St Breward to King Arthur's Hall

A circular walk from St Breward across the Treswallock Downs to the curious prehistoric structure of King Arthur's Hall and ending at the mediaeval Old Inn.

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The walk heads out from St Breward along lanes across the Treswallock Downs to the top of Casehill. From here, the route crosses the moor to the monument of King Arthur's Hall near where Nampara cottage is set in the BBC's Poldark series. The walk then turns back through ancient field systems and farms, crossing tributaries of the Rivers Camel and De Lank to return to St Breward.

Reviews

User friendly excellent app! ★★★★★. Just completed walk from st breward to king Arthur's hall. Excellent app! Very easy to follow directions and clear mapping with interesting points of interest marked out along the route. Will be downloading another walk tomorrow!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Panoramic views across King Arthurs Downs from Casehill
  • Curious prehistoric relic of King Arthur's Hall
  • St Breward church - the highest in Cornwall
  • Local food and drink at the historic Old Inn in St Breward

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Old Inn

Directions

  1. Walk along the lane from the church towards the Old Inn, turning left down the track marked with a public footpath sign to reach a stone stile on the left.

    St Breward church claims to be the highest in the county. The tall tower can be seen easily, for many miles around. The church dates from the Middle Ages (1278).

  2. Cross the stile, then cross the field to a stile next to the gate.

    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 uncomfortable 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.
  3. Cross the stile and head across the field to a stile, next to the gateway, in the opposite hedge.

    Swallows migrate to India, Arabia and Africa for the winter. Journeys of over 7000 miles have been recorded.

    Large amounts of calcium are needed when birds lay eggs to create the eggshells. Female birds store of calcium by growing a special type of leg bone which has high a high density of calcium. Similar calcium storage leg bones have been found in female dinosaur species only distantly related to birds which indicates this was a general approach used by dinosaurs.

  4. Cross the stile and head straight across the field to the right of a series of conifers, to a stile next to the gate.

    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.
  5. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge, then continue across the field towards the opposite corner to reach a stone stile roughly 15 metres to the left of the gateway.

    Fields used for grazing, such as these, provide a good habitat for wildflowers, particularly where livestock are released into one field at a time, so the wildflowers in the latter fields have more time to bloom before being munched.

    Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (lion's tooth), which is thought to refer to the shape of the leaves. The plant is a member of the sunflower family.

    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.

    Cows are very gregarious and even short-term isolation is thought to cause severe psychological stress. This is why walking along the hedges of a field to avoid splitting a herd is so important to avoid a cow bolting in panic to rejoin its friends.

  6. Cross the stile into a large field and go straight ahead between the stone walls either side. Cross the field towards the far side and head to an opening with a granite gatepost at a corner roughly three-quarters of the way along the wall.

    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.

    Cows are thought to have been domesticated in the Middle East around 8,500 BC. By about 6,400 BC they were being traded into Neolithic Europe. This is just about the point where the land bridge between Britain and Continental Europe (known as Doggerland) flooded with rising sea levels, so the first few cattle may have just managed to walk across.

  7. Go through the gap and cross the next field to a stone stile with multiple footpath signs.

    Whereas many plants rely mainly on bitter chemicals to avoid being eaten by herbivores, thistles have gone one step further and evolved spikes. Despite this, the plants are still eaten by the caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly as they are rich in nutrients. The non-spiky areas of the plant such as the stem and leaf ribs can be eaten (with extreme care to avoid ingesting any harmful spikes) by people too: the ribs from the middle of the leaves are still harvested and sold in markets in some parts of the world. The flowers are rich in nectar and provide an important food source for bees and butterflies.

    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 world cattle is from the same origins as "capital" and was originally a world for any portable wealth. Later it came to mean specifically (any) livestock which was still the understood meaning in Tudor times. It is only in relatively recent times that the scope has been limited further to just cows.

  8. Cross the stile then turn right onto the lane and follow it to a farmhouse on the left and a track on the right beside a small farm building that was once a chapel.

    The farm building on the right with a pretty doorway was a chapel built in 1840 during a large Methodist revival in the area. However this quickly fizzled out and the chapel was only used for about 10 years.

