed the mill to be located slightly further away from the main river which had obvious advantages during floods.

  13. Cross the stile and follow the track to a junction where another track joins from the right.

    Bluebells make a pretty display along the track in early spring.

    During periods of cold weather, spring flowers, such as bluebells, have already started the process of growth by preparing leaves and flowers in underground bulbs during summer and autumn. They are then able to grow in the cold of winter, or early spring, by using these resources stored in their bulb. Once they have flowered, the leaves die off and the cycle begins again.

    Other species (such as cow parsley or dandelions) require warm weather before they are able to germinate and grow. With the warmer springs induced by climate change, bluebells lose their 'early start' advantage, and can be out-competed.

  14. At the junction, keep left and follow the track, through Tuckingmill wood and alongside a meadow, until it bends uphill and ends in a gate.

    Wild garlic grows in the shady areas alongside the track.

    If cows eat wild garlic, this flavours their milk. Whilst this is definitely not what's wanted for tea or cornflakes, the butter made from it is more useful. This means of producing garlic butter became popular in Switzerland in the 19th Century.

  15. Cross the stile next to the gate and climb the field to the waymark. Bear right to follow along the top hedge and continue to reach a gate.

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

    Field mushrooms are very closely related to the familiar supermarket button mushrooms and are the most commonly-eaten wild mushroom in Britain. They usually appear in grazed fields between July and November. As there are a few species of white mushroom that all look quite similar, care needs to be taken to avoid eating poisonous species. In particular, the poisonous "yellow stainer" looks very similar to a field mushroom, but smells of chemicals rather than of mushrooms and if the flesh is cut, a yellow liquid seeps out.

    Rabbits were originally from the Iberian peninsula and were brought to Britain by the Normans and kept in captivity as a source of meat and fur. Rabbits are able to survive on virtually any vegetable matter and with relatively few predators, those that escaped multiplied into a sizeable wild population. Rabbits provide food for foxes, stoats and birds of prey.

  16. Go through the gate and continue following along the left hedge to reach a stile.

    Although it's obvious that you should ensure any gates that you open, you also close, what about gates you find that are already open?

    If the gate is fully open then leave it alone as it may well be providing livestock access to a water supply, and by closing it you could end up killing them.

    If the gate is ajar or swinging loose and not wedged or tied open then it's likely that the gate was left open by accident (possibly by another group of walkers). Properly closing the offending gate behind you will not only bring joy to the landowner but you can feel good about saving lives in a car swerving to avoid a cow in the road.

  17. Cross the stile and follow the path through the bushes until the path enters the stream.

    The stream is one of the tributaries of the River Neet. Some of the other tributaries stretch out to Week St Mary adn Jacobstow. The main river joins the River Strat at Helebridge and then flows down to Bude. The river system provides an important habitat for trout, lampreys and eels.

    The flooded quarry pits, farm ponds and pools in small streams in Cornwall provide ideal habitats for Freshwater Eels. Freshwater Eels have such an eccentric life cycle that it was a mystery for many years. The adult eels migrate from the lakes in which they grew up, across land, down rivers and 4,000 miles across the ocean to the Carribean where they spawn and die. The larvae then drift for 300 days in the ocean currents from the Sargasso Sea to Europe. The tiny "glass eels" then migrate up rivers and across fields to find suitable homes.

    Eels have been a popular food for centuries as their rich, oily flesh is very tasty. Do to overfishing, pollution and also changes in ocean currents, the Freshwater Eel is now a critically endangered species. Since the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe is thought to have declined by around 90% (possibly even as much as 98%). A research project has been started to breed eels in captivity. This is not straightforward as the eel is generally only able to reproduce after having swum 4,000 miles. The researchers have therefore developed an Eel Gym to help the eels find their mojo.

  18. Turn right and head a few steps downstream until you can see a path departing to the left. Follow the path along the line of the fence to a stile.

    This is another good spot for bluebells in the spring.

    In Old Cornish, both bluebells and marigolds where known as lesengoc which translates to "flower of the cuckoo". In Modern Cornish, the marigold has remained more-or-less the same but the bluebell has been changed to bleujenn an gog ("plant of the cuckoo"). The association between bluebells and cuckoos exists in Welsh ("bells of the cuckoo") and Gaelic ("cuckoo's shoe"), and in some English folk names such as Cuckoo's Boots and Cuckoo Stockings. It is thought that the association is due to the time that bluebells flower coinciding with the time that the call of the cuckoo is first heard.

  19. Cross the stile onto a track, and turn left. Follow the track to a gate.

    The older an oak tree becomes, the more acorns it produces. A 70-80 year old tree can produce thousands. Acorns are high in carbohydrates and as well as being a staple food for squirrels, they are also a really important food for deer and make up a quarter of their diet in the autumn.

  20. Go through the gate and continue uphill towards the stone walls. Join the track and follow it past Penfound Manor and Penfound Farm until you reach a lane.

    Penfound Manor near Poundstock is thought to be the oldest continually-inhabited ancestral home in England, dating to the Saxon period. It is also thought to be the first house in Britain with a purpose-built bedroom. The current house dates from late mediaeval times, based around a mediaeval hall which was then added to in Tudor times. William Penfound was murdered in the church at Poundstock and is said to now haunt his old house.

  21. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to Bangors, where it ends at a crossroads with the A39.

    The first record of the settlement of Bangors is from 1748 when it was named "Bangors Whissle".

  22. Carefully cross the A39 onto Vicarage Lane, on the other side, and follow this into Poundstock.

    The Saxons had a stronghold in northeastern Cornwall, which is reflected in many of the place names (-stow, -bury, -ton, -worthy, -cott, -ham, -ford etc). As you move further west, the Celtic place names (Tre-, Pen-, Lan-) become more common.

Help us with this walk

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

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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