St Newlyn East and Lappa Valley circular walk

St Newlyn East and Lappa Valley

The footbridge across the river at direction 12 has collapsed. To bypass it, stay on the lane at direction 11 and turn left at the junction to reach the stile at direction 16 and rejoin the route here.

A circular walk from St Newlyn East through the woods of the Lappa Valley where the Steam Railway now encompasses what was one of the most famous mines in Cornwall during Victorian times and the riverbeds are still stained red.

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The route meanders through the village via the pub and church then descends Metha Road to the Lappa Valley. The route follows the stream up the valley alongside the ochre-stained riverbed and past East Wheal Rose and the edge of Newlyn Downs to reach the source of the stream on Penhallow Moor. Footpaths crossing the trackbed of the old Perranporth railway lead back to Station Road to complete the circular route.


  • Towards the end of the walk there is a drainage ditch that needs reasonable athleticism to jump. If you are wearing wellies you can simply walk through instead.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 3.6 miles/5.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots all year round; wellies after prolonged wet weather.

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

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


  • Broadleaf woodland in the Lappa Valley with bluebells in spring
  • Remnants of a once-thriving industrial heritage now recolonised by nature

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Pheasant Inn


  1. Turn left out of the car park and walk a few paces to reach a Public Footpath sign. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to another kissing gate.

    The settlement of St Newlyn East was recorded in 1311 as Villa de Sancta Newelina, and takes its name from the church of St Newlina. It is thought that both the settlement and church date from early mediaeval times. Locally, the settlement is usually referred to as "Newlyn East" (more often without the "St").

  2. Go through the kissing gate and follow the track ahead until it ends at a T-junction with the road.

    National Cycle Route 32 passes through the village, along the road that you emerge onto at the T-junction.

    The National Cycle Network is coordinated by the charity Sustrans. It began with one route in Bristol in 1984 and now consists of around 15,000 miles of signposted cycle routes known as National Cycle Routes. These each have a number and are constructed using a combination of roads typically chosen to have light traffic and some traffic-free tracks which are open to cycles.

    National Cycle Route 3 runs 338 miles from Bristol to Land's End. The route is a mixture of lanes, byways and some tracks not open to road traffic including the upper section of the Camel Trail from Wenfordbridge to Dunmere.

    National Cycle Route 32 splits off Route 3 at Dunmere and rejoins it again at Truro. Using the lower half of the Camel Trail and then predominantly lanes, the route runs through Padstow, St Columb Major and Newquay for a total of 51 miles.

  3. Turn left and walk past the Pheasant Inn then bear right at the junction for just a few paces to reach a gravel driveway immediately after the war memorial.

    The earliest stone church on the site was probably built in the late 12th century. Remains of Norman masonry still exist in the lower parts of some of the walls and the font is also Norman. The church was enlarged in the 14th Century with further extensions including the tower in the 15th Century. The building today is the result of a careful restoration in 1883-4, re-using as much of the 15th Century masonry and ornamentation as possible including the roof bosses.

  4. Turn right onto the gravel beside the memorial and follow along the wall on the left past Churchyard Cottage to a gate into the churchyard. When you reach the church, turn right and keep the church on your left to reach the main door into the church.

    The Gothic lantern cross head, now located next to the font in the church, was found buried in the churchyard in the early 1900s. It was documented as being at Treludderow in 1755 and had probably been moved from the churchyard during Victorian times as it was standard practice for the clergy of the time to rescue/harvest antiquities from the parish.

  5. From the door, continue on the path alongside the church, keeping the church on your left, to reach a flight of steps leaving the churchyard. Go down the steps and ahead on the lane a short distance to a junction.

    According to legend, the fig tree on the church wall is cursed and anyone picking a leaf will die within a year:

    In ancient days Newlina came
    The Saint who gave this place its name
    Her staff she planted and she prayed
    Let here a Church to God be made
    This fig tree is her staff folks say
    Destroy it not in any way
    Upon it lays a dreadful curse
    Who plucks a leaf will need a hearse
  6. Turn right onto Metha Road and follow this past all the houses and through the national speed limit signs. Continue down the hill until you reach a stile on the right leading into the woods with a Public Footpath sign and beside a gate with a "No Horses" sign.

