St Neot Two Valleys

A circular walk from St Neot though the valley of the River Loveny, past a prehistoric settlement, through bluebell woodland and along the River Fowey, and returning via the church, famous for its mediaeval stained glass.

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The route passes through St Neot towards the church then climbs up to the moorland of Berry Down via small lanes and footpaths. After crossing the moor, the walk descends into the river valley through bluebell woods and follows the wooded path along the top of a ravine. The route follows the river close to its confluence with the River Fowey and follows the Fowey to Treverbyn Mill where the mediaeval bridge building was traded for sins. The return route is via small lanes and tracks, ending at the London Inn.

Reviews

We did your St Neot Bluebell walk yesterday and really enjoyed it, despite the weather.
My wife & I did this 5 mile circular walk today. It was most pleasurable. I congratulate the creator of the 5 page notes, all of which were excellent.
Husband downloaded this walk which we did today. I wasn't brave enough to walk through a massive herd of horned cattle, so we took the lanes around! Great walk, Especially through the woodland. Part of the path has fallen away so tread with caution in parts. Beautiful scenery and a walk we'll certainly do on a regular basis.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: St Neot car park
  • Parking: St Neot car park PL146ND
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Pretty riverside scenery
  • Woodland carpeted with bluebells in spring
  • Quiet footpaths with plenty of wildlife and picnic spots

Directions

  1. Turn right out of the car park and follow the main road through St Neot to the London Inn.

    St Neot's Town Mill is evident from the worn millstones standing against the walls. Opposite the millstones are two granite blocks with slots to support the timber frame that was used inside the mill to hold the large vertical cog connected to the millwheel which drove a smaller horizontal one powering the millstones.

  2. Turn left up the lane beside the pub and follow it until you reach a junction with another lane from the left.

    The London Inn in St Neot was origally a coaching inn on the route to the capital. Before the A38 was constructed in the 1830's through the Glynn Valley, the main road from Bodmin to Liskeard was via St. Neot. The hill leading east is still locally known as 'London Bound'.

  3. Turn left and follow the lane a short distance to a flight of steps on the right with a public footpath sign.

    Oak Apple Day is celebrated in St Neot on 29th May each year. The celebration was started in 1660 when King Charles II returned to the throne and created as a public holiday, which continued until 1859. Traditional celebrations to commemorate the event often entailed the wearing of oak apples (a type of plant gall) or sprigs of oak leaves.

    In St Neot, the celebration involves a procession through the village to the church and an oak branch being erected on the church tower, followed by a barbeque at the Vicarage. Failure to wear the correct vegetation (red oak before noon and a sprig of "Boys Love" after noon) results in a punishment of being stung by nettles.

  4. Climb the steps and go through the gate at the top into the field. Follow the right hedge of the field to the very top-right corner where there is a pedestrian gate (after the farm gate).

    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.
  5. Turn right through the pedestrian gate and follow the path to another gate. Go through this then head across the centre of the field, aiming to the right of the line of trees ahead to reach a stile to the left of a farm gate.

    Lots of dandelion plants lurk amongst the grass and may get a chance to flower in April before the field is grazed.

    Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (lion's tooth), which is thought to refer to the shape of the leaves. Dandelion leaves can be eaten in salads, though their bitterness is not to everyone's taste. However, the bitterness can be removed by blanching: drop the leaves into boiling salted water and remove after a minute and quench in ice-cold water to prevent the leaves from cooking.

  6. Cross the stile onto the lane and turn left. Follow the lane until it ends at a junction.
  7. Turn right at the junction and follow the winding lane past Tremaddock Farm to a junction with a waymark and a no-through sign.
  8. Keep right to stay on the lane and follow it until it ends at a T-junction.
  9. Bear right across the lane to the public bridleway opposite and follow this until it ends at a gate.

    The bridleway is hedged with a mixture of broadleaf trees which include sycamore.

    Research suggest that Sycamore was common in Britain up to Roman times but then died out due to the warming climate apart from some mountainous regions such as in Scotland. During the Tudor period it is thought to have been reintroduced by landowners looking for a rapid-growing tree for their estates and was found to be salt-tolerant - essential in Cornwall. It has since spread widely as the seeds are extremely fertile and able to grow just about anywhere. In fact, in some areas it is regarded as an invasive weed. The timber was traditionally used for milk pails as it does not impart any flavour or colour. It is still used today for kitchenware and is recognisable by the light colour and fine grain.

  10. Go through the gate and bear right to follow the waymarked path across the moor to reach a metal farm gate onto a lane.

    At the top of the hill is a prehistoric enclosure known as Berry Castle containing the circular remains of 9 huts. The enclosure was created by standing a ring of stones in a circle and then banking earth around these.

  11. Go through the gate and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane until you reach a public footpath sign opposite a barn.

