Warbstow to Treneglos

Due to a lack of footbridges, this walk currently involves wading through two ankle-deep streams which is ok with wellies.

A circular countryside walk from the Saxon village of Warbstow to the Celtic hamlet of Treneglos in the tributary valleys of the River Ottery, where the North Cornwall railway once ran.

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The walk starts from Warbstow church and heads across tracks and fields to the farms of Youlstone and Trewonnard. The route then follows a country lane and track across the valley to Treneglos church. The return route is an adventure across the two tributary valleys either side of Nether Scarsick, wading across the streams in both cases.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.5 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Warbstow Church
  • Parking: Gravel area near barn immediately uphill of Warbstow church PL158UP. Follow signs to Warbstow and then turn at the junction signposted Warbstow Parish Church
  • Recommended footwear: Wellington boots (for wading across streams)

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Ancient riverside woodland near Treneglos and Nether Scarsick
  • Historic Treneglos and Warbstow churches

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Head downhill on the lane from the parking area to reach a path into the churchyard and go through the churchyard gate. Then bear right, around the church, to a gap in the hedge at the top of the churchyard.

    The parish churchin Warbstow was originally Norman, but largely rebuilt in the 15th century. However its site on a small hill, surrounded by a circular bank, strongly suggests that the churchyard is celtic in origin.

  2. Go through the gap and turn right onto the track. Follow the track to a public footpath sign just before it ends at a metal gate.

    The stiles in West Cornwall that consist of rectangular bars of granite resembling a cattlegrid are known as coffen (coffin) stiles. These often occur on footpaths leading to churches such the Zennor Churchway. The mini-cattlegrids are fairly effective at containing livestock and were significantly easier for coffin-bearers to navigate than stiles crossing walls.

  3. Go through the gate on the left indicated by the footpath sign and follow the right hedge of the field to a stile roughly half-way along the right hedge.

    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.

  4. Cross the stile, then turn left and follow the left hedge to another stile in the corner of the field.

    Nearly three-quarters of the UK starling population has been wiped out in recent times, and starlings are now on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The cause of this decline is a combination of changes to farming practices and grassland management (such as use of pesticides reducing the insect population), and a lack of nesting sites in urban areas.

  5. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane for about 100m to a track on the left, signposted to Higher Youlstone and Youlstone Farm.

    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.

  6. Turn left onto the track and follow it to Youlstone Farm (a building on the right, with a barn on the left).

    The ferns with solid leaves are appropriately called hart's tongue as the leaf resembles the tongue of a deer. The Latin name for the species means "centipede" as underside of the leaves have rows of brown spore cases that form a pattern resembling centipede legs. The plants thrive in shady places are are tolerant of the lime used in mortar so are sometimes found growing in old walls.

  7. When you reach the farm, continue ahead, between the house and the barn, to where the track resumes. Follow the track until you reach the gate of Higher Youlstone.
  8. Go through the gate and take the left fork in the track. Follow the track to two metal gates on the left side of the track, just before it turns into the garden on the right.
  9. Go through the rightmost of the two gates on the left. Turn right in the field and keep the fence on your right as you walk downhill to reach a stile near the far end of the fence.

    The Youlstone Cross stands beside the stream crossing.

    There are over four hundred complete stone crosses in Cornwall and at least another two hundred fragments.

    In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path to mark the route to the parish church. Farms and hamlets were usually linked to the church by the most direct and level route. Crosses were also placed along routes of pilgrimage. Both of these have evolved to become some of today's Public Rights of Way.

  10. Cross a stile, footbridge and one final stile to reach a field. Head uphill to a gate in the middle of the top hedge, leading to a house.

    The common name "foxglove" dates back many hundreds of years but the origin is unknown. The "gloves" almost certainly refers to the shape of the flowers, and the latin name Digitalis (fingerlike) is along similar lines. The curious part is the "fox" and many different suggestions have been made as to where it came from. It is likely that it is a corruption of another word; possibly "folks" which was once used to mean "fairies".