    Rooks can be distinguished from other members of the crow family by their pale, hairless, pointy beak (other members of the crow family have black beaks and also a moustache on the top of their beak).

  7. Cross the stile on the right and follow the path to reach a river. Follow the riverbank and continue on the path leading ahead to reach a stone stile.

    Metha Wood has a nice display of bluebells in the spring.

    During periods of cold weather, spring flowers, such as bluebells, have already started the process of growth by preparing leaves and flowers in underground bulbs during summer and autumn. They are then able to grow in the cold of winter, or early spring, by using these resources stored in their bulb. Once they have flowered, the leaves die off and the cycle begins again.

    Other species (such as cow parsley or dandelions) require warm weather before they are able to germinate and grow. With the warmer springs induced by climate change, bluebells lose their "early start" advantage, and can be out-competed.

    To support their massive weight, trees produce a biochemical compound called lignin which has a cross-linked polymer structure that makes it very rigid. Because it's so tough, most fungi and bacteria are unable to break it down. The main fungus that has worked out a way to do it is known as white rot.

  8. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a stile beside a metal gate.

    You may have noticed the red colour of the riverbeds in the valley.

    When the acidic solution containing dissolved metals from mines (known as Acidic Mine Drainage) meets other water, it is diluted and the reduced acidity causes dissolved iron to precipitate out as orange or yellow hydroxides, colouring the water and sticking to anything in the watercourse. In the case of copper mines, copper stays dissolved in the water and at higher levels this can be toxic to wildlife, particularly fish.

    Where there is a large amount of water coming from a mine which is not rendered harmless by natural dilution, reed beds have been found to be very effective in treating the acidic water. Plants and bacteria in the reed bed convert the dissolved metals into insoluble compounds that are trapped within the reed bed. There are even suggestions that the metals may be commercially recoverable after they have been concentrated in the reed bed over a period of time.

  9. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and join the track leading ahead. Follow the track a short distance until it ends in a T-junction onto a lane.

    The settlement of Nanhellan was first recorded in 1376 as Nanhillyn. Other than the first part of the name being the Cornish for "valley", nothing is known about the origin of the name - it could based on a mediaeval personal name. During Victorian times there was also a malthouse here.

  10. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a small path on the left marked with a public footpath sign.

    There are over 280 species of hoverflies in Britain. As the name of the family implies, they are very good at hovering completely stationary in flight and can switch from very fast flight to a perfect hover in the blink of an eye.

    Many have colour patterns that mimic stinging bees and wasps so predators avoid them even though they don't sting. They are quite convincing con-artists and when caught will push down their abdomen in a simulated stinging action to keep up the illusion.

    Cornwall has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • tenow - valley floor
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream (from Old English)
  11. Turn left onto the public footpath and follow it to a footbridge.

    Scientists have been surprised to find trout populations in small streams where mine water has been draining in over a number of decades such as the one at Hayle.

    Dissolved metals are normally toxic to trout but there is evidence that brown trout population in the Hayle river has evolved to be able to cope with the high mineral levels in the water. A gene responsible for the production of a protein which detoxifies metals was found to be highly expressed in the Hayle river population and other proteins were found that bind and transport iron (one of the most common metals leeching from the mines).

    The steam along the valley here also has a population of small trout.

  12. Cross the bridge and carefully cross the railway line to the steps on the far side. Climb the steps and follow the path to emerge into a field at a junction of paths.

    Lappa Valley Steam Railway follows part of the route of one of the tramways built by Victorian entrepreneur Joseph Treffry. After building his tramway from Par through the Luxulyan Valley, Treffry built tramways from Newquay which included one to East Wheal Rose which was opened in 1849 for hauling ore from the mine to Newquay harbour.

    Note that there is no entry to the Lappa Valley Steam Railway from the public footpath. However, the car park and entrance is only a couple of minutes drive from the end of the walk by turning left at the crossroads towards the church, left again at the staggered crossroads, and following the road past the pub.

  13. In the field, bear right slightly to keep the banks on your left. Then continue ahead to follow along the bank until the path emerges onto a track.

    East Wheal Rose was a lead mine opened in 1835. Silver and zinc also existed within the lead ore at levels that made it profitable to commercially extract these. By 1857 four engines were working the mine but after the company got into financial trouble the mine was abandoned. It re-opened in 1881 with a new engine house but closed again in 1888. The mine had more 20 shafts with workings reaching 150 fathoms.