    The purpose of enclosures within ramparts varied quite considerably. Some were built as forts to defend from marauding invaders such as the seafaring Scandanavians. Others were defences built around small villages either as a status symbol/deterrent or for the more practical purpose of preventing domestic crimes such as theft of property by occupants of neighbouring villages. There were even some which were probably just a confined space used to stop livestock escaping!

  12. Turn left onto the signposted footpath and follow it through the woods until it ends at a stile.

    There are spectacular displays of bluebells in May, starting in these woods, but the next area of woods is even better still!

    When photographing bluebells, the flowers that look blue to your eye can end up looking purple in photos.

    The first thing to check is that your camera isn't on auto white balance as the large amount of blue will cause the camera to shift the white balance towards reds to try to compensate.

    Another thing to watch out for is that the camera's light metering will often over-expose the blue slightly to get a reasonable amount of red and green light and the "lost blue" can change the balance of the colours. You can get around this by deliberately under-exposing the photo (and checking there is no clipping if your camera has a histogram display) and then brightening it afterwards with editing software.

  13. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to a pedestrian 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.

  14. Go through the gate and bear right slightly to a gap in the middle of the right 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.

  15. Go through the gap into the next field and head for the waymark by the outcrop of trees. Pass the waymark on your left to reach a stile into the woods.
  16. Cross the stile and follow the path through the woods to merge onto another path at a waymark. Continue on this to eventually reach a gate.

    The river at the bottom of the steep valley is a tributary of the River Fowey, known as Trenant Stream.

    Trenant Stream runs off the moor east of Colliford Lake and collects water draining from the large lake near Whitebarrow which was once Park Pit - the old china clay works. The stream ends in a confluence with the River Fowey just below Golitha Falls.

  17. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the gate and follow the track to reach a lane.

    During mediaeval times, the rivers around St Neot were diverted to extract alluvial tin.

    The first method to extract tin was known as "tin streaming" which reached its peak in the 12th Century, though continued until the mid 20th Century.

    Alluvial deposits occurred where a river had eroded the tiny crystals out of mineral veins. Due to tin being so heavy, the crystals had become concentrated on the bottom of the stream as the lighter rocks around them were washed away. Over time these deposits were buried in gravel and sand, and eventually soil.

    Using quite elaborate banks and channels, the river was diverted to wash away the soil and gravel, leaving the heavy tin-rich rocks behind which could be dug out once the river was diverted away.

    One side-effect of all this industry was that the topsoil, sand and gravel washed downriver caused the silting of many river estuaries and once-thriving mediaeval river ports literally dried up and were superseded by sea ports.

    Once the relatively rich alluvial deposits had been used up, mostly by the 18th Century, mineral veins were instead mined directly.

  18. Turn left onto the lane and then immediately right at the public footpath sign and follow the path to a gate.

    The tin was brought into St Neot for smelting, using the river as a source of power.

    Next to the sign for the holy well is an enclosed niche in the wall containing a stone. It is likely that this was a mortar stone (in the sense of "pestle and mortar") used to crush tin ore prior to smelting it in the blowing house which was situated behind the mill during the 17th Century. The crushing was mechanised by lifting wooden poles with metal heads which would then drop onto the ore and crush it against the stone - hence the process was known as "stamping". There are three cupped areas in the stone into which the metal "stamp heads" would have fitted. A leat was run from the river to drive the waterwheel which powered both the stamping mechanism and the bellows for smelting.

  19. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a pedestrian gate. Go through the pedestrian gate and follow the waymarked path down to the river. Follow the path alongside the river to stone steps with a handrail.

    The route meets the River Fowey a short distance downriver of the confluence.

    The River Fowey rises close to Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor and is fed by 7 tributaries along its 25 mile course, many of which also start on Bodmin Moor. It is the third longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar and Camel.

    The upper reaches of the Fowey river system run through 2 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the Fowey valley is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The river has populations of sea trout and salmon as well as brown trout which make it popular with fly fishermen.

  20. When you reach the steps, climb these and follow the path alongside the river until the path crosses a stream in front of a stone stile over a wall.

    Trout are members of Salmon family who all have an extra tiny (adipose) fin on their back towards their tail, that most other fish don't have. No-one is quite sure what the purpose is of this fin but a neural network in the fin indicates that it has some kind of sensory function.

    The native trout in the UK is not the trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock (the Rainbow Trout, which has red flush along its side and is native to North America), but the Brown Trout which has well-defined dark red spots along its sides. You can often make out the spots when you see them lying in pools. Rainbow Trout are often stocked in fishing lakes so do sometimes escape into the wild.

    Small trout typically feed on invertebrates whereas larger trout generally feed on other fish but have been known to eat anything of a suitable size unlucky enough to fall into a river. In fact in New Zealand, mouse-shaped lures are sold for trout fishing!

