Treslea Downs and Warleggan circular walk

Treslea Downs and Warleggan

The fence in which the stile at direction 20 is located has been crushed by a fallen tree. The tree has been removed and the stile survived the incident but be careful of the slack barbed wire from the damaged fence until it is repaired (let us know if it has and we'll remove the warning).The gate/fence at direction 33 has collapsed and the remains are tied together. Take care stepping over the remains and let us know if it gets replaced with a new gate.

A circular walk at one of Cornwall's more remote and eccentric hamlets, displaying a "twinned with Narnia" sign and with a church where the vicar surrounded his rectory with barbed wire and preached to an empty church containing name cards of his parishioners

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The walk begins by descending into the wooded valley near Bury and then crosses fields to reach the entrance to Cabilla Manor. The route follows a footpath down into the valley and along the river to the bridge. The walk then passes the remains of Wheal Whisper and continues through more woods before a route through the fields to Warleggan church. The return route is on a lane through the hamlet then across the Treslea Downs.

Considerations

  • A horizontal tree trunk growing just above a low wall needs to be crossed - although we found it straightforward, those with more limited gymnastic ability may possibly need a little assistance.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/6.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof walking boots (even in summer as springs run over some paths)

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 109 OS Explorer 109 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Unspoilt and remote part of Cornwall ("twinned with Narnia")
  • Woodland wildlife

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the driveway to Higher Bury beside the no-through road sign. Turn left onto the track and follow this downhill to a cattle grid.

    Only male blackbirds are actually black. The females are brown. The difference in appearance between males and females is known as sexual dimorphism and is an evolutionary strategy by the males to get noticed more by females at the cost of decreased chances of survival.

  2. Use the gate on the right to pass the cattle grid and follow the track uphill from the stream crossing. Continue until the tarmac ends just before a building with a waymark post and a metal gate to the right.

    Bluebells are very vulnerable to trampling. The reason for this is that when their leaves emerge in the early part of the year, they are powered by the stored sugars in their bulbs. Sunlight is very limited at this time of the year and even more so in the shady places where they grow. In order to survive, they then need to photosynthesise flat-out to store enough starch in the bulb for next year's growth. If a bluebell’s leaves are crushed, it cannot photosynthesise and and doesn't have enough reserves left in its bulb to grow new ones. It's therefore important to stick to footpaths in bluebell woodland and best to take photos with a zoom lens from there as wandering around in the bluebells to take photos will inadvertently kill them.

    The spore from a fern doesn't grow into a fern. Instead it grows into an organism resembling a liverwort (i.e. a small green blob). Instead of producing spores, these produce eggs and also sperm which they interchange with neighbouring blobs to get a new mix of genes. The fertilised egg grows into a new fern and so this alternating process of ferns and blobs repeats.

  3. Go through the gate and follow all the way along the wooden fence (past the gate) and around the corner to the left to reach a gate into the field on the left.

    The first record of the settlement of Bury is from around 1280. The name is a reference to the nearby hillfort (Bury Castle) but is in the English rather than Cornish language so the name is likely to date from after the Norman conquest when the Cornish language was displaced by Mediaeval English amongst the landowning classes. Whether the settlement also dated from this time or whether it was a "rebrand" of a previously Cornish name is not known.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the track around a bend to the right and then parallel to the small stream. Continue to reach a gate into a field.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

    Willow trees are usually found in wet places including riverbanks and waterlogged ground. Common species include grey willow and goat willow but these often hybridise so they are more often known by the more broad-brush collective term "pussy willows" (due to their catkins). In January the fluffy, grey male catkins appear and and turn bright yellow in March when they release their pollen. Then in April, the fertilised female catkins develop into woolly seeds. In early May, air can be filled with the downy seeds that look a bit like dandelion seeds.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to a metal gate in the tall fence ahead with a smaller wooden gate alongside.

    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.

