St Kew, St Endellion and Tregellist

A circular walk in the river valleys around St Kew - the first recorded village in Cornwall, passing the mediaeval church containing a grave stone from the Dark Ages carved in Latin and the Celtic script, Ogham, also known as the Tree Alphabet as each letter symbolised a different species of tree.

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The walk starts at the 15th century Church of St James in St Kew, then heads out of the village, along a woodland path, and along lanes through Trewethern and fields to St Endellion. The return route passes through the Trevathan fruit farm and farm shop and follows footpaths and tracks through Trentinney to reach Tregellist, before turning back through fields, and along a country lane to St Kew, returning past the St Kew Inn.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 5.5 miles/8.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: St Kew church car park
  • Parking: Church car park PL303HB
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

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Highlights

  • Views across the tributary valleys of the River Amble from Trewethern
  • Mediaeval stained glass and ancient artifacts in The Church of St James the Great
  • Winding country lanes with pretty flowers in spring and summer
  • Local food and drink at 15th century St Kew Inn
  • A variety of wildlife in the fields and woodland around Tregellist
  • Vibrant classical music scene and festivals at St Endellion church

Pubs on or near the route

  • The St Kew Inn

Directions

  1. From the car park, turn left onto the lane and climb the steps into the churchyard. Follow the path to a gate in the corner of the churchyard next to a sign for "The Barton",

    St Kew is mentioned earlier in history than any other place in Cornwall since it appears in the 6th century work: "The Life of St Samson". The parish is named after the sister of the Welsh saint who founded a monastery in or near the village.

  2. Go through the gate and follow the path down to a lane.

    The 15th century church of St James the Great in St Kew is built on the site of a chapel belonging to a 6th Century Celtic monastery that was destroyed in the Saxon invasion of Cornwall in the 10th Century. Inside the church is a particularly fine roof, and a beautifully restored mediaeval stained glass window depicting the Passion of Christ, amongst other notable stained glass. There is also a stone inscribed with the old Celtic Ogham script (possibly 5th century) with Latin translation, a rare 15th century Lantern cross, and look out for a figure carved on the pulpit, thought to be King Charles hiding in an oak tree. By the entrance to the churchyard is a large specimen of one of Cornwall's iconic Celtic wayside crosses.

  3. Turn right and follow the lane uphill, for about 50m, until you see a footpath sign on the left.

    The inscribed stone in the church at St Kew was used as a "pillow", placed at the head of a grave. The name of the deceased was written on the stone, in this case "Justus" in Latin on the centre of the stone. The translation in Ogham could easily be mistaken for a few notches from wear and tear along the edge if you haven't come across the language before.

    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.

  4. From the footpath sign, bear left to a gate and cross the stile beside it. Follow the track a short distance to a waymarked wooden gate on your right.

    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.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path until it eventually ends at a stile.
  6. Cross the stone stile at the end of the path, and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane to a junction with a white signpost.

    St Kew is one of the few villages in the area not named after the children of the Celtic King Brychan.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales and was viewed as the father of the Celtic saints.

    Most of his children were reported to have evangelised Cornwall and North Devon, with many of the churches dedicated to them. Consequently, many of the place names in North Cornwall (St Teath, St Mabyn, St Endellion, St Minver, St Clether, Egloshale, Egloskerry, Advent, Morwenstow, Lelant etc) are associated with the names of his children.

  7. At the junction, continue ahead and keep right to follow the lane signposted to Amble and St Minver. Continue on the lane to reach a junction with Trewethern Cottage ahead.

    Jobs' Cross, on the road to Trewethern, is a restored Celtic stone cross. The stem was found to be in use as a stepping stone across a nearby stream, and the head was reconstructed from local stone.

    There are over four hundred complete stone crosses in Cornwall and at least another two hundred fragments.

    In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path to mark the route to the parish church. Farms and hamlets were usually linked to the church by the most direct and level route. Crosses were also placed along routes of pilgrimage. Both of these have evolved to become some of today's Public Rights of Way.

  8. Continue ahead to pass Trewethern Cottage on your left until you reach a crossroads.

    The parish name St Minver (Sen Menvre in Cornish) is named after the saint to whom the church is dedicated. Menfre was one of the 24 children of the 5th Century Celtic king Brychan.

  9. Turn right at the crossroads, signposted for Port Isaac and St Endellion, and follow the road until you reach a public footpath on the left, just after the road crosses a stream.

    The plant with sticky green seeds is known as cleavers due to the ability to attach to clothing or animals. The use of "to cleave" meaning "to adhere" has Saxon origins but has become less common in recent years perhaps due to the confusion of having a more well-known meaning which is virtually the opposite.

