St Breward to Lank circular walk near St Breward

St Breward to Lank

A short circular walk from St Breward through ancient bluebell woods along the valley of the River Camel to the holy well, ending at the mediaeval church and inn.

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The walk starts from St Breward Church and descends through bluebell woods to Tuckingmill. The route then follows tree tunnels through Lamphills Woods to Chapel Farm, where there is a short diversion to reach the Holy Well. The route continues along the Camel Valley to Coombe Mill and then crosses the River Camel to reach the hamlet of Higher Lank. The walk then follows the lane back into St Breward, following a footpath along the cascading stream beside Tor Down Granite Quarry, before returning to Churchtown via the Old Inn.

Considerations

  • The path alongside the stream near Tor Down Quarry is strewn with granite boulders.
  • One stile consists of stone footholds over a 3ft high wall.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 3.1 miles/5.0 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 109 OS Explorer 109 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Panoramic views across surrounding countryside from Churchtown
  • St Breward Church - the highest church in Cornwall
  • Ancient woodland and rare butterflies in Lamphill Woods
  • Local food and drink at the historic Old Inn in St Breward
  • Pretty woods and riverside scenery along the Camel valley

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Old Inn

Directions

  1. Starting from the lane near the church, follow the lane uphill away from the pub, past some buildings on the left until you reach a path on the left with a public footpath sign, just past the national speed limit sign and before the memorial.

    St Breward church claims to be the highest in the county. The tall tower can be seen easily, for many miles around. The church dates from the Middle Ages (1278).

  2. Turn left down the path and follow the main path, ignoring the first couple of paths to the right until you reach a path leading to a wooden gate on the right.
  3. Turn right and follow the path through a sequence of 2 gates into a small stone-walled field. Cross the field to a stone stile in the opposite hedge.

    Stonecrop grows on the walls of the enclosure.

    English Stonecrop grows as a mat in rocky places and is recognisable by star-shaped white or pale pink flowers. This is now being actively encouraged to grow on roofs in eco-housing projects to provide insulation.

    The leaves turn pink in dry conditions when moisture to move nutrients around the plant is limited. This causes sugars created by photosynthesis to build up in the leaves. At high concentrations, these react with proteins in the sap to produce red anthrocyanin compounds. This is the same process that causes autumn leaves to turn red when the plant cuts off supplies to the leaf.

    There are over 30,000 miles (more than the distance around the earth) of hedges in Cornwall, many of which are based on distinctive local styles of stone walling. Consequently, often what a Cornish person calls a "hedge", most people from outside the county do not recognise as a hedge, resulting in some foreign translation needed for walk directions.

    Around 50% of the hedgerows in the UK have been lost since the Second World War. Although intentional removal has dramatically reduced, lack of maintenance and damage from mechanical cutting techniques such flailing are still causing deterioration of the remaining hedgerows.

    Some Cornish hedges are thought to be more than 4,000 years old, making them some of the oldest human-built structures in the world that have been in continuous use for their original purpose. They act as vital miniature nature reserves and wildlife corridors that link together other green spaces. This supports hundreds of species of plants and tens of thousands of insect species, many of which are vital pollinators for arable crops.

  4. Cross the stile and follow the path downhill to a crossing of paths. Continue ahead on the downhill path until passes beneath some overhead cables and reaches a junction, then bear right a couple more paces to reach a waymark post.

    Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant with a spike of pink flowers in late summer which can often be seen beside paths and tracks. Their long leaves have a distinctive thin, white vein along the centre.

    Rosebay willowherb is known as fireweed in USA as it's found on burnt sites after forest fires. For similar reasons it was known as London's Ruin after the Great Fire. In the Second World War it was also known as bombweed due to its rapid colonisation of bomb craters.

    Bracken releases toxins into the soil which inhibit the growth of other plants, and the shade created by its large leaves and its thick leaf litter also makes it hard for other plants to compete. This and avoidance by grazing animals makes it quite difficult to control, particularly in steep areas where mechanised cutting or ploughing is difficult. Treading by livestock can reduce bracken's competitive advantage, particularly during winter when frost can attack the roots.

  5. Turn left at the waymark post and take the path leading downhill. Follow this alongside a hedge on the right to a wooden gate. Continue downhill and around a bend to the left until it ends on a track at a waymark.

