Werrington to Bridgetown circular walk

Werrington to Bridgetown

A circular walk through two tributary valleys of the River Tamar in a parish that was borrowed by Devon for 800 years, passing the remains of the wharf at the furthest reaches of the Bude Canal.

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The walk is in a pair of river valleys that feed tributaries of the Tamar. The route follows footpaths across the farmland that was once part of the manor of Werrington. The return route is via Crossgate which has a bridge over the River Tamar into Devon, but we stay safely on Cornish soil and return via Werrington church.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 112
  • Distance: 4.2 miles/6.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 112 OS Explorer 112 (laminated version)

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


  • Peaceful countryside in the Tamar Valley
  • Off the beaten track so good for wildlife
  • Remains of the furthest reaches of the Bude Canal


  1. Facing the entrance to the cricket ground, turn right onto the lane and follow it until you reach a sharp bend with some tracks on the right and a public footpath sign beside a gate on the left.

    Werrington Park dates back over 1000 years to Saxon times and in the Domesday Book, shortly after the Norman Conquest, a manor was recorded here. Most of the present house dates from Elizabethan times, built by the nephew of Sir Frances Drake, also called Frances Drake, in 1641. In 1704, the house was modified slightly to add the present front and little has been altered since. In 1976, it was damaged by fire but this was mainly confined to the roof.

  2. Bear left off the road and go through the gate beside the footpath sign. Continue ahead across the field towards the bottom corner of the cricket pitch. Head to the left of the two gates - the waymarked one in front of a large dead tree.

    At the bend in the road, Werrington church is a few metres down the track next to the one going to the gatehouse.

    Werrington church originally stood within Werrington Park next to the Manor. When the manor was owned by William Morice, much to the anger of the parishioners, he had the church pulled down so that he could extend his bowling green! The replacement church was completed in 1743 just outside the park. The design is unusual in that the main tower is flanked by two smaller replica towers each made of solid stone. The font was rescued from the original church and is thought to date to Norman times.

  3. Go through the gate and cross the field to the gateway opposite.

    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. Go through the gate and cross the field to the gate opposite.

    Werrington is an example of a Saxon place name.

    The Saxons had a stronghold in northeastern Cornwall, which is reflected in many of the place names (-stow, -bury, -ton, -worthy, -cott, -ham, -ford etc). As you move further west, the Celtic place names (Tre-, Pen-, Lan-) become more common.

  5. Go through the gate and cross the field towards the house to reach a stile in the fence opposite.

    During Saxon times, the River Tamar was used as the border between Devon and Cornwall. After the Norman Conquest, a new border was drawn up between the two counties using the River Ottery as the dividing line near Launceston. The result was that the parishes of North Petherwin and Werrington were lost into Devon and remained there for nearly 900 years until 1966 when the border was altered to once again be along the River Tamar.

  6. Cross the stile and footbridge and pass the remains of a stile on the other side. Head up the field to a wooden gate immediately to the right of the cottage but to the left of the gateway in the right hedge.

    This field is sometimes used to grow cereal crops.

    Whist warm porridge has a long history, cold breakfast cereals were invented in the USA during Victorian times. The first products were granola-like and one needed soaking overnight before it could be eaten. Following on from these, John Kellogg and his brother William experimented with cereals, initially intended as a dietary supplement for vegetarians at their sanitarium. After accidentally letting some cooked wheat go stale, the Kellogg brothers attempted to salvage this by rolling it and to their surprise it created flakes which they toasted and served to their patients. They experimented with other cereals and their flake cereals including maize (cornflakes) were patented. John Kellogg refused to add sugar to his cornflakes as he believed this would "increase passions", however William had fewer fears for the morality of the American public from the aphrodisiac properties of cornflakes and created a mass-market version with added sugar which was a huge success.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the short track alongside the cottage to the lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it a few paces to a public footpath signpost on the left. Turn left onto the track and follow this to a gate.

    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.

    If you encounter a gate doubly-secured with twine that can be untied or a chain that can be unfastened, it's normally there because naughty animals have managed to undo the gate themselves at some point (e.g. by rubbing against the bolt), so retie/fasten it afterwards.

  8. Go through the gate and cross the field towards the large house to reach a waymark at the end of the short wire fence.

    The large house on the opposite side of the valley is called Polapit Tamar and was built in 1866 by a local landowning family. It was further extended in the early 1900s to add a ballroom, reportedly for the 21st birthday of the owner's daughter. The ballroom includes some ornately carved chimney pieces, one of which depicts a view of Launceston.

  9. Walk between the two posts and bear right to a waymarked gateway in the right fence.

    Whilst moles look a little like mice, they are not rodents and are highly adapted to digging and living in tunnels. Using their curved claws, they can dig 15 feet of tunnel in an hour and typically extend their network by around 60 ft per day. Moles also have twice as much blood as mammals of a similar size and a special form of haemoglobin that allow them to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide in the low-oxygen environment within their tunnels.

  10. Go through the gate and bear left to the footbridge at the bottom of the field.

    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.


    • 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).


