St Issey to Sea Mills circular walk

St Issey to Sea Mills

It is important that you carefully time this walk with the tide times: the footpath along the edge of the creek is underwater at high tide. Once you reach the slate tips at Sea Mills, there is no time pressure from this point on. The edge of the creek is quite muddy so ensure you have appropriate footwear.

A circular walk from St Issey along the river valley, the Saint's Way to the creek-side church at Little Petherick, and along the creek to the tidal enclosure of Sea Mills, returning via two old inns.

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The route passes through the churchyard and descends into the river valley below St Issey and follows the river past Melingey Mill to joins the Saint's Way to Little Petherick. From here, the walk follows the edge of the creek to the tidal enclosure at Sea Mills. The return route is along small lanes to the Pickwick Inn with excellent views over the Camel creeks. The return to St Issey is across the fields and the Ring O' Bells Inn offers a final stop.


  • The footpath on the foreshore passes over an area of bedrock which is slippery when wet.
  • One stile on the route consisting of stone footholds over a wall is quite awkward.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: tall waterproof boots; wellies in winter.

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

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


  • Mediaeval church of St Issey
  • Ornate Gothic Church at Little Petherick
  • Views along Little Petherick Creek
  • Remains of a tidal mill enclosure at Sea Mills
  • Views over the Camel Estuary
  • Wading birds such as herons, curlews and egrets
  • Local food and drink at the Pickwick Inn and the Ring O' Bells

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Pickwick Inn
  • The Ring O' Bells


It is important that you carefully time this walk with the tide times: the footpath along the edge of the creek is underwater at high tide. You can use the Padstow tide times to plan when you do the walk. Once you reach the slate tips at Sea Mills, there is no time pressure from this point on. The edge of the creek is quite muddy so ensure you have appropriate footwear.

  1. From the church car park, head to the back corner near the church and through the archway into the churchyard. Follow the path, keeping straight ahead at the crossing of paths, to reach the church door.

    Crows have a vocabulary of different calls with specific meanings and these can be varied to convey emotion like a human tone of voice.

    The sounds that crows make have also been found to vary with location rather like regional accents in humans. When a crow moves into a new area, it mimics the calls of the most dominant flock members to fit in with its peer group.

  2. From the church door, go down the steps and follow the path to the lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past The Manor House to reach a concrete track leading into a farmyard on the left opposite a garage on the right.

    St Issey is named after Itha or Ida, born in Ireland in AD 480 and recorded as living to an age of 89, to whom the church is dedicated. The church building dates from Norman times and was enlarged in the 15th Century which included the addition of the tower, which was rebuilt around 1680. In 1869, the church tower collapsed after being struck by lightning and the resulting rebuild of 1871 was described as "lamentable". Nevertheless some artefacts survived which may be fragments of a mediaeval monument mentioned in a document of 1399. The church was carefully restored in 1980.

  3. Turn left down the concrete track into the farmyard and follow this past the barn. Keep left to the gate ahead on the far side of the yard.

    In the 1920s, a stone axe head was found in St Issey which has been dated back to Neolithic times. It is now in the Truro Museum.

  4. Go through the gate and bear right across the field to a metal gate just behind the telegraph pole.

    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.
  5. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge past an opening to reach a gateway in the far hedge.

    Although it's obvious that you should ensure any gates that you open, you also close, what about gates you find that are already open?

    If the gate is fully open then leave it alone as it may well be providing livestock access to a water supply, and by closing it you could end up killing them.

    If the gate is ajar or swinging loose and not wedged or tied open then it's likely that the gate was left open by accident (possibly by another group of walkers). Properly closing the offending gate behind you will not only bring joy to the landowner but you can feel good about saving lives in a car swerving to avoid a cow in the road.

    If you encounter a gate doubly-secured with twine that can be untied or a chain that can be unfastened, it's normally there because naughty animals have managed to undo the gate themselves at some point (e.g. by rubbing against the bolt), so retie/fasten it afterwards.

  6. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge downhill, then bear left slightly from the line of trees to a footbridge at the bottom of the field and cross this to a stone stile.

    Navelwort grows along the wall on the right.

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

  7. Cross the stile and follow the stepping stones to a stile into a field. Cross into the field and bear right to a gate and stile approximately half-way along the right hedge.

    Wild garlic grows in the shade of the trees along the riverbanks here.

    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.