    There are a good number of bluebells along the wooded paths in the spring.

    When photographing bluebells, the flowers that look blue to your eye can end up looking purple in photos.

    The first thing to check is that your camera isn't on auto white balance as the large amount of blue will cause the camera to shift the white balance towards reds to try to compensate.

    Another thing to watch out for is that the camera's light metering will often over-expose the blue slightly to get a reasonable amount of red and green light and the "lost blue" can change the balance of the colours. You can get around this by deliberately under-exposing the photo (and checking there is no clipping if your camera has a histogram display) and then brightening it afterwards with editing software.

    There is no biological distinction between "pigeon" and "dove" although "dove" seems to now be used for the more elegant species and "pigeon" for the more unexciting ones. Due to the Norman ruling classes, it's relatively unusual in the English language for the French/Latin word to be the vulgar form and the Norse/Germanic word to be the "posh" form. It's is likely that the reverse was true in mediaeval times: pigeon meat was considered super-posh and the French word was used for the young, tender birds of the species that were eaten.

  6. Turn left and follow a grassy track along the contour of the hill until it reaches a gate in a wall.

    The hamlet at the bottom of the valley on the right is called Tuckingmill.

    The are several hamlets and villages throughout Cornwall named "Tuckingmill". Tucking was the Cornish term for fulling - the process of cleansing woollen cloth to eliminate oils and dirt, and matting the fibres to make it thicker. In these mills, the process was automated with wooden hammers driven by a waterwheel. The technology originated in the Islamic world, came to Europe via the Moors in Spain and was introduced to Britain by the Normans. After fulling, the cloth would be dyed using natural colourants and then stretched out to dry on tenterhooks.

  7. Go through the gate and keep right along the lower path through the woods until it turns a sharp left corner, widening into a track with a gate across it.

    The path now enters the Lamphill Woods.

    Lamphill Woods are an area of ancient woodland along the River Camel. The woods cover the valley floor from the hamlet of Lamphill (to the north) to Chapel Farm (to the south), where the area becomes known as Hengar Wood. Lamphill Woods are home to numerous species of butterfly, including the rare Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

  8. Go through the gate and follow the track until it emerges between two wooden gate posts to join another track.

    Mosses don't have roots but instead have little rootlets known as rhizoids. Since there is no need to root into soil, mosses can grow on stones, tree trunks, buildings etc. This together with their wind-carried spores makes them excellent colonisers of barren land. The buildup of organic material from dead moss then provides an environment that other small plants can start to colonise.

  9. Bear right onto the track and keep left as it becomes a paved road to follow it ahead to reach a track on the right, marked with a public footpath sign.
  10. The walk continues along the track to the right but first you can make an optional diversion to visit St Breward's Holy Well (see the Point of Interest below for directions). To resume the walk, follow the track past a barn on the right, where it becomes a path. Continue to follow the path across a field until you reach a gateway into the woods.

    To reach the Holy Well, instead of turning right onto the track, continue to follow the lane uphill for about 100 metres to a footpath sign on the left. Go through the gate on the left and follow the rocky path uphill for about 50 metres to find the Holy Well on the right side of the path. Return downhill to the track to continue the walk.

    The Holy Well of St James near St Breward is found down a steep, rocky footpath and almost overgrown with vegetation. First mentioned in 1422, the architecture of the Holy Well is typical of the late mediaeval period. It is also known as "Chapel well" due to its proximity to where an ancient chapel dedicated to St James once stood. It was said that St Breward's well held mystical healing powers and was able to cure "all aylements of the eyees and aforde respite from temporary blindeness".

  11. Follow the path through the woods until you reach a stone stile with a gate ahead of this.

    "Holy wells" were created because the Christian church was unhappy with the people continuing their old Pagan ways and worshipping sacred springs. In the 10th Century, the church issued a cannon (law) to outlaw such practices. This didn't work, so they issued another one in the 11th Century, and again in the 12th Century. Even despite the church going to the lengths of building a chapel over the top of some springs to obliterate them, the people still hung onto their sacred springs. The church finally settled on a compromise and rebranded the springs as (Christian) Holy Wells, so the old practices could continue behind a Christian façade.

