Wadebridge to St Breock

A circular walk from Wadebridge on the Camel Trail alongside the Amble Marshes nature reserve then across meadows and wooded creeks to the mediaeval church of St Breock, returning via the woods of the Polmorla valley.

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The walk starts by following the Camel Trail towards Padstow to the bird hide overlooking the Amble salt marshes, passing a number of lookout points with benches. The route then crosses the top of the Trevanson and Tregunna creeks and crosses fields to Trevanson and St Breock. The walk descends the valley to reach St Breock church and follows the lane along the stream to join the Polmorla river. The return route to Wadebridge is through the woods of the Polmorla valley, passing through Coronation Park.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.4 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots (crosses stream)

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Wading birds along the Camel and Amble marshes
  • Vibrant wildflowers along the lanes, tracks and paths in spring and early summer
  • Ornate mediaeval carvings in St Breock church
  • Ancient wooded valleys of St Breock and Polmorla with snowdrops in spring

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Bridge on Wool
  • The Molesworth Arms
  • The Swan Hotel

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the start of the Camel Trail beside Bridge Bike Hire. Follow the trail in the direction of Padstow for approximately a mile and a half until you reach a bird hide on your right.

    The Camel Trail is a recreational walking and cycling track along the track bed of an old railway running from Wenfordbridge to Padstow. The railway, where the Camel Trail now runs, was originally built in 1831 by local landowner, Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, with a branch to Bodmin, was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. Later, the railway was used to ship slate and china clay from inland quarries to ships in Padstow and also transport fish, landed in Padstow, to London and other cities. The last passenger train was in 1967 and freight finally ceased in 1983, when a need to invest in new track forced closure of the line.

  2. Continue along the trail for just over 100 metres until you reach a small path leading off from the right marked with National Cycle Network 32 and an arrow for Royal Cornwall Showground, roughly 100 metres before the trail goes under a bridge.

    The muddy area along the opposite bank of the river is known as the "Amble Marshes".

    The Amble Marshes are located in the Camel Estuary in the area where the River Amble joins the River Camel, downriver from the town of Wadebridge. The large areas of salt marsh encourage diverse bird life including winter waders and wildfowl. Part of the salt marsh is designated as a nature reserve known as the Walmsley Sanctuary and is not open to the general public. However, the Tregunna bird hide (which lies about a mile along the Camel Trail towards Padstow from Wadebridge) situated opposite the Amble marshes is open to the public.

  3. When you reach the path on the right, turn off the trail onto it and follow it until it ends on a lane.

    The River Amble is a tributary of the River Camel, rising close to the Iron Age hillfort of Tregeare Rounds near Pendoggett, and runs approximately parallel to the larger river Allen. Where it joins the Camel in the estuary, near Wadebridge, the marshes are designated an SSSI for the rich bird life they support. The name "Amble" is derived from the Cornish An-heyl (meaning "on the estuary") and its use for the name of the river is a later development. The Environment Agency has been working with landowners to improve the water quality in the Amble (by minimising run-off from roads and farmland) and restore an area of marshland in the SSSI which was partially drained in the 1960s.

  4. At the top of the path, turn left onto the lane and follow it across the bridge and uphill until, just after a bend, you reach a driveway on your left leading to Tregunna Farm.
  5. Turn left onto the farm track and keep right. Follow the track past Tredale Cottage until it peters out just past a barn and a narrow path continues ahead.
  6. Follow the path down into the valley until it meets a bank with trees along the top.
  7. Bear right to follow the path along the bank and reach the stream. Cross the stream and follow the path to a gate into a field.

    The small streams along this walk are all minor tributaries of the River Camel.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay, making it the longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar.

    The name "Cam-El" is from the Cornish meaning "crooked one". It is documented that only the upper reaches of the river, above Boscarne, were originally known as the "Camel". The section from Boscarne to Egloshayle was known as the "Allen" and below this, it was known as "Heyl".

  8. Go through the gate and continue ahead up the bank and across the field to reach the top hedge. Keep the top hedge on your right and follow it past two metal gates to a third metal gate roughly three quarters of the way along the hedge.

    The settlement of Roskear was recorded in 1277 as Rosker and is formed from the Cornish words kerfor fort and ros for promontory, or moor. It's possible this may refer to a fortified prehistoric settlement nearby; the remains of what might be a Bronze-Age enclosure have been found towards the top of the hill.

  9. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow the track until it ends at a gate.

    Spring is the best time to harvest nettles. They should not be harvested when flowering (the flowers look like small catkins hanging down from the stems), as during flowering they produce microscopic rods of calcium carbonate (limestone) which can interfere with kidney function.

    To prepare them, wearing gloves, strip off the young tender leaves, discarding any large coarse leaves and stems. Use lightly boiled, steamed or wilted as if it were spinach (though not raw unless you want to live dangerously!). All the usual spinach flavour combinations apply (e.g. with ricotta).

  10. Go through the gate ahead and bear left slightly across the field to a stile, just to the right of the telegraph pole in the far hedge.

