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.

Reviews

Great walk and refreshment at the heron

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Boscawen Park
  • Parking: Boscawen Park TR12SU. Make your way to Trefalgar Roundabout and take the small road signposted to Malpas and Boscawen Park. Follow the road until you reach a roundabout. The car park is to the right at the roundabout.
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots; wellies in winter

Highlights

  • 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

Directions

  1. Make your way out of the car park towards the road then turn right onto the path 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.
  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.

  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!

  5. Go through the gate and bear right into the field. Follow along the left edge of the field to reach a waymarked gateway in the far hedge.

    In August, blackberries start to ripen on brambles.

    According to folklore, you should not pick blackberries after Michealmas 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.

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

    The ferns with solid leaves are appropriately called hart's tongue as the leaf resembles the tongue of a deer. The Latin name for the species means "centipede" as underside of the leaves have rows of brown spore cases that form a pattern resembling centipede legs. The plants thrive in shady places are 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 merge onto a path between two hedges. Follow the path uphill until it ends on a lane.

    Like its domesticated relatives, wild garlic grows from a bulb. To distinguish it from other wild plants from the onion/garlic family (such as the three-cornered leek), the species sometimes just called "wild garlic" (Allium ursinum) is often known by the name ramsons or broad-leaf garlic. The scientific name (meaning bear leek) is because the bulbs are thought to be a favourite food of brown bears on the European mainland.

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

    Campions grow along the track.

    The red campion produces a blaze of pink flowers along hedgerows in the spring with the main flowering period occurring between May to October. In the mild Cornish climate, a few plants can often be seen flowering throughout the year. The plant is known by a few local names including Johnny Woods, Ragged Jack, Scalded Apples, and particularly in the southwest as Red Riding Hood. Another name - Batchelors’ buttons - suggests it was once worn as a buttonhole by young men.

    The roots contain saponins (soapy compounds) which protect the plants against microbes and fungi. These compounds make it easier for large molecules such as proteins to enter cell membranes. This has the potential to increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy against cancer by allowing immunotoxins to enter the cancer cells more easily.

  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 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.
  11. Go through the opening on the left of the telegraph pole, through the 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.

    The name "daisy" is thought to be a corruption of "day's eye" (or "eye of the day", as Chaucer called it). The name comes about because the flower head closes at night and opens each morning. In mediaeval times, it was known as "Mary's Rose". The Romans used to soak bandages in daisy juice as an antiseptic for sword wounds.

  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 creekside 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 creekside 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 wellhouse 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 creekside 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.

  18. Cross the stile and follow the path until you eventually reach a fork. Take the left path at the fork which passes a bench overlooking the river. Climb the steps and continue following the path to reach another 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 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. 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.
  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 creekside path to return the car park at the start of the 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.

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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