Circular walk from St Gennys Church to Dizzard near Crackington Haven

St Gennys Church to Dizzard

A circular walk at St Gennys from the mediaeval church, via the smuggling routes though bluebell woods along the stream and an Iron Age clifftop fort crumbling into the sea, to some of North Cornwall's most remote coastline.

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Starting near the church at St Gennys, the walk crosses the fields and a wooded valley to reach the coast where a Celtic fortress once stood on Castle Point. The route then follows the coast past Cleave Strand and down the steep-sided valley at Slade where it's possible to get down onto the beaches which have amazing rock formations. The walk continues up Chipman Point and then turns inland where the return route is on country lanes, farm tracks and footpaths across the fields and wooded valleys.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/7.0 km
  • Steepness grade: Strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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


  • St Gennys church, which has origins in the 7th century, located on the clifftop
  • Rugged coastline and isolated rocky coves
  • Wildlife including birds, bees and butterflies on the coastal wildflowers
  • Ancient woodland around Dizzard with bluebells in Spring


  1. Follow the road away from the loop at the church to a junction on the left. Turn left at the junction and follow the track downhill until you reach a fork in the track.

    Piracy and wrecking were notorious along the coast north of Tintagel in the Middle Ages. In 1342, a complaint was made to the King that "William de Sancta Genesio (William of St Gennys) and others boarded a ship called La Trinite of Fowey, laden with their goods and anchored in the port of Widemouth. They cut the cables and cords with which the ship was anchored, whereby it was driven ashore by the flow of water and broken up, and lost goods to the value of £300." The inhabitants of St Gennys were consequently known as "wreckers and wrestlers".

  2. Bear left at the fork and go through the gate. Follow the track to where two paths depart from the left as the track bends right.

    In the 1780s, Britain was in financial crisis after losing the American War of Independence. High levels of duty were imposed on luxury goods in order to recoup the national debt and this included the curing salt vital to the pilchard industry which was taxed at around 4000%! Consequently many Cornish fishermen that were previously legally employed by the trade were driven into illegal smuggling. Towards the end of the 18th Century, nearly half a million gallons of brandy and more than a quarter of a million pounds of tea were being smuggled into Cornwall each year. This continued until the 1840s, when Britain adopted a free-trade policy that slashed import duties. Within ten years, large-scale smuggling was just a memory.

  3. Bear left onto the second of the two paths (the one with a waymark on a tree) and follow it until it ends at a junction of tracks.
  4. Continue ahead to follow the gravel track downhill. As it bends to the left towards the house, continue ahead a short distance on a grassy track to reach a waymarked stile next to a gate.
  5. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to the corner then continue straight ahead across the field to reach a stile with a path leading down into the woods.

    The inlet on your left, at the bottom of the valley, is Aller Shute.

    Aller Shute is a small inlet just north of Pencannow Point, close the village of Crackington Haven. Contraband was brought into the inlet by boat, along the edge of Little Barton Strand where the waterfall descends. It was carried by donkey up the riverside path and hidden in a cave in the riverbank at Little Warrinstow.

  6. Cross the stile and follow the path down through the woods, across a footbridge and up the other side of the valley to where it joins the coast path at a waymark.

    On a sunny summer day you may encounter lizards basking on the path.

    Lizards are cold-blooded so they need to bask in the sun to warm up to their "operating temperature" which is around 30 Celcius. They usually do so with an area of cover nearby which forms an escape route from predators. You're therefore likely to encounter them in sunny spots on footpaths and footbridges. Once they spot you, they will usually make a hasty escape - they can move pretty quickly once they are warmed-up. During winter they hibernate as in cold temperatures they are too slow to catch any food (insects, spiders etc. which are also less numerous over the winter).

