Rilla Mill and Plushabridge

A circular walk from Rilla Mill with views across Cornwall to the Cheesewring and Kit Hill, and along the River Lynher through the Colquite Woodland reserve and via medieval bridges to where the ancient mill stood until the 1960s and the leats can still be seen.

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The walk starts at Rilla Mill and follows the woods above the River Lynher to Westcott. A series of small lanes and tracks then lead to Colquite Wood where the route follows the river to Starabridge and continues downriver to Measham. From here a series of small lanes and footpaths lead to Sutton, with views to Caradon Hill and Minions. The return route is along a tributary valley to Plushabridge and along the Lynher valley to Rilla Mill.

Reviews

Best kept secret! Glad I came across this map. It takes you on a long relaxing walk with some stunning views and includes a stone bridge and a really cool rope suspension bridge! We did not meet a soul and it felt like we had the whole valley all to ourselves. A must do in Cornwall! The walk will suit most abilities, although you should be capable of climbing over stiles.
Enjoyed one of your walks today at Rilla Mill. A lovely circular walk along riverside and through very green fields. Its refreshing to find circular walks that are inland, other than our usual, but no less exhilarating, beautiful coast. I look forward to doing more.
The hedges were beautiful on your Rilla Mill to Plushabridge walk today. It was a fantastic family walk - we discovered a whole new area just a few miles from home. It was the longest walk our girls (5 and 7) had ever done but with so much to see along the way they really enjoyed it. Thank you!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 108,109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.5 miles/7.2 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Parking area in the Woodland Rise housing estate
  • Parking: Council parking area in Woodland Rise housing estate marked "no ball games" PL177NZ. From the bridge at Rilla Mill, head uphill past the pub until you reach a residential road on the left marked "Highbury leading to Woodland Rise". Follow this around a bend until you reach a tarmac parking area on the right with a Cornwall Council sign saying "No ball games".
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

Highlights

  • Pretty woodland scenery along the River Lynher
  • Views over Bodmin Moor to The Cheesewring
  • Views across southeast Cornwall to Kit Hill

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Manor House Inn

Directions

  1. Go through the gate and down the steps from the parking area. At the bottom, turn right and follow the woodland path. Keep right where the path forks and follow it to a gate across the path.

    The name Rilla Mill was first recorded in 1441 spelt "Rillamylle" and is thought to take its name from the nearby manor of Rillaton. From the Domesday Book, Rillaton was formerly known as "Resleston" which is a mashup of the Cornish words res (ford) and lys (court, or simply, place) with a Saxon ending tun for "farm". The presence of a mill was mentioned in a document from 1161 and a surviving mill building was documented in the 19th and the early 20th Century, but was demolished in the 1960s when it was regarded as a hazard to road traffic. The mill leat and race are the only remaining parts.

  2. Go through the gate and cross the stepping stones. Continue to reach a fork in the path with a pedestrian gate which you can just make out through the holly bush ahead.

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

  3. Keep right and go through the gate behind the holly bush. Follow the path until it reaches a lane.

    A huge beech tree on the corner of the lane drops large numbers of beechnuts in the autumn.

    The fruit of the beech tree is known as "mast" or, less crypically, "beechnuts". The small triangular nuts are encased in spiky husks which split and drop from the trees from late August to early October. The kernels of these are edible and are similar to hazelnuts. They were once used as a source of flour, which was ground after the tannins had been leached out by soaking them in water. If you find them too bitter, you might want to try this trick, although toasting them in a hot pan is also a good option.

  4. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to where a narrow lane departs to the left.

    Down the the valley behind you along the lane, an open-cast mine known as Westcott Mine worked for lead and copper in the 1840s. The remains resemble quarries.

  5. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until it ends in a T-junction.

    The metallic minerals associated with outcrops of granite tend to occur in bands which radiate out from the granite outcrop. A band of tin deposits usually occurs closest to the granite, then beyond this a band containing copper ore. A band of zinc and lead deposits is commonly found further away from the granite, with just iron at the furthest extreme. The reason for the banding is that the deposition of each mineral occurs within a specific temperature range. Granite starts as a molten blob of magma which cools very slowly and provides a source of heat. The temperature of water in the cracks in the neighbouring rock therefore decreases with increasing distance from the hot granite.

  6. At the junction, turn left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a public footpath sign on the left beside a track.

    The settlement of Uphill was first recorded in 1302 spelt HuppeHull. The name is from mediaeval English and simply means "place on the hill".

  7. At the footpath sign, turn left down the track and follow it to a fork. Keep right at the fork between the granite gateposts for Colquite Cottage and follow the track to a bend where a waymarked path departs ahead.

