Davidstow and Inny Vale

A circular walk in the Inny Vale on the northern edge of Bodmin Moor through the WW2 airbase on Davidstow Moor, the tunnel of trees to Treworra and past the source of the River Inny to the church and holy well of St David.

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The walk begins on disused airfield of RAF Davidstow. The route skirts along the edge of the airfield, past the remnants of WWII-era buildings, then follows a tree tunnel to Treworra. The walk crosses fields to reach the hamlet of Trewassa, then heads along tracks, lanes and across fields to reach Davidstow's church and holy well. The route continues down a lane into the Inny Vale, then cuts down a track back to Treworra before crossing fields to Tremail and returns along a lane to the airfield.

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Just done this one and absolutely loved it

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111,109
  • Distance: 4.2 miles/6.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots (even in summer)

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Eerie remnants of the World War 2 airfield "RAF Davidstow Moor"
  • Church of St David and its Holy Well
  • Tree-lined "tunnels" along lanes and tracks with wildflowers in spring in early summer

Directions

  1. Make your way to the area between the two large rectangular hangar bases and turn away from the runway so the main road and forest is behind you. Join the track and pass the building on your right to reach a crossing. Continue ahead at the crossing and follow the track until it bends sharply left, just past some ruined buildings on the left.

    The paved areas on Davidstow Moor that the road runs alongside and form an intriguing pattern on satellite maps are the remains of RAF Davidstow Moor, and the main control tower is still clearly visible. Constructed during World War 2, RAF Davidstow Moor was used as an airbase from late 1942 until December 1945. The air base was used mainly by the Americans and Canadians for training in the run up to D-Day and were visited by General Eisenhower during 1944. However, the frequent moorland mist rendered the base unusable for much of the time which is why it was closed after the war.

    After the airfield closed, it became a motor racing circuit, known as Davidstow Circuit. In the early 1950s, three Formula One races were held there (the "Cornwall MRC Formula 1 Races"), including the first success for the Lotus marque.

    Today, part of the airfield is still used by the Davidstow Flying Club (on the less misty days), and the Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall At War Museum has been set up to commemorate the work and people of RAF Davidstow Moor.

  2. Where the track bends away to the left, continue straight ahead across the grass to a gate in the hedge ahead.

    The smaller of the two teaching buildings was used for training bomber pilots. The building is fairly tall as the upper floor contained a projector which displayed moving aerial images on the white painted floor of the lower floor. The flight simulator included navigation equipment, bomb sights and rudders which controlled the projector. A throttle control altered the simulated airspeed and the simulation even included wind drift and turbulence. Once the bomb release switch was pressed, the equipment could calculate the accuracy of the mission. All this was achieved entirely mechanically without any form of digital computer.

    The larger of the two training buildings was for air gunners. In the centre of the room, the trainee sat in a gun turret and a simulation of attacking aircraft was projected onto the walls and ceiling with a surround-sound system providing engine noise and gunfire sound effects. When the gunner fired, a powerful light represented the burst of bullets was displayed on the target and an instructor would assess this.

  3. Go through the gate and follow the track until it forks.

    Some mosses are able to absorb 20-30 times their own weight in liquid. Moss was used in several ancient cultures as nappies: babies were carried in a moss-lined bag to prevent leaks. Moss has also traditionally been used to line hanging baskets which are very prone to drying-out. Areas of moss help to protect soil from erosion by runoff and rivers from sediment and flooding by capturing rainfall and giving it chance to soak slowly into the soil.

  4. Keep left at the fork and follow the track until you reach a waymarked gate on the left, just past a farmhouse on the right but before Treworra Barton.

    The house at Treworra has 17th Century features including mullioned windows but the settlement itself dates from mediaeval times. If was first documented in 1302 and is thought to date from the Dark Ages.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge until you reach a pedestrian gate in a fence.

    Beechwood ageing is used in the production of Budweiser beer but beech is not the source of flavour. In fact beechwood has a fairly neutral flavour and in the brewing process it is pretreated with baking soda to remove even this. The relatively inert strips of wood are then added to the fermentation vessel where they increase the surface area available for yeast. It is the contact with yeast that produces the flavour in the beer, not the beech itself.

  6. Go through the gate and continue ahead downhill, making for a waymarked stile in the far hedge, about 30 metres to the right of the left corner of the field.

    During the 21st Century, wood pigeons have been migrating into urban areas where garden feeding has attracted them. There has also been an exodus from the rural environment where changing farming practices have made fields less attractive.

  7. Cross a wooden stile, a footbridge and a stone stile into the next field. Cross another footbridge, then continue ahead uphill to meet the left hedge and follow this uphill to reach a stone stile and gate.

