St Clement and Malpas

St Clement and Malpas

A circular walk at the confluence of the Truro and Tresillian rivers, once defended by Moresk castle and later where timber for the mines was unloaded and floated as rafts into Truro

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The route begins from Boscawen Park and crosses the hill to the ancient churchyard of St Clement where a 5-7th Century stone is inscribed in the Celtic Ogham alphabet. The route then passes the Holy Well and follows the edge of the Tresillian River to the confluence at Malpas. The walk descends from the road to the quays and returns along the Truro river past the flood gates now protecting the city.


  • Some sections of the riverside path from St Clement to Malpas are crossed by tree routes and it passes close to the creek edge in a couple of places. The path departing from the lane to Sunny Corner also has sections like this but is narrower - the lane could be used as an alternative to bypass the Sunny Corner path, if desired.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots in drier months; wellies needed in winter due to mud

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version)

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


  • Views across the creeks including over Truro
  • Wading birds including Curlews
  • Mediaeval church with a Celtic stone incribed in Ogham and nearby holy well

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Heron Inn


  1. Make your way out of the car park towards the road. Just before the road, turn right onto the path leading past the tennis courts. Follow this signposted to the Toilets to reach a path leading to the road opposite Trennick Mill.

    A Norman castle was built near the confluence of the Rivers Allen and Kenwyn and the small town of Truro grew beside this. By the beginning of the 14th Century, Truro was an important river port until trade collapsed due to a recession brought about by the Black Death and this resulted in the town being largely abandoned. During the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, trade returned and the town grew. During the mining boom of the 18th and 19th centuries the town prospered and was known as the "London of Cornwall" in Victorian times. Following the building of the cathedral, it was granted city status in 1877 by Queen Victoria and is the only city in Cornwall.

  2. Cross the road and turn right on the other side. Walk past the park on the left to reach a Public Footpath sign beside a driveway.

    During the Second World War, a camp was set up at Boscawen by the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment to manufacture hundreds of barges containing high explosives. These were made from perhaps not the first material that springs to mind for boat-building - concrete! However, it could be cast into shape very quickly and with high enough sides, the overall density of the concrete the plus the big area of air that it contained was less than that of water and so they floated. They were camouflaged and hidden along the banks of both the Fal and Truro rivers. Their cargo included "bangalore torpedoes" - long metal tubes filled with explosives that were used for clearing razor wire, mines etc.

  3. Turn left and follow the drive uphill to where a waymarked unsurfaced track continues up the hill.

    Spanish bluebells have been planted in gardens and these have hybridised with native bluebells producing fertile seeds. This has produced hybrid swarms around sites of introductions and, since the hybrids are able to thrive in a wider range of environmental conditions, the hybrids are frequently out-competing the native English bluebells. Sir Francis Drake would not be impressed! The Spanish form can be fairly easily recognised by the flowers on either side of the stem. In the English form, they are all on one side. In general, the English bluebells also have longer, less-flared flowers and are often a deeper colour. However, the easiest way to tell the difference between native and non-native bluebells is to look at the colour of the pollen: if it is creamy-white then the bluebell is native; if it is any other colour such as pale green or blue then it's not native.

    Cow parsnip (also known as "hogweed" - not to be confused with "giant hogweed") is a member of the carrot family. It has more solid leaves than cow parsley or alexanders which it often grows alongside. It also flowers later. The leaves are noticeable from around mid-April. Flowering starts roughly at the start of June and continues through the summer.

    Giant hogweed is regarded by some as the most dangerous plant in the UK (although hemlock is also a good contender). If you encounter giant hogweed, avoid touching it and children and dogs should be kept away from it as the sap contains a chemical which is extremely phototoxic. When activated by sunlight, this binds to the DNA in skin cells and kills them. Skin reaction starts as an itchy rash and can develop into third degree burns and scarring. It also makes the affected areas susceptible to severe sunburn for several years.

    The plant gets its name as it can grow more than 10 feet tall, topped with white umbrella-shaped flowers. Due to the similar style of flowers, is also known as giant cow parsley although the giant hogweed leaves are much more solid with a toothed edge, more similar to cow parsnip (normal hogweed). It is typically found near water or on waste ground.

    The plant was introduced to Britain by Victorian botanists in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and has escaped from gardens into the wild. It has been spreading across the UK (as one plant produces 50,000 seeds) but is still very rare in Cornwall. A project to eradicate it along the Tamar River system is helping to stop further spread into Cornwall.