  6. Go through the wooden gate on the left of the main gate and continue following the left hedge. As you approach the far end of the field, bear right to follow the wheel ruts to a metal gate.

    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.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the track to where it ends on a lane.

    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.

    The UK is one of the windiest places in Europe and considered as one of the best places in the world for wind power. Over 10% of the UK's energy already comes from wind power (which rises to around 40% during windy months) and it is now one of the cheapest sources of electricity. Wind turbines last for about 20-25 years until the moving parts wear out and they need to be replaced.

  8. Turn right onto the lane and follow it a few paces to the entrance to Cabilla Manor.

    There are over 280 species of hoverflies in Britain. As the name of the family implies, they are very good at hovering completely stationary in flight and can switch from very fast flight to a perfect hover in the blink of an eye.

    Many have colour patterns that mimic stinging bees and wasps so predators avoid them even though they don't sting. They are quite convincing con-artists and when caught will push down their abdomen in a simulated stinging action to keep up the illusion.

  9. Turn left onto the driveway to Cabilla Manor, use the gate to bypass the cattle grid and follow the track to a junction.

    Snowdrops are one of the earliest plants to flower. They use energy stored in their bulbs to generate leaves and flowers during winter, whilst other plants without an energy reserve cannot compete. The downside to flowering so early is that pollinating insects are more scarce, so rather than relying exclusively on seeds, they also spread through bulb division.

    Daffodils were originally called asphodels (lumped together with the other plants that are now called asphodels). A pronunciation variation was "affodell". No-one is quite sure how the initial "d" was added - perhaps "the asphodel" by someone with a cold ("d affodel").

    Gardeners have known for a long time that acidic soils lead to blue hydrangea flowers whereas alkaline soils lead to pink flowers. Biochemists have found that aluminium is the thing that actually turns the pigment in hydrangeas blue. Acidic soils free-up aluminium already in the soil to be absorbed by the plant. Within the plant, aluminium combines with a normally-red pigment to turn it blue. Varieties of hydrangeas have been bred with a higher concentration of the pigment and these have more vivid colours (i.e. red rather than pink). Similarly varieties with lower concentrations of the pigment have been cultivated to create pastel colours.

    Since Victorian times, it's been common practice for gardeners to use aluminium sulphate to turn their hydrangeas blue (without necessarily knowing why) but this has become less popular in recent years as aluminium sulphate is extremely harmful to aquatic life. Twenty tonnes was accidentally deposited into Camelford's drinking water supply in 1988 which was hastily flushed into the Camel river system, killing many fish.

    Tea is made from the leaves of one species of camellia which has been bred for many years to hone qualities considered desirable for tea. However, the leaves of many other camellias can be used to produce a similar beverage and tea from another camellia species is popular in some parts of Japan.

  10. At the junction, bear right (signposted "House") and follow this to where a track departs to the right just before the gates into the property.

    The current house mostly dates from the 18th and 19th Century although one large chimney may be a relic of an earlier structure.

    The first record of the settlement is in the Domesday survey of 1086. The landowner (with the Celtic name Aelmer) from before the Norman Conquest wasn't replaced and continued to be responsible for the land. Land included 50 acres of pasture and 40 acres of woodland. The population included 3 villagers, 7 smallholders and 3 slaves. 10 goats were also given their own mention.

    Later in history, the manor belonged to the Roscarrock family (associated with Port Isaac) and then to the Robartes family of Lanhydrock.

  11. Bear right to follow the track downhill and initially keep left to pass a junction to the right, then right at the fork to continue downhill towards the metal gate.

    Honey made with rhododendron pollen can be poisonous to humans, causing severe low blood pressure and low heart rate if enough is eaten. Rhododendron honey is used in Nepal as a hallucinogenic drug.

  12. Go through the wooden pedestrian gate on the right of the gate and follow the path downhill. Continue downhill through another pedestrian gate and keep going until you emerge onto a gravel track at the bottom.

