Monday 15 March 2021

Bodmin Moor: De Lank Quarries and St. Breward (8.45 miles)

St. Bruerdus's Church, St. Breward

Although this walk was of modest length, at barely 8 and a half miles, I tell you it was one of the most jam-packed walks I have done on Bodmin Moor, with tonnes of cultural interest all around. It was not just about tor bagging but the village of St. Breward and its beautiful historical artefacts. I will try to condense it as much as possible. Indeed, as I write this, I am a year and a day late, but this route had to be documented.

We (that being Sheron Vowden and I) parked by a crossroads in a verge close to The Beacon, a small tor on private land that is readily visible from the fence to the south.

The Beacon (Blisland)

The Beacon (Blisland)

Next up was Jubilee Rock, a rock completely adorned with what could be argued as graffiti but nonetheless religious symbols that I found intriguing. After this, we passed through a landscape heavily worked in the past by stonecutters. Spoil heaps and broken, discarded granite lay strewn everywhere, and feather and tare evidence was, well, evident. We quickly descended north-east to two quarry pools sheltered by trees.

Small Quarry near Jubilee Rock SX 10364 74438

Jubilee Rock

Feather and Tare Stones on Pendrift Downs SX 10275 74629

Spoil Heap No.1 SX 10210 74717

We descended further to a substantial tor that was not named on the OS Map, so like we do on Dartmoor the obvious geographical name was to be Pendrift Tor. North-east of this is a stunning woodland that we entered, a mystical glen where moss thrives on boulders and the hillside steepens to bring you to my favourite part of the walk, or one of them; a stunning waterfall.

Pendrift Tor, named by us, upper outcrop SX 10113 74796

Pendrift Downs Waterfall (Lower Part) SX 10184 74879

Pendrift Downs Waterfall (Lower Part) SX 10184 74879

Pendrift Falls Rock, named by us SX 10197 74850

I was truly captivated; my heart quickened on the approach to the forceful water and Sheron and I couldn't believe our luck at stumbling across this forgotten place. Were this on Dartmoor, such as at Venford Falls, its location would be plastered all over the internet and the hoards of traffic would visit frequently, yet not so here (unless of course this blog post becomes popular).

We decided to follow the water upstream where it plateaued out to join the public footpath to De Lank Quarries. This footpath took us back into woodland where a set of corbel-type stones sat over to the right. As soon as I remarked to Sheron how identical they were to those below Swell Tor on Dartmoor, she said, "That's exactly what I was thinking!"

Corbels? ;-) SX 10431 75112

You have to be careful here, as the path soon hooked left to descend to the simply breathtaking scar that is De Lank Quarries. This huge gash in the hillside has to rank as one of the most fascinating industrial sites that I have visited to date, even writing over a year later; at the quarries you can walk amidst the workings of the stonecutters, alongside granite waiting to be sold (probably at Trago!) and the machinery. Although this entire area is open access land, the quarry is still very much a working quarry, so you must be careful as to not stray during its opening hours and not touch any dangerous-looking machinery at any time!

Sheron, Bryony (I forgot to mention the dog was with us!) and I spent a fair bit of time looking around. Surrounded on all but the south side are granite outcrops, the last remaining of what must have been a huge tor. I would highly recommend a visit to anyone fit enough to scale the steps.

De Lank Quarries Machinery

De Lank Quarries Main Quarry SX 10020 75478

De Lank Quarries Main Quarry SX 10020 75478

De Lank Quarries Outcrops

De Lank Quarries Rollers

De Lank Quarries Sleepy Bin SX 10102 75463

De Lank Quarries

We left, buzzing but also puffing up the steps out of the valley towards St. Breward, coming across a spring and then the village itself. A lot of public footpath walking, reminding me fondly of East Dartmoor.

Spring (after heavy rain) SX 09868 75804

Row, St. Breward

St. Breward is absolutely stunning; typical Cornish architecture lines the village street and the church is also well worth a visit, with a benchmark on its south-west face. Sheron and I took to the entrance to have lunch, though not without a visit inside first (all prior to COVID, of course).

B.M. 705.0 on St. Bruerdus's Church, St. Breward SX 09701 77346

Inside St. Bruerdus's Church, St. Breward

We had to decide how to proceed, so first heading north (passing a memorial) and then west on a super muddy footpath we had the intention of visiting the holy well, but we had to almost go back on ourselves heading south where we noticed a part blocked-up sheep creep. After this we took the next right on another public footpath.