    • 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 footbridge. The official line of the footpath is then to continue ahead across the marsh beneath the tree and cross the fence and footbridge into the field on the right. In the event that the marsh is impassable, the fields are also joined by a gate further up the hedge, which should be left exactly as found. Once in the field on the right, head for the farm gate between the buildings.

    The river crossed by the footbridge is the Tala Water.

    The Tala Water is a tributary of the River Tamar and runs for around five and half miles. Its catchment area includes the settlements named Beer and Curry.

  12. Go through the gate into the yard and follow the track between the buildings. Join the gravel track and follow this away from the farm to reach a lane.

    The Bude canal ran along the bottom of the valley ahead.

    Bude Canal runs from Helebridge, through the centre of Bude, to the sea lock near Summerleaze beach. The canal was built in the 1820s to carry sea sand and lime inland for use as fertiliser and the original canal system spanned 35 miles reaching Launceston. The canal closed in 1901 when competition from the railway, bringing cheap manufactured fertilisers, rendered it uneconomical. Today, roughly 2 miles of canal remain filled with water.

  13. Continue ahead to join the lane and follow this to a junction.

    The Bude canal was situated in the line of trees just on the other side of the buildings ahead. A few hundred metres up the road to the left is a bridge over the road which carried the canal.

    To deal with the rising land and poor supply of water, the Bude canal included "inclined planes" (hills in a canal!) which were cheaper to construct, saved water and were quicker to use than a flight of locks.

    The 20ft long canal boats had wheels, and the boats laden with 20 tons of cargo were hauled uphill on rails. Power was provided by waterwheels or, in one instance, a very large bucket of water which acted as a counterweight as it was lowered down a shaft.

    The Barge Workshop at Helebridge - a small museum, opened on Sundays during the summer by volunteers - houses the only known example of a Bude Canal tub boat. Despite being at the bottom of the canal until 1976, this is substantially complete, including its wheels.

    Ahead of the bridge, the Werrington Inclined Plane raised the canal by just over 50 feet along a 295 foot incline. It was powered by a large waterwheel and the cottage beside the bridge was the keeper's residence.

  14. Keep right at the junction and follow the lane past the farm, over a bridge and up a hill to reach another junction.

    The road bridge over the Tala Water is from the 19th Century, built after 1835 when floodwaters carried away the bridges along what is normally a tiny river. A short distance downriver, where the line of trees passes over it, there is a single arch aqueduct which carried the Bude Canal and a towpath for horses to pull the barges. This was also demolished by the 1835 flood and subsequently rebuilt.

  15. Continue ahead on the lane, signposted for Launceston, and follow it past a track to one metal gate on the left to a second gateway with a metal gate a short distance further on the left.

    The large river on the left-hand side of the lane is the Tamar.

    The name Tamar is documented in the second century and likely to be substantially older. It is thought it might share a common origin with the River Thames and both might stem from an ancient Celtic word meaning "dark". The source of the river is within 4 miles of the North Cornish Coast and the river flows 61 miles south across the peninsula forming the majority of the historic border with Devon. Work is being done by the Environment Agency to improve the water quality of the Tamar and its tributaries by reducing the amount of run-off of phosphate fertilisers into the rivers.

  16. Go through the gateway on the left and follow the left hedge of the field to reach a stile in the corner.
  17. Cross the stile and bear right to follow the path to a footbridge. Cross this and continue to emerge on a lane.
  18. Turn right onto the lane and follow this until it ends in a junction.

    The bridge to the left is Druxton Bridge.

    Druxton Bridge, over the River Tamar, is thought to date from the 16th Century, when three of the four spans were constructed. The last one was added more recently. When it was built, the bridge would have been within the county of Devon but since 1966 it forms part of the county border.

    More about the Tamar crossings


    Here it's possible to stand with one foot in Cornwall and the other in Devon. This presents a major cream tea dilemma about jam or cream first.

  19. Bear left from the junction then immediately turn right before The Old Barn onto the gravel area between the buildings. Head towards the white cottage (Wharf Cottage) at the end. As you approach the cottage, keep left to reach a small path.

    As the name of the cottage indicates, Druxton Wharf - the inland terminus of the Bude Canal - was located here. The cottage predates the canal and is thought to have been first built in the 17th or possible early 18th Century. From 1823, the cottage was the residence of the wharfinger (wharf keeper).

  20. Bear left up the path to the left of the cottage and follow this to a stile into a field.
  21. Cross the stile and follow along the left hedge to reach a waymark, then bear left beneath the trees to reach a stile in the corner of the field.

    The wharf was located at the bottom of the meadow, which contained a large canal basin. Remains of some of the other canal buildings are along the track leading into the meadow.

  22. Cross the stile and the one opposite and follow the right hedge to reach a stile in the far hedge.

    The hedges are planted with blackthorn and may have sloes in autumn and early winter.

    To make sloe gin, wash your sloes and prick each one with a fork. Put your pricked sloes into a container with a lid and a suitably large neck so you can pour them out later - 4 litre milk containers, washed out very thoroughly, are ideal. Fill about 80% of the way to the top with the cheapest gin you can find (don't waste your money on expensive gin as you are about to transform it into something altogether different). Fill the remaining 20% with white sugar (it looks a lot but sloes are incredibly bitter and this offsets it) and leave to infuse for a few months; agitate gently occasionally to help the sugar dissolve without mashing the sloes which would make your drink cloudy. Drain the beautiful red liquid into a decanter to admire before consumption.