    Garlic mustard is a member of the cabbage family. It is edible and the leaves tastes mildly of garlic but become more bitter as they mature.

    It is also known as hedge garlic or Jack-by-the-hedge as it likes shady places. The "Jack" is a reference to the devil (probably by someone not a fan of garlic).

    The young leaves look a bit like stinging nettles but are brighter green. As the leaves get larger, they get less toothed and are more heart-shaped. It has white flowers in April and early May with 4 small petals forming a cross.

    There are over 30,000 miles (more than the distance around the earth) of hedges in Cornwall, many of which are based on distinctive local styles of stone walling. Consequently, often what a Cornish person calls a "hedge", most people from outside the county do not recognise as a hedge, resulting in some foreign translation needed for walk directions.

    Around 50% of the hedgerows in the UK have been lost since the Second World War. Although intentional removal has dramatically reduced, lack of maintenance and damage from mechanical cutting techniques such as flailing are still causing deterioration of the remaining hedgerows.

    Some Cornish hedges are thought to be more than 4,000 years old, making them some of the oldest human-built structures in the world that have been in continuous use for their original purpose. They act as vital miniature nature reserves and wildlife corridors that link together other green spaces. This supports hundreds of species of plants and tens of thousands of insect species, many of which are vital pollinators for arable crops.

  13. Bear right onto the gravel track and follow this past the cottage. Continue on the track until it ends in a junction with another track.
  14. Turn right and follow the track until it ends at a lane.

    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.

    Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK from the USA in the late 19th Century and within decades they had replaced the native red squirrel in most parts of the country.

  15. Turn left onto the lane and follow it over the bridge and a short distance further to a gateway on the left.

    The Warleggan river is also known as the River Bedalder. It is a tributary of the River Fowey, which it joins downriver of Trago Mills in the Glynn Valley. The source is on Hawkstor Downs on Bodmin Moor on the north side of the A30 and it runs through Temple and beside the Glynn Valley China Clay works before reaching Warleggan.

  16. Pass through the gateway and follow the track through the woods to reach a gate into a meadow.

    Mosses reproduce with tiny spores rather than seeds. Many mosses use wind to carry their spores and produce tiny stalks with the spore-releasing equipment on the top in order to catch the wind - these can be seen as thread-like structures standing up from the moss. These spore-releasing devices often have a ring of teeth around the edge (visible with a magnifying glass) to control the release of the spores, allowing them to be released gradually over a period of time to catch gusts of wind of different speeds and in different directions.

  17. Go through the gate and follow along the fence on the right, past the stile into the quarry to reach a wooden gate on the right.

    The chimney that can be see through the trees and possibly also the concrete base in the meadow are likely to have been associated with the later working period of Wheal Whisper.

    A mine near the river at Treveddoe, known as Wheal Whisper, was known to have been worked since at least 1718, initially for tin and later for copper. The mine was relatively shallow and was excavated from the surface to create a cavern rather than via surface shafts. A system of tramways was used to remove the waste material and also the ore for crushing and then processing on a dressing floor in the valley. Waterwheels were used to provide power for raising the ore, crushing it and for pumping water from the deeper areas of the workings into a drainage adit.

  18. Go through the gate and follow the path uphill. Continue to where the path crosses a wall with a tree growing across the gap.

    Primrose seeds are quite large and therefore, due to their weight, don't travel far from the plant. This causes a clump of primroses to spread out very slowly over time and means it takes a long time for primroses to colonise new areas. This makes large carpets of primroses a very good indicator of ancient woodland where they would have had many hundreds of years to spread out.

    There are several species of Woodrush in the UK that all look fairly similar. They are most noticeable in woodland where they often form dense mats - hence the name.