    When an area of land is left alone by humans it undergoes a natural process of succession as taller plants out-compete the shorter ones for light. Bare land is first colonised by pioneer species including mosses and annual plants such as rosebay willowherb. Perennial plants including grasses can then grow thanks to the nutrients and moisture retention created by the pioneer species. Next, woody shrubs are able to grow higher than their herbaceous cousins and therefore steal the sunlight. Finally tall trees form a mature forest, sometimes known as "climax forest" as it's at the end of the chain of succession. Factors such as climate and minerals govern which species are involved in the succession chain for a particular area (e.g. it may end in conifer forests in alpine regions whereas lowland climax forests are usually hardwood).

  7. Turn right and follow the coast path through a gate and onwards until you reach a stile.

    At St Gennys, Castle Point is the headland immediately north of Pencannow Point. Castle Point gets its name from the Celtic cliff fortress which was built on it. The remains can still be seen, though large sections of it have now fallen into the sea. The three concentric ramparts would have been over 12ft high, with a single (wooden) gateway controlling access to the castle. It is thought to have been constructed over 2000 years ago, somewhere between 350-150 BC. The headland has a substantial covering of heather, resulting in a vibrant purple colouration in late summer.

  8. Cross the stile then follow the path around a bend to the left. Follow the path along the coast until you reach a kissing gate, with a sign for Lower Tresmorn on the other side.

    Common gorse flowers have a coconut-like scent but rather than fresh coconut, it is reminiscent of desiccated coconut or the popular brand of surf wax, Mr Zoggs. However, not everyone experiences the smell in the same way: for some people it's very strong and for others it quite weak. One complicating factor is that Western Gorse flowers don't have any scent, so you need to be sniffing a tall gorse plant to test yourself.

    Flower scents are volatile organic compounds which drift though the air and has evolved as an advertisement to pollinating insects that nectar is available. Squeezing the flowers releases these compounds onto the surface where they can evaporate and therefore intensifies the smell. Similarly the warming effect of sunlight helps the compounds to evaporate faster and so the smell is more intense on sunny days.

    Gorse is a legume, related to peas and like other members of the pea family it's able to get its nitrogen from the air. It's also tolerant to heavy metals in the soil and to salt. This makes it able to grow in Cornwall's harshest environments: moorland, coast and mine waste tips.

  9. Go through the gate and continue to follow the path along the coast to a footbridge at the bottom of a valley.

    Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant.

    Like other members of the pea family, gorse produces its seeds in pods. The seeds are ejected with a popping sound when pods split open in hot weather. This can catapult the seeds up to five metres. The plants are able to live 30 years and survive sub-zero temperatures, the seeds can withstand fire and remain viable in the soil for 30 years.

  10. Cross the footbridge and follow the path up the steps and through a gate. Continue up the zigzag path to reach a short waymark at the top.

    Hanging valleys are common on the North Cornish coast and are created due to erosion of the relatively hard cliffs by the Atlantic waves being faster than erosion of the valley by a small river. In many cases, this results in a waterfall where the small river meets the sea cliff, though many of these are little more than a trickle in dry weather. When there is a strong onshore gale, the waterfalls sometimes run backwards!

  11. Bear right in the direction waymarked, and continue to follow the path along the coast until you reach a kissing gate in the fence at the top of a steep valley.

    Along the coast, in the late summer and autumn, you can sometimes find parasol mushrooms, obvious from their huge size and umbrella shape.

    Parasol mushrooms have firm white flesh and delicate flavour which is not strongly "mushroomy". This makes them an excellent carrier for other flavours within a sauce, adding texture and body to a dish.

    Kestrels are primarily vole specialists. If there are a shortage of voles they will feed on smaller rodents such as mice and shrews, lizards and even on insects if larger prey are not available. Particularly in urban areas where there aren't many voles they will also take birds such as sparrows and even those as large as starlings.