    If you find giant hogweed in Cornwall (and are sure it's not normal hogweed), take a photo and report it to

    The noisy birds nesting in the trees above are rooks.

    Experiments have shown that rooks are able to use tools to solve problems, choosing tools with optimal sizes and shapes to solve a problem. They are also able to adapt tools e.g. bending a wire to make a hook to retrieve food.

  4. Join the unsurfaced track and follow it uphill to a gate. Go through this and continue uphill to reach a gate with a Public Footpath sign.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells with a fine up to £5,000 per bulb!

    The woods on the edge of the city can get both urban and rural bird life.

    The two most common pigeon species are the wood pigeon and feral pigeon (domesticated rock dove). Wood pigeons are larger than rock doves. Rock doves have an iridescent green/purple patch on their necks whereas adult wood pigeons have a white patch on their neck (although this is not present in young birds).

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path to emerge into the field. Follow along the left edge of the field to reach a gateway in the far hedge leading onto a lane.

    According to folklore, you should not pick blackberries after Michaelmas Day (11th October) as this is when the devil claims them. The basis for this is thought to be the potentially toxic moulds which can develop on the blackberries in the cooler, wetter weather.

    The word "bramble" comes from bræmaz - a word of Germanic origin meaning "prickly". The study of brambles is involved enough to be considered a discipline of its own and is known as batology (from baton - the Ancient Greek word for blackberry).

  6. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to a waymarked gate.

    Periwinkle, also known as myrtle, is a native plant in Europe and both the greater (Vinca major) and lesser (Vinca minor) forms are common, both with blue-purple 5-petal flowers that resemble turbine blades.

    The "greater" form has wider teardrop-shaped leaves whereas the leaves of the "lesser" form are thinner and lance-shaped. The flowers on the lesser form are also smaller.

    The name may be from the Russian name for the flower - pervinka - which is based on the word pervi, meaning "first", as it is one of the earliest spring flowers. Some flowers start appearing in November.

    The ferns with solid leaves are appropriately called hart's tongue as the leaf resembles the tongue of a deer. It's an evergreen so leaves can be seen all year round but there's usually a flurry of new growth in mid March when new leaves can be seen gradually unfurling over a number of days. The Latin name for the species means "centipede" as the underside of the leaves have rows of brown spore cases that form a pattern resembling centipede legs. The plants thrive in shady places and are tolerant of the lime used in mortar so are sometimes found growing in old walls.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the track to a bend where a small path departs to the left, marked with a waymark post.

    The settlement is known as Park and was recorded in 1350. In Cornish, park is one of the words for field. Another is splatt (for "plot") which is why there are a couple of settlements with that name too in Cornwall.

  8. Bear left down the small path beside the waymark and bear right at the bottom to reach a large path between two hedges. Turn right to follow the path uphill until it ends on a lane.

    All plants in the onion family are poisonous to dogs including wild garlic. This is one of the reasons that feeding dogs human foods (many of which contain onion such as gravy powder) is not good for them. Garlic is extremely toxic to dogs and cats and the consumption of even a small amount can lead to severe poisoning. Keep dogs away from wild garlic and wash their paws if they come into contact with it.

    Garlic mustard is a member of the cabbage family. It is edible and the leaves tastes mildly of garlic but become more bitter as they mature.

    It is also known as hedge garlic or Jack-by-the-hedge as it likes shady places. The "Jack" is a reference to the devil (probably by someone not a fan of garlic).

    The young leaves look a bit like stinging nettles but are brighter green. As the leaves get larger, they get less toothed and are more heart-shaped. It has white flowers in April and early May with 4 small petals forming a cross.

    Wooded tracks like this are quite good places to encounter blackbirds.

    The reference in the nursery rhyme "sing a song a sixpence" to "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" is thought to be to the 16th Century amusement (though not for the blackbirds) of producing a large pie which included an empty chamber. After the pie had been baked and was ready to be served, a trapdoor would be cut in the empty chamber and live birds were placed inside which would fly out when the pie was cut open. Live frogs were sometimes used as an alternative.

  9. Turn left onto the lane then immediately right onto a track. Follow this to a gate at the far end of the track.

    The plant with sticky green seeds is known as cleavers due to the ability to attach to clothing or animals. The use of "to cleave" meaning "to adhere" has Saxon origins but has become less common in recent years perhaps due to the confusion of having a more well-known meaning which is virtually the opposite. A Cornish dialect name, recorded as cliders in Victorian times, is likely to be a corruption of this. Other common names include sticky willy.

