St Mabyn to Pencarrow House

Note that Pencarrow Gardens are closed during the winter months and open 1st March - 31st October. There is a charge for admission. For up-to-date prices, dates and times, see the Pencarrow website.

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.

Reviews

We've done this one - lovely walk finished in the pub at St Mabyn by a roaring fire!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • 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

Pubs on or near the route

  • St Mabyn Inn

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 (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.

    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.
  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.

    In the 40 years since 1960, the global production of cereal crops tripled, with wheat accounting for more than all the other crops combined. One of the factors driving the increase is processed foods where the stretchy and adhesive properties of gluten are made use of.

  7. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to an opening at the bottom of the field.

    Wheat was formed by hybridisations between wild grasses which was then spread through domestication. The cultivation of wheat is thought to have begun nearly 12,000 years ago in southeast Turkey.

    Remains of wheat from 8000 years ago have been found in Britain which indicate trade with Europe. Until around 6500 BC, it was possible to walk between Britain and the rest of Europe via an area of low lying land known as Doggerland. As sea levels rose after the last Ice Age, the North Sea flooded this, making Britain an island.

    Because each of the hybridisations that formed wheat were rare events, and because there were multiple stages of hybridisation involved, domesticated bread wheat is all from a common ancestry and therefore there is very little genetic variety. This narrow gene pool makes the risk of a catastrophic disease quite high. Since the 20th Century, work has been underway to broaden the wheat gene pool to produce disease-resistant strains through a number of techniques including crossing wheat varieties from different parts of the world, hybridising with wild grasses, and more recently through direct genetic manipulation.

  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 have a shallow root system and are therefore often found in areas where water is plentiful such as near rivers. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, tall, stately beech trees were very fashionable in the estates of wealthy landowners and many mature beech woodlands today are the result of 18th Century parkland landscaping projects.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge of the field to a stile in the corner.

    Cereal crops such as wheat and barley grow by using the energy obtained by photosynthesis to produce a chemical that reacts with carbon dioxide from the air. A problem for these plants is that as the temperature increases, this chemical is more prone to reach with oxygen in the air instead of carbon dioxide. This is the main reason that these crops don't do well in tropical climates and are farmed at temperate latitudes such as in Britain. Maize uses a different chemical reaction to extract carbon dioxide from the air which is more resilient to higher temperatures and also allows these plants to lose less water through their leaves. This allows them to grow in hotter, drier climates such as the southern United States.

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

    In Ireland where the damp climate meant that only low-gluten cereal crops could be grown, bread was risen with soda rather than yeast as this suited both the low-gluten flour and the hearth-based cooking method. Given the similar climate and also migration and trade between Ireland and Cornwall in Celtic times, it's very possible this method was also used here too.

  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.

    In the old days, bread was made on the hearth using barley flour which was cheaper than wheat. Since barley flour is ironically now pretty expensive, in our recipe we mix half-half with cheap SR flour in the spirit of traditional thriftiness. If you can't get barley flour, a rustic wholemeal flour such as that milled at Zennor Mill or Cotehele will do nicely.

    Mix 175g of barley flour + 175g SR flour + 6g salt + 3g bicarb. Add 200ml buttermilk, or mix 160ml water with 40ml yoghurt or crème fraîche and use this instead.

    Mix together (don't knead), form into a dome; cut a deep cross with a sharp knife. Put into a preheated oven at 200°C (180°C fan) for 20-25min (until starting to brown). Serve warm with butter or clotted cream. It's very nice with soup or smoked mackerel paté.

  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 camellia, 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 for just under a mile until 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.

    The original tarmac was made from coal tar and ironworks slag. In the 1920s, coal tar was replaced by the tar from petroleum oil - bitumen. This oil-based tarmac is known as asphalt in the UK. However in the USA, "asphalt" means bitumen (i.e. just the tar with no "mac"). If that wasn't confusing enough, tarmac is known as "bitumen" in Australia!

  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.

    Clover is a native plant and a member of the legume (pea and bean) family. It is also sown as a fodder crop and as "green manure" as it improves soil fertility. The two most common species are known simply as white clover and red clover, based on the colour of their flowers, with the latter generally being a slightly larger plant. Red clover leaves also have a white V shape.

  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 a miscarriage. 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.

    The UK is one of the windiest places in Europe and considered as one of the best places in the world for wind power. Over 10% of the UK's energy already comes from wind power (which rises to around 40% during windy months) and it is now one of the cheapest sources of electricity. Wind turbines last for about 20-25 years until the moving parts wear out and they need to be replaced.

  21. Cross the stile next to the gate and head straight across the field to the gateway in the wall to the left of the wooded area.
  22. Go through the gateway and follow the wall on the right to reach a stile.

    The tall trees here are popular with jackdaws.

    Jackdaws have been found to share food and will share more of a preferred food than an unpleasant one. Although the sharing often takes place in courtship and parenting, the behaviour has also been observed in unrelated birds. It is thought that this pro-social behaviour might be a sign of reciprocity ("do unto others...") and possibly empathy.

  23. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane past the church until it ends at a T-junction. 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.

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