St Dominic to Cotehele Bridge

St Dominic to Cotehele Bridge

A figure-of-eight walk from St Dominic along the wooded valley to the quays of Bohetherick and Cotehele where limestone and coal were continuously fed into kilns to produce lime for the market gardens in the Tamar Valley.

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The walk crosses a small tributary valley at Radland and then follows the valley of the main river to the confluence at Radland Mill. The route then follows paths through Timber Wood and Nanie Rowe's Wood to reach Boar's Bridge and continues through the woods to reach the quay and lime kilns at Bohetherick. The walk then crosses the river via Cotehele Bridge and passes the mill and weir in Cotehele Wood before returning to Boar's Bridge. The final stretch is via a mediaeval holloway and footpath through the fields.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 108
  • Distance: 4.2 miles/6.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 108 OS Explorer 108 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Mature broadleaf and conifer woodland
  • Weird and wonderful fungi
  • Cotehele Mill (short diversion)
  • Cotehele Quay (short diversion)

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way out of the church car park and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane downhill to the bottom of the valley and continue up the hill on the other side to reach a junction.

    St Dominic is now officially spelt without a "k" but many road signs, OS maps and references still spell it St Dominick. It was recorded as St Dominick on the 1880s OS mapping but also as St Dominic in 1883. The 15th Century spelling was Seynt Domyneke and it was also recorded as a Latinised version - Sancta Dominica - in 1263.

  2. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane to a hairpin bend. Keep right around the bend to reach a Public Bridleway on the right.

    Many of the hedgerow trees are hazel.

    Hazel is one of the smaller native trees, reaching only 20ft. When allowed to mature, the tree lives for about 70 years.

  3. Bear right onto the bridleway and follow the track to where it ends in front of a pair of gates.

    From December until the spring, celandine leaves are quite noticeable along the edge of paths. They have a shape similar to a "spade" in a pack of cards and are patterned with lighter green or silvery markings.

    The meadows alongside the track were once orchards and market gardens, recorded in the 19th Century. After the buildings, when you reach a hairpin bend in the track, the brick structure is a well which also dates from the 19th Century.

  4. Turn right onto the path and follow this over the footbridge. Continue past a ruined building to reach a junction of paths with a waymark post.

    The OS map from the 1880s recorded a settlement at Radland Mill with a few houses, one of which is the ruin with the large tree growing out of it. A mill (hence the name of the settlement) where the current building stands inside the gates was known to be occupied in 1856 but is thought to have been demolished to create the current building as the shape and orientation is different from the one shown on the 1880s map.

  5. Bear right at the junction to follow the path uphill. Continue to reach another junction of paths.

    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.

  6. Turn left and follow the track until it ends in a lane.

    Rhododendrons are so successful in Britain that they have become an invasive species, crowding out other flora in the Atlantic oak woodlands. They are able to spread very quickly both through suckering along the ground and by abundant seed production. Many of the root stocks of ornamental specimens have suckered off some new common rhododendrons which have then out-competed the ornamental tree and killed it off!

    Conservation organisations now classify the rhododendron explosion as a severe problem and various strategies have been explored to attempt to stop the spread. So far, the most effective method seems to be injecting herbicide into individual plants which is both more precise and effective than blanket cutting or spraying.

  7. Turn right onto the lane and walk a few paces to where a track departs to the right, marked with a Heritage Trail signpost. Bear right onto this and follow it uphill to reach a junction.

    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.

    It is a pioneer species which is good at colonising disturbed ground as its seeds travel long distances in the wind and remain viable in the soil for many years. It was considered a rare species in Britain in the 18th century but spread along the corridors cleared for railways in Victorian times.

    The spore from a fern doesn't grow into a fern. Instead it grows into an organism resembling a liverwort (i.e. a small green blob). Instead of producing spores, these produce eggs and also sperm which they interchange with neighbouring blobs to get a new mix of genes. The fertilised egg grows into a new fern and so this alternating process of ferns and blobs repeats.

  8. Bear left onto the path into the woods. Follow the path to reach a waymark post at the top of the flight of steps. Descend the steps continue on the path to reach a final few steps at a sharp bend beside some tree trunks with a stream to the right.

    Holly is able to adapt to a range of conditions but prefers moist ground. It is very tolerant of shade and can grow as a thicket of bushes underneath larger trees. However, given the right conditions, holly trees can grow up to 80ft tall!

  9. Keep left to go down the steps and keep the stream on your right. Follow the path to a waymark post just before the path reaches the road.

    Bracket fungi can be recognised by tough, woody shelf-like growths known as conks. Bracket fungi can live for a very long time and are often coloured with annual growth rings. Many begin on living trees and can eventually kill a branch or whole tree by damaging the heartwood and allowing rot to set in. They can continue to live on the dead wood afterwards.

  10. Turn right at the waymark to cross over the stream bed and then follow the path through the woods to reach a junction of paths with a waymark post beside a gap in a bank.

    Like most trees, conifers produce resin to heal wounds. However, conifers also have resin ducts which routinely release it to reduce insect and fungal attacks. As well as including insecticide and fungicide compounds, the resins can also chemically disguise the tree from insects, attract their predators and even emulate hormones to disrupt insect development.