    The track has an impressive display of bluebells in spring.

    In folklore, the bluebell is a symbol of constancy, presumably based on the fact that they flower in the same place every year. It was said that anyone who wears a bluebell is compelled to tell the truth. This is probably the origin of the '…something blue…' that a bride should wear on her wedding day.

  8. Bear left to follow the path ahead and over a stile to a waymark. Turn right at the waymark and follow the steps to reach the river. Follow the path alongside the river, past a rope suspension bridge, until the path ends at a gate.

    Trees in the woodland include chestnut.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their various campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops.

  9. Go through the gate to reach a lane. Turn right and cross the bridge to reach a stile on the left. Cross the stile and follow the path along the river to reach an iron stile at the far end of the field.

    Starabridge is a 3-span clapper bridge (composed of pillars with slabs balanced between them) which is thought might originally date from the 16th Century, during the Tudor era. The east side of the bridge looks to have been damaged at some point in its history, and partially rebuilt, as part of the triangular cutwater is missing and the parapets are patched with brick.

  10. Climb the stile and follow the path along the river, crossing a stone footbridge, to reach a wooden footbridge.

    The River Lynher (pronounced "liner", as in ocean) is just over 20 miles long, rising on Bodmin Moor and joining the Tamar in its estuary near Saltash. The name dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded as "Lyner" in 1318. It is also known as the St Germans River at the point where it widens into a broad, tidal channel, close to its mouth.

    During Victorian times, the river was polluted by copper mining waste and during the late 20th century, runoff from intensive dairy farming and an increase in arable farming were found to be affecting water quality and silting the gravel beds needed by spawning salmon. In the early 21st century, a number of these issues were addressed under the Cornwall Rivers Project.

    The river is now a haven for wildlife with several stretches being designated as Sites of Special Scientific interest (SSSIs). The river's resident species include otters, brown trout and Atlantic salmon which breed in its major tributary, the Tiddy.

  11. Cross the bridge and follow the path along the iron railings. Keep right along the path to climb away from the river and reach a lane.

    A salmon hatchery is run by volunteers on the River Lynher to offset the effects of salmon being caught commercially in nets at sea on the river's population.

    Salmon spawn in winter in the tributary streams of rivers, where the gravel is suitable. The young fish (known as "parr") grow by feeding on aquatic insects for one to three years. They then undergo a physiological pre-adaptation to life in seawater known as "smolting". In spring, large numbers of "smolts" swim downriver and migrate to the rich feeding grounds of the Norwegian Sea where they feed on fish such as herring and sandeels.

    Salmon exhibit remarkable homing instinct, locating their river of origin using the earth's magnetic field and smell which includes pheromones released by other salmon in the river. Some salmon reach maturity after only one year at sea; these are known as "grise" and return in summer, weighing between 1 and 4kg. Larger fish, that take two or more years at sea to mature, usually return considerably earlier in the year.

    Salmon cease to feed on entering freshwater and having spawned, the fish (referred to as "kelts") are susceptible to disease and predators. However some do survive to repeat their epic journey again and there are records of some salmon spawning three times.

  12. Bear left onto the lane and follow it downhill to a junction.

    As you descend the hill, you pass through the hamlet of Measham which dates back to Mediaeval times. It was recorded around 1140 as "Meuuesham". The name is Anglo-Saxon, and the ham could either refer to a settlement or, equally likely in this case, the water meadow.

  13. Bear right across the road to the lane opposite with a Caradon Trail waymark post. Follow the lane past Lynher House on the left to reach a flight of steps next to a gate on the right, marked with a Public Footpath sign on the left.

    A short distance up the road to the right is where Cornish Yarg cheese used to be produced.

    Cornish Yarg is a soft cheese made from cows milk which varies in texture from creamy on the outside to crumbly towards the centre. The original version is wrapped in nettle leaves but it is now also available wrapped in wild garlic leaves. The name is the reverse of "Gray" as the cheese was originally made by a couple with this surname from Withiel, who discovered a recipe, thought to date from the 13th Century, in a dusty book in the attic. In the 1970s, the recipe was given to Lynher Dairies who now produce the cheese, still on a relatively small scale (from a single farm near Truro at the time of writing). Both versions of the cheese have won a number of British and International cheese awards. In order to comply with stringent US export standards, the US inspectors required an explanation of what stinging nettles were. We can assume that the introduction was gentler than it could have been, as the cheese is now on sale in the USA and growing in popularity.

  14. Follow the steps to the right to reach a stile. Cross the stile and follow the path up the steep bank to reach a gate at the top onto a lane.

    In spring, the white flowers of wood anemones can be seen to the right of the path.