    Goosegrass is another common name of the plant due to its attractiveness to poultry as a nutritious food. It contains tannins which make it too bitter for humans. Other common names include sticky willy.

  10. Turn left at the footpath sign and follow the path into a field. Cross the field to the track opposite, roughly a quarter of the way along the far hedge from the left-hand corner.

    The stream and all the subsequent small streams on the walk are tributaries of the River Amble. The main road through St Endellion - the B3314 - runs along the ridge forming the watershed between the Amble catchment area to the south and the coastal river valleys to the north which create the inlets harbouring fishing villages such as Port Isaac and Port Quin.

  11. Join the track and follow it ahead, uphill, until it ends in a junction with a driveway leading to a number of cottages.
    Note that the farm has free-range chickens so dogs should be kept on leads.

    The farmstead of Trevathan dates from mediaeval times. The first record is from 1321 when it was spelt Trevarthian, which is thought to be based on the name of the landowner.

  12. Turn right at the junction and follow the driveway a short distance past Bramble Cottage to some gateposts leading onto a junction. Cross to the wooden gates opposite and go though into the field with the chicken coops. Continue uphill to a metal gate.

    Chickens are descended from junglefowl and those in Britain came originally from India. They evolved the ability to lay large numbers of eggs to take advantage of gluts of food that occur in their native forests. It is thought they were introduced to Britain by Iron Age tribes who bred them for fighting rather than meat and cockfighting remained Britain's national sport until 1835. During the mediaeval period, more placid forms of chicked were bred that were less hazardous to farm but it wasn't until the 17th Century that chickens and eggs were farmed on a mass scale. In Britain, over 10 billion eggs are now consumed every year.

  13. Go through the gate and continue ahead up the field to meet the fence on the right. Follow along this to a pedestrian gate at the top of the field.
    Note that there is a pheasant release pen and low electric fence on the other side of the gate at the top so dogs should stay on leads.

    The pheasant is named after the Ancient town of Phasis (now in West Georgia) and the birds were naturalised in the UK by the 10th Century with introductions both from the Romano-British and the Normans. However, by the 17th Century they had become extinct in most of the British Isles.

    In the 1830s, the pheasant was rediscovered as a gamebird and since then it has been reared extensively for shooting. The pheasant has a life expectancy of less than a year in the wild and it is only common because around 30 million pheasants are released each year on shooting estates.

  14. Go through the gate and continue ahead along the fence on the right, passing a path to the right to reach the corner of the fence. Continue ahead after the end of the fence for another 20 metres to where there is a gap in the bushes on the right just before a large tree.

    Winston Graham wrote that he envisioned Nampara in his Poldark novels as one of the manor farms around St Endellion.

  15. Go through the gap on the right and walk carefully down the slope to a grassy corridor between the bushes. Turn left and follow the path through a metal gate into a field. Follow the left hedge of the field to the pedestrian gate in the far hedge.

    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.
  16. Go through the pedestrian gate ahead and follow the left hedge to a gateway in the far hedge leading onto a lane.
  17. Go through the gate and bear left onto the lane. Follow this a short distance to a gate with a Public Footpath sign on the right.

    St Endellion lies on the B3267 just past the turning to Port Isaac. There is a music festival in St Endellion every Easter and summer and the church is a popular venue for classical music concerts.

  18. The walk continues through the gate on the right, but before this you may want to follow the lane a little further ahead to visit the church. After going through the gate (currently on your right), cross the field to the protruding hedge and keep this on your left to reach a pair of gates in the next corner of the hedge.

    The church at St Endellion is 15th Century and named after Endelienta - one of the children of the Welsh king Brychan. It is built in the Perpendicular gothic style and contains some fine carvings in both stone and wood.

  19. Go through the (right-hand) gate ahead with metal gateposts and bear right to follow along the right hedge. Continue to reach a waymark at an opening in the hedge.

    The fruit bushes are part of Trevathan Farm Shop which operates a pick-your-own during the summer months.

  20. At the waymark, continue ahead to cross the grass to a track on the opposite side. Turn right onto the track and then follow this to reach a waymarked opening into a field.

    The building to the left is the Trevathan Farm Shop which also includes a café/restaurant.

  21. Go through the opening and depart from the track to continue directly ahead across the field and reach a waymarked stile near the corner on the far side of the field.
  22. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a stile in the corner of the field.
  23. Cross the stile and head to the metal gate at the bottom of the field in front of the cottages.
  24. Go through the gate and the one to the left to emerge onto a concrete track. Turn left onto the track to follow it to reach a junction with a track to the right.

    The farmstead of Trentinney dates from mediaeval times. The name was recorded in 1302 as Treventhenyou, which is very likely to be from the Cornish tre-fentynyow, meaning something along the lines of "springs farm". Over the years, the name has become corrupted to Trentinney.

