Trebarwith Valley

The edge of footpath from the stream to Trebarwith nature reserve is eroded in places so tread carefully on this section.

A fairly short circular walk exploring Trebarwith Valley, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Cornwall. The walk includes bluebell woodland, panoramic views from both sides of the valley and the Trebarwith Nature Reserve.

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The walk follows the stream up from Jeffrey's Pit through bluebell woods emerging at the top of Trebarwith Valley overlooking Trewarmett. The route follows the ridge seawards then drops down into the valley with panoramic views back up to Trewarmett and down to the sea. The walk continues down to the valley floor past an old mill and then back up the other side of the valley through Trebarwith Nature Reserve to the fields in Treknow from which there are more views across the valley in the other direction.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 2.7 miles/4.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Pretty wooded valley at Jeffrey's Pit
  • Panoramic views of Trebarwith Valley and Trewarmett Downs
  • Cascading stream and broadleaf woodland along the floor of Trebarwith Valley, including the Trebarwith Nature Reserve.
  • A plethora of wildlife and delicate wildflowers

Alternative walks

Directions

  1. From the far end of the parking area, walk up the left-hand side of the stream, past the picnic bench, to reach the woods.

    Jeffrey's Pit, located at the top of the road to Trebarwith Strand, is an old slate quarry and was still working in the early 20th century, closing in 1928. Alf Burrell, who lived in Trewarmett and died in the 1970s, started work there as a boy, making tea using the water from the stream. The cutting sheds were on the opposite side of the road (now a house), and as you walk down the road to the beach, the slate tips are walled up on your right. The slate tips cover the stream, which re-emerges below them to continue its path down the valley.

  2. Follow the path into the woods, which follows the stream up the valley. Continue on the path up a short incline past an old flight of concrete steps to where path climbs in a long incline up a steep bank.

    Upstream of Jeffrey's Pit, at the top of Trebarwith Valley, the public footpath runs for a 15-20 minute walk alongside the stream through ancient woodland. Few people go up here, so it's a peaceful spot and a good place to see wildlife. In early spring, you're likely to see frogs breeding in the stream. In April and May, the woodland floor is carpeted in bluebells contrasted by brilliant celandine, primroses and delicate wood sorrel flowers - an indicator that this has been under woodland for a long time.

  3. When you reach the steep bank, climb up carefully as this can be slippery in wet weather. Follow the path from the top of the bank, past a walled quarry pit on your left, until the path crosses through the stream.

    Bluebells are extremely poisonous, containing a number of biologically-active compounds and were used (probably with varying success) in mediaeval plant medicine. The sap was used as a glue for book-binding as its toxicity repelled insects. It was also used to attach the fletchings onto arrows.

    As the name suggests, Wood Sorrel grows in shady places and as it spreads slowly it is used as an indicator of ancient woodland. It is recognisable by a carpet of bright green leaves that look a bit like clover. It is said that St Patrick used the three-lobed leaves to illustrate the Holy Trinity and therefore it's one of the plants dedicated to him and collectively known as "shamrock". Around Easter, wood sorrel produces delicate white flowers which gives rise to its European common name of Alleluia.

    The leaves and flowers fold up at night and reopen each morning, and they do the same during rain. This is a protection mechanism to avoid damage to the leaves when there is no solar power available, or pollen being knocked out of the flowers by the rain.

    95% of all plant life on Earth, including trees, relies on a symbiotic relationship with fungi. It is thought that without fungi, land plants could not have developed at all. Fungal mycelium often grows around or actually within the roots of plants and give the plant access water and nutrients it couldn't otherwise obtain easily from the soil. In return, the plants provide the fungi with sugars produced through photosynthesis.

  4. Cross the stream to the opposite bank then bear left around the tree to a fork in the path. Keep right at the fork, following the path uphill to a kissing gate into a field.

    We are so used to seeing sediment in rivers that we've come to accept it as normal but no river should be brown. Sediment is often a product of human activity including eroded river banks, runoff from ploughed farmland and even cattle poaching. It can smother riverbed gravels that are essential for fish spawning. It can also act as a carrier for other pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides. As well as being toxic, the smell of these chemicals can prevent salmon from detecting their home spawning grounds. That may all sound a bit doom and gloom but the good news is that this damage can be reversed. Pilot schemes of washing and returning gravel to the rivers have had spectacularly promising results, with breeding salmon becoming re-established within just a few years. The Westcountry Rivers Trust are also working with farmers on improving drainage systems to steadily reduce the amount of new sediment and chemicals entering rivers.

  5. Go through the kissing gate and climb the steep field, following the left hedge to reach a pair of gates beside a concrete wall at the top of the field.

    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. Go through the rightmost of the gates ahead, into the yard, and bear left to the gates across the track next to the barn.

    Trenowth Farm is from the Cornish word noweth and means "new farm". The term is somewhat relative as it dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded as Trenewyth in 1327.

  7. Go through the gate next to the barn. Follow the track, keeping right until it ends in a T-junction onto a lane.

    The buildings over the hedge ahead are part of Trebarwith Road Rustic Quarry.