    The stream collects water from this side of the downs along the A39. The road has evolved from an ancient route along a ridge so the streams on this side are quite short and the streams on the other side flow in the opposite direction, into the middle reaches of the River Camel above Wadebridge.

  8. Cross the stone stile to the left of the gate and follow the drive ahead to reach a lane.

    The lane runs along a promontory between two river valleys. A little way to the left along the lane is the remnant of a fortified settlement known as Trenance Rounds. Little now remains other than an odd-shaped field with a small bank which was once a substantial rampart but has been ploughed away over the centuries.

  9. Turn right onto a lane and follow it to the bottom of the hill. Continue on the lane to reach a gate with a Saints Way sign on the left just past the last cottage (Millstream Orchard).

    The mill is now known as Mellingey Mill but the "Mill" in the name is really superfluous as Mellingey comes from the Cornish words melyn chy (often combined as melynjy) meaning "millhouse". There are records of a mill here as far back as 1302.

  10. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left then climb the steps to join the footpath waymarked to Little Petherick. Follow the path to a gate.

    The Saints' Way runs for 30 miles from Padstow to Fowey, and follows one of the likely routes of early Christian travellers making their way from Wales and Ireland to the Continent during the Dark Ages. Rather than risk a premature martyring on the rocks around Land's End, they would disembark their ships on the North Devon and Cornish coast and cross the peninsula, on foot, to ports on the south coast such as Fowey. The Bush Inn at Morwenstow is thought to be one of the stopovers from the North Devon ports. The route from Padstow to Fowey was in use before the Dark Ages which is evident from Roman coins found along the route. However it is thought that it was likely to have been in use even earlier still, in the Iron Age.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path along the left hedge, passing a waymark, to reach a gate on the far side of the field.

    Anyone who has sat on a holly leaf will know how prickly they can be but the leaves particularly on larger holly bushes often vary considerably with less spiky leaves nearer the top.

    Holly is able to vary its leaf shape in response to its environment through a chemical process known as DNA methylation which can be used to switch genes on and off. If its leaves are eaten by grazing animals or trampled by walkers, the holly will crank up the methylation level to produce really spiky leaves on these stems. Conversely on the stems where the leaves are able to grow old in peace, the holly will produce versions that are flatter and therefore more efficient at catching the light. An individual leaf can last up to five years.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the path to a track. Bear right onto the track and follow it to reach a path departing to a gate on the left just before the track ends on the road.

    Ivy is a creeping vine which is well-known for being able to climb up almost anything. With good support, an ivy plant can climb as high as 90ft. A plant can live over 400 years and on mature plants, stems can reach a diameter of over 10cm.

  13. Bear left onto the path and follow it through the pedestrian gate. Continue on the path to another gate and go through this to re-emerge on the road.

    Sorrel is common in fields and hedgerows and easily recognisable by its red seeds at the top of a tall stalk. The leaves resemble small, narrow dock leaves.

    Sorrel is used both in soups or as a salad vegetable. The leaves have a pleasant lemony flavour. The plant was known in Cornwall during Victorian times as "green sauce".

    In common with many vegetables, sorrel contains oxalic acid. Exactly how much is a bit unclear: many articles mention "high amounts" though some published studies report a lower percentage than in spinach, parsley or rhubarb, though don't specify how easily soluble the oxalic acid is in each case. Oxalic acid is poisonous if enough is consumed and prolonged exposure can cause kidney stones. So use sorrel reasonably sparingly and don't eat it every day.

  14. Turn left and carefully follow the road to the bottom of the hill where a track departs from the right, marked with a public footpath sign.

    On the opposite side of the bridge is St Petroc's Church.

    The church at Little Petherick was built originally in the 14th century and was rebuilt in 1745. Since then it has been restored twice, each time by a famous Gothic architect: initially in the 1850s by William White, and the second time in 1908 by Ninian Comper. The result is impressively ornate.

    The church is dedicated to St Petroc who, according to legend, came this way when he fled to Bodmin from Padstow. The parish is known as St Petroc Minor to distinguish it from Padstow (formerly Petrocstow) - "Petherick" is derived from "Petroc".

  15. Turn right onto the track marked with the Public Footpath sign and go through the kissing gate on the left of the gate. Follow the track to a gateway with a kissing gate alongside.

    Originally, the religion of the Cornish Britons was Celtic polytheism - a pagan, animistic faith, assumed to be led by Druids. Celtic Christianity was introduced to Cornwall in the year 520 by Saint Petroc, a Brython from the kingdom of Glywysing, and other missionaries from Wales, as well as by Gaelic monks and holy women from Ireland.