  21. Where the stream crosses the path, carefully step across. Cross the stile on the other side and follow the path to a flight of steps. Climb the steps and turn left onto the path at the top. Follow the path until you reach a gate with a stile ahead and another to the right.

    When you reach the gate, a short diversion to the left along the lane ahead is the mediaeval Treverbyn bridge.

    The old bridge dates to 1412-13 and is thought to have incorporated the arch of an earlier bridge which was described as "threatening total ruin" in 1412. The Bishop of Exeter granted an "Indulgence", providing a pardon of 40 days penance for their sins to all who contributed to the bridge's repair.

    On its way to the bridge, the lane passes over the leet for Treverbyn mill which dates from the 18th century and was still being used to grind cattle feed when it was surveyed for listing.

  22. Cross the waymarked stile on the right and turn left. Follow the fence until you reach the grassy field then bear right up the steep bank to reach a stile about a third of the way along the top fence.

    The reason moles create tunnels is that these act as worm traps. When a worm drops in, the mole dashes to it and gives it a nip. Mole saliva contains a toxin that paralyzes earthworms and the immobilised live worms are stored in an underground larder for later consumption. Researchers have discovered some very well-stocked larders with over a thousand earthworms in them! To prepare their meal, moles pull the worms between their paws to force the earth out of the worm's gut.

    Moles have a special form of haemoglobin that allow them to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide in the low-oxygen environment within the tunnels. In wetland areas where there is no gradient available to retreat uphill, moles construct a large mound protruding around half a metre above the ground to act as an emergency flood shelter.

  23. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to the protruding hedge just to the left of the buildings. Keep this hedge on your right to reach a metal farm gate.

    Despite how tough mature dock plants are, at the seedling stage docks are very poor competitors with other plants such as grass. On grazing land, farmers can use docks as a warning sign that there have been bare patches of earth. This could have been caused by livestock damage or uneven spreading of manure which has killed patches of grass by blocking sunlight.

  24. Go through the gate and cross over the main lane to a smaller one ahead. Follow the small lane until it ends at a junction.

    Celandines flower along the lane in spring.

    The name Celandine is thought to come from the Latin word for swallow. It is said that the flowers bloom when the birds return in spring and fade when they leave in autumn.

    Celandine flowers close each night and open each morning. This is controlled by a circadian rhythm, so they really are 'going to sleep' at night and 'waking up in the morning'. It is likely that this has arisen to protect the internals of the flowers from any frost during the night as they begin flowering in March when frosts are still common.

  25. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane until it also ends at a junction.
  26. Turn right at the junction and follow the road a short distance to a crossroads at a cross.

    The cross is ancient and was moved here in the 1930s from Lampen Lane, downriver from the St Neot car park.

    Christianity in Roman Britain began in the 4th or 5th century AD. However there were no known cities west of Exeter, so the spread into Cornwall is likely to have been very limited. The majority of Cornwall is likely to have remained Pagan until "The Age of Saints" - the late 5th or early 6th century - when the Irish missionaries including St Piran and St Petroc settled in Cornwall.

  27. Turn right onto the lane signposted to Colliford Lake and follow the lane to a junction.

    Colliford Lake is the largest lake in Cornwall, covering over 900 acres and is over 100ft deep in some places. It was created in the late 1980s by damming a tributary valley of the River Fowey, as a reservoir to feed the water supply of South Cornwall. The lake and surrounding wetlands provide an important habitat for birds, and the Loveny nature reserve has been established to include the lake and surrounding moorland. The lake is a well-regarded brown trout fishery (for which fly fishing permits may be purchased, and is restocked with baby trout to supplement the wild population) and apparently also contains some huge carp.

  28. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane, keeping left at Tralee, until you reach Higher Newton, where a track departs to the left.
  29. Turn left onto the track and follow it until you reach a pair of gates either side with a path leading ahead after a concrete drainage channel across the track.
  30. Follow the path downhill until it ends on the lane leading from the pub and church.

    The present church of St. Anietus is a fine 15th century building of granite, in the Perpendicular Gothic style. It retains much of its mediaeval stained glass in twelve of the windows. The only English parish church with more complete mediaeval glazing is Fairford in Gloucestershire but St Neot's is older, dating from the 1460s to the 1530s. The list of Vicars goes back to 1266 though there are no traces of an earlier building.

  31. Turn left onto the lane and follow it down to the pub. Turn right at the pub to return to the car park.

    The Holy Well of St Neot is in the meadow a short distance along the lane starting opposite the Post Office.

    The Holy Well of St. Neot is situated in a meadow beside the river, north of the village. There are many legends of St. Neot concerning the Holy Well. He is said to have stood daily in the well reciting the Psalter. The story goes that one day, by the revelation of an angel, he found three fishes in the well but was instructed never to take more than one fish. Some while later, he fell ill and his servant went to the well and took two fish which he cooked for his master. St. Neot ordered that the two fish be returned to the well where they were miraculously restored to life.

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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