    Goosegrass is another common name of the plant due to its attractiveness to poultry as a nutritious food. It contains tannins which make it too bitter for humans. The plant is in the same family as coffee and the seeds have been dried and roasted to make a (lower caffeine) coffee substitute.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to the end, then bear left slightly to follow the line of telegraph poles across the field to where it meets the hedge, with an opening to the left leading to a gate.

    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 wooden pedestrian gate and follow the path until it emerges onto a driveway for Druid Stitch.

    Some of the Public Rights of Way originating from mediaeval times appear as sunken paths, also known as holloways from the Old English hola weg, a sunken road. There are different reasons for the lane being lower than the surrounding land. In some cases it was simply erosion caused by horses, carts and rainwater over hundreds of years. There are also examples where ditches formed between banks as a boundary between estates and then later adopted as a convenient location for travel or droving animals.

  12. Turn left onto the driveway and follow it to a lane.

    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.

    A buckle made from bronze was found just off the footpath here in the 1990s. Its age isn't known.

    During the Iron Age and even during Roman times, bronze was still used particularly for items such as jewellery. There were two reasons for this: unlike iron, bronze does not quickly corrode in air and water and the colour and lustre of polished bronze was more attractive than rusty iron.

  13. Turn right onto the lane and follow this to reach a junction with a small lane to the left leading towards the church.

    A large oval enclosure and the presence of a 5th-7th Century stone inscribed with the Celtic Ogham alphabet point to St Clement's churchyard being of early mediaeval origin. After the Norman conquest in around 1100, the church was given as part of the Manor of Moresk to the priory of St Michael's Mount. The current church building was mainly constructed in the 15th Century, enlarging an earlier 13th Century church from which some materials remain. In the 19th Century, the church was thoroughly restored.

  14. At this point you can visit the church and return here afterwards (there is only one way out of the churchyard - the vicarage gate is private). To continue the walk, follow the main lane downhill to reach a small creek side car park at the bottom of the hill opposite the Old Vicarage.

    Ogham is an Early Mediaeval alphabet used by the Irish and Brythonic people, and is sometimes called the "Celtic Tree Alphabet" due to a mediaeval tradition of ascribing names of trees to the individual letters. The characters are written with reference to a line, often the edge of a stone, to be inscribed with the letter depicted by different numbers of upward, downward or complete strokes, straight or diagonally, across the line. Around 400 stones, inscribed with Ogham, exist predominantly in Ireland, Wales and Cornwall and date between the 4th and 7th Centuries.

  15. Bear right through the car park to the waymarked creek-side path with a Denas Road sign. Follow this for some distance along the creek to eventually reach a bench and a few paces further to a stile into a field.

    At the end of the 12th Century, a charter was drawn up of lands given to the monks of St Michael's Mount by Matilda, daughter of the Earl of Cornwall. This included a holy well at St Clement. On Denas road there is a small stone and slate well house which is thought might be the location.

  16. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge of the field to another stile.

    For many centuries, it was traditional for landowning families to create trusts from the land and assets so future generations could live off the income, but were unable to dispose of the assets so these would be available for future generations. The Duchy estate is an example of this and was created in 1337 by Edward III to provide his son (and future Princes of Wales) with an income. Consequently, unlike other Royals, the Prince of Wales and his family are not paid for by the taxpayer via the Civil List; instead their living costs and all their charitable activities (such as The Prince's Trust) are funded by income from the Duchy estate.

    Only 13% of the Duchy land is in Cornwall; the rest is dotted over 23 other counties with some in London but most is in the South West of England, with nearly half on Dartmoor.

  17. Cross the stile and continue along the left hedge to a stile leading back into the creek-side woods.

    There are a number of historical references to Moresk Castle, situated near St Clement's church. The first reference that has been found was made in 1487 by William of Worcester. It is thought that building was at the top of the large field overlooking the Tresillian River. Whether it was actually a castle or just a manor house is not clear.

    More about Moresk Castle

  18. Cross the stile and follow the path until you eventually reach a fork. Take the left path and climb the steps and continue following the path to reach a bench overlooking the river, where the path turns quite sharply to climb the bank.

    The Tresillian River has a catchment area that extends all the way up to the A30 at Summercourt and Mitchell. That stretch of the A30 runs along the ridge that is the watershed between the north and south coasts: the land north of the A30 drains into the River Gannel.