  12. Cross the stile and go through a large wooden gate to enter a field. Head straight across the field to a gate on the protruding corner of the fence.

    The field is part of Coombe Mill Farm and contains deer. Keep a lookout for a variety of animals as you follow the footpath for the next couple of directions.

    Coombe Mill is family-friendly holiday farm located near St Breward. Walkers following the public footpath through the grounds may encounter ponies, fallow deer, alpacas, miniature donkeys, pigs, sheep, pygmy goats, peacocks, chickens, guinea fowl, ducks, rabbits, and even an alligator!!

  13. Go through the gate and cross a grassy area to reach a metal gate in the bottom-right corner leading onto a track.
  14. Go through the gate and turn left onto the track. Follow the track until you reach a waymarked stone stile, just after a large barn on the left.

    Just before you reach the large barn, there is a small shed on the left with a shady concrete roof which provides idea conditions for navelwort to grow. When this flowers, the shed has a green, spiky hair-do.

    Navelwort produces flower spikes with small green bells from June to September. When the flower spike is first forming it is a rather beautiful structure and is a perfect subject for macro photography.

  15. Cross the stile and then a footbridge to reach the track again. Bear left slightly across the track to the footpath sign and cross the stone stile beside this onto a lane. Turn right and follow the lane to a bridge.
  16. Cross the bridge and follow the lane past some buildings on the right and past tracks meeting the lane from either side. Continue uphill to reach a gate on the left near the top of the hill, marked with a public footpath sign on the right side of the lane.

    From the bridge you're likely to see trout and possibly also eels between the rocks on the riverbed.

    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. 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.

  17. Go through the gate and walk down the centre of the field to a line of trees in the middle of the far side of the field.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 (a lot of moo is needed for the cheese and clotted cream produced in Cornwall) so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    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.

    Do

    • 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).

    Don't

    • 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.
  18. Follow the line of trees, keeping it on your left, to reach a stone stile next to the river.

    Dragonflies are named after the way they hunt, as both the larvae and adults are carnivorous predators. Mosquitoes form a large part of their diet both for adults and particularly for the larvae (nymphs). One dragonfly can eat tens of mosquitoes in a day and an average of over 100 per day has been recorded for the nymphs of some species. It is thought that this is an important factor in keeping the mosquito population under control.

    Trees need a lot of water. A large oak tree can absorb around 450 litres of water per day, most of which is released into the atmosphere as water vapour through transpiration. Trees therefore help to reduce flooding from heavy rain in low-lying river floodplains and also reduce erosion from runoff.

  19. Cross the stiles and bridges, then bear left and follow the path uphill until it emerges into a field.

    The stone bridge crosses the River Camel.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay, making it the longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar.

    The River Camel has been fished for salmon and sea trout for centuries and the first royal charter was granted in 1199. In 1750, there are records of rights available on payment of a fee to the Duke of Cornwall to take salmon by use of barbed spears. Needless to say, these rights have now been revoked although even as recently as the 1980s, there are stories of salmon poachers with barbed garden forks beneath bridges along the Camel.

    Salmon fishing is still popular and there is a salmon hatchery, where locally-caught salmon are bred. The resulting eggs are hatched and grown for a year in a protected environment before being released to boost the wild salmon population in the River Camel and Fowey.

  20. Follow the right hedge of the field to pass a metal gate and reach a stone stile in the corner of the field.

    The otter's semi-aquatic nature has been well known since ancient times, in fact the words "otter" and "water" both derive from the same original word. It has been reported that Bodmin Moor acts as an interchange for commuting otters as the rivers Camel, Delank, Fowey and Inny all have sources or tributaries in a quite a small area.

    During the 1960s, the otter population crashed in the UK due to the widespread use of pesticides such as DDT which leached into the waterways and poisoned the otters. However, due to predominance of dairy farming in Cornwall during this period rather than the more pesticide-reliant arable, the county remained an otter stronghold. The Tamar Otter Sanctuary near the Devon border was a key part of the otter conservation movement which has been a remarkable success. It is thought that otters have now re-colonised all the areas in the UK that they were wiped out from during the 20th Century.

  21. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach another stone stile beside a gate in the far right corner.

