Three Saints Way circular walk

Three Saints Way

Path between hedges at 6 and 7 are currently overgrown and also at direction 29. Take a stick to clear nettles and secateurs if you have them.

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.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 6 miles/9.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots (involves crossing marshy areas in fields)

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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
  • Wildflowers in the spring and 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.

    Evidence of windmills in England dates from around the 12th century and in Cornwall there are records of windmills as far back as 1296. Wind turbines may be viewed as the modern successor but actually themselves date back to Victorian times: the first large windmill to generate electricity was built in 1888 in the USA, and in Cornwall, a private house was lit using electricity generated by a wind turbine in 1890.

  5. In front of the gate, depart from the track by unhooking the bungee cord to pass between the wooden posts. 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 (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, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    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, climb the steps and go through the gate. Follow the path between the hedges to reach a gate at the end of the hedged path.

    The hedgerows are a mix of trees including hawthorn and blackthorn and particularly hazel.

    Hazel was once a popular firewood as it burns quickly and without spitting. It was also used to produce the charcoal used by blacksmiths and for smelting metals until coal became more widely available in the 18th Century.

  7. Go through the gate continue a few paces to another gate ahead. Go through this and follow the path between the hedges to reach a gate onto a track.

    From April to June, white flowers of Greater Stitchwort can be seen along hedgerows and paths. The petals are quite distinctive as each one is split almost all the way to create pairs - most of the flowers typically have 5 pairs. The name comes from alleged powers to cure an exercise-induced stitch. Other common names include Star-of-Bethlehem (due to the shape and perhaps Easter flowering time) and Poor Man's Buttonhole for budget weddings. It is also known as Wedding Cakes but that may be more due to the colour than anticipation of what a buttonhole might lead to. The seed capsules can sometimes be heard bursting open in the late spring sunshine which gives rise to another name: Popguns.

  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

    Tresmeer Station was opened in 1892 as part of the North Cornwall Railway and it actually located in Splatt rather than Tresmeer. The use of the parish rather than hamlet name avoided creating luggage labels reading "From Waterloo to Splatt" which might have been perceived negatively in terms of railway safety! 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.

    Although primroses flower most intensely in March and April, some primroses can begin flowering in late December. The name "primrose" from the Latin for "first" (as in "primary"), alluding to their early flowering.

    Cow parsnip (also known as "hogweed" - not to be confused with "giant hogweed") is a member of the carrot family. It has more solid leaves than cow parsley or alexanders which it often grows alongside. It also flowers later. The leaves are noticeable from around mid-April. Flowering starts roughly at the start of June and continues through the summer.

    Giant hogweed is regarded by some as the most dangerous plant in the UK. If you encounter any, avoid touching it and children and dogs should be kept away from it as the sap contains a chemical which is extremely phototoxic. When activated by sunlight, this binds to the DNA in skin cells and kills them. Skin reaction starts as an itchy rash and can develop into third degree burns and scarring. It also makes the affected areas susceptible to severe sunburn for several years.

    The plant gets its name as it can grow more than 10 feet tall, topped with white umbrella-shaped flowers. Due to the similar style of flowers, is also known as giant cow parsley although the giant hogweed leaves are much more solid with a toothed edge, more similar to cow parsnip (normal hogweed). It is typically found near water or on waste ground.

    The plant was introduced to Britain by Victorian botanists in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and has escaped from gardens into the wild. It has been spreading across the UK (as one plant produces 50,000 seeds) but is still very rare in Cornwall. A project to eradicate it along the Tamar River system is helping to stop further spread into Cornwall.

    If you find giant hogweed in Cornwall (and are sure it's not normal hogweed), take a photo and report it to invasives@cormacltd.co.uk

    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 place name 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.

    The Latin name of the buttercup, Ranunculus, means "little frog" and said to be because the plants like wet conditions. It is thought it may have come via a derogatory name for people who lived near marshes!

  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 track on the left between the huge barn and another building.

    Columbines are recognisable from their bell-shaped flowers in May and June which can range in colour from pink, purple, blue or white. They also have distinctive leaves which resemble the clubs suit in a pack of cards.

    Names for the plant are based on the unusual shape of the flowers including Granny's bonnet. The common name "columbine" comes from the Latin word for "dove" (hence a dove cote being sometimes known as a "columbarium") based on the inverted flower being likened to a flock of five doves. The genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle as the flower petals are said to resemble an eagle's claw.

    Columbine is part of the buttercup family, and like buttercups the plant is poisonous, particularly the seeds.

    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.

    Studies have shown that crows are capable of self-discipline. If offered one piece of food now or two later, the crows will resist temptation and wait. However if the initial piece of food is a high value item such as sausage, they won't take the risk.

  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 (if there is a crop in the field you may need to follow around the right hedge instead). 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 to a waymarked metal gate just to the right of it (between the barn and leftmost of the tall trees).

    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.

    One of the nutrients that plants need are nitrates in order to make amino acids for building proteins. Plants in the pea family (also known as legumes) are able to manufacture their own nitrates from nitrogen in the atmosphere. The nitrates are later released into the soil when the leaves die and rot. The overall process of turning atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates in the soil is known as "nitrogen fixing" and this makes legumes useful in crop rotations to replenish nitrogen removed by other crops without resorting to chemical fertilisers. As well as peas and beans, clovers and vetches are also members of this family.

  22. Go through the gate and follow the line of telegraph poles across the field to a path between the hedges and make your way up this to reach a very large kissing gate.

    The fields here are sometimes planted with barley.

    The size of a barley grain became part of the British imperial measurement system. The length units were eventually standardised as one inch being equal to 3 barleycorns which in turn were each equal to four poppyseeds. The barleycorn still in use today as it is the basis of the UK shoe size system. This rises in increments of one barleycorn i.e. a size 9 is one barleycorn longer than a size 8.

  23. Go through the gate and follow the path until it ends in a gate.

    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.

    Nettles are the theme of German and Dutch colloquial expressions for a troublesome situation. The German equivalent of "having a bit of a nightmare" is to be "sat in the nettles". The Dutch have abbreviated this further, so you'd be having a bit of a "nettle situation".

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

    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.

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

    When you close the kissing gate, make sure you push it all the way into the latch as naughty sheep here have learned how to push the unlatched gate open to perform a jailbreak into the next 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.

    The interdependency between plants and pollinating insects is thought to have accelerated the formation of new species (i.e. a group where members can only reproduce successfully with other members from that group, not from other groups) both for the plants and for the insects. This is thought to explain why there are a few hundred species of conifer but a few hundred thousand species of flowering plant. This has allowed flowering plants to become highly specialised for habitat niches (e.g. salty coastline) and so dominate many of them.

  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 for a few paces to just past Church Meadow on the left to a gate on the right with a Public Footpath sign, after the low hedge and before the 2 telegraph poles.

    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.
  30. Cross the stile and bear left very slightly across the field to the stile in the hedge opposite.

    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 uncomfortable 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.
  31. Cross the stile and head across the field to a gate and stile opposite.

    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, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    Cows are thought to have been domesticated in the Middle East around 8,500 BC. By about 6,400 BC they were being traded into Neolithic Europe. This is just about the point where the land bridge between Britain and Continental Europe (known as Doggerland) flooded with rising sea levels, so the first few cattle may have just managed to walk across.

  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 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.

    From Roman times, holly trees were planted near houses as it was believed to offer protection from witchcraft and lightning strikes. There is some scientific basis for the latter at least: the spines on the leaves can act as lightning conductors. The sharp points allow electrical charge to concentrate, increasing its potential to form a spark.

  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.

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