Rocky Valley, Trevalga and Trethevy Circular Walk
- Distance:6.75 miles/11 km
- Walk grade:Moderate
- Start from:Trewarmett
- Recommended footwear:walking boots/shoes or trainers in dry weather
- Rocky valley
- Labyrinthine stone carvings
- Cliff scenery around Trevalga
- Trevalga village and church
- St Piran's well and chapel at Trethevy
- St Nectan's Glen
- Walk up the lane signposted to Trenale (which locals call Menadue since it goes to Menadue Mill and Farm) to the left of the post box opposite Park Farm
Menadue is the name of a farm and mill on the downs above Trewarmett. The place name Menadue is possibly from the Cornish word meneth which means hill, and due is the word for black, i.e. "Black Hill". The hill in this case is the one that overlooks Tintagel with Condolden Barrow at the summit.
- Walk straight along it passing by Tregeath Lane and Trenale Lane on your left, across a crossroads passing a wayside cross on your right.
There are said to be 360 wayside crosses in Cornwall. In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. There have been various reasons for erecting these: markers placed along routes used by Christian pilgrims, or as a shrine in reverence, perhaps to a saint who has some connection to the locality. Others mark burial sites, a disaster, a miracle, or some other event that should be remembered. In some cases, they were erected to mark meeting places for Christian worship and later churches were built adjacent to the cross, resulting in the cross being within the churchyard or close by.
- Continue past a farm selling free range eggs and down the hill. If you're after some eggs, the circular route comes back onto this lane at the end so you can pick them up at the end of your walk to avoid any unwanted scrambling occuring in Trevalga.
- At the bottom of the hill turn left, cross the road and head for Trevillet Mill on the other side
- Cross the footbridge and follow the path along the fence to a footbridge over the main river.
The Trevillet River runs for approximately 3 miles from its source on the downs near Condoldon Barrow, down the steep valley situated between Condoldon and the line of hills at Trethevy. The river has a population of Brown Trout and there was once a trout farm, breeding Rainbow Trout, at Trevillet Mill. The Cornish name for the river is Duwy meaning "dark river".
- Cross the footbridge and turn left, following the path along the river to a waymark next to the ruins of a mill.
Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.
- From the waymark, follow the path between the buildings and around to the right to a footbridge. Cross the footbridge and turn right, following the path along the river until you reach a waymark above another footbridge.
On the rockface beside the waymark, about half way down Rocky Valley near Trewethett Mill, are some labyrinthine stone carvings. The age of the carvings is unknown: some historians think they could be as early as bronze age, others think they are much more recent.
- Near the bottom of Rocky Valley the coast path path that runs off the main path to the right over a bridge and up onto the cliffs. Take this.
- Follow the path along the cliffs past the caravan park and round the headland.
The coastline around Trevalga is particularly spectacular, with a number of offshore rocks which provide homes for seabird colonies. Guillimots, razorbills, cormorants and shags, puffins and several types of gull are known to nest here.
- On the other side of the headland the path goes past the manor house (up above you on the right) and meets a track. Take the track inland to Trevalga.
The entire village of Trevalga is owned by Marlborough College - a public school in Wiltshire. It was left in trust so that the village and parish would remain unspoiled for future generations. Consequently there are a number of original old slate buildings that have remained unchanged for many decades. In 2010, the college was told that it was breaking charity law by owning a hamlet, and thereafter placed the entire estate on the market causing uproar amongst the tenants, and became know as "The Battle of Trevalga" featuring in the national news and a radio 4 documentary. The legality of the sale is being disputed by the Trustees and Tenants of the estate and the sale has been suspended until this is resolved.
- Have a wander round Trevalga and have a look at the many old buildings then make your way back to the church.
The Norman church at Trevalga, dedicated to St Petroc, is made of a stone known as Blue Elvan or Greenstone which occurs in small pockets in North Cornwall and was highly valued by local stonemasons as it can be finely carved. The church tower was built a little later in the 13th Century and reworked in the 15th Century. The wheel-headed wayside cross next to the south door could be as old as 8th Century (just before Celtic Cornwall was conquered by the Anglo-Saxons).