  14. Turn right onto the track and follow it to where a small grassy path runs along the left of a fence just before the track opens out into a gravel parking area.

    East Wheal Rose is situated in a natural bowl formed by the valley of a small stream. In 1846 a freak thunderstorm caused a flash flood. Despite attempts to create dams to divert the water away from the mineshafts, water inundated the mine workings where around 200 people were at work and flooded it up to the 50 fathom level. 38 men died and a miner at nearby North Wheal Rose also died.

  15. Keep left to join the grassy path and follow it to a stile. Pass the stile and turn right onto the road and follow this carefully a short distance to a stile on the left marked with a Public Footpath sign.

    Lead was one of the earliest metals discovered by the human race and was already in use by the start of the Bronze Age - in fact part of the "Stone Age" probably should be called the "Lead Age". Not only was it abundant and relatively easy to extract, it was extremely versatile, being easily molten, moulded and was corrosion resistant.

    The ancient Romans used lead for making water pipes and this continued until 1970. In hard water areas, limescale soon lined the pipes, preventing lead dissolving into the water. However, areas with acidic soils, such as Cornwall, would have been much more prone to lead poisoning from water pipes.

  16. Cross the stile and follow the path, passing through a kissing gate, to reach a fork in the path.

    The heathland on the downs provides a habitat suitable for adders.

    Adders are easily identified by the pretty diamond pattern along their backs. Also known as vipers, these are Britain's only venomous snake. Adders are a protected species, are not aggressive, and generally only bite if trodden on or picked up (unsupervised dogs or children may attempt the latter).

    The lead ore found in Cornwall is a form of lead sulphide known as galena which often contains an appreciable amount of silver. This was first smelted to produce "argentiferous lead" and then the silver was separated by a process known as "cupellation". The molten alloy of the 2 metals was placed in an oxygen rich furnace which caused the lead, but not the silver, to oxidise. The lead oxide was then absorbed into a calcium-rich material such as the ash from bones or seashells, leaving the liquid metal silver on the surface of the "cake". The lead oxide could later be converted back into lead by smelting it with charcoal.

  17. At the fork, keep right to follow along the treeline. Continue to pass a wetland area and reach another fork in the path.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

    Gorse is also known (particularly in the Westcountry) as furze from the Middle English word furs. This itself is from the Old English word fyres, closely related to the Old English word for fire.

  18. When you reach the fork, keep right to continue following along the treeline. Follow the path to reach a gate.

    Given the rich lead lodes discovered in East Wheal Rose, it was calculated these ran south to the area on the downs with the deep gorge and another mine known as Wheal Constance was opened at the top of the hill with shafts on either side of the valley. Ore containing lead and silver was found and raised in significant quantities. However the location of the workings beneath the valley streams resulted in problems with water percolating into the mine, causing the mine to be abandoned as a lost cause but it was revived by a new company in 1852 and worked for several more years. Some of the tracks up the valley are the remains of tramways from the mine.

  19. Go through the kissing gate on the right of the gate and follow the path uphill to reach another gate and kissing gate.

    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.

  20. Go through the kissing gate and turn right to follow the path along the fence. Follow the fence all the way to the corner of the field to reach a kissing 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.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the path to a waymarked stile next to a gate.

    In 1873, Treffry's tramways were taken over by the Cornwall Minerals Railway (CMR) and converted for use by steam locomotives. The project also involved building an extra section of line to link the tramways in the Newquay area with those in the Par/Bugle area. The section through the Luxulyan Valley was bypassed as this involved an inclined plane driven by a waterwheel. The railway originally extended to Fowey but the section of line from Par to Fowey was closed in the 1960s and converted to a private road haul route for china clay.

    Collapses in mineral prices caused financial difficulties and lead to attempts to encourage passenger traffic associated with tourism. The struggling CMR was eventually purchased by Great Western Railway in 1896. The section between Par and Newquay remains as a branch line of the national rail network.

  22. Cross the stile and continue ahead to keep the bushes on your right. Jump over the ditch (along the line of reeds) then follow along the right hedge to reach a gap near the corner with the far hedge.