    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.
  11. Cross the stile and bear left across the field to a stile on the right of the barn.

    Black and white Fresian-Holstein cattle were not common until the second half of the 20th Century, following a post-war programme to replenish cattle stocks. This including importing a couple of hundred cattle from areas of northern Germany and Holland which are on a similar latitude to northern England. Due to their high dairy yields, these breeds exploded in popularity in the 1970s and now make up over 90% of the dairy cattle in Britain.

  12. Cross the stile and go down the steps. Follow the track ahead past the barns on your left and turn left around the corner to reach a gateway immediately on the right with a slope descending to the level below.

    The farm is now known as Perlees but was originally known as Penles which was recorded in 1208. The name is from the Cornish word pen, meaning "top","head" or "end". The other word is less certain, possibly les, meaning "plant", but quite what the gist of this would be is not clear.

  13. Go through the gate on the right and walk down the slope, then keep right to reach a gate into a field. Go through the gate and cross the field to a stile roughly a third of the way along the far hedge from the bottom corner.
  14. Cross the stile and bear right slightly across the field to a stile in the fence opposite, in line with the leftmost telegraph pole.
  15. Cross the stile and turn right to follow along the fence to a track leading from the gate. Bear left onto this and follow it downhill until it passes beneath the trees.
  16. As soon as you pass under the trees, turn left and follow the line of trees to a crossing over the stream. Cross the stream and keep to the left of the trees. Follow the line of trees up the field to reach a stile between the 2 houses.
  17. Cross the stile and the stone stile in front of it. Follow the path to a lane.

    The first record of the settlement of Trevanson is from 1259 when it was spelt "Travansun". Other than the obvious tre indicating a farmstead from early mediaeval times, the origin of the rest of the name is not known.

  18. Continue ahead to join the lane and follow it past Trevanson House to a junction on the left opposite Long Hayes.
  19. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane to another junction.

    The Cornish palm is neither originally from Cornwall nor a palm! It is from New Zealand where it is known as the cabbage tree, being neither related to or tasting anything like cabbage. The top of the stem from which the leaves shoot was harvested by the Maori, resulting in something resembling an artichoke. It is bitter so it was traditionally eaten with fatty meats such as eel to make it palatable. The largest specimen of the plant is thought to be around 500 years old and has a circumference of nine metres at the base! It was introduced to Britain after being collected on Captain Cook's first voyage to the Pacific on the Endeavour.

  20. At the bend, keep right and follow the lane over the bridge to a flight of steps on your right.

    The A39 (also known as the Atlantic Highway) is the main road through North Cornwall to North Devon, and this used to pass directly through the centre of Wadebridge, over the old bridge. Wadebridge, which had been designed for horses and boats rather than cars, became congested with traffic until in 1993 the Wadebridge bypass was opened, re-routing the A39 trunk road over the new bridge spanning the estuary. Since then, the removal of through traffic has allowed Wadebridge to develop a pedestrian shopping area and is regaining its charm as a market town.

  21. Go up the steps and follow the path until it emerges at the bottom of a lane.

    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.

  22. Follow the lane until it ends in a junction with a road.
  23. Carefully cross the road (there is a pedestrian crossing to the left) to a public footpath sign opposite and go up the steps. Bear left across the field to the left hedge. Follow along the hedge to reach a stile on the left.
  24. Cross the stile and bear right across the field to a kissing gate roughly a quarter of the way along the hedge on your right, below the middle of the 3 large trees in that hedge.
  25. Go through the kissing gate and continue straight ahead to the protruding section of the right hedge. Keep the hedge on your right to reach a stile in the corner of the field.

    To your right is the Royal Cornwall showground.

    The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show began in 1793 and for most of the intervening period, moved locations each year until 1960, when the Royal Cornwall Showground was created, near Wadebridge, to give it a permanent home. Given its Royal status, it is not unusual for a senior member of the Royal Family to attend the Show. Over 100,000 non-Royal visitors also attend each year.

  26. Cross the stile and pass to the left of the hedge ahead. Follow along the hedge all the way to the bottom of the field. Continue to pass a small garden gate and reach another path leading towards a slate-roofed building you can see through the trees.

    The large fields here are suitable for arable crops such as cereals.

    Cereal crops such as wheat and barley grow by using the energy obtained by photosynthesis to produce a chemical that reacts with carbon dioxide from the air. A problem for these plants is that as the temperature increases, this chemical is more prone to reach with oxygen in the air instead of carbon dioxide. This is the main reason that these crops don't do well in tropical climates and are farmed at temperate latitudes such as in Britain. Maize uses a different chemical reaction to extract carbon dioxide from the air which is more resilient to higher temperatures and also allows these plants to lose less water through their leaves. This allows them to grow in hotter, drier climates such as the southern United States.

  27. Turn right down the path and follow it down the steps past the building until it emerges onto a lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it along the left side of a forked junction.