    Wood anemones can be recognised by their white star-like flowers growing in shady locations during the spring. Hoverflies are important pollinators of the plant so you may also see these nearby. Avoid touching the plants as they are poisonous to humans and can cause severe skin irritation.

    The anemones grow from underground stems (rhizomes) and spread very slowly - to spread by six feet takes about 100 years! This makes it a good indicator of ancient woodland.

  15. Go through the gate, turn left onto the lane and pass the cottage to reach a flight of steps on the right marked with a Public Footpath sign. Climb the steps to a stile, cross this and go through the gate into a field. Head across the field towards Caradon Hill (with the transmitter on top) until a stile next to a gate in the opposite hedge comes into view - then make for this.

    To the far right is Notter Tor and to the left of this, the Cheesewring quarry at Minions. The Cheesewring itself is also just visible, perched above the quarry face.

    The Cheesewring is a tor on Stowes Hill near Minions. The tor gets is name because it is topped with a natural rock formation that looks like the press with a stack of weights that was used to make cheese (and also cider as the apple pulp was known as "cheese"). The cheesewring was a well-known landscape feature by Tudor times and it featured in large illustrations in the margins of Cornwall maps at the end of this period. The granite slabs, which appear to have been balanced, were created by erosion over many thousands of years.

    More about the Cheesewring

  16. Cross the stile and head straight across the field to a kissing gate in the hedge opposite.

    The large hill directly ahead is Caradon Hill.

    Caradon Hill has a 371 metre summit and the name is thought to originate from the Cornish word car for fort. The slopes are dotted with the remains of engine houses and the area was once famous for its copper mines, which were discovered relatively late in Cornwall's mining history. In an account documented in the early 20th Century, the area was described:

    On Saturday nights after pay-day, the populous villages of Caradon Town, Pensilva, Minions and Crows Nest were crowded with men, and resembled in character the mining camps of Colorado and the Far West.
  17. Go through the kissing gate and cross the field to an iron stile in the middle of the hedge ahead.

    Clover is a native plant and a member of the legume (pea and bean) family. It is also sown as a fodder crop and as "green manure" as it improves soil fertility. The two most common species are known simply as white clover and red clover, based on the colour of their flowers, with the latter generally being a slightly larger plant.

    The flowers and leaves of red clover can be dried to make a sweet tasting herbal tea. In order to get a good flavour, this needs to be infused for quite a long time (around half an hour) until a deep amber colour develops. Fresh clover doesn’t work so well as the drying process breaks down the cell walls of the plant.

  18. Cross the stile and cross the field to the corner diagonally opposite, approx 30m to the right of the gap in the hedge (if there's a crop in the field, you may need to follow around the right hedge). As you reach the corner, you'll see a waymarked gateway, tucked behind the hedge on the left.

    One of the nutrients that plants need are nitrates in order to make amino acids for building proteins. Plants in the pea family (also known as legumes) are able to manufacture their own nitrates from nitrogen in the atmosphere. The nitrates are later released into the soil when the leaves die and rot. The overall process of turning atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates in the soil is known as "nitrogen fixing" and this makes legumes useful in crop rotations to replenish nitrogen removed by other crops without resorting to chemical fertilisers.

  19. Join the track and follow this to a gateway into a field on the left.

    From April to June, white flowers of Greater Stitchwort can be seen along hedgerows and paths. The petals are quite distinctive as each one is split almost all the way to create pairs - most of the flowers typically have 5 pairs. The name comes from alleged powers to cure an exercise-induced stitch. Other common names include Star-of-Bethlehem (due to the shape and perhaps Easter flowering time) and Poor Man's Buttonhole for budget weddings. It is also known as Wedding Cakes but that may be more due to the colour than anticipation of what a buttonhole might lead to. The seed capsules can sometimes be heard bursting open in the late spring sunshine which gives rise to another name: Popguns.

  20. Turn right, away from the field, and follow the track until it ends on a lane.

    Great tits are most easily identified by their territorial call in spring which resembles a squeeky wheelbarrow. They have a range of other calls and one theory is that the variation is used to give the impression to rivals that their territory contains several other birds. This is supported by data showing males with the greatest range of calls have more mating success.

    Great tits mainly eat insects during warmer months but are able to eat a wide range of foods including seeds and berries and will readily eat from birdfeeders.

    They have been seen using tools such as a conifer needle to extract grubs from holes in trees and to exhibit social learning - once discovered, the behaviour of pecking through foil on milkbottle tops to reach the cream spread steadily across the country.

  21. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to a track on the left beside The Grange, marked with a public footpath sign opposite.