    Blackthorn wood is very tough and hard-wearing. In order to form its thorns, the tree allows the tips of the tiny stems that make up the thorns to die. The dead wood in the thorn tip is harder and therefore sharper than the living wood.

  23. Cross the stile and cross the field to the gate to the right of the double gates, marked with a wooden post with a yellow top.

    The words "lamb" and "sheep" are from Germanic languages via Old English. The word "mutton" came via Norman French from a Latin word multonem which itself is thought to have come from a Celtic word for ram. The Cornish word for a neutered male sheep - mols - is thought to be from the same origin.

  24. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow it to a sharp bend where there is a stile on the left.

    The farmland in this area is located on the Culm Measures, resulting in acidic clay soils. The Bude Canal was used to transport lime-rich beach sand to improve the soil for farming.

    The geological formation known as the Culm Measures stretches from Dartmoor to north Devon and across northeast Cornwall as far west as Bodmin Moor. It is a 2-3 mile deep sequence of sedimentary rocks laid down during the Carboniferous period and named after a soft sooty coal known as culm which is found occasionally within it. The heavy clay soils result in wet grassland and heath which is unlike any other in England and supports a wide diversity of species including rare orchids and the marsh fritillary butterfly. Over 90% of the culm grassland was lost during the 20th Century, and a number of wildlife organisations are now working together to protect what remains.

  25. Cross the stile on the left and another into the field. Follow the left hedge to reach a gate in the far hedge.

    The high levels of tannins in oak make large amounts of oak leaves or acorns poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep, and even goats, but not to pigs as they were domesticated from wild boar which were adapted to foraging in the oak forests, like deer. Acorns were also eaten by people in times of famine. The acorns were soaked in water first to leech out the bitter tannins and could then be made into flour.

  26. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge of the field to a gate in the far hedge onto a lane. Take care of the barbed wire as you go through the gate onto the lane.

    Barbed wire was first used in Victorian times with several different people independently inventing and patenting different designs. Modern barbed wire is made from steel which is then galvanised to prevent it rusting (at least until the zinc coating dissolves away). The barbed wire used for fencing is often made of high-tensile (springy) steel which is suited to being laid in long, continuous lengths. As it is forbidden by the Highways Act of 1980 for barbed wire to block a Public Right of Way, one practical solution used by farmers is to put a plastic sheath over the barbed wire where it passes over a stile. In the rare circumstance that you encounter exposed barbed wire on a stile, the most likely cause for this is mischievous cattle pulling off the plastic sheaths; let the Countryside Team know and they can alert the landowner.

  27. Go through the gate and turn right onto the lane. Follow it back to the start of the walk to complete the circular route.

    The vetches are a family of wildflowers that is a sub-group within the pea and bean family. Their pretty purple flowers are quite like mini sweetpea flowers. The leaves are also very distinctive, organised in a neat row either side of the stem. Common vetch is a wildflower but is also sown by farmers in some grazing fields to improve the nutrition for ruminants and to introduce more nitrogen into the soil.

    Meadowsweet grows on damp ground and is particularly noticeable in July from its froth of cream-coloured flowers. As the name suggests, the flowers have a pleasant scent reminiscent of almond.

    Other names include "bridewort" as it was used in wedding garlands. It was also used for potpourri and as a "strewing" herb for floors in the 16th Century to reduce smells and infections.

    The flowers of meadowsweet are sometimes used in wine, beer and vinegar, or to give jams a subtle almond flavour. One of its names - "mead wort" - likely arose as a result of it being used to flavour mead.

    Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid and has been used in anti-inflammatory herbal remedies. However when extracted into a concentrated form to make into a drug, salicylic acid was found to cause stomach upsets. It was therefore synthetically altered to reduce the level of digestive upset and then marketed as "aspirin" based on the old Latin name for meadowsweet - Spiraea.

    The north exterior wall of Werrington Church includes a gravestone of Philip Scipio, buried on 10th September 1784 and described in the church register as "A black servant to Lady Lucy Morice", who had the stone erected. Philip Scipio was brought to England from St Helena by the Duke of Wharton and is believed to have been only eighteen years old when he died. The stone was found at Ham Mill Farm in the nineteenth century and rescued to the churchyard. The final lines of the epitaph are missing, perhaps because it had been cut down to fit into a space as a paving stone.

    Deposited Here
    Are the Remains of Philip Scipio
    Servant to the Duke of Wharton
    Afterwards to Sir William Morice
    An African
    Whose Quality might have done Honour
    To any Nation or Climate
    And Give Us to See
    That Virtue is Confined
    To no Country or Complexion
    Here Weep
    Uncorrupted Fidelity
    And Plain Honesty
    In pious regard to which virtue's approv'd
    By a brother and husband...

    It is particularly unusual for the 18th Century in that it challenges some of the racial stereotyping of the period.

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