    Woodrush has green pointed leaves which can be mistaken for bluebell leaves when there are no flowers to provide an obvious difference (woodrush flowers are unexciting small brown things that look a bit like grass seed). To tell the leaves apart, woodrush leaves taper steadily to a sharp point whereas bluebell leaves are relatively straight for most of their length and only taper near the end (like a broadsword). Bluebell leaves are also slightly blue-green whereas woodrush is a glossy vibrant green.

  19. Cross over the wall then keep left to stay below the bank. Follow along the edge of the bank to reach a stile into a meadow.

    When an area of land is left alone by humans it undergoes a natural process of succession as taller plants out-compete the shorter ones for light. Bare land is first colonised by pioneer species including mosses and annual plants such as rosebay willowherb. Perennial plants including grasses can then grow thanks to the nutrients and moisture retention created by the pioneer species. Next, woody shrubs are able to grow higher than their herbaceous cousins and therefore steal the sunlight. Finally tall trees form a mature forest, sometimes known as "climax forest" as it's at the end of the chain of succession. Factors such as climate and minerals govern which species are involved in the succession chain for a particular area (e.g. it may end in conifer forests in alpine regions whereas lowland climax forests are usually hardwood).

  20. Cross the stile and continue ahead into the meadow. Head between the two large trees to the gate in the right hedge.
  21. Go through the gate and head up the field to the top hedge then follow along the hedge towards the barn to a gate just before it.

    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.
  22. Go through the gate and walk alongside the barn then turn left to walk past the front of the barn to a metal gate leading onto a track.

    The word "farm" has the same origins as (e.g. law) "firm". Both words are related to the mediaeval Latin word firma meaning "fixed payment". Its original use in English was to do with contracts and leasing (which is why "to farm out" means "to subcontract"). In fact the word "farm" had no association with food production until the 19th Century. In the 16th Century it began to be applied to leasing of land and the association with farmland developed from this.

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

    The first record of Treveddoe is from 1260 as Trevedou. The name is Cornish and means something along the lines of "farm with birch trees". Given the Cornish language name, the settlement is likely to date from the Early Mediaeval period.

    An E-shaped mansion built around 1629 stood here until the early 20th Century. Part of it had been removed by 1909 and by 1916 the rest was demolished although a few bits of old wall may remain.

  24. Bear right onto the lane and immediately left to the metal field gate and go through this. Bear right across the field to the first gateway in the right hedge.

    Cuckooflower is often found in meadows and produces very pale lilac, sometimes virtually white, flowers with 4 petals.

    The name is based on the flowering time coinciding with the arrival of cuckoos.

    The plant is also known as lady's smock. There are various theories about that name ranging from the shape of the flowers to springtime activities in meadows involving undergarments. "smock" was also once a slang word for a woman of loose morals and so it's possible it was first used this way and the "lady's" was added later when the original meaning of the word had been lost.

  25. Go through the gate and cross the field to a gate in the left corner of the far hedge.

    Dandelions are dispersed very effectively by the wind. The tiny parachute-like seeds can travel around five miles. Each plant can live for about 10 years and produces several thousand seeds each year.

  26. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge to reach a stile into the graveyard.

    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.

  27. Cross the stile into the graveyard (the top bar lifts) and turn left to follow alongside the wall to the bench to locate the surfaced path. Follow this to the church and then continue on the path to the churchyard gate.

    Based on the almost circular shape of Warleggan churchyard, it is thought likely that it might be on the site of an Early Mediaeval Celtic religious settlement.

    The oldest surviving parts of Warleggan church date from the 13th Century. Around the late 14th-15th Centuries, a smaller Norman church was enlarged which including adding a tower with a spire. In 1818, the spire was destroyed by lightning and the church underwent a fairly severe Victorian restoration later in the 19th Century.

    The mediaeval cross in the churchyard was found at Carburrow where it was being used as a gatepost.

    A 2009 film named "A Congregation of Ghosts" is about the eccentric last resident vicar of Warleggan who surrounded the vicarage with barbed wire and preached to an empty church with pews containing name cards for each of his parishioners!