    The settlement of Sutton dates back to Mediaeval times and was first recorded in 1175 when it was spelt "Sutun". The name is Anglo-Saxon: tun means "farm", so this was "South Farm".

  22. Turn left down the track and keep right to follow the lower track. Follow it until you reach a stile quite hidden in the hedge on the right, roughly 5 metres before the track ends in a gate.
  23. Cross the stile and bear left across the orchard to reach another stile. Cross this and step over the ditch to reach the track. Turn right onto the track and follow it downhill to the pond.
  24. Bear left from the track and follow the path between the pond and stream to reach a stile onto a footbridge.

    The stream rises at Minions and collects water from the north side of Caradon Hill. It flows through Upton Cross to here and joins the river Lynher between Rilla Mill and Plushabridge, ultimately meeting the sea in Plymouth Sound.

    Rain falling on the far (west) side of Caradon Hill has a different destiny, forming the headwaters of the River Seaton which meets the sea near Looe Bay.

  25. Climb the stile and cross the footbridge and turn left. Follow parallel to the left hedge to reach a ladder stile, roughly 30m to the right along the hedge from the gateway.

    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.
  26. Cross the stile and bear right slightly up the bank to reach a gate in the middle of the far hedge.
  27. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the left hedge to a waymarked farm gate.

    Many of the trees forming the hedge on the left are hawthorn.

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

  28. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to a stile next to a gate.

    The large hill in the distance to the right is Kit Hill.

    Kit Hill Country Park, which includes the hill and surrounding area, was donated by the Duke of Cornwall to the Cornish people to mark the birth of Prince William in 1985. The hill was formed in the same way as Bodmin Moor by magma pushing up beneath the existing sedimentary rocks to form a body of granite and mineral veins in the cracks formed as the granite cooled. The name "kit" comes from the Old English word for a bird of prey, and the Country Park still has a population of buzzards and sparrowhawks.

  29. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the left hedge to a gate onto a lane.

    Blackbirds begin singing from around the end of January but it is normally the overkeen young males initially - the older, wiser males wait until March, pacing themselves for the singing period which continues into the early summer. Blackbirds have been shown to sing more during and after rain but exactly why is not yet known.

  30. Go through the gate and bear left to where the lane ends at a junction. Turn left and follow the lane past a junction and over the bridge. Continue up the hill on the other side to a public footpath sign on the left.

    Plusha bridge was built in the late 15th Century to give miners in Caradon more convenient access to the parish church in Linkinhorne. Some of the elegance of the original three arch design has been lost when the bridge was widened for transport.

  31. Go through the metal gate through which the footpath sign points and a wooden pedestrian gate beyond this. Follow the path between the hedge and fence to a gate and stile.
  32. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the line of trees to a stile beneath the trees to the right of the farm gate.

    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.
  33. Cross the stile and pass to the right of the tree. Head across the middle of the field keeping to the right of the trees on the left side of the field to reach a metal gate next to a ladder stile in the far 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.

  34. Go through the gate and turn left. Cross the footbridge and follow the path into a field. Follow the right hedge to the top of the field and down a grassy corridor to reach a gate at the far end.

    Arum lilies often grow along the right-hand hedge near the top of the field.

    The Wild Arum (Arum Maculatum) is known by over 90 colourful folk names including "Lords and ladies", "Priest in the pulpit", "Devils and angels", "Cows and bulls" etc. Most of these have sexual connotations as the inflorescence (known as the "spadix") is obviously phallic, and is sheathed suggestively by the encircling, leaf-like spathe. Another name "Cuckoo Pint" alludes to the time of the flower's appearance being with the first cuckoos; "pint" stays on theme, being the Old English slang for penis (a contraction of "pintle").

    In order to attract pollinating insects, the plant heats the flower spike up to 15 degrees C above that of the surroundings. The plant exudes a smell of decaying flesh which attracts flies and the flower is designed to trap these. Within the flower, the female organs mature first and insects carrying pollen from other plants (together with any unlucky enough not to be) are imprisoned behind a row a spines within the flower. Once the plant is pollenated, the male organs quickly mature and the plant's own pollen is dusted over the trapped flies. The spines then wither away enough for the flies to escape.

    Once pollinated, in late summer, the plant produces clusters of bright orange berries on stalks. Despite being very pretty, these are poisonous and cause skin irritation so children should be warned not to pick them.

  35. Go through the gate on the right and bear left onto the track. Follow this until it ends on a road.
  36. Turn left onto the road and follow it downhill to a public footpath sign opposite The Manor House (pub).
  37. Turn right onto the footpath, signposted to Westcott. Follow the path to reach the flight of steps leading back to the car park.

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

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

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

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