    The small stream is one of a few that drain from the marshes of Davidstow Moor. On this side of the road that runs alongside the airfield, the streams drain into the River Inny. On the other side of the road from the airfield, the catchment area of the River Camel begins.

  8. Cross the stile onto a lane, with a track opposite. Go straight ahead on the track, following it until it ends at a crossroads with a lane.

    Despite being called red campion, its flowers are most definitely pink - varying quite widely in shade from vibrant deep pinks to very pale. The plant is known by a few local names including Johnny Woods, Ragged Jack, Scalded Apples, and particularly in the southwest as Red Riding Hood. Another name - "Batchelors' buttons" - suggests it was once worn as a buttonhole by young men.

    The first record of the settlement of Trewassa is from 1284. The "tre" implies it is a farmstead dating from early mediaeval times (before the Norman Conquest). The rest is thought to be based on the name of the person who lived there, along the lines of "Wassa's farm".

  9. Go straight ahead, bearing right to follow the track opposite until it bends sharply left into "Lowertown".

    The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage.

    It is known locally as "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave", based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. It is also sometimes known as "Jack and Jill" which is likely to be based on the falling down part of the nursery rhyme.

  10. Where the track bends left, continue straight ahead through the gate marked with a public footpath sign. Follow the left hedge of the field, cross over the ow bank, and continue along the fence on the left to reach a stone stile in the corner.

    The hawthorn tree is most often found in hedgerows where it was used to create a barrier for livestock, and in fact haw was the Old English word for "hedge".

  11. Cross the stile and bear right slightly away from the left hedge towards the end of the bushes on the left on the bank crossing the field. Cross the stile or go through the gap in the bank and bear right slightly to a wooden stile and footbridge in the bottom hedge.

    The marshy fields here provide a good habitat for insects with aquatic lifecycles such as dragonflies.

    Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, around 300 million years ago in the "age of amphibians" before the dinosaurs. Fossils of early dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet across.

  12. Cross the stile and footbridge, and a stone stile into the next field. Then bear right across the field to a stile in the hedge opposite, about 20 metres to the left of the gate in the top-right corner.

    The small stream is technically the River Inny, although only about a quarter of a mile downstream of its source.

    The River Inny is a tributary of the Tamar and is approximately 20 miles long, supporting populations of trout, salmon and sea trout as well as otters and kingfishers. The name of the river was recorded in the 1600s as Heanye and may be from the Cornish word enys - for island. Penpont Water is its main tributary and has a status of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Area of Great Scientific Value and Area of Great Historical Value. The source of the Inny is very close to the Davidstow Cheese factory, from a spring in the field opposite Pendragon House.

  13. Cross the stile onto the road (beware of traffic). Carefully cross the road, turn right and follow the road then a pavement until you reach granite steps on the left leading up to the church.

    The route between Launceston and Truro on the A30, A395 (through Davidstow), A39 (through Camelford and Wadebridge) and A30 again (through St Columb and Mitchell) is the remains of a mediaeval cart track known as the Royal Cornish Way. It entered Cornwall via Polston Bridge which is thought to have been built soon after the Norman conquerors had built a castle at Launceston.

    Despite its grand title, the Royal Cornish Way was a notoriously bad road not only for its still-famous potholes but in some places no road surface at all (just mud). Provided the sea was calm, it was generally thought preferable transport cargo by boat.

  14. Ascend the steps into the churchyard, then turn right in front of the church and follow the path down to some iron gates.

    The name "Davidstow" (Cornish: Lanndhewi) means "David's Church". The Church is said to have been founded by St. David in the 6th century during a visit to his mother (St. Non or Nonna) in nearby Altarnun. St. Non left her native Wales in about AD 527, one of many Celtic missionaries who came to Cornwall about that time.

    The church dates from the 13th century. A major restoration was carried out in 15th century; the nave, aisles and tower date from that time. Another major restoration was carried out in 19th century after almost 200 years of dilapidation of the church.

    Charlotte Dymond's grave is located in the churchyard. Her murder in 1844 became perhaps the most infamous historical occurrence on Bodmin Moor. Her lover Matthew Weeks was hung for her murder, but the evidence was sketchy and circumstantial, and many believed the true identity of her killer was never revealed.

  15. Go through the gates and turn right, carefully crossing the road, and continue ahead down the lane. Follow it until you reach a track on the right signposted "Belle Tents" and "Treworra Barton", just after crossing a bridge.

    An optional diversion can be made from here to visit Davidstow Holy Well: after going through the churchyard gates, turn left and follow the signed path for about 100 metres. Return by the same route to continue the walk.

