St Mabyn to Pencarrow House

A fairly easy circular walk from St Mabyn past the church and inn and through rolling countryside to Pencarrow House and its magnificent gardens.

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The walk begins from St Mabyn, passing the church and crossing fields to reach Trescowe Farm then follows a track to Pencarrow before following pleasant winding lanes and fields back to St Mabyn, ending at the Inn. This walk can easily be combined with a visit to Pencarrow House and Gardens to make a full day out.

Electric fence reported across the field between directions 9 and 10 so you may need to carefully duck under this until it is removed.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: St Mabyn Inn
  • Parking: Along Station Road in St Mabyn PL303BA. Make your way to the crossroads beside St Mabyn Inn and park along the edge of Station Road, on the opposite side of the crossroads from the pub.
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Local food and ales at 17th century St Mabyn Inn
  • Pretty stained glass in St Mabyn church
  • Panoramic countryside views between St Mabyn and Pencarrow
  • Pencarrow House with opulent furnishing from the Georgian and Victorian periods
  • Extensive colourful gardens surrounding Pencarrow House
  • Snowdrops, wild garlic and bluebells in the woodland around Pencarrow

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Walk towards the church and pass the crossroads with Wadebridge Road to reach the St Mabyn Inn car park opposite Chapel Lane. Turn right past the St Mabyn Inn to reach the gate into the churchyard.

    St Mabyn Inn was built in the 17th century originally as a farmhouse. It later became a church Alehouse and then finally an inn.

    Church Ales were celebrations held within the church calendar, particularly at Whitsuntide and May Day, when ales were brewed and sold in order to raise funds for the Church or for good causes in the parish. With the growth of Puritanism in the late 17th century, drinking was seen as sinful. Church Ales were considered to be nothing but drunken disorders and were suppressed. Church houses were gradually abandoned, demolished or put to other uses.

  2. Turn left in front of the churchyard gate. Follow the path along the outside of the churchyard to a gate into the school field.

    The current church building in St Mabyn dates from the 15th Century. Before this, there was another church on the same site. It's possible that the churchyard dates back to Celtic times as is of an approximately circular shape that is typical of Celtic churchyards.

  3. Go through the gate and bear left slightly across the field to a gate in the middle of the far hedge.

    The village of St Mabyn takes its name from St Mabena to whom the church is dedicated. She was daughter of the 5th Century Celtic king, Brychan and is depicted on the sign of the St Mabyn Inn as well as in the stained glass in the church.

  4. Go through the gate ahead and follow the left hedge to another gate in the far hedge.

    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.

    Several mediaeval manuscripts state that he was married three times but the numbers of children vary from 12 to 63 with 24 being the most commonly reported number. There is also little agreement in the lists of names between Cornish and Welsh manuscripts. It is through that the list of his children may have grown over time as more people claimed themselves or their local saint to be descended from what was seen as the holy family.

  5. Go through the gate and follow along the treeline on the left and then the fence until you reach a stile below the houses.

    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.
  6. Cross the stile and stream to reach a field. Bear right up the field to a stile 10 metres to the left of the two large trees in the far hedge.
  7. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a waymarked opening at the bottom of the field.
  8. Go through the opening to a stone footbridge. Cross this and follow the wall to a stone stile.

    The trees along the wall are Beech.

    Compared to many native trees, the beech colonised Great Britain relatively recently, after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Beech trees can live up to 400 years.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge of the field to a stile in the corner.
  10. Cross the stile and footbridge then follow the left hedge to a stile at the top of the field.

    In farms around Cornwall, harvest was celebrated with traditions such as "crying the neck".

    Neck - a miniature sheaf of wheat with four plaited arms, intertwined with everlastings and the more durable of flowers. The stalks of wheat brought down by the last sweep of the scythe are brought home in thankful triumph, and woven as described. In the evening, the sheaf or zang is taken into the mowhay, where are assembled all the harvest party.

    A stout-lunged reaper proclaims: "I hav'en! I hav'en! I hav'en!"
    Another loud voice questions: "What hav'ee? What hav'ee? What hav'ee?"
    "A neck! A neck! A neck!" is the reply;
    and the crowd take up, in their lustiest tones, a chorus of "Wurrah".

    General merriment follows and the draughts of ale and cider are often deep. The neck may be seen hanging to the beam of many of our farm-houses between harvest and Christmas eve, on which night it is given to the master bullock in the chall. "Hollaing the neck" is still heard in East Cornwall, and is one of the cheerfullest of rural sounds.

    Since the 20th century, the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies has been reviving this tradition; the ale part sounds good.

  11. Cross the stile and bear right up the field to a stile, to the left of the gateway, in the middle of the top hedge.

    The Harvest Festival was invented in Morwenstow in 1843 by Rev. Hawker. He invited his parishioners to a Harvest service, as he wanted to give thanks to God for providing such plenty. The service took place on the 1 October, and bread made from the first cut of corn was taken at communion. It quickly caught on and spread throughout Cornwall and beyond. In the Port Isaac Harvest Festival celebration, fish, nets, oars and lobster pots took the place of the more conventional flowers and fruit.

  12. Cross the stile and continue ahead down the short grassy track to reach the gate and stile.
  13. Cross the stile or go through the gate and follow the right hedge of the field past one gateway to reach a gate in the corner of the field.
  14. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow it, keeping left at the farmhouse, to reach a junction just past the pond.

    The settlement of Trescowe dates from early mediaeval times and the first record is from the 13th Century. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish word scawen meaning elder trees.

  15. Continue ahead at the junction and follow the track until you reach the "Way out" signs from Pencarrow House.

    When you reach Pencarrow House, you may want to visit the house and/or gardens. When open, tickets are on sale in the car park to the right of the "Way out" signs. There is an honesty box to pay for entrance to the gardens when the house is closed (Fri and Sat at the time of writing).

    Pencarrow House is located near Washaway on the Bodmin to Wadebridge Road. For nearly 500 years, Pencarrow has been the family home of Molesworth-St Aubyns and they still live there today but open the house and gardens to the public. The house was built in the 1760-70s extending an older house on the site, probably dating from around 100 years earlier. The house was used as the setting for a classical music concert in ITV's comedy drama series, Doc Martin.

  16. From the "Way out" signs, follow the lane ahead to exit from Pencarrow, until it ends at a T-junction onto a road.

    The 50 acres of gardens at Pencarrow House were designed and laid out by the Radical politician, Sir William Molesworth. The gardens contain more than 600 varieties of rhododendron and camelia, and at one time included just about every possible species of conifer that can be grown in England.

  17. Turn right onto the road, then immediately right again onto a small lane signposted to St Mabyn. Follow the lane until you eventually reach a junction at a Give Way sign, signposted to Wadebridge.

    Where the lane passes through a wooded valley, wild garlic grows either side of the lane.

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

  18. At the junction, go through the leftmost of the two gates on your right, marked with the public footpath sign. Follow the right hedge to a stile.
  19. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a gate.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleating, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  20. Cross the stile next to the gate and head directly across the field to the gate opposite.
  21. Cross the stile next to the gate and head straight across the field to the gap in the hedge to the left of the wooded area.
  22. Follow the wall on the right to reach a stile.
  23. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane past the church until it ends at a T-junction. The parking along Station Road is on your left when you reach the junction.

    Unlike St Mabena, Cecilia (also celebrated in St Mabyn church) is not a Celtic saint. She is celebrated with a feast day in many branches of the Christian church including both Roman Catholic and Anglican and thought to be of Roman origin. She is patroness of church music because she is supposed to have sung to god when dying.

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

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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