    In Ireland where the damp climate meant that only low-gluten cereal crops could be grown, bread was risen with soda rather than yeast as this suited both the low-gluten flour and the hearth-based cooking method. Given the similar climate and also migration and trade between Ireland and Cornwall in Celtic times, it's very possible this method was also used here too.

  28. Cross the road to the small lane opposite marked unsuitable for motor vehicles and follow this until it ends at a gate into the churchyard.

    In early spring, crocuses flower at the end of the driveway. The stamens of the crocus flowers (although not these particular ones) are what is dried to produce saffron.

    You might have noticed saffron features quite heavily in Cornish baking and yet it has never been produced in Cornwall (in fact 90% of the world's saffron comes from Iran). It's been posited that the Cornish, who were trading tin with foreign merchants - possibly Phoenicians - as early as 400 BC, bought saffron at the time and retained it in their cooking. If this is true, Britain is almost unique in Europe, having cooked with saffron for more than two millennia.

  29. Go through the gate and follow the path to the church door.

    The church building at St Breock dates back to the 13th century although it was extensively rebuilt in 1677. The church, of St Briocus, is dedicated to St Brioc - an early 6th century monk from Wales who is thought to have built a small chapel here.

    After founding the church at St Breock in Cornwall, he became the first Abbot of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany, which was also initially a small chapel but is now a Cathedral. In 2009, Saint-Brieuc suffered an unfortunate incident where very large amounts of sea lettuce washed onto the beach. The rotting algae produced so much hydrogen sulphide that it killed a horse, several dogs and a council worker who was clearing it from the beach.

  30. At the church door (facing the church) turn left and follow the path to reach a driveway. Follow this to the gate out of the churchyard onto the lane.

    You'll notice that there is lichen growing on many of the headstones in the churchyard. Of the 2,000 British species, over a third have been found in churchyards and more than 600 have been found growing on churchyard stone in lowland England. Almost half the species are rare and some seldom, if ever, occur in other habitats. Many churchyards are found to have well over 100 species.

  31. Turn right onto the lane and follow it to a junction.

    To support their massive weight, trees produce a biochemical compound called lignin which has a cross-linked polymer structure that makes it very rigid. Because it's so tough, most fungi and bacteria are unable to break it down. The main fungus that has worked out a way to do it is known as white rot.

  32. Keep left to stay on the lane and follow it until it ends in a T-junction.

    The settlement of Polmorla was originally known as Polmorva, which is how it was recorded in 1208. The name is from the Cornish words pol meaning "pool" or "stream" and morva which meant "marsh", the gist being the river floodplain. Polmorla lies on the confluence of two tributary streams of the River Camel tributary known as Treguddick Stream. The area is still susceptible to flooding which is why some of the cottages have flood prevention gates leading onto the lane.

  33. Turn left towards Wadebridge and follow the lane past the cottages. Continue until you pass the high wall of Lobb's Folly and reach the next driveway on the left for Park Wood.
  34. Turn left up the drive of Park Wood and almost immediately turn right up the path to a gate into Coronation Park. Follow the path through the woodland, past a crossing of paths at a bench, until you reach a fork in the path at a second bench.

    Wild garlic grows alongside the path and is evident in spring and early summer.

    Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are generally used rather than the bulb, which is very small. Note that there are some lilies that look very similar and are poisonous! If it doesn't smell strongly of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic and should be avoided. A schoolboy error is to rub the leaves between fingers where the smell lingers so a subsequent poisonous lily leaf could be misidentified.

  35. At the fork, keep right and follow the path downhill until you reach a gate.

    Coronation Park, alongside Polmorla Road in Wadebridge, was created for when Edward VII came to the throne in 1902. It has remained largely unchanged for over a century, though gradually fell into disrepair over the decades until it was restored in the early 21st Century. It was re-opened by King Edward's Great Great Grandson - Prince Edward - in May 2007.

  36. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane until it ends in a junction in Wadebridge.

    The settlement at Wadebridge dates back at least to early Mediaeval times with a licence for a market being recorded in 1312. Originally there was no bridge and thus the settlement was called "Wade" (as this is what you had to do when crossing the ford). This far down the River Camel, numerous tributaries had emptied into the river so the crossing was quite perilous. Chapels were situated either side of the river to pray for a safe crossing, and give thanks should the other side be successfully reached. The death toll, both in human lives and livestock, was the motivation for the building of the bridge.

  37. Turn left and follow the road a short distance to a roundabout. Cross the roundabout onto the road opposite (keeping the bank on your left) and follow it to the Camel Trail roundabout to complete the circular route.

    At the start of the 1880s, the rocks on which the Eddystone Lighthouse was built began to crack due to erosion by the sea. Granite was quarried for a new lighthouse at the De Lank quarry and brought to Wadebridge where stonemasons dovetailed each block to those in all directions for high strength. Once each layer was checked for a fit with the one above, it was shipped from Wadebridge and the completed 49 metre lighthouse was lit in 1882. The road where the masons worked became known as Eddystone Road, which now links Wadebridge to the Camel Trail to Padstow. The lighthouse is still in operation today.

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