Trelissick circular walk


A figure-of-8 walk along the creeks of the River Fal through the 300 acre estate surrounding Trelissick House.

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The walk crosses the park to the beach on Channals creek then follows the woodland trail alongside the River Fal to the King Harry Ferry. The route passes around both sides of Lamouth Creek to reach Roundwood Fort and Quay. After following a track to Tregew, the return route is through Trelissick's woodland plantations and finally through the parkland.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 4.7 miles/7.6 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes; trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version)

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


  • Trelissick Gardens
  • Trelissick House
  • Views over the creeks of the River Fal
  • Woodland wildife


  1. From the car park, follow the tarmacked track signposted "Woodland walks" departing from beside the information hut. Continue through the gate beside the cattle grid and onwards until you reach a junction of surfaced paths.

    Trelissick was first recorded in 1275 and the name means Leidic's Farm. A villa was first built in the 1750s and both the house and gardens were extended during the 19th Century first by Thomas Daniell - from a hugely wealthy mining family, but subsequently bankrupt through gambling - and then by Carew Davies-Gilbert - a wealthy Victorian plant-hunter who added the second floor and greatly developed the garden. During the 20th Century the estate was bought by the director of Harrods and inherited by Florence Nightingale's second cousin before being donated to the National Trust in 1955.

  2. At the crossing of paths, turn left and follow the path until you reach another surfaced path departing to the right, just before the path ends in a gate.

    The River Fal begins in the marshes of Goss Moor at Pentevale and runs for 11 miles to its mouth between St Anthony Head and Pendennis Point. It is little more than a stream passing through the china clay areas near St Stephen and a fairly small river at Grampound and Tregony. At Ruan Lanihorne, the river enters the huge flooded river valley forming the creek system known as Carrick Roads. Within this, it is the former river valley of the Fal which separates the Roseland peninsula from the neighbouring land.

  3. Bear right and follow the path downhill to reach a gate across the path just before the beach.

    The name "Carrick Roads" is thought to be a mangling of the Cornish Karrek Reun meaning "seal rock". It is now known as "Black Rock" and located in the centre of the harbour entrance, between Pendennis Point and Carricknath Point, and marked with a large conical beacon. It is still used at low tide as a haul-out spot by seals.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a gate marked "Woodland Walk".

    During the last Ice Age, up to about 12,000 years ago, ice sheets up to 2 miles thick lay over the northern half of Britain. The weight of this ice was immense and it pressed down onto the Earth's mantle which is a treacle-like liquid rock. The mantle was slowly squished away from beneath the Earth's crust beneath heavy ice. When the ice melted, the pressure was released and the mantle began to flow back creating a super-slow motion rebound effect which will take thousands of years to level out. The result is that the north-western edge of Britain is rising and the south-eastern part is sinking. As South Cornwall has been slowly sinking into the sea over the past few thousand years, this has compounded the rise in sea levels, creating creeks from flooded river valleys.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path for just under half a mile until you reach a sign for the ferry just before a junction of paths.

    The King Harry Ferry was established in 1888 to connect the Roseland Peninsula with the Truro area and is one of only five chain ferries in England. The alternative route is a 27 mile road journey through Truro and Tresillian. The ferry carries more than 300,000 cars a year and it has been calculated that each year this saves three quarters of a million litres of fuel, and 1700 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

  6. After the ferry sign, keep left on the path marked "Woodland walk" and follow the path down the steps to the road.

    There is an entrance into the gardens through the lodge ahead so you can break off from the walk for some garden-visiting at this point as well as at the end.

  7. Cross the road to the section of wooden fence opposite and follow the path up the steps. Continue for just over half a mile until you reach a fork in the path with Roundwood Fort and Quay to the right and Trelissick to the left.

    Most primroses tend to be pale yellow but in residential areas, extensive hybridisation occurs with pink and purple garden primulas to create all kinds of weird and wonderful mutants, with some even shaped like cowslips. However, there is a pale pink variety of primrose (known as rhubarb and custard) that is thought to be a naturally-occurring variant of the pale yellow (rhubarb-free) version as it has been found miles away from any domestic plants.

    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.

    Holly is able to adapt to a range of conditions but prefers moist ground. It is very tolerant of shade and can grow as a thicket of bushes underneath larger trees. However, given the right conditions, holly trees can grow up to 80ft tall!

  8. Keep right at the fork, signposted to Roundwood Fort, then after crossing the stream bear right onto the path over the bridge. Follow the path to a junction of paths with a Round Wood NT sign on a standing stone.

    The upper part of the Carrick Roads estuary provides an important habitat for oysters.

    Native oysters rarely produce pearls (Pearl Oysters live in warmer seas) although all molluscs theoretically can and most would be tiny. The commercial value from native oysters comes from eating them and it takes around 4-5 years for an oyster to reach full size.

  9. Follow the path ahead through the gap in the wall into the woods. Where the path forks, stay on the main path and keep following it through the ramparts to the centre of the fort to reach a junction of paths beside a large tree with a holly bush at the bottom and various carvings in the trunk to the left of the holly bush.

    Roundwood fort consists of twin ramparts and ditches, located on the promontory between Cowlands Creek and Roundwood Creek. It is thought to date from the late Iron Age from around 350 BC.

  10. At the junction by the tree, take the path to the right. Follow this path, keeping left down the hill to a flight of steps and descend these to the quay.

    Roundwood Quay, located at the junction of Lamouth Creek and Cowlands Creek, was built in the 18th Century and was in active use until some time in the 19th century. It was used to export locally-mined tin, and copper to the smelters in South Wales. Tin was smelted nearby and lime kilns were built later. Ships of up to 300 tons could berth alongside the quay at the lowest tides.