    Trebarwith Road Rustic Quarry is located on the road from Delabole to Trebarwith village. The quarry was originally known as "Jenkins Quarry" and reopened in the 1990s under the new name. As well as rustic slate, Blue Elvan is also quarried here.

    Elvan is very hard volcanic rock formed where magma intruded into other rocks to form a (vertical) dyke or (horizontal) sill that cooled fairly quickly, resulting in fairly small crystals. Elvan can be seen in many of the churches across Cornwall where it is often used for intricate parts of buildings, such as doorways, so they can be finely carved.

    The term "white elvan" is sometimes used for those which are chemically very similar to granite (but in the case of granite, slower cooling resulted in large crystals) i.e. formed of mildly acidic compounds.

    The term "greenstone" is used by quarrymen to describe igneous rocks that, unlike granite, are rich in (basic) iron and magnesium compounds and these often give it a blue-green colour. When greenstone is formed as a sill or dyke it is sometimes called "blue elvan". This is also fairly common in Cornwall and has been quarried for a long time: in the Neolithic period, stone axes made from blue elvan were exported from Cornwall to various parts of Britain.

  8. Turn right onto the lane and follow it for just over a quarter of a mile until you reach a house on the left.
    During the summer months, there is a range of pink, purple and blue wildflowers along the lane including red campion, foxgloves, fireweed (rosebay willowherb), knapweed, vetch and sheep's bit.

    Even in Victorian times, slate was blasted with black powder (aka gunpowder), rather than high explosives such as dynamite. This is because high explosives combust with a supersonic shock wave known as a detonation wave, travelling at a speed of more than a mile per second. This causes very high pressure and resulting high temperature in the explosive, setting off neighbouring parts. This would shatter the brittle slate into tiny pieces, rather than breaking off large chunks.

    As fuse technology improved, holes were drilled at regular intervals along a quarry face, filled with black powder. These pockets were all blasted simultaneously using a linked fuse (electrically triggered in the latter years of quarrying), to break off a very large chunk of slate. You can sometimes see the blasting holes in waste pieces of slate on the slate tips.

  9. Turn right through the gate opposite the house, into the field. Head straight across the field to the gate opposite.

    The association of good luck with four-leafed clover was first recorded in Victorian times (1860s-1870s) so may be a relatively recent invention. Perhaps something that occupied children for hours was seen as good luck in Victorian times!

    A survey of over 5 million clover leaf found that the frequency of four-leaf clovers is about one in 5,000 (twice as common as originally thought).

    The world record for collecting four leaf clovers in one hour was set at 166 (in 1998). One very determined collector managed to amass 170,000 four-leafed clovers in a lifetime.

  10. Go through the gate into the next field and follow the right hedge to another gate.

    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 world cattle is from the same origins as "capital" and was originally a world for any portable wealth. Later it came to mean specifically (any) livestock which was still the understood meaning in Tudor times. It is only in relatively recent times that the scope has been limited further to just cows.

  11. Cross the stile next to the gate and bear left to cross the field diagonally to the gate in the far corner.

    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.

  12. Cross the stile beside the left-hand gate and turn right onto the track. Follow the track downhill to the corner.

    Fentafriddle is a group of farm buildings half-way up southern side of Trebarwith Valley. Fentafriddle was once a mill, fed by the spring and, later, powered by a donkey. In Cornish, Fenter means "spring" and friddle is thought to be a corruption of frosyel meaning "gushing". The settlement dates back to mediaeval times, mentioned in records of 1437. Until the early 20th Century, it was part of the estate of the Earl of Wharncliffe. Many of the farm buildings have been converted into luxury holiday accommodation, though the land around them is still farmed.

  13. Climb the wooden steps on your right and cross the stile, then follow the left hedge of the field to a stile at the bottom.

    The magpie is believed to be one of the most intelligent of all animals. The area of its brain used for higher cognitive function is approximately the same in its relative size as in chimpanzees and humans. Magpies can count, imitate human voices and have been observed regularly using tools to keep their cages clean. In the wild, they form gangs and use complex social strategies for hunting and tackling predators. It has even been suggested that magpies may feel complex emotions, including grief.

  14. Cross the stile and follow the path downhill, over another stile and down some steps onto the road to Trebarwith Strand.

    Roe deer live in the valley and you may encounter one, particularly if you are walking early in the morning.

    The Roe Deer is unusual among hoofed animals as the egg is fertilised at the time of mating but then goes into suspended animation for several months - a process known as delayed implantation. This mechanism means that instead of being born in late winter, the young are born in early summer when food is more plentiful.

    In most species with delayed implantation, the mother sends out a hormonal signal to tell the embryo to wake up. However in the case of the Roe Deer, the embryo has a built-in egg timer which sends a chemical message back to the mother that it's time to resume the pregnancy.

  15. Turn left on the road and walk a short distance downhill to a public footpath sign on your right opposite the drive to Fentafriddle.