    A number of springs rise in the marshes here. All the streams in the Lappa Valley are all tributaries of the River Gannel.

    The name of the river is from the Cornish An Ganel meaning "the channel". At high tide, the River Gannel used to be navigable all the way to Trevemper Bridge, and schooners and barges would transport coal, timber and sand to the mining and agricultural industries further inland. In 1838 the East Wheal Rose mine began discharging mine waste into the tributaries of the river. This caused silting and slime to coat the riverbed. Despite complaints to the Admiralty about the impact on the river's navigability, the silting continued.

    Since the closure of the mines, the water quality has greatly improved and the Gannel river supports wildlife including salmon and the once common but now endangered European eel. The salt marshes created by the silting have also become an important habitat which is now earmarked for protection within a Marine Conservation Zone.

  23. Go through the gateway and bear left onto a track. Follow the track (passing through any gates across it) until it ends near a barn and continue ahead a short distance to pass the gate on the left and reach a stile in the bushes just past it.

    Just before the buildings, the track crosses over the trackbed of the Newquay to Perranporth railway.

    As part of the Cornwall Mineral Railway project, Treffry's tramway to the East Wheal Rose mine was extended to Treamble. Following acquisition by the Great Western Railway, the line was extended to Perranporth for tourism. The 10-mile section from Newquay to Perranporth was intended to open in time for the summer of 1904 but the engineers ran into difficulties with the composition of the bedrock and the line was finally completed on January 2, 1905. The rails were removed in 1964 following the Beeching cuts.

  24. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway if open) and bear right across the paddock to another gate and stile.
  25. Cross the stile and turn left onto the lane. Follow it until it ends in a T-junction onto the road.

    Two settlements in Cornwall were both known locally as Newlyn which wasn't too much of a problem when travel involved a horse or a boat. To disambiguate, the one near Newquay became known as (St) Newlyn East whilst the one next to Penzance is sometimes referred to as Newlyn West or Newlyn-by-Penzance but generally still just "Newlyn". Despite this, there was a period where Wetherspoons proudly displayed that their fish was caught locally in the land-locked location of the former.

  26. Turn right onto the road and follow it uphill to enter the village and past the school until you reach the sign for the Public Conveniences opposite the Old Chapel.

    During the 18th Century in Oxford, the Wesley brothers began practising their rigorous holy lifestyle which was mockingly referred to as Methodism by their peers due to their methodical practices. John Wesley began open-air preaching to recruit followers to his movement and formed small classes for each community where followers would receive ongoing religious guidance. Wesley always advocated the practise of Methodism as an extension of the Anglican faith and encouraged his followers to attend the parish church regularly. Nevertheless, senior figures within the Church of England feared the effects (or perhaps popularity) of Methodist practices, suggesting that an overdose of the Holy Spirit might be unhealthy for weak minds.

  27. Turn left at the Public Conveniences sign then bear right alongside the public toilets to emerge into a cul-de-sac. Then follow the road ahead to a crossroads.

    Many houses in the area built in the early 20th Century made use of the waste from the mines for concrete.

    During the early 1900s, concrete began to be used for house construction. Sources of sand and gravel were required and the piles of crushed rock on the mine tips provided a free source of material of the perfect granularity. However, some of this contained small amounts of uneconomic ore such as iron pyrites (fool's gold). This is known locally as mundic which is based on the Cornish words for "beautiful stone". These compounds are formed deep in the earth's crust where there is little oxygen but lots of sulphur. Iron would much rather be surrounded by more pert oxygen atoms so in the presence of air and water, the mundic reacts chemically to form iron hydroxide also known as rust. This is less dense (causing the concrete to expand and crack) and also crumbly. The overall result is that the concrete disintegrates over time and houses can fall down. Within Cornwall, mortgage lenders now require a mundic check to be done on any concrete from the first half of the 20th Century.

  28. Continue ahead at the crossroads and follow the road to return to the village hall car park.

    A short distance up the road to the left, just past the two cemetary gates, is the "village pit".

    The circular pit at the end of the village resembles a plain-an-gwarry (Playing Place) but is a Methodist preaching pit built in the 19th Century together with the tea room as a memorial to the men that died in the East Wheal Rose disaster. The pit was originally also used for Cornish Wrestling. There are three other similar landscaped preaching pits in Cornwall.

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