  11. Turn left to go through the gap and follow the path past a waymark post to reach a junction of several paths.
  12. Turn left at the junction and walk a few paces to a fork in the path. Keep right at this fork and at the next fork take either path (as they rejoin). Continue to reach a wooden gate.

    Ivy has two types of roots. The "normal" roots extend in to the soil and collect nutrients. At intervals along the climbing stems there are also aerial roots which attach the plant to a surface. As they come into contact with a surface, the roots change shape to anchor the plant. They then produce hairs that wedge into any crevices. The roots also exude a chemical compound which acts as a glue.

  13. Go through the gate and turn left onto the stony track. Follow this to emerge on the road.

    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.

    A thick outer bark on a tree helps to protect it from frost damage during the winter. The bark, which is often textured to trap air, and forms an insulating "buffer zone" that shields the living part of the tree, keeping this above freezing when there are sub-zero temperatures outside. The mass of dense wood inside the tree also acts as night store heater, absorbing heat during the day which is gradually released at night.

  14. Turn right onto the road and follow this to a junction.

    Robins are also able to see magnetic fields. Receptors in their eyes make magnetic fields appear as patterns of light or colour which allows them to use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation. They only seem to use their right eye for this as the left half of their brain (linked to the right eye) does the processing.

  15. Turn right at the junction and follow the road uphill a few paces to a gate on the left with a Heritage Trail signpost. Go through (or pass around) the gate and follow the path until it forks at a waymark post with steps leading uphill to the right.

    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.

  16. Go up the steps on the right and follow the path to a junction with a waymark post.

    Bluebells are also known by folk names based on their shape including Lady’s Nightcap and Witches’ Thimbles.

    Other common names for the bluebell include "wild hyacinth" and "wood hyacinth" as they are related to the hyacinth family. Their Genus name Hyacinthoides also means "hyacinth-like".

    As well as forgetting where they buried some of them, squirrels may also lose a quarter of their buried food to birds, other rodents and fellow squirrels. Squirrels therefore use dummy tactics to confuse thieves by sometimes just pretending to bury a nut.

  17. Bear left and follow the path a short distance to some steps down to a sunken track. Descend the steps and turn left onto the track. Follow this alongside a field to a waymark post beside a tiny stream (might not be flowing in summer).

    Primroses prefer moist soils so they tend to grow either in semi-shady places which don't get dried out too much by the sun such as woodland clearings and the base of hedgerows, or in wet open ground such as near streams.

  18. Continue ahead on the path to reach a waymark post at the bottom of a flight of steps. Climb the steps to reach a junction of paths at the top with another waymark post.
  19. When you reach the top of the steps, turn left and follow the path past one waymark post (with pink and purple arrows) to a T-junction with a waymark post ahead with an additional green arrow.
  20. At the junction of paths, turn left in the direction indicated by the green waymark arrow. Follow the path marked with green arrows until it ends on a road.

    Growing daffodils has been an important industry in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for over a century. When the Great Western Railway reached Cornwall, this provided a means to export perishable goods such as fresh flowers and fish which previously would not have survived the long journey by boat or horse and cart. Out of respect for the dead, coffins were transported by the railway for free. It was therefore not unheard of for coffins filled with daffodils to arrive in London from Cornwall.

    Daffodils contain chemical compounds which are toxic to dogs, cats and humans and ingestion of any part of a daffodil is likely to cause a stomach upset e.g. when unsupervised children have eaten leaves. The bulbs have both higher concentrations and a broader range of toxins than the rest of the plant and can be mistaken for onions (although don't smell of onion).

    Since chestnuts don't need to hang around for a long time on the ground, they are nutritionally more similar to a cereal - containing principally starch and sugars - than a typical nut. They contain very little fat and are consequently much less calorific than other nuts: the kernels contain around a third of the calories of a similar weight of other nuts.

  21. Carefully cross the road to the waymark slightly to the right opposite and follow the small path downhill to emerge in a grassy area. Bear left past the lime kilns to a track leading up to the road. Walk a few paces along the road to reach a junction with a signpost for Cotehele House.

    The kiln is thought to have been built in the late 18th-early 19th Century. The three conical pots were designed to operate continuously, with limestone and coal fed into the top and the resulting lime shovelled out from the bottom.

    By Victorian times, the parish of Calstock had more lime kilns than any other in Cornwall, with many of these along the river at Lower Kelly and Cotehele where coal and limestone were landed. Often culm (a local soft, peaty coal) was used as the fuel. The coal and limestone was loaded into the top of the kilns and was allowed to burn for a week; this produced quicklime which was raked out of the bottom. The lime from the kilns was transported by horse and cart to the nearby farms and market gardens.

  22. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane over the river to reach a footpath on the left leading between two granite posts.

    Cotehele bridge is built in the style of a mediaeval bridge but is was built much more recently in the mid-late 19th Century under the supervision of the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, perhaps to add a "classic" look to the approach to Cotehele.