  16. Continue along the track through the gateway and follow the track past the entrance of the water works until you reach a wooden fence with a path leading ahead through a gap.

    During Victorian times, Little Petherick Creek was used for trading, and along the left-hand side of the creek (looking down the creek from Little Petherick) are remains of quays where grain was loaded and a limekiln was also located. The Old Mill (which is now a bistro) near the bridge was a corn mill dating from before 1840 and still has a waterwheel. The tidal mill at Sea Mills, and Melingey Mill upstream of Little Petherick were both also used to grind corn.

  17. Go through the gap and follow the path to a footbridge. Cross the bridge and walk across the top of the creek to reach a stile into a field.

    Lichens grow on some of the small trees on the path down and also dead trees at the edge of the creek.

    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.

  18. Cross the stile into the field and follow the left hedge to a small opening in the bushes leading to a gate and footbridge. Follow the path through the opening to the gate.

    The creek provides a habitat for a range of wading birds, the larger of which can often be spotted from the fields alongside the creek.

    Although herons primarily eat fish, they will eat frogs, rodents, moles, ducklings and even baby rabbits! They are quite brave birds and will venture into gardens and parks to eat the ornamental fish. They have also been known to visit zoos to steal fish during penguin and seal feeding.

  19. Go through the gate and cross the footbridge, then follow the path up into a field. Follow the left hedge to a stile in the hedge opposite.

    Daisy flowers are not actually a single flower but a composite made of lots of little flowers. Each tiny yellow dot making up the central area is a tubular flower. Similarly each petal is a specially-adapted miniature flower.

    The small patches of woodland on the creek edge are good damp spots for fungi.

    Fungi are often most noticeable when fruiting, either as mushrooms or as moulds but their main part is a network made up of thin branching threads that can run through soil, leaf litter, wood and even living plant tissue.

    Cornwall bounces by around 4 inches every time the tide goes in and out. As the tide rises, the extra weight of water on the continental shelf deforms the Earth's crust; as the tide goes out, it springs back. The tidal range is greatest on the southwestern side of the British Isles and so Cornwall is one of the bounciest places in Britain.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a stile in the corner of the far hedge.

    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.

    Blackthorn stems are often covered in fungi or bacteria and if a thorn punctures skin, these can sometimes cause infection. Any splinters left in the skin can also disintegrate over time and result in an immune response. If a puncture wound becomes infected, it's a good idea to get it checked-out in a minor injuries unit in case antibacterial or anti-fungal treatment is needed to prevent it escalating.

  21. Cross the stile and the one ahead of it; then follow the path through the copse until you reach a stile on your left.

    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.

  22. Pass around the stile and turn right along the creek. Follow along the edge of the creek until you reach a low wall.

    The walled enclosure in the river was for the tidal mill here.

    In 1602, tide mills were described by Richard Carew in his Survey of Cornwall:

    Amongst other commodities afforded by the sea, the inhabitants make use of divers his creekes for grist mills, by thwarting a banke from side to side, in which a flood-gate is placed, with two leaves; these the flowing tide openeth, and, after full sea, the waight of the ebb closeth fast, which no other force can doe: and so the imprisoned water payeth the ransome of driving an under sheete (i.e. undershot) wheel for his enlargement.
  23. Continue along the creek edge, keeping the slate tips on your right until the path eventually ends on a lane.

    The tidal mill in Little Petherick creek was first recorded in 1675 as "two salt water grist mills". The mill closed in 1899, apparently due to the restriction of the tidal flow in the creek, caused by the construction of the North Cornwall Railway across the mouth of Little Petherick creek. The mill building was demolished in the early 20th Century and the outbuildings have been converted into houses; the garden of one of these is where the mill used to be located. The enclosing wall of the mill pond is still mostly intact, although the interior is now filled with silt. Further along shore, there are slate tips and, behind this, the slate quarries that yielded the stone used to build the mill and retaining wall.

  24. Turn right onto the track and follow it half a mile, passing Trevorrick Farm, until you reach a junction signposted to Benuick.

    There is a story that a previous owner of Sea Mills near Little Petherick, who was a member of the Total Abstinence Society, tried to persuade the people of Padstow to abandon the drunken revelry of their "Obby Oss" celebrations by offering them a free ox to roast for the next seven years if they would cease the festival. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was not well-received by the Padstow residents, and despite other schemes by the society such as the creation of a rival "Blue Ribbon 'Oss", the ancient festival survived.