  11. Go through the two gates and along a short track towards the house to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to the bottom of the valley, and back up the other side to a junction with a "Ford" sign.

    The railway bridge crossed by the lane is a remnant of the North Cornwall line.

    The North Cornwall Railway was a venture backed by the London and South Western Railway to compete with the Great Western Railway for services to Cornwall. The North Cornwall line ran from Halwill in Devon to Padstow via Launceston, Camelford and Wadebridge and was built for economy rather than speed, including climbs and curves to avoid costly construction work. The line was opened in sections at the end of the 19th century, reaching Padstow in 1899. There was an aspiration to connect Wadebridge to Truro, but this was never realised. Due to holidaymakers increasingly travelling by car in the 1960s, demand for passenger services dwindled and the line was closed as part of the cuts in 1966.

  12. At the junction, go straight ahead, down the track marked with the "Ford" sign, and follow it around a bend to the right then down to the bottom of the valley to the ford.

    The settlement of Higher Scarsick was first recorded in 1303 as Overarescasek. The name is thought to be from the Cornish words ros (meaning either moorland or a hill spur/promontary) and kasek (meaning mare).

  13. At the ford, bear left to cross a footbridge which leads back onto the track. Continue along the track until it ends at a lane.

    The remnants of a "try your brakes" sign is because this is a Public 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.

  14. Bear left across the lane to follow the path between the moss-covered walls to reach a gate into the churchyard.

    The placename is from the Cornish word eglos for church, and translates to something along the lines of Church Farm. The church here dates back to Saxon times and though the settlement itself wasn't mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, the church was.

  15. Go through the gate into the churchyard and follow the path around to the right of the church and down onto a path that joins back onto the road.

    Christianity in Roman Britain began in the 4th or 5th century AD. However there were no known cities west of Exeter, so the spread into Cornwall is likely to have been very limited. The majority of Cornwall is likely to have remained Pagan until "The Age of Saints" - the late 5th or early 6th century - when the Irish missionaries including St Piran and St Petroc settled in Cornwall.

  16. Go through the gate onto the road, turn right and follow the road until, immediately after the stone walls of an old railway bridge, you reach a pair of wooden gates on the left.
  17. Go through the wooden gates into the field and head to a gate in the right hedge at the bottom-right corner of the field.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  18. Go through the gate in the right hedge and follow the short track into the next field. Bear left to the bottom-right corner of the field, to enter a narrow strip of field along the right hedge; head to a gate in the bottom-left corner of this narrow strip.

    The lake at the bottom of the field sometimes attracts herons.

    Herons nest in tree-top colonies known as "heronries" where they make a large nest from twigs. It is not unusual for a single tree to contain as many as 10 nests and the overall colony can reach over a hundred nests. The herons re-use their nest for as many years as possible until it gets blown away by a storm. It is unwise to stand beneath a heronry as the birds defend their nests by regurgigating half-digested fish on those below!

  19. Go through the gateway and wade across a stream (note that although there is a footbridge marked on the OS map, at the time of writing, no such bridge existed, necessitating a wade across the stream). Once across the stream, bear right and follow the treeline to reach a large tree ahead.
  20. At the tree, bear right to follow the track uphill. Follow the track past a house to reach a lane.
  21. Turn right onto the lane and follow it for about 100m until, just after the last barn, you reach a pair of metal gates marked with a public footpath sign.

    This area of Cornwall represents the border between Celtic Dumnonia and Anglo-Saxon Wessex. Consequently, along this route there is Anglo-Saxon influence (placenames like Warbstow and Fonston) interspersed with traditional Celtic names (Trewonnard, Treneglos, Treglith etc). Northeast of the River Ottery, fewer names beginning with "Tre-" exist whilst further southwest the names ending in "-stow", "-ton" and "-cott" become sparser.

  22. At the sign, go through the black gates onto the track and follow it to a series of metal gates.

    The settlement of Nether Scarsick was first recorded in 1303 as Nethere Rescasec. It was quite common in mediaeval times to use "nether" for "lower" and "over" for "higher" in place names.