    Davidstow Holy Well lies in a field behind the church and is reached by a permissive footpath. As with the parish church, the Holy Well is dedicated to St David - patron saint of Wales. The well has been restored twice, once in 1871 and once in 1996. The original granite structure is thought to date from the early Mediaeval period. Water from the holy well is pumped away to Davidstow Creamery where it is used to make the "Davidstow" and "Cathedral City" brands of cheese.

  16. Turn right onto the track for Treworra Barton and follow it uphill until it forks, just after passing through a gateway with granite posts.

    "Holy wells" were created because the Christian church was unhappy with the people continuing their old Pagan ways and worshipping sacred springs. In the 10th Century, the church issued a cannon (law) to outlaw such practices. This didn't work, so they issued another one in the 11th Century, and again in the 12th Century. Even despite the church going to the lengths of building a chapel over the top of some springs to obliterate them, the people still hung onto their sacred springs. The church finally settled on a compromise and rebranded the springs as (Christian) Holy Wells, so the old practices could continue behind a Christian façade.

  17. Take the left fork to "Treworra Barton", keeping left along the track until you reach the end of the left hedge, just before a barn.
  18. Keep left and walk along the track behind the barn and around a bend to the right to follow the stony path towards a gateway with a green waymark pointing left. Just before the gateway, bear left across the grass to the corner of the enclosure where there is large wooden gate concealed behind the overhanging tree.
  19. Go through the gate into the field and bear left to follow the public footpath (yellow arrows) around the edge of the field between the hedge and fence. Cross two stiles then bear right to the wooden gate in the fence at the bottom of the field. Go through this and turn left to reach a waymarked gap leading to a footbridge.
  20. Go through the gap and down the steps, and cross a footbridge and stile into the next field. Follow the left hedge uphill to reach a stone stile in the top-left corner.

    Moles are solitary except when breeding so a network of tunnels is occupied by a single mole. Moles typically live for around 3 years and when a mole dies, its tunnel network is often inherited by one of its offspring. Thus the expanding estate can be passed down through several generations. In wetland areas where there is no gradient available to retreat uphill from rising water, moles construct a large mound protruding around half a metre above the ground to act as an emergency flood shelter.

  21. Cross the stile then continue straight ahead across the field to a stile in the hedge opposite.

    The standing stone in the field is more likely to be a cattle rubbing stone than anything prehistoric.

    In pre-industrial times, cattle were allowed to roam over quite large areas and could therefore find a suitable tree to relieve an itch. In the Victorian period, farming became more intensive and cattle were moved into enclosed fields. It was quickly discovered that an itchy cow could wreak havoc with walls and fences so dedicated rubbing stones were positioned in the centre of some fields to minimise cow damage. In some cases, new stones were quarried specifically for the purpose and others, existing prehistoric standing stones or even Celtic crosses were unceremoniously re-used.

  22. Cross the stile and walk ahead across the field until you can see a metal gate in the hedge roughly 30m to the right of the pole with the transformer. Head to the gate.

    Buzzards were once thought to be a threat to game birds and were actively shot. During the 1950s-60s, the combination of myxomatosis nearly wiping out one of their main food sources and use of pesticides such as DDT caused further decline in the buzzard population. Since then the population has gradually recovered and buzzards are now the commonest and most widespread bird of prey in the UK.

  23. Go through the gate onto a lane. Turn right and follow the lane for about a mile until it ends at a cattle grid.

    The manor of Tremail was first documented in the Domesday Survey of 1086 when it was held by the Count of Mortain. Before the Norman Conquest it was owned by Aiulf.

  24. Go through the gate on the right of the cattle grid, then continue straight ahead along the track until it ends at a wide paved track forming part of the airfield.

    The large square building used to be the control tower.

  25. Turn right and follow along the right edge of the paved track until another paved track branches off to the right, just past a ruined building on the right.

    Before the airfield was built, there was nothing here but moorland.

    Davidstow Moor is the northernmost part of Bodmin Moor, close to Crowdy Reservoir and Roughtor. It is one of the flattest areas on the moor which is why it was chosen as the site for a Second World War airfield and 20th Century forestry. During Victorian times, the area occupied by the woods was a network of fields with settlements of Casparpool, Goosehill and Larkabarrow which have now all been lost. Goosehill is thought to have been demolished for the airfield. Casparpool also seems to be have been demolished. Some remains of Larkabarrow may possibly still lie in the woods.

  26. Turn right down the branch and follow the track as it bends left onto the foundations of the hangars to complete the circular walk.

    The large industrial building in the distance is Davidstow Creamery.

    The large building with the tall chimney close to the A39 at Davidstow is the cheese factory, more formally known as Davidstow Creamery. Davidstow Creamery is famous for producing both Davidstow Cheddar (using water from Davidstow holy well) and the ironically named Cathedral City cheeses (Davidstow Moor having neither a cathedral nor anything resembling a city).

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