  12. Go through the gate and carefully descend the steep steps to reach a footbridge at the floor of the valley.

    A steep path leads from the footbridge down to Scrade Beach. The beach is pebbles and high tide, with ribbons of rock exposed at low water. It's possible to climb over the pile of boulders behind StonyIvy rock to reach Chipman Strand. At low tide it's also possible to clamber along the rocks of Chipman Strand all the way to Dizzard Point and even to Cancleave Strand, but great care must be taken not to get cut off by the tide. The rock formations on the beaches here are truly impressive, possibly even more than at the more well-known and accessible Millook Haven.

  13. Cross the footbridge and carefully follow the path to ascend the steep side of the valley. There are several zig-zags to the right marked with white arrows which avoid some of the steeper sections. Follow the steps to the top of the cliff and continue to reach a kissing gate in the fence at the top of the headland.

    The name "Dizzard" is from the Cornish word deseth. In case you hadn't already guessed, it means "very steep"!

  14. Go through the gate and follow the path to a bench on the corner of the fence. Bear right to follow the fence and continue to a gate.

    Skylarks can often be heard singing over the coastal fields.

    Skylarks are the most common member of the lark family in Britain and are often known simply as "larks".

    The collective noun for larks ("an exaltation") dates back to "The Book of Saint Albans" printed in 1486 which provided tips on hunting, hawking, and heraldry. It also included "a murmuration of starlings", "an unkindness of ravens" and "a clattering of choughs".

  15. Go through the gate and follow the path along the edge of the field to reach a kissing gate.

    The satellite dishes near the end of the point are part of GCHQ Bude.

    C.S.O.S. Morwenstow is a satellite ground station, comprised of 21 satellite antennas which are thought to span the full range of communication frequencies. It is staffed by GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), the British signals intelligence service, and the United States NSA (National Security Agency). The activities remain classified but it's thought that these relate to the interception and decryption of electronic communications. Prior to the satellite station, the site was the location of RAF Cleave, a World War 2 airfield used by Fighter Command. Some of the concrete foundations of the airfield buildings are visible near the coast path.

  16. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path into some woods, over some wooden footbridges and up the other side of the valley until you reach a waymark next to some wooden steps on the right.

    The woods on the cliffs of Dizzard are more than 6,000 years old. The trees include sessile oak and wild service trees, stunted by the salty winds. Wild service berries were used to make a strong alcoholic liqueur. The berries and associated spirit are known in some areas as "chequers" and this is thought to be the origin of a number of pubs with this name.

  17. When you reach the waymark, turn right up the steps and follow the path waymarked to Dizzard Road until you reach a kissing gate into a field.

    Given the right conditions, a blackthorn tree can live 100 years and grow to about 20ft in height. In harsher environments such as by the coast the bushes may be as little as 2ft tall.

  18. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge of the field to reach a kissing gate onto a track.

    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.
  19. Go through the gate onto the track, then go through the kissing gate on your right. Once in the field, follow the left hedge until you reach a path that descends through a gap in the trees, with a waymark attached to one of the trees.

    The combination of the Great British Weather and a tonne of cow balanced on stilt-like legs can result in some muddy tracks and gateways to navigate, ideally without sinking below the level of your walking boots (or wellies in extreme cases!). Some suggestions for avoiding liquid-filled socks are:

    • Know your enemy: use a stick as a dipstick to assess how deep the mud is. A lake of extremely unpromising liquid mud may only turn out be a couple of inches deep.
    • If there are any rocks nestling in the mud, these are usually a good bet to stand on. Generally they would have already sunk if they weren't on fairly solid ground.
    • Clumps of grass have a root system that means you’re less likely to sink than in areas with no vegetation.
    • Where there are wheel ruts, the bottoms of the ruts are often the firmest ground, having been compressed under several tonnes of tractor. However, ruts filled with deep water are best avoided as mud will have washed in with the water so the overall depth will be hard to estimate.
  20. Follow the path down through the trees to descend a bank. At the bottom of the bank, bear right onto the path and follow this to a pedestrian gate leading to a footbridge.