    The acidic soil in the Tintagel area was fertilised with lime-rich beach sand from nearby Trebarwith Strand, where the golden sand is largely composed of sea shells which are mostly calcium carbonate (chemically identical to chalk and limestone).

    The sand at Trebarwith Strand was also put to another use: to avoid several tonnes of slate in a wagon going down the steep road through Trebarwith Valley resulting in horse paté, the slate wagons would be loaded with sand from Trebarwith Strand and this would be scattered on the road on the way back up, to act as a braking system.

    The trade in sand and slate quarrying led to road improvements in the early 19th century and for one reason, or the other, or possibly both, the Trebarwith Strand to Condolden road is known as "Sanding Road".

  16. Opposite the driveway to Fentafriddle, go through the gate to reach to a waymark at the bottom of the steps.

    Trebarwith stream rises on Condolden moor and runs alongside the road (in underground culverts and roadside channels for much of the way) until its confluence with the stream from Jeffrey's Pit somewhere beneath the road to the beach. This percolates though the slate tips on the opposite side of the road and then runs as an open stream to Trebarwith Strand.

  17. Turn left at the waymark to cross the stile over the fence on the left and cross the stone bridge. Then follow the waymarked path up the steps past a derelict chalet. Continue along the path through the vegetation to reach a stone stile in the top of the far hedge.

    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!

  18. Climb the stone stile and follow the path through the Trebarwith Nature Reserve to a stile into a field.

    The Trebarwith Nature Reserve has a rich diversity of wildflowers and a thriving stream community in its unimproved meadow land. The area of Trebarwith Valley which is now the Nature Reserve was first used as agricultural land in the post-mediaeval period. It is likely that the path that runs through the reserve dates from this time, perhaps linking farmsteads to the parish church.

  19. Cross the stile into the field and walk parallel to the right hedge, until you see see a wooden fenced area. Then make for the stile in the right hand corner of the enclosure.

    Gull Rock lies approximately 500 metres offshore from Trebarwith Strand and has given its name to RR Gordon's crime thriller set in the area. It is made of a very hard volcanic material that has withstood the sea whilst the slate around it has been worn away. On the seaward side, where a chunk of the rock has cracked off, the tightly folded volcanic rocks within can be seen.

    Recently the rock has turned green during the spring and summer due to rock samphire colonising the side facing the beach which is sheltered from the westerly winds, helped by fertiliser provided by the seabirds also colonising the sheltered side of the rock.

    In the 1800s, the rock at Trebarwith (or "Trebarrow" as it was known then), was known as Otterham Rock, or Rocks, acknowledging the rocks to the side of the main rock which protrude a small amount from the water. Below the surface of the water, these are part of an extensive reef.

  20. Cross the stile onto the lane. Turn right on the lane and follow it to a T-junction in Trewarmett.

    The vetches are a family of wildflowers that is a sub-group within the pea and bean family. Their pretty purple flowers are quite like mini sweetpea flowers. The leaves are also very distinctive, organised in a neat row either side of the stem. Common vetch is a wildflower but is also sown by farmers in some grazing fields to improve the nutrition for ruminants and to introduce more nitrogen into the soil.

  21. Turn right at the junction and follow the road past Park Farm to a junction on the right.

    Park Farm was derelict in the 1970s; when it was converted into holiday accommodation, the fields still contained many farming implements of the 19th century including horse-drawn ploughs and carts. Exactly how far the farm here dates back is unknown, though an axe-head from the Bronze Age was found amongst a pile of stones in the garden. The name is from the Cornish word Park which means "field".

  22. Just past Park Farm, bear right down the small lane and follow this until it rejoins the main road at the top of Trewarmett Hill.
  23. At the junction, turn right and walk down the right-hand side of Trewarmett Hill, on the pavement where available, to reach the junction to Trebarwith Strand.

    The engine house on the top of the hill on your left was part of the Prince of Wales Quarry.

    The engine house in Trewarmett is the only one preserved in North Cornwall. It was built in 1870 and the beam engine, installed in 1871, was used to drive a wire ropeway to haul slate, as well as pumping water out the quarry pit (which is now a lake). You can safely wander around inside (there are grilles covering the pit which once contained the beam engine).

  24. At the bottom of the hill, bear right to stay on the path and follow it alongside the road towards Trebarwith Strand. After about 100 metres, cross the road into the parking area at Jeffrey's Pit.

    Cornwall's iconic engine houses were built to house huge beam engines - a type of steam engine with a pivoting beam. This configuration was particularly suited to powering pumps to stop the quarry pits and mines from flooding as water trickled into them from above. Inside the engine house, steam from a boiler would push up a piston, causing the beam to tilt downwards, pushing the pump down into the shaft. The steam would then be shut off and cold water would be used to condense the steam within the piston back into water, creating a partial vacuum. Atmospheric pressure then pushed the piston back down into the vacuum, raising the beam and lifting water out of the shaft. The valves to apply the steam and cold water were mechanically automated, maintaining a steady rocking motion of the giant beam.

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