  28. Go through the gate and bear right to follow the track downhill to where it ends on a lane.

    Green alkanet is a member of the forget-me-not family and has small but striking blue 5 petal flowers with white centres. The plants are often around 2ft tall by the time they are flowering, making them one of the taller plants around in April and they also have hairy leaves that can cause skin irritation in some people.

    Green alkanet is native to the western part of the Mediterranean region and prefers sunny spots. It was introduced to the UK around the start of the 18th Century and fairly quickly escaped into the wild where it has become naturalised. As a garden weed, its brittle tap roots make it tricky to eradicate.

    The name "alkanet" derives from the old Arabic word for Henna. The "green" in the name is to distinguish it from dyer's alkanet (hence the Henna), to which it is related but minus the dye. The scientific name for green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) is based on the Greek for "five tongues" (a reference to the flowers) and Latin for "evergreen" (as the plant often over-winters as a rosette of leaves).

    The plant with sticky green seeds is known as cleavers due to the ability to attach to clothing or animals. The use of "to cleave" meaning "to adhere" has Saxon origins but has become less common in recent years perhaps due to the confusion of having a more well-known meaning which is virtually the opposite. A Cornish dialect name, recorded as cliders in Victorian times, is likely to be a corruption of this. Other common names include sticky willy.

    Goosegrass is another common name of the plant due to its attractiveness to poultry as a nutritious food. It contains tannins which make it too bitter for humans. The plant is in the same family as coffee and the seeds have been dried and roasted to make a (lower caffeine) coffee substitute.

  29. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane to a triangular junction.

    A problem with rhododendrons is that they kill bees. Rhododendron nectar is highly toxic to honeybees, killing them within hours. Some other bee species such as mining bees are also adversely affected. Bumblebees seem to be unaffected though.

  30. Keep left to continue downhill to reach the bridge that you crossed earlier on the walk.
  31. Follow the lane across the bridge, around the bend past the buildings and continue uphill on the lane until you reach a no-through road on the right.

    Young beech leaves can be used as a salad vegetable, which are described as being similar to a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture. Older leaves are a bit chewy, as you'd expect.

  32. Turn right onto the no-through road and follow it to a bend with a wooden gate on the left.

    A settlement of Yetta was recorded in 1434. The name is mediaeval English (rather than Cornish) and means "at the gate". It's thought that may be a reference to its location on the edge of Treslea Downs.

  33. Go through the gate and follow the gravel path until you reach a crossing of paths.

    Like other members of the pea family, gorse produces its seeds in pods. The seeds are ejected with a popping sound when pods split open in hot weather. This can catapult the seeds up to five metres. The plants are able to live 30 years and survive sub-zero temperatures, the seeds can withstand fire and remain viable in the soil for 30 years.

  34. Turn right and follow the grassy corridor between the gorse to where the main track forks. Keep left at the fork and continue on the grassy track to reach another stretch of gravel path. When this peters out, continue through another grassy area, heading through the opening on the far side to reach the lane where you parked.

    Lousewort is found on heathland and is recognisable in spring by its small pink flowers which have a "hood" above 3 lower petals.

    The plant is semi-parasitic, taking nutrients and water from the roots of other plants and this is one possible explanation for the origin of the name.

    The name is also associated with a belief that livestock would acquire lice if they ate the plant. Many mediaeval flora/fauna beliefs were based on jumping to a (often bonkers) conclusion based on visual resemblance, so it's possible that the hood shape of the flower was likened to a louse.

  35. Turn right onto the lane to complete the circular walk.

    The word "downs" may seem strange for hilly moorland areas which are, if anything, "up". The reason is that it's derived from the Old English word dun meaning hill or moor which itself stems from the Celtic word din for hillfort (e.g. Castle-an-dinas and London). The word "dune" applied to sand is from similar origins but may have come from the original Celtic via Dutch and French where the meaning is "sand hill" rather than "moorland".

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