  9. Turn right to go through the gate beside the old chapel (marked with a Public Footpath sign) into the yard. Keep the stone wall on your left (the nearer one without the fence) and follow along this, crossing a ditch via a railway sleeper to reach a kissing gate in the fence.

    During the 18th Century in Oxford, the Wesley brothers began practising their rigorous holy lifestyle which was mockingly referred to as Methodism by their peers due to their methodical practices. John Wesley began open-air preaching to recruit followers to his movement and formed small classes for each community where followers would receive ongoing religious guidance. Wesley always advocated the practise of Methodism as an extension of the Anglican faith and encouraged his followers to attend the parish church regularly. Nevertheless, senior figures within the Church of England feared the effects (or perhaps popularity) of Methodist practices, suggesting that an overdose of the Holy Spirit might be unhealthy for weak minds.

  10. Go through the gate and bear left slightly across the field to a kissing gate in the fence ahead.

    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.

  11. Go through the gate and head towards the waymark post on the wall ahead to reach a gap in the wall.

    In the farm at Treswallock, a mediaeval granite stone was found which is thought to be a "float stone" - a grooved stone which protruded from a smelting furnace. It is therefore thought that there might have been a smelting works (known as a "blowing house") here during mediaeval times.

  12. Go through the gap in the wall and follow along the wall on the right to reach a small gap in the wall marked with waymark post between the trees.

    Blowing houses were mills used for smelting tin and are documented in Cornwall as early as 1402. A pair of bellows was powered by a water wheel, and was used to drive air into a furnace. An account from the late 18th century describes the operation:

    The fire-place, or castle, is about six feet perpendicular, two feet wide in the top part each way, and about fourteen inches in the bottom, all made of moorstone and clay, well cemented and clamped together. The pipe or nose of each bellows is fixed ten inches high from the bottom of the castle, in a large piece of wrought iron, called the Hearth-eye. The tin and charcoal are laid in the castle, stratum super stratum, in such quantities as are thought proper; so that from eight to twelve hundred weight of Tin, by the consumption of eighteen to twenty-four sixty gallon packs of charcoal, may be smelted in a tide or twelve hours time.

    The molten metal drained from the bottom of the furnace into a granite trough from which it was ladled into stone moulds. A stick was inserted into each, which burned away to leave a hole which could be used to lever the ingot from the mould.

  13. Go through the gap into the field on the right and follow the wall on the left until you can see a post in the middle of the wall ahead. Make for this.

    Hawthorn berries have traditionally been used to make fruit jellies as they contain pectin and have an apple-like flavour. A reason for making seedless jellies is that the seeds in hawthorn berries contain a compound called amygdalin, which is cyanide bonded with sugar. In the gut this is converted to hydrogen cyanide.

  14. Cross the wall by the post and follow the bank on the left to reach a kissing gate in the wall at the end of the field.

    The moorland to your left is known as the Treswallock Downs and the tor at the summit is Alex Tor.

    Tors started out a lump of granite beneath the surface, which cracked vertically into squares and then part-way through horizontally to form something resembling a stuck-together stack of square pancakes. Millions of years of weathering then gradually rounded these off and widened the cracks between the layers to result in a more burger-like appearance.

    In some cases the horizontal cracks didn't go all the way through so the layers are still joined (the skewer through the brioche bun to stretch the burger analogy to its limit). In the cases where they did fully separate, a massive rocking stone such as the famous Logan Rock at Treen could be created, or the whole lot could collapse into a pile of huge rocks.

    The "basins" on the tops of some of the tors are also the result of repeated freezing and thawing of water which has collected on the surface.

  15. Go through the gate and bear right to a junction of lanes. Follow the lane leading uphill with a no-through sign until the tarmac ends, turning a sharp left and becoming an unpaved track leading to a gate to a house.

    As you reach the top of the hill, there are some remains of prehistoric hut circles on the hillside, in the direction of the farm to your right.

    The low stone walls remaining as hut circles were once the foundations of a round house. The granite foundations were likely to have been set into cob (mud and straw) walls which provided insulation and draft exclusion over bare-stone walls. A conical thatched roof on a timber frame rested on top of the walls. Heating was via a central fire which required some care with the thatched roof - presumably roof fires were not unheard of! These buildings varied in size from a just over a metre in diameter up to 10 metres. Some had walled