Three Saints Way

A circular walk around the tributary valleys of the River Ottery and Kensey between three of Cornwall's least-well-known mediaeval churches

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From Tremaine church, the route crosses the tributary valleys of the River Ottery criss-crossing the trackbed of the old North Cornwall railway to reach Treneglos church. The walk then crosses into the valley of Launceston's River Kensey, close to its source on the Badgall Downs and follows the valley downriver to reach Tresmeer church.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6 miles/9.7 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Tremaine Church
  • Parking: Grassy parking area beside Tremaine Church PL158SA. From the A395 take one of the junctions to Three Hammers follow the road towards Egloskerry to a junction on the left signposted to Tremaine and Treburtle. Turn left and follow this until just after you pass between two walls you reach another junction to the left to Tremaine. Turn left here and follow this to a T-junction. Turn left at the T-junction to reach the church.
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots (involves crossing marshy areas in fields)

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • A pretty, tranquil area of Cornwall away from the summer crowds with quiet lanes
  • Countryside views with some nice autumn colours
  • Historic churches of Tremaine, Treneglos and Tresmeer
  • Rich wildlife including birds and butterflies
  • Off the beaten track so good chance of seeing larger wild animals

Directions

  1. Make your way to the lane and turn left onto this. Follow it to a junction with a small grassy island and tree.

    Tremaine churchyard was originally more curved in shape which suggests that it may have been a Celtic religious site. The church building has Norman origins and some Norman features can still be seen in the north wall. The font is also from the Norman period, dated at around 25-50 years after the Norman Conquest. The first record of the church is from 1150, when it was given by William de Bottreaux to Launceston priory. The dedication to St Winwaloe may have arisen from the Breton origins of the Bottreaux family. The tower is thought to have been added in the 14th Century and then the church was rebuilt in the 16th Century.

  2. Bear left at the junction and keep left to follow the track downhill past the houses to a bend by a gate.

    The first record of the settlement of Westcott is from 1284. The name simply means "West Cottages".

  3. Keep left to stay on the track and follow it to another bend with a stile. Stay on the track and follow it to where it ends at a gate and stile, just after a bridge.

    The railway bridge crossed by the track is a remnant of the North Cornwall line.

    The North Cornwall Railway was a venture backed by the London and South Western Railway to compete with the Great Western Railway for services to Cornwall. The North Cornwall line ran from Halwill in Devon to Padstow via Launceston, Camelford and Wadebridge and was built for economy rather than speed, including climbs and curves to avoid costly construction work. The line was opened in sections at the end of the 19th century, reaching Padstow in 1899. There was an aspiration to connect Wadebridge to Truro, but this was never realised. Due to holidaymakers increasingly travelling by car in the 1960s, demand for passenger services dwindled and the line was closed as part of the cuts in 1966.

  4. Cross the stile or go through the gate and follow the track ahead through another gate into a field. Continue on the track along the right hedge to a gate.

    Electric fences are powered with a car battery which charges a capacitor to release a periodic pulse of electricity; this is often audible as a quiet "crack" which is a good indicator that a fence is powered. The power is not high enough to cause serious injury but touching an electric fence is nevertheless unpleasant in a similar way to stinging nettles. If you are answering the call of nature in the vicinity of an electric fence, be mindful of the conductivity of electrolyte solutions!

  5. In front of the gate, depart from the track and pass through the gap between the fence post and hedge on your left. Continue following the right hedge to the corner of the field, then turn left to keep following along the right hedge to reach a stile in the other corner.

    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, climb the steps and go through the gate. Follow the path between the hedges to reach a gate.
  7. Go through the gate and follow the path between the hedges to reach a gate onto a track.
  8. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow it to a gate at a junction of tracks.
  9. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow the track to a farmyard. Continue ahead through the sequence of gates to reach a lane.

    The settlement here is called Splatt which is a Cornish word for "field". The first record of it is relatively recent: as an un-named settlement marked on the OS map of 1813.