    The purple flowers resembling a miniature pansy that you see along the footpaths from March to May are almost certainly dog violets, so-called because they are unscented (rather than scented of dog) to distinguish them from the sweet violet. The plants are able to thrive both in shade and full sun, so are found in grassland and hedgerows as well as woodland. Sweet violets prefer shade, so if you do encounter these it will most likely be in woodland, but the dog violets are more common even in this habitat.

    When a tree is injured, it exudes resin - a thick, sticky liquid which hardens and seals up the wound. The resin also contains anti-fungal and insecticide chemicals to protect it from parasites and pathogens. Frankincense and myrrh are both examples of resins.

  21. Go through the gate and cross the footbridge into a field. Follow the left hedge uphill until you reach a gap in the remains of a fence which separated the upper part of the field.

    Skylarks can often be heard singing above the fields in the spring.

    Skylarks are the most common member of the lark family in Britain and are often known simply as "larks".

    The phrase "up with the lark", used to describe early risers, dates back to at least the 16th century. Skylarks are the first birds to sing in the dawn chorus, often whilst it's still dark.

  22. Go through the gap and continue uphill to follow the left hedge until you reach a gate onto a track.

    A survey of over 5 million clover leaves found that the frequency of four-leaf clovers is about one in 5,000 (twice as common as originally thought).

    The world record for collecting four leaf clovers in one hour was set at 166 (in 1998). One very determined collector managed to amass 170,000 four-leafed clovers in a lifetime.

  23. Go through the gate and follow the track to a gate into a farmyard.

    The farm here specialises in breeding Zwartbles sheep, a black breed which you may see in the fields.

    The Zwartbles breed of sheep is originally from the Netherlands, originally primarily used for their milk. In the 20th Century, they declined significantly until by the mid-1970s they were listed as critically rare by the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust. Recently, the sheep has made a comeback in Britain as they produce excellent meat and wool; also being from a cold, wet, windy area of the Netherlands, the UK climate is not a problem. In Cornwall, they develop golden surfer highlights in the sunshine, and are known for being a "chilled-out" breed of sheep.

  24. Go through the gate into the farmyard and continue straight ahead through any closed gates and along a short track to reach a lane.

    The name Dizzard is from the Cornish for "very steep" which most likely refers to the headland. Two settlements now called East and West Dizzard were documented with similar names (e.g. Estdysart) as far back as 1284. Some form of settlement at Dizzard was recorded a couple of centuries earlier during in the Domesday survey of 1086 but there isn't a Dizzard entry in the Domesday book. One possible reason could be that it was already divided into two different settlements and the corresponding Domesday entries are now not recognisable.

  25. Turn right and follow the lane for half a mile until you reach a junction on the right signposted to Tresmorn.

    On the lane, you pass a house on the right named "Nance Vean", followed by another name "Valley View" which gives a hint about the former. nans is the Cornish word for "valley" and vean means "little", referring to the hanging valley above Chipman Strand.

  26. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane for just under half a mile until it forks into two tracks at a Tresmorn signpost.

    On the lane, you pass a house on the left called "Garth Vean".

    It may be an urban myth that Eskimos have a large number of words for "snow" but it's cast iron fact that there are at least this many words for "hill" in Cornish:

    • Meneth was often used to refer to Cornwall's higher peaks, or (outside of Cornwall) to mountains.
    • Tor was used for hills with rock outcrops protruding (and for the rock outcrops themselves)
    • Brea was used to refer to the most prominent hill in a district.
    • Ryn refers to a "hill" in the sense of projecting ground, or a steep hill-side or slope.
    • Garth was used to refer to a long narrow hilltop.
    • Ambel refers to the side of a hill.
    • Mulvra refers to a round-topped hill.
    • Godolgh is a very small hill.
    • Bron means "breast" as well as hill.
  27. Take the left track signposted to Lower Tresmorn and follow it to a gateway into a parking area in front of a barn.