    The name Tamar is documented in the second century and likely to be substantially older. It is thought it might share a common origin with the River Thames and both might stem from an ancient Celtic word meaning "dark". The source of the river is within 4 miles of the North Cornish Coast and the river flows 61 miles south across the peninsula forming the majority of the historic border with Devon. Work is being done by the Environment Agency to improve the water quality of the Tamar and its tributaries by reducing the amount of run-off of phosphate fertilisers into the rivers.

  23. At this point the route continues on the path with the posts to the left but first you may want to visit Cotehele Quay (with Edgcumbe Arms tearoom) and possibly Cotehele House and then return here afterwards.
    Follow the path between the posts and continue to reach a fork with a sign for Cotehele Mill.

    A quay at Cotehele was first recorded in 1731 located slightly closer to Cotehele Bridge than the main area of the present quay. The quay once served both the Edgcumbe family's Cotehele estate and also the mines in the area. Copper ore and arsenic were exported whilst timber and coal were imported.

  24. The route continues on the path to the right. Beforehand, you can take an optional diversion to the left to the mill and return here afterwards.
    Follow the path on the right a short distance to another fork with a sign for the weir.

    The mill building at Cotehele dates back to the 18th century and was further developed during Victorian times. In the 1880s it was known as Murden Mill after the small settlement just upriver and by 1905 both had changed to Morden. It was originally used to grind flour and after this was used for grinding animal feed until the 1960s. It was restored in 2002 for grinding flour, and the mill bakery has also since been revived. The flour is on sale at the mill.

  25. Keep left at the fork to follow the path indicated for the weir. Continue on the path past the weir until it ends on a lane.

    A leat runs from to the mill from the weir to power the waterwheel. The weir was badly damaged and most of it was washed away by a flash flood in December 2020.

    The waterwheel is an overshot design, with a wooden channel bringing water from the leat to the top of the waterwheel.

    Most waterwheels in Cornwall used the overshot approach which generally requires more construction effort to feed water to the top of the wheel, compared to an undershot wheel which is simply placed in the river. Fairly recent publications in engineering journals have demonstrated that overshot wheels are more efficient at transferring energy than undershot waterwheels. This would have been particularly important during drier months when the supply of water from a small stream can be very limited. An overshot design also allowed the mill to be located slightly further away from the main river which has obvious advantages during floods.

  26. Turn left onto the lane and follow it across a bridge to a junction.

    The stream is known as "The Morden Stream" and forms the parish boundary between St Dominic and Calstock. The source of the stream is the valleys to the east of the A388. The A388 is built on an ancient route along a ridge between watersheds (hence the "high" in "highway"). The valleys to the west of it feed into the river Lynher instead.

  27. Turn left at the junction and walk a few paces to reach a stony track on the right with a Heritage Trail sign. Turn right onto this and follow the track uphill, keeping left at the gate to stay on the stony track. Continue uphill to reach a footpath sign indicating a stile.

    The track is known as Vogus Lane and is an example of a mediaeval holloway. In places, ruts have been carved into bedrock by horses and carts passing over it.

    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.

  28. Cross the stile (dogs can instead squeeze through the gate and under the wire fence) and walk parallel to the right hedge to reach a stile in a corner in the hedge, just to the right of the wooden fence you can see as you approach the far side of the field.

    Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (lion's tooth), which is thought to refer to the shape of the leaves. The plant is a member of the sunflower family.

    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.
  29. Cross the stile (with dogs there are gaps under the wire fence to the right but watch out for the barbed wire) and follow along the left hedge to a stile beside a gate.

    Water pepper, as the name implies, grows on wet ground such as on the margins of lakes. The plant has a number of common names including "smartarse". As Emma Gunn points out in her foraging book "Never Mind the Burdocks", this is nothing to do with being clever: in the past, the dried leaves were added to bedding to drive away fleas etc. and the name comes from rolling over on a leaf in the wrong way. The leaves can be used as a herb and have have a lemony flavour similar to sorrel followed by heat which is a little like chilli.

  30. Cross the stile and bear right onto the track. Follow the track until it eventually emerges in a concrete yard area with various gates (including one ahead).

    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 popular misconception is that a butterfly was originally called "flutterby". In fact, the name stems from the Old English word buttorfleoge which literally means "butterfly". The term "flutterby" is thought to have been coined by Shakespeare.

  31. Go through the gate ahead and follow the track until it ends in a T-junction with a residential road.

    The earliest recorded use of concrete was around 6500 BC in Syria and Jordan which was put to a number of uses including creating level floors. The Romans made concrete blocks from volcanic ash, lime and seawater.

    In 1793, John Smeaton discovered a way of producing hydraulic lime for cement by firing limestone that contained clay. He used his cement for constructing the Eddystone lighthouse.

    In 1824, Portland cement was invented by burning powdered chalk and clay together which were both readily available. During the 19th Century, this began to be used in industrial buildings.

  32. Turn right onto the residential road and pass the steep path with a no-through sign. Follow the residential road to "1A" where a tarmac path leads between fences.
  33. Join the path and follow this between the fences until it emerges onto the road opposite the church car park.

    Rooks nest in the tall trees in the churchyard and can often be heard.

    Rooks eat pretty much anything but their primary food source is earthworms and insect larvae which their beak is evolved to probe for.

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