Circular walk from Poundstock to Penfound

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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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 3.2 miles/5.1 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots, ideally wellies (crosses through a stream)

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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


  • 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


  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 well house 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 was completed in 1896 after the church was recorded as being in a "very feeble state" during the 19th Century. During the restoration, two large early 16th Century paintings 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 been 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 on the 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.

    Where an electric fence crosses a footpath, it should either be covered by an insulating sheath (e.g. on stiles) or there should be a section that unclips with insulating plastic handles to allow access through. Ensure you re-clip this on passing through so animals cannot escape. The connecting cord/spring between the handles is often conducting so avoid touching this and be aware of any dangling rucksack straps.

  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 recognising 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.

    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. Nettles are extremely nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin A and C, large amounts of iron and even a significant amount of protein.

  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 (via a metal gate if shut) to reach a stile with a yellow spot.

    Overshot wheels can achieve higher efficiencies than undershot wheels and can operate using a smaller volume of water which explains why they were generally preferred, particularly in steep-sided Cornish valleys.

    A 2004 Civil Engineering publication concluded that high energy conversion efficiencies (of around 85-90%) were possible from overshot waterwheels and that if these can be manufactured cheaply, they could provide an environmentally sound means of small-scale electricity production.

  13. Cross the stile (or go through the gate) and follow the track to a junction where another track joins from the right.

    Primrose seeds are quite large and therefore, due to their weight, don't travel far from the plant. This causes a clump of primroses to spread out very slowly over time and means it takes a long time for primroses to colonise new areas. This makes large carpets of primroses a very good indicator of ancient woodland where they would have had many hundreds of years to spread out.

    Blackbirds are one of the most common birds in the UK with a population of somewhere between 10 and 15 million. However, blackbirds were in steady decline from the 1970s through to the mid-1990s. The population has only relatively recently recovered.

  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.

    Trees along the track include oak and ash.

    Ash trees are often easy to spot by the knobbly twigs all over the ground beneath the trees. They also have distinctive rows of quite small leaves. Ash trees can live for over 400 years and the life of the tree can be prolonged further by coppicing. Ash was traditionally coppiced to provide wood for firewood and charcoal. However, the name is nothing to do with this. It is from æsc - the old English word for spear. This comes about because ash is one of the toughest hardwoods and absorbs shocks without splintering. It is still used for making tool handles and sports equipment, including hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars.

    Ash trees in Britain are now under threat from a highly destructive fungal pandemic similar to Dutch Elm Disease, known as chalara or "ash dieback". Rather than being spread by beetles, this one is simply carried by the wind. Work is underway to try to find genetic factors which allow some trees to resist infection in order to breed a new generation of disease-tolerant trees.

    The Living Ash project started with over 150,000 seedlings gathered from a wide range of areas, planted during 2013 in locations with the most ash dieback. In 2018, grafts were taken from the 575 trees which appear to have resisted infection and planted alongside 420 grafts from trees in woodlands and hedgerows which also seem to have survived infection. The idea is that these can all cross-pollinate to maximise genetic diversity and it is hoped this will eventually become a source of seeds of disease-resistant trees.

    Similarly to Dutch Elm Disease, the chalara fungal disease that causes ash dieback is originally from Asia and the ash species there have co-evolved to be tolerant. In case attempts to breed disease resistant native ash trees are unsuccessful, work is underway to create hybrid species that closely resemble the Common Ash but with the disease resistance from an Asian parent plant.

  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.

    Another name for celandine is pilewort as the tubers of the plant are said to resemble piles. Based on the "doctrine of signatures" (i.e. a plant that looks a bit like something must be a cure for it), the resemblance suggested to mediaeval herbalists that celandines could be used to cure haemorrhoids. This was done by applying an ointment containing crushed celandine leaves to the relevant area. Since celandine contains a poisonous compound, some attempts to ingest celandine in an effort to cure piles have not gone too well.

    As well as attracting insects, the brightly coloured foxglove flowers serve as a warning for animals that the plants contain toxins. All parts of the plant can cause a range of ill-effects in humans from nausea to heart and kidney problems which can be fatal.

    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 but can be out as early as May. 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 common but poisonous "yellow stainer" looks very similar to a field mushroom, but if the flesh is cut or bruised, a yellow liquid starts to seep out. This normally takes a few minutes to be apparent so it might not be until you get them home that you notice yellow patches where the caps have rubbed against something. A small minority of people have been reported as suffering no obvious ill effects from (presumably accidentally) eating yellow stainers but for the vast majority of people they cause stomach upsets which can be severe including cramps, voting and diarrhoea.

    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. Although grass is their principal natural food, rabbits are able to survive on virtually any vegetable matter and with relatively few predators, those that escaped multiplied into a sizeable wild population.

  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.

    If you encounter a gate doubly-secured with twine that can be untied or a chain that can be unfastened, it's normally there because naughty animals have managed to undo the gate themselves at some point (e.g. by rubbing against the bolt), so retie/fasten it afterwards.

  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 and 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 Caribbean 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. Due 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 were 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.

    Plant nutrients like phosphates and nitrates are used to improve the fertility of soils to make crops grow well. These chemicals dissolve easily in water and can wash into rivers where they stimulate the growth of algae. This uses up the oxygen in the water, suffocating the other aquatic life.

    Phosphates are also used in many laundry and dishwashing powders. These cannot be fully removed by the sewage treatment process and the remainder is discharged into rivers, causing serious damage. You can help to reduce this by switching to low or phosphate-free dishwashing and laundry detergents (Ecover brand is particularly good and their dishwasher tablets seem to work amazingly well). Other things to be on the lookout for around the home are waste pipes that go into drains instead of sewers (these don't get any sewage treatment so any phosphates go straight into rivers). It's worth ensuring cesspits/septic tanks are emptied regularly otherwise all kinds of nasty things including phosphates will seep from these through groundwater into rivers.

  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.

    The high levels of tannins in oak make large amounts of oak leaves or acorns poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep, and even goats, but not to pigs as they were domesticated from wild boar which were adapted to foraging in the oak forests, like deer. Acorns were also eaten by people in times of famine. The acorns were soaked in water first to leech out the bitter tannins and could then be made into flour.

  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.

    More about Penfound Manor.

  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.

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