  25. At the junction, bear right to stay on the lane and follow it to a crossroads outside the Pickwick Inn.

    Another place that alexanders are commonly found is near the sites of mediaeval settlements, in particular religious settlements where they were cultivated by monks as a vegetable. In mediaeval cuisine they were used as an alternative to celery (which was a more bitter plant back then). It was traditionally one of the "pot herbs" that were added to stews and the dried seeds can also be used as a spice. Alexanders were particularly useful during lean winters as its new growth is available in the late Autumn, before many other spring greens.

    A Bible Christian Chapel (now Chapel House) was located just before the grassy triangle outside what is now the pub.

    By the time John Wesley died, the majority of Methodists were not attending Anglican church regularly, and following his death a Methodist church was formed, separate from the Anglican church. In the first half of the 19th Century, the Methodist movement fragmented into several different factions, often each with its own chapel in the same town. The Bible Christian movement was one of these, founded in North Cornwall in 1815 by William O'Bryan from Luxulyan. His followers are also known as the Bryonites, although after falling out with most of his ministers, O'Bryan emigrated to America. In 1907, the Bible Christian movement amalgamated with other Methodist groups to form the United Methodist Church.

  26. Continue ahead at the crossroads, signposted to St Issey, and follow the lane to a junction where there is another signpost to St Issey.

    The settlement of Burgois is first recorded in 1423 when it was spelt "Borguys". The name is also recorded in Tudor times as "Bargus" and this is thought to more closely resemble the original name. It is constructed from the Cornish words bar (meaning summit) and cos (meaning wood) and in Cornish, words starting with a "c" often mutate into "g" when placed after another word.

  27. At the junction, continue ahead (signposted for Trevance) until you reach a Public Footpath sign for St Issey (1/3 mile) on the right.

    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.

    The overhead power lines are popular with starlings.

    In spring and summer, starling feathers change from brown in winter to a glossy black with iridescent pinks and greens. The males are particularly glossy compared to the females and have fewer white spots. Starlings' beaks also change colour to bright yellow as part of their breeding plumage, which again is more vivid on the males.

  28. Climb the steps on the right and cross the stile. Follow the left hedge of the field to a waymarked gap in the hedge.

    Rabbits were originally from the Iberian peninsula and were brought to Britain by the Normans and kept in captivity as a source of meat and fur. Although grass is their principal natural food, rabbits are able to survive on virtually any vegetable matter and with relatively few predators, those that escaped multiplied into a sizeable wild population.

  29. Go through the gap and cross the field towards the church tower and as a footbridge in the opposite hedge comes into view make for this. If there is a crop in the field you may need to follow along the left hedge.

    There are several species of dock but two of the most common found in fields are the broad-leaved and curly dock. Broad-leaved docks are the ones with the big leaves that are usually grabbed after a stinging nettle encounter. They can live for at least 5 years and normally don't produce seeds until their second year. Curled docks have more slender leaves which often have more wavy edges. They are shorter-lived and can flower only 9 weeks after germination but often die after flowering if not cut.

  30. Cross the footbridge and bear right slightly to follow the right hedge up the field to reach a stone stile towards the top of the field.

    The small stream is the one you crossed earlier on the walk where it meets Little Petherick Creek just after the water treatment works. Its source is a spring at the far side of the field over the left hedge. Nearby mediaeval settlements such as Trevance had wells to tap into the underground water source before it emerged at the spring.

  31. Cross the stile and walk ahead along the gravel then follow the tarmac a few paces further until you reach a pair of black metal bollards on the left marking a path between the houses.
  32. Turn left between the bollards and follow the gravel path between the fences to cross some grass and emerge onto the pavement of the main road.
  33. To return to the church car park, bear left and cross the road to the churchyard gate, follow the path through the churchyard to the crossing of paths, and turn left at the crossing to reach the gate into the car park.

    The interlaced knot patterns that are associated with Celtic decoration had their origins in the Roman Empire and appear in mosaics during late Roman times. Prior to this, simpler patterns such as spirals and steps featured in Celtic art. Together with Christianity, interlaced patterns were enthusiastically adopted by the Celtic people refined into the knotwork that is now so iconic. Nearly all the decorative patterns are composed from a palette of just 8 elementary knots.

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