  19. Follow the path up the bank and continue to pass through a pedestrian gate and reach a waymark beside a small stone footbridge.

    Foam on the surface of a river can look like pollution but, as with sea foam, it's normally a natural phenomenon. When water plants such as algae die and decompose, organic matter is released into the water. If the water is agitated, proteins in the water can form a froth, just like whisking egg whites. Plant nutrients entering the water will increase the amount of algae, making foam more likely or prolific so a very foamy river can be an indicator of nitrate or phosphate pollution.

  20. Cross the stone footbridge and the wooden bridge beyond it (or the stream beside it if it hasn't been repaired yet). Then follow the path for a further 100 metres to reach a kissing gate.

    The shallow creek is an ideal habitat for wading birds such as egrets.

    The little egret - a white member of the heron family - can be seen on many of the creeks in Cornwall and yet is only a very recent settler in Britain. The birds first appeared in Britain in any number in 1989 and the first to breed was in 1996 in Dorset.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the path between the hedges to where it emerges onto a driveway.

    Robins are able to hover like kingfishers and hummingbirds and use this skill when feeding from bird feeders, which they are unable to cling to.

  22. Bear right onto the driveway and follow this to a junction with another driveway.
  23. Turn right at the junction and walk a few paces to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow for about half a mile to pass the pub and houses and pass beneath the trees. Continue until you reach a flight of steps beside a bench on the left.

    The first record of the settlement of Malpas, situated on the confluence of the Tresillian River and Truro River, is from 1383. In 1800, buildings on the opposite (Roseland) side of the Tresillian river were recorded as the settlement of "Mopus". By 1842, the settlement on the Truro side had been built which included 10 houses and 2 pubs.

    A ford across the Tresillian river from Malpas was recorded in the medieval period. Given the size of the river, this would have been treacherous and this is reflected in the name which is French for "bad ford". The ford was later replaced by a ferry crossing which also crossed the Truro river to Old Kea.

  24. Go down the steps on the left by the bench and follow the path along the creek. Continue following it to where it re-emerges onto the road at the top of a flight of metal steps.

    During Victorian times, Norwegian vessels of nearly a thousand tons anchored at Malpas and unloaded their cargoes of timber. These were formed into rafts, and floated to the terminus of the West Cornwall Railway, on the river bank, ready to be transported to the mining districts.

  25. Go down the metal steps on the left and descend all the way to the quay then turn right and walk along the top of the quay to where a flight of steps leads upwards, just past a shelter.

    Originally it was possible to reach Truro by river at all states of the tide. Even as recently as Victorian times, 200 ton vessels would dock along the quays. Mine waste running into rivers has accumulated in the creeks as silt so that Malpas is now the highest navigable point at low tide on the Truro river. Therefore the ferry services to Truro terminate at Malpas when the tide is low.

  26. Keep left to continue following along the top of the quay to where the path re-emerges on the road.

    The Truro River is the name given to the creek that stretches from the confluence of the Kenwyn and Allen rivers in Truro down to the confluence with the River Fal. The river system has a catchment area extending to the A390 and A39 roundabouts on the A30, bounded by the three main roads.

  27. Again keep left to follow the path along the quay to where it ends at a bend in the road. Follow the road for about 20 metres around the bend to where a path starts on the left beside a sign.

    Cricket's origins are uncertain and the earliest definite reference is in south-east England in the middle of the 16th century. It is thought that cricket originated as a child's game in southeast England during mediaeval times. In its earliest form, the cricket bat resembled a hockey stick.

    After the restoration in 1660s, cricket's popularity exploded due to gambling on sport. This became such a problem that a law was passed, limiting the maximum amount gambled to £100 but this was still more than the annual income of 99% of the population.

  28. Turn left onto the path leading towards the creek with some picnic benches by the water. Continue along the creek-side path to complete the circular walk.

    Curlews are the largest brown wading bird in Cornwall and easily recognisable by their ridiculously long and slightly curved bill. This has evolved for probing for invertebrates such as ragworms deep in the estuary mud. It gets its name from the call which is along the lines of "cur-lee".

    Roughly a quarter of the world's population lives in the British Isles but the population has declined rapidly and it is now on the Red List of most endangered species. It is thought that increased predation from the growing fox and crow population could be one of the factors driving the decline. Curlews nest on the ground which makes their chicks particularly vulnerable to land-based predators.

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