    Tresmorne is a pair of hamlets situated on the opposite side of the valley from St Gennys Church, near Crackington Haven. Between the hamlets of Lower and Higher Tresmorn, is a complex of earthworks which are the remains of a mediaeval village dating back to the 10th Century. This consisted of fifteen or more crofts, arranged on either side of a sunken trackway.

    The surviving buildings at Higher and Lower Tresmorn are also thought to incorporate substantial remains of mediaeval buildings. If their dating is correct, it is likely these were more important buildings than the crofts: one was a hall-house, the other a three room longhouse.

  28. Go through the gateway and follow the track to the left side of the barn. Continue straight ahead along the track to reach a wooden gate across the track.

    Hawthorn's red berries, also known as haws, are abundant in September and October. These are an important winter food for birds such as thrushes and small mammals such as dormice and wood mice.

    As well as its thorns, another thing that makes hawthorn good for hedging is its very rapid rate of growth of around half a metre per year. Consequently one of the alternative common names for it is "quickthorn".

  29. Go through the gate and continue straight ahead through a waymarked gate. Follow the track until it ends at a wooden gate and a path leads off to the left.

    Once you've made your sloe gin, don't throw away your gin-soaked sloes! Instead buy some cheap sweet "cooking" cider (the kind that comes in 2 litre plastic bottles preferably with words like "value", "basic" or "economy"; do not commit heresy and waste good quality drinking cider) and replace the gin with this. Ensure your lid is on tight so your cider doesn't lose its fizz. Leave to infuse for a few more months for your cider to become osmotically fortified. The resulting delightful drink is known as "slider" (after several glasses anyway). Based on "experience", small-sized glasses are recommended.

    The growth rhythm of brambles is so steady that it can be used in forensics to work out how long remains have been at a crime scene.

  30. Bear left onto the path and follow it until a path departs to the left just before it ends in a gate.

    Over 160,000 species of butterfly and moth have been described and nearly 19,000 of these have been found in the UK. Butterflies are effectively a sub-group of moths that fly during the day. They have adaptations for this such as wings that fold flat against each other with a camouflaged underside to help them hide from predators when landed but a patterned upper surface to attract mates during flight. Whilst moths' feathery antennae are highly optimised for an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, butterflies can make use of vision so their antennae are more streamlined and are also used to measure air temperature.

    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.

    Flowering plants have evolved a complex double-fertilisation process where one sperm fertilises the egg whilst a second sperm combines with other nuclei in the cell to create a nutrient-rich tissue. This gives the seed a head start so it can out-compete others (e.g. conifers which don't have this). This also allows flowering plants to produce viable seeds more quickly: whilst conifers take around 18 months to produce a new batch of seeds, many flowering plants produce a batch of seeds each year and some can produce seeds more than once a year.

  31. Turn left and follow the path downhill through the gate. Continue to reach a paved driveway with a footpath sign pointing to the right.

    A plant often seen along the coast with small pink 5-petalled flowers in June -September is centaury - a member of the gentian family. The name is from Greek mythology: according to Pliny, the centaur Chiron used this plant to heal an arrow wound in his foot (or maybe that should be "hoof").

    Hedgerows provide an important habitat for blackbirds.

    In the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas", the line "four colly birds" is thought to be from 18th Century slang meaning "black as coal" and was a popular nickname for the blackbird. Whilst many people today sing and write "four calling birds", this is thought to be a modern misunderstanding of what was originally written.

  32. Turn right and follow the driveway past a cottage. Keep right across the parking area to join a track and follow it until it ends in front of a cottage called "Able's".
  33. Follow a path around the right side of the cottage. Continue to follow the gravel driveway until you reach some steps on the left beside a wooden sign just before it ends.
  34. Go down the steps (signposted "Church") and follow the path over a stile. Continue downhill until you reach a stile in the bottom corner.