St. Breward Village Memorial SX 09672 77459

Sheep Creep SX 09316 77302

We passed a fenced-off ruin and then, on the left, we came to the well, a splendid structure where, no doubt, the villages of St. Breward would have visited numerous times to collect their water.

St. Breward Holy Well SX 09072 76921

St. Breward Holy Well SX 09072 76921

At the bottom of this footpath we came to a lane; not knowing how to proceed we turned right to take a look at the stunning St. James's Chapel.

St. James's Chapel SX 089 769

St. James's Chapel SX 089 769

Now we could have continued along this route, or rather turning left to follow a national trail, but we still had some places in St. Breward to see so retreated back up the hill and onwards in a south-easterly to reach a road bend by a stream. We took another public footpath north-east passing a small waterfall.

Granite was everywhere, strewn all across the footpath in clumsy fashion. I felt like I was back in Lustleigh!

Raging River below Row, St. Breward

We wanted to take a look at Tor Down Quarry, hoping to find an outcrop remaining, but the quarry is well-hidden from public eye and we struggled to obtain a half-decent view from the footpath; it was only due east of the marked pool that we saw it, a mighty steep drop. The tor has been quarried so heavily that its substance has been removed forever and we will never know what it looked like.

Tor Down Quarry, St. Breward SX 09438 76720

St. Breward Letter Box SX 09576 76571

We made use of the public toilets in St. Breward and decided to head back to the car after a fairly exhausting day of things to see. But we were far from done.

Heading southward to Limehead, it was me (for a change) who spotted the public footpath that didn't appear as anything special, and Sheron had walked past it (nearly). From memory, we passed an orchard and them came to a row of cottages near Penvorder Cottages where there was a weather vane, stone trough and one or more millstones.

Weather Vane SX 09596 75966

Penvorder Millstone No.2 SX 09604 75939

Penvorder Millstone No.2 SX 09604 75939

What I've began to learn about Bodmin Moor is you almost have to trespass to find a public right of way. Let me put that into context: a lot of public footpaths are hidden behind people's property and you feel a bit cheeky going so close, but as we found out at Penvorder Cottages that was the right protocol. The OS Map says otherwise.

Sheron, Bryony and I had to negotiate one of the muddiest footpaths ever; clearly overgrazed by cattle it was a literal mud bath!

We had intended to go back through De Lank Quarries through the open access land, but no, we couldn't as a massive barrier barred us from entering, so we were confined to the footpath which continued to prove a muddy mess!

Mud Bath SX 09735 75607

Mud Bath near De Lank Quarries

Mud Bath near De Lank Quarries

We reached presumably a modern wall beside a chimney with a pit set off to the side?

Rock Wall SX 09924 75125

Chimney (?) Stack SX 09949 75139

Finally, this muddy path dropped down to the river and immediately my mind was cast back to the River Plym below Dewerstone, the green mosses concealing boulders of age and the river, in this case the De Lank, rushing off the moor. It was idyllic!

To my left, I noticed a small rockpile which I left the track to investigate, but it didn't amount to much. It was part of a bigger rockpile up on high but I wasn't going any further to investigate, especially as the ground was fraught with problems such as slippery rocks and hidden holes.

De Lank Quarries Outcrops (above the footbridge) SX 10060 74967

De Lank River Footbridge SX 10057 74928

After passing some pipes, we reached a wooden footbridge where, across from us, a massive outcrop hung from the trees which I was mega excited to investigate. Closer inspection revealed a rope swing and this we found was the lower pile of Pendrift Tor that we named earlier.

Pendrift Tor Lower Outcrop SX 10052 74894

Pendrift Tor Lower Outcrop SX 10052 74894

It was a long and steady climb up the hill back to the car and although the mileage was a bit poor and the average speed slow, I could not ignore the wealth of interest in this corner of Bodmin Moor and it far surpassed my expectations. Sometimes you have to stop and take it all in and that's what we did on this walk. My walking partner Sheron and her dog Bryony are great companions for such an adventure although at one point I thought it was Sheron's intention to get me coated in mud!

On the way back home, we passed this lovely milestone.

Penstroda Milestone SX 11832 72418

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