  10. Turn right onto the lane and follow it over the bridge to a junction.

    The building to the left of the bridge was Tresmeer Station which was opened in 1892 as part of the North Cornwall Railway. The remains of the platform can still be seen as part of the garden and a goods shed has also been converted.

  11. Bear left at the junction onto the small lane signposted Warbstow and follow it until it ends in a T-junction.

    The stream at the bottom of the valley is a tributary of the River Ottery.

    The River Ottery is a tributary of the Tamar and stretches about 20 miles across the northeast of the county. Its basin spans a Carboniferous geological formation known as the Culm Measures which contains a soft-sooty form of coal and supports grassland that is very rich in species, some rare such as the Marsh Fritillary.

    The river once formed a northern boundary between Celtic Dumnonia and Anglo-Saxon Wessex and consequently the place names to the north are predominantly Saxon and those to the south are Celtic. The name of the river itself has Anglo-Saxon roots from the Old English oter (after the creatures that thrived along it) and ea (meaning stream).

  12. Turn left at the junction, signposted to Treneglos. Follow the lane for roughly three quarters of a mile to the church.

    The first record of the settlement of Treglith is from around 1300 although the Cornish name suggests it dates from early mediaeval times. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish word gwleghe so the overall gist would be "damp farm". It is thought that the present farmhouse dates from around the 16th or 17th Century and was refashioned during Georgian times.

  13. Continue on the lane from the church until you pass a gate on the left and continue for roughly another 100m from the gate to reach a stile concealed beneath the bushes on the left.

    The placename is from the Cornish word eglos for church, and translates to something along the lines of Church Farm. The church here dates back to Saxon times and though the settlement itself wasn't mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, the church was.

  14. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to the field gate opposite.
  15. Go through the gate and cross the road to the lane opposite, signposted to Kyrse. Follow the lane downhill to the farm. Continue past the farm buildings until you pass a huge barn on the left, the lane passes through some metal gates, and you reach a tarmacked track on the left between the huge barn and another building.

    The first record of Kyrse is from 1150. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish words kew (meaning "hollow") and ros (meaning "moor"). The basis might be the area of low ground around the river valley versus the surrounding downs.

  16. Turn left onto the track and follow it until, just after passing a cottage on your right, you reach two metal field gates on the left.
  17. Go through the second (furthest) of the two gates on the left into a field. Bear right slightly between the two telegraph poles to cross the field diagonally and meet the right hedge. Follow along the right hedge to a gate leading onto a footbridge in the corner.
  18. Go through the gate onto a footbridge and cross this into another field. Then head uphill towards two big trees. As you cross the brow of the hill, a barn comes into view. Head initially for this and then the waymarked metal gate in front of it.

    The footbridge is over a tributary of the River Kensey, which all the marshes and streams in this valley feed into. The Kensey runs through Launceston and then joins the River Tamar at the border with Devon. The deep valley cut by the River Kensey made the hill above the river at Launceston an ideal defensible position which ultimately gave rise to the town.

  19. Go through the gate and cross the farmyard, bearing right towards the gap between the farmhouse (on the left of the gap) and barn (on the right of the gap).
  20. Go through the gap between the house and the barn and through a gate into a grassy area. Continue ahead to a gate ahead into a field.
  21. Go through the gate and follow the telegraph poles across the field to reach a gate on the far side.

    The fields here are sometimes planted with barley.

    Barley was one of the first domesticated crops and has been dated back over 10,000 years. Consequently beer made from barley is likely to have been one of the first alcoholic drinks consumed by the Neolithic tribes.

  22. Go through the gate and follow the line of telegraph poles. Continue following the wire from the last pole to a path between the hedges and make your way up this to reach a stile.

    In summer, the path ahead can get quite overgrown. You may want to pick up a stick as you enter the wooded path in case you need to clear any nettles.

  23. Cross the stile and follow the path until it ends at a stile.

    During the summer, the sides of the path may be lined with nettles.