- From the church, follow the public footpath signposts along the track and across a field until it comes out on the main road.
Originally, the religion of the Cornish Britons was Celtic polytheism - a pagan, animistic faith, assumed to be led by Druids. Celtic Christianity was introduced to Cornwall in the year 520 by Saint Petroc, a Brython from the kingdom of Glywysing, and other missionaries from Wales, as well as by Gaelic monks and holy women from Ireland.
- Turn right onto the main road towards Trethevy.
Elvan is very hard volcanic rock formed where magma intruded into other rocks to form a (vertical) dyke or (horizontal) sill that cooled fairly quickly, resulting in fairly small crystals. Chemically it is very similar to granite, but in the case of granite, slower cooling resulted in large crystals. Elvans can be seen in many of the churches across Cornwall where it is often used for intricate parts of buildings, such as doorways, so they can be finely carved.
The term "greenstone" is used by quarrymen to describe igneous rocks that, unlike granite, are rich in iron and magnesium and these give it a blue-green colour. When greenstone is formed as a sill or dyke it is sometimes called "blue elvan". This is also quite common in Cornwall and has been quarried for a long time: in the Neolithic period, stone axes made from blue elvan were exported from Cornwall to various parts of Britain.
- A few metres back towards Tintagel along the main road is an entrance to a caravan park. On the left of this is King Arthur's Quoit.
The round stone beside the main road outside the holiday park in Trethevy is thought to be a Dolmen (burial chamber) roof slab. It is one of the two known as "King Arthur's Quoit". The other one is on Bodmin Moor near Minions. The one near Minions is sometimes known as Trethevy Quoit. It you're confused, you're not the only one!
- Where the grassy area ends (in the direction of Boscastle) cross the road into the lane that runs parallel to the main road and walk along this towards Tintagel.
- Where it comes out again on the main road, turn left and follow the signposts to the waterfall, walking up a track until you reach St Piran's chapel (in front of you) and well (on your left).
St Piran was born in Ireland in the 6th century. According to legend, he had miraculous powers and a group of kings grew afraid of his powers. They, somewhat unsportingly, tied a millstone round his neck and threw him into the sea. However due to his powers, the millstone floated and he was washed ashore at Perranporth.
Saint Piran is the patron saint of tin-miners and is generally regarded as the national saint of Cornwall. St Piran's flag - the white cross on a black background - is said to represent the black tin ore and white molten metal. Celebrations on St Piran's Day (5th March) involve lots of alcohol and gave rise to the expression "drunk as a Perraner".
- Take the lane to the right passing the chapel on your left. The lane leads down into St Nectan's Glen.
St Nectan's Glen is an area of verdant woodland near Tintagel, upstream of Rocky Valley along the Trevillet river. At the top of St Nectan's Glen is a 60ft waterfall known as St Nectan's Kieve (there is an admission fee to the waterfall). According to local legend, St Nectan is supposed to be buried under the waterfall, along with the treasure he collected. Pilgrims visiting St. Nectan's Shrine have used the Glen path since 500AD. There used to be a church dedicated to him, where there is now a Hermitage (with tea gardens during the summer). Once, it was said, a couple of witches lived in the chapel, and locals blamed every disaster on their evil ways.
St Nectan was the eldest son of the 5th century Celtic king Brychan. Having received a vocation to become a monk earlier in his life, he and many of his relatives sailed to North Devon. Nectan settled by a spring at Stoke, in the then dense forest of Hartland, north of Bude, where he lived as a hermit. It is claimed he also spent some time in the Glen near Tintagel, which at about 30 miles south of Stoke, is not inconceivable.
- Follow the path upstream in St Nectans Glen until you reach a footbridge with a path leading off to the right signposted to Halgabron. Take this path.
- The path climbs out of the valley and comes out onto the lane that you first set out on, quite close to the farm selling free range eggs. From the stile, turn left on the lane and follow it back across the crossroads and back into Trewarmett.