  11. At the bottom of the steps, turn left and walk towards the house through the parking area to a gate onto a track passing the house. Follow the track to reach an opening on the left with an upright granite post in the centre, just after a gate on the left.

    The track is a byway.

    Public byways are rights of way down which motor vehicles may be driven depending on how brave you are and how expensive your car is to fix. You are also permitted to use a horse-drawn carriage, should you own one. Byways tend to be surfaced in an ad-hoc manner either with gravel or occasionally with a smattering of tarmac, but still leaving plenty of room for a good crop of grass to grow down the centre. They are conventionally marked using red waymarks or a "Public Byway" sign. There are 130 miles of byways in Cornwall.

  12. Go through the gap with the granite post and then between the wooden posts. Turn right and follow along the edge of the field to reach a post with a pink waymark, just before a gate.
  13. Go through the pedestrian gate beside the gate and then through the one on the opposite side of the track. Once in the field, bear left to the gateway with a granite post and go through this, then follow along the left hedge, parallel to the track, to reach an information board and gate.

    The sign on the post mentions Kea Plums at Cowlands Creek - this is on the Coombe and Old Kea walk.

    In the late 20th Century, the Kea Plum was largely forgotten. A number of trees still grew in back gardens in Coombe but the fruit was just used by tenants living in the cottages. In the 21st Century, interest in reviving heritage varieties of fruit and veg has generated a market for the Kea Plum. Residents were contacted by the Tregothnan Estate to inform them that their fruit belonged to the estate who now once again collect the plums each year. Tregothnan sells Kea plum jam and frozen plums online and is working on making the area a Protected Designation of Origin.

  14. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow this until it ends on a lane.

    Goldfinches are colourful small birds, often seen in small groups. In the wild, they pluck small seeds from plants such as thistles so have adapted easily to bird feeders containing small seeds such as niger seeds.

    Due to their attractive coloration and pleasant song, many were trapped in Victorian times and sold as caged birds. However, it was found that if they were kept with canaries, their song would change to mimic that of a canary which Victorian Society considered undesirable. One of the first campaigns by the Society for Protection of Birds (formed in 1891, which later became the RSPB) was against the trade in these birds.

  15. Turn left onto the lane and follow it a short distance until you reach a track on the left marked as National Cycle Route 3.

    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.

  16. Turn left onto the track and follow this over a stream to reach a gate on the left.

    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.

    Navelwort grows along the track, particularly in the shady spots on the right.

    Navelwort produces flower spikes with small green bells from June to September. When the flower spike is first forming it is a rather beautiful structure and is a perfect subject for macro photography.

  17. Go through the pedestrian gate beside the gate on the left and follow the path alongside the stream to the crossing that you encountered earlier on the walk.

    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.

    Ash trees are often easy to spot by the knobbly twigs all over the ground beneath the trees. They also have distinctive rows of quite small leaves. Ash trees can live for over 400 years and the life of the tree can be prolonged further by coppicing. Ash was traditionally coppiced to provide wood for firewood and charcoal. However, the name is nothing to do with this. It is from æsc - the old English word for spear. This comes about because ash is one of the toughest hardwoods and absorbs shocks without splintering. It is still used for making tool handles and sports equipment, including hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars.

    Ash trees in Britain are now under threat from a highly destructive fungal pandemic similar to Dutch Elm Disease, known as chalara or "ash dieback". Rather than being spread by beetles, this one is simply carried by the wind. Work is underway to try to find genetic factors which allow some trees to resist infection in order to breed a new generation of disease-tolerant trees.

    The Living Ash project started with over 150,000 seedlings gathered from a wide range of areas, planted during 2013 in locations with the most ash dieback. In 2018, grafts were taken from the 575 trees which appear to have resisted infection and planted alongside 420 grafts from trees in woodlands and hedgerows which also seem to have survived infection. The idea is that these can all cross-pollinate to maximise genetic diversity and it is hoped this will eventually become a source of seeds of disease-resistant trees.

    Similarly to Dutch Elm Disease, the chalara fungal disease that causes ash dieback is originally from Asia and the ash species there have co-evolved to be tolerant. In case attempts to breed disease resistant native ash trees are unsuccessful, work is underway to create hybrid species that closely resemble the Common Ash but with the disease resistance from an Asian parent plant.

  18. Cross the stream and then turn right when you reach the junction, signposted to Trelissick. Follow the zig-zag path to emerge via a gate onto a road.

    Bracket fungi can be recognised by tough, woody shelf-like growths known as conks. Bracket fungi can live for a very long time and are often coloured with annual growth rings. Many begin on living trees and can eventually kill a branch or whole tree by damaging the heartwood and allowing rot to set in. They can continue to live on the dead wood afterwards.

  19. Carefully cross the road to the gate opposite and go through this. Continue ahead to pass the track on the right and reach the front of the Old Lodge. Of the remaining 2 paths ahead, follow the surfaced one leading straight ahead until it ends on a tarmacked drive.

    Trelissick Garden evolved during Victorian times and it still looks broadly today as it did in the 1870s. Trelissick is the home of the National Plant Collections of photinias and azaras and much of the plant collection was established in the 1930s. The Orchard was replanted relatively recently, in the 1990s, to recreate the original Trelissick orchard and has over 70 old varieties of Cornish apple with names such as Pig's Snout.

  20. Turn left onto the drive and follow it until you reach the junction of paths that you encountered at the start of the walk.
  21. Turn left at the junction to return to the car park, house and gardens.

    The Water Tower at Trelissick was built in 1865 in Victorian over-engineering style as a water reservoir for the house. Its height was designed to provide high enough water pressure to fight fires effectively, which were clearly of concern. It has since been converted to a holiday cottage with one circular room on each of four floors connected by a narrow spiral staircase.

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