    Traditional Cornish hedging is done using a row of living bushes. Wooden stakes are first put in at 18 inch intervals along the line of the hedge. The stems (known as pleachers) of the hedging bushes are then cut at an angle at the base of the trunk until the remaining part of the stem is flexible enough to bend. The pleachers are then woven between the stakes. The branches of the bushes (known as brush) are generally placed facing towards any livestock to protect the pleachers from nibbling. On some hedges this is just on one side and, particularly on those that border two fields, sometimes on both. After the hedge has been laid, thin pieces of hazel known as binders or hethers are woven along the top of the stakes to keep the hedgerow solid and to prevent wind damage. Often the hedges were laid on top of earth banks reinforced with stone walling to give the overall structure increased height.

  22. Cross the stile onto a lane. Turn left and follow the lane until you reach a junction on the left signposted as "Coombe Road".

    The settlement of Higher Lank was first recorded in 1591 but existed long before this as Lower Lank was recorded in 1278 as Ville Minoris Lanke (implying there was also a Ville Majoris Lanke). The name is from the Cornish word lonk meaning "gorge".

  23. Turn left down Coombe Road and follow it until you reach a bend with a sign for Penrose Burden and Coombe.

    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)
  24. Bear right off the lane at the bend, onto the track marked with a "dead end" sign. As soon as you cross the bridge over a small stream, turn right onto the public footpath along the wooden fence. Follow the waymarked path uphill to reach a waymark beside a footbridge.

    This area is Tor Down Quarry.

    Tordown Quarry was opened in 1840 to supply granite to rebuild Bodmin's notorious Jail. Granite quarrying in St Breward was the main industry for centuries and the granite produced was used far and wide: the Naval College at Dartmouth, London's County Hall, Transport House, Shipping Office, Tower Bridge, Putney Bridge, The Thames Embankment, and Blackfriars bridge are all built from granite quarried in St Breward. Landmarks such as Eddystone Lighthouse, Winston Churchill's statue and the London Cenotaph are hewn from granite mined in St Breward.

  25. Keep left at the fork and follow the path uphill, passing an old stone stile, until the path ends at a stone stile beside a wooden gate.

    Himalayan Balsam is a tall plant with very pretty pink flowers that can often be seen lining footpaths in the summer and early autumn. It was introduced as an ornamental species in 1839 and unfortunately the plant is now a major ecological problem. It can grow from a seed to 9ft high in a few months, forming dense thickets and wiping out other plant species. It is also extremely invasive as the seed pods open explosively, launching around 800 seeds per plant up to 7 metres and the seeds are also adapted to travel by water. It is a nuisance on riverbanks as its roots are shallow and allow the sediment to become easily eroded into the river. It can be identified its bright pink flowers and it has a characteristic sweet smell.

    The stream is the one that you crossed over at Coombe Mill near its confluence with the River Camel. Its source is the marshes of Lady Down. A corn mill was situated on the opposite side of the stream during the 19th Century.

  26. Cross the stile or go through the gate and bear right to reach a lane. Bear left onto the lane and follow it to the second of two "School" signs on the left.

    St Breward is on the northwest side of Bodmin moor and the parish covers both Roughtor and Brown Willy. The name of the village is said by some to come from the 6th century Cornish Saint Branwalader. Others say it is from a 13th century bishop of Exeter. Previously the village was called Simonward which, according to legend, was the name of the brewer to King Arthur's household although that might have been concocted in the Old Inn after a few ales.

  27. At the sign, take the left (tarmacked) track and follow this past St Breward Primary School to reach a wooden pedestrian gate. Go through this and continue along the path until it ends in some wooden gates into a farmyard.

    Scarecrow festivals were traditional in Derbyshire but were first imported into southern England in 1990 in the Wiltshire village of Urchfont. Since then many villages have started annual festivals, often with impressively elaborate and amusing scarecrows.

  28. Go through the gate and continue straight ahead along a track to reach a lane, with the Old Inn on the opposite side.
  29. Turn left and follow the lane past the Old Inn and the church to complete the circular route.

    The Old Inn in St Breward dates back to the 11th Century when it provided shelter for the monks who built the neighbouring church, and claims to be Cornwall's highest Inn. There is an open fire in winter in the 11th Century granite fireplace. The pub was used as the setting for the TV comedy drama, Doc Martin, when the baby was born to the main characters.

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