  23. Go through the gates to follow the track ahead between the hedge and fence. Continue to where the track ends in a gate into the field ahead.

    Although it's obvious that you should ensure any gates that you open, you also close, what about gates you find that are already open?

    If the gate is fully open then leave it alone as it may well be providing livestock access to a water supply, and by closing it you could end up killing them.

    If the gate is ajar or swinging loose and not wedged or tied open then it's likely that the gate was left open by accident (possibly by another group of walkers). Properly closing the offending gate behind you will not only bring joy to the landowner but you can feel good about saving lives in a car swerving to avoid a cow in the road.

  24. Go through the gate ahead and continue to follow the left hedge downhill then bear right slightly to a stile (which looks more like a gate from a distance) roughly 50m from the corner.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 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-emergiences 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 round 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.
  25. Climb the stiles to reach the stream. Wade across the stream then follow parallel to the left hedge over the marshy area (standing on tussocks to avoid sinking), to reach the field. Bear right up the field to the first of several gaps starting roughly halfway along the right hedge.

    A short distance downriver, the streams on this walk join the Canworthy Water (river) which itself which joins the River Ottery at the settlement of Canworthy Water.

  26. Go through the gap into the next field, then head slightly left across the field, to follow the right side of a hedge which begins halfway across the field. Follow this across the field to reach a stile.

    The River Ottery is a tributary of the Tamar and stretches about 20 miles across the northeast of the county. Its basin spans a Carboniferous geological formation known as the Culm Measures which contains a soft-sooty form of coal and supports grassland that is very rich in species, some rare such as the Marsh Fritillary.

    The river once formed a northern boundary between Celtic Dumnonia and Anglo-Saxon Wessex and consequently the place names to the north are predominantly Saxon and those to the south are Celtic. The name of the river itself has Anglo-Saxon roots from the Old English oter (after the creatures that thrived along it) and ea (meaning stream).

  27. Cross the stile then bear left slightly across the field towards a stile located about 100m to the right of the barn in the corner of the field.

    The otter's semi-aquatic nature has been well known since ancient times, in fact the words "otter" and "water" both derive from the same original word. It has been reported that Bodmin Moor acts as an interchange for commuting otters as the rivers Camel, Delank, Fowey and Inny all have sources or tributaries in a quite a small area.

    During the 1960s, the otter population crashed in the UK due to the widespread use of pesticides such as DDT which leached into the waterways and poisoned the otters. However, due to predominance of dairy farming in Cornwall during this period rather than the more pesticide-reliant arable, the county remained an otter stronghold. The Tamar Otter Sanctuary near the Devon border was a key part of the otter conservation movement which has been a remarkable success. It is thought that otters have now re-colonised all the areas in the UK that they were wiped out from during the 20th Century.

  28. Cross the stile into the next field and bear left slightly across the field to the stile in the opposite hedge.

    Warbstow is a parish in north-east Cornwall alongside the River Ottery. Warburghstow was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. The original manor house of Downinney stood at one end of the village green, but only the Norman door, porch, and an upstairs window have survived.

  29. Cross the stile onto a lane and turn left to reach a junction. At the junction turn right onto the lane signposted to Warbstow and Downinney. Follow this until you reach a junction with a narrow road departing to the left.

    The name for the parish of Warbstow is taken from the nun, St Waerburgha, who was daughter of a 7th century Anglo-Saxon king. Her relics, at Chester, were an object of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. The church has been dedicated to St Waerburgha for at least 1000 years, presumably by the Saxon settlers.

  30. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane back to the church to complete the walk.

    Beech trees are planted along the hedge and drop beechnuts onto the road.

    The word "beech" is thought to have the same origins as "book" as beech (most probably the bark) was used as a writing material in which to carve runes by Germanic societies before the development of paper. This is still apparent in modern German where the word for “book” is buch and “beech tree” is buche.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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