    Nettles are extremely nutritious, containing high levels of vitamin A and C, large amounts of iron and even a significant amount of protein. The idea of eating something that can sting you seems wrong until you realise that nettles lose their sting as soon as you cook them, and they taste like spinach. Wearing gloves, strip off the young tender leaves, discarding any large coarse leaves and stems. Use lightly boiled, steamed or wilted as if it were spinach (though not raw unless you want to live dangerously!). All the usual spinach flavour combinations apply (e.g. with ricotta).

  24. Cross the stile onto the lane and go through the gate on the opposite side. Follow the right hedge of the field to a kissing gate in the far corner.

    A well-known country remedy for the stings of nettles is to rub the sore area with the leaf of a dock plant. A common misconception is that dock leaves are alkaline and neutralise the acids in the nettle sting but, in reality, docks contain a mild (oxalic) acid. Also the formic acid in nettle venom is at a concentration that is too low to cause a sting, and it is instead a combination of neurotransmitters (histamine, serotonin and acetlycholine) in the venom which causes skin irritation. Although dock is claimed by some to contain a natural antihistamine, no scientific evidence has been found for this. It is thought that it is simply the rubbing and moisture in the leaf which provides a short-term relief/distraction whilst the sting itself is diminishing over time. The most effective relief is likely to be from an antihistamine cream but only if applied quickly enough. Alternatively, almost any moist leaf should provide a little relief, with the exception of another nettle leaf!

  25. Go through the kissing gate and follow the right hedge to a kissing gate in the corner of the field.
  26. Go through the kissing gate and follow the left hedge to a 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.

  27. Go through the gate and straight ahead through a small iron gate. Walk past the church to another gate on the opposite side of the churchyard.

    The village church in the hamlet and parish of Tresmeer (Cornish: Trewasmeur) is within the Launceston district. Tresmeer church tower is thought to date from the late 15th Century when many Cornish churches were rebuilt and towers added. The rest of the church was rebuilt in the late 1870s, so if there was an earlier structure, no traces now remain. The church is now dedicated to St Nicholas, but in September 1505 it was recorded as being dedicated to a Celtic Saint from the Dark Ages - St Winwolus - who became the first Abbot of Landevenac in France.

  28. Turn left onto the lane and follow it about 50 metres to just past Church Meadow on the left to a gate on the right with a Public Footpath sign, beside a low hedge.

    A recording of the settlement of Tresmeer in around 1150 as Rosmeur suggested that the name might be from the Cornish words for "great moor" but more records from around this period which are along the lines of Treguasmer and Trewasmur suggest this was probably a "typo". The name is of a farm but the meaning of the second word is not clear. It could be a personal name.

  29. Go through the gate on the right and follow the path (turning left around the corner in the fence) to reach a stile into a field.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  30. Cross the stile and bear left very slightly across the field to the stile in the hedge opposite.
  31. Cross the stile and head across the field to a gate and stile opposite.
  32. Cross the stile and cross the road to the lane opposite signposted to Tremaine and Treburtle. Follow the lane until you reach a junction on the left for Tremaine, just after the road passes between two stone walls.

    The berries of holly contain a chemical compound very similar to caffeine. Only in very small doses is this a stimulant; in larger doses it is toxic. It is for this reason that you see holly berries on bushes rather than them being inside the nearest bird. The birds have learned to wait until after the frosts have reduced the toxicity of the berries before eating them.

  33. Turn left at the junction, signposted to Tremaine, and follow the lane to a T-junction.

    The first record of the settlement of Tremaine is from around 1150 when it was given, with the church, to Launceston Priory. Due to the chapel here, the name was once thought to mean "place of monks" from tre and menegh, but early records of the name e.g. from 1230 are "Tremen" which is from the Cornish word men, for "stone".

  34. Turn left at the junction and follow the road back to the church to complete the circular walk.

    Several churches in Cornwall have been dedicated to St Winwalloe (or Wynwallow) including at Gunwalloe and Landewednack on the Lizard, Tremaine near Launceston and Poundstock near Bude. Winwalloe was the son of a prince of the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia (now known as Cornwall) born in 460. He fled to Brittany to avoid the plague, founded a monastery and died at the age of 72.

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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