    The trees along the edge of the field are covered in an impressive amount of lichen.

    Lichens often grow on sick or dying trees so some gardeners assume that the lichen might be harming the tree. In fact, it's purely because these trees have fewer leaves so there is more light available for the algae inside the fungus to photosynthesise. It's too dark under many healthy trees for the lichen to grow.

  35. Cross the stile and follow the path down into the woods to reach a footbridge. Cross the bridge and turn right, continuing to follow the path to reach a stile into the field.

    The mediaeval manor of St Gennys is thought originally to have been an ecclesiastical estate, dependent on St Kew. The Domesday survey of 1086 notes that it was held by Iovin and had been taken from the manor of St Kew and states "Gytha held it before 1066, and paid tax for 1v of land; ½ h there however. Land for 10 ploughs; 3 ploughs there; 3 slaves, 2 Villagers and 8 small holders. Pasture, 40 acres. Value formerly and now 20s. (7 Cattle, 40 sheep and 6 goats)".

  36. Cross the stile and head straight uphill until you can see the church, then head for the church until you reach the right hedge. Continue uphill along the hedge to reach the stile in the corner next to the gate signposted "St Gennys House".

    St Gennys House is described in the Historic Environment Record as "exceptionally interesting" with a "good survival of C18 and early C19 features". It was the home of The Reverend George Thomson who is sometimes called the "first Cornish Methodist". In 1732 he became convinced that his faith alone could save him: the same view held by the Wesley brothers. This became the core message of Methodism and he and the Wesley brothers became good friends.

  37. Cross the stile and follow the grassy track a few paces to merge onto a gravel track. Follow this to where the track bends sharply left, another driveway joins from the right and a path continues straight ahead.

    During the 18th Century in Oxford, the Wesley brothers began practising their rigorous holy lifestyle which was mockingly referred to as Methodism by their peers due to their methodical practices. John Wesley began open-air preaching to recruit followers to his movement and formed small classes for each community where followers would receive ongoing religious guidance. Wesley always advocated the practise of Methodism as an extension of the Anglican faith and encouraged his followers to attend the parish church regularly. Nevertheless, senior figures within the Church of England feared the effects (or perhaps popularity) of Methodist practices, suggesting that an overdose of the Holy Spirit might be unhealthy for weak minds.

  38. Continue ahead on the footpath and follow it until it merges back onto the track.
  39. Continue ahead on the track to reach the lane.

    Some of the trees making up the hedgerow on the right are elm.

    Healthy Elm trees can reach over 100ft tall and used to be be common tall trees in fields, similar to oaks but most of these were wiped-out in the 20th Century by Dutch Elm Disease. Elms are now more often found in hedgerows, where millions still survive get targeted by the beetle that carries the disease as soon as they reach a certain size.

  40. Turn right along the lane back the church to complete the walk.

    St Gennys church has origins which go back to the years of the Celtic Church. Sometime in the mid 7th Century, a Celtic Monk (hermit) arrived here, on foot or by boat, and chose the site for its solitude and its ready supply of water. After King Athelstan's final conquest of Cornwall in 926, it is almost certain a small Saxon church was built on this site and it is likely that the dedication to St Genesius originates from this point rather than the former Celtic church. Genesius was thought to be a war-weary Roman soldier who remained in Cornwall acquiring low-level saint status.

    Much of the existing church comes from the 12th Century, built to replace the earlier Saxon structure. The two lower stages of the tower, and the south, east and north walls of the Chancel contain surviving work of the Norman builders. The bowl of the font and Holy water stoup are carved from Tintagel Greenstone (Blue Elvan) and date from this period.

    In the 15th Century, the North Aisle was the first addition with the construction of a beautifully-carved arcade in Polyphant Stone which separates the Nave from the North Aisle. The South Aisle and South porch were later added together with the Westernmost Arch of the Northern Aisle. The pillars used for this work are of Cornish granite.

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