  25. Continue ahead, on the waymarked track, to reach a fork in the track.
  26. Keep right at the fork to follow the track downhill to a waymark beside a gate.

    Ivy is well-known for being able to climb up almost anything but is not a parasite and is rarely a threat to healthy trees. Extracts from the plant were used in herbal remedies and still form the basis of modern-day cough medicines.

  27. Go through the gate and continue ahead, keeping right slightly as you reach the house to join a grassy path ahead leading to a gate with a "Route 66" sign.

    The settlement of Trecugo was recorded in 1302 as Talcogou, which is thought to be from the Cornish words tal, meaning "front" or "end" and koukow (meaning cuckoo, and where the second "k" sound sometimes became mutated to a "g" sound - the word for cuckoo is also written as both cok and kog).

  28. Go through the "Route 66" gate and the metal gate beyond it to enter a field (you might need to stand on the gate to get the bolt back into the hole). Bear right to follow along the treeline and reach a small gap in the wall leading into the next field, to the right of the gateway with granite posts.

    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.

  29. Go through the (rightmost) gap beneath the overhanging tree and follow along the bottom of the bank in the field, keeping it on your left. When you reach some trees growing on the bank, continue to keep the trees on your left and reach a gap in the hedge ahead.
  30. Go through the gap and bear right to reach the fence along the bottom of the field. Follow along this to reach a stile at the far end of the field.

    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.

  31. Cross the stile and make your way along the path (using the stepping stones to avoid the wet ground) to reach a lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it up the hill to where a track departs from the right.
  32. Turn right to join the track and follow this to where the track splits to go through the gate into a field on the right or continues ahead between the hedges.

    Buzzards can often be seen circling over the valley.

    Buzzards breed once they reach 2-3 years old. During their breeding season in spring, male buzzards create spectacular aerial displays to impress females by soaring high into the air and dropping suddenly towards the ground. The birds then pair for life.

  33. Follow the track ahead between the hedges until it ends in a junction.

    The vetches are a family of wildflowers that is a sub-group within the pea and bean family. Their pretty purple flowers are quite like mini sweetpea flowers. The leaves are also very distinctive, organised in a neat row either side of the stem. Common vetch is a wildflower but is also sown by farmers in some grazing fields to improve the nutrition for ruminants and to introduce more nitrogen into the soil.

  34. At the junction, continue ahead to join the lane and keep left past Tomphanny Barn. Continue on the lane until you pass the last of the houses on your right and reach a metal gate just before a barn.

    The settlement of Tregellist dates from mediaeval times and was recorded in 1302 as Tregellest, and the "gellest" part is thought to be based on a personal name rather than any words describing the location.

  35. Go through the gate, and another into the field, and bear left to a stile in the bottom-left corner.

    The fields here on the valley sides have better drainage than those surrounding the stream, and have traditionally been used for dairy farming.

    From Tudor times onwards, the majority of farming in Cornwall was based around rearing livestock with dairy cattle being predominant. This is reflected in traditional Cornish dairy produce including clotted cream and, later, ice cream and in the North Cornwall dialect where the pejorative for "farmer" was a fairly graphical description of the act of milking before the introduction of milking machines which rhymed with "bit fuller".

    Since 1984, the European Common Market agricultural policy - to restrict milk production - has reduced dairy herds and prompted shifts to beef and lamb production, and arable crops - particularly maize and oilseed rape. Two large buyers of Cornish milk - Rodda's for their clotted cream and Diary Crest for the production of Davidstow and Cathedral City cheeses - have helped to buffer the Cornish dairy industry from this to some degree. Post-Brexit, there is speculation that Britain may become more agriculturally self-sufficient and this could change the dynamics once again.

  36. Cross the stile, a wooden footbridge and another stile into a field. Turn right and follow the path between the fence and hedge to reach a stone stile in the corner.
  37. Cross the stile and bear left across the field to reach the gateway in the middle of the hedge opposite.
  38. Go through the gate and onto a junction of lanes. Go straight ahead, down the lane signposted St Kew, Wadebridge and Bodmin, until you pass the school and then reach a junction where a lane joins from the left.
  39. At the junction, turn left down the lane signposted to St Kew Inn and walk a few paces to reach a stile on the right, marked with a Public Footpath sign. Cross the stile and head across the field towards the church tower to meet the fence at the bottom. Turn right at the far corner of the fence to follow it downhill to reach a gate.

    St Kew Inn is thought to date back to the 15th century, built by the skilled masons who constructed the Church of St James the Great, next door. The Inn retains many of its original features including a large open fireplace.

  40. Go through the gate and follow the path downhill to reach the path from the churchyard that you passed along at the start of the walk. Turn left and follow the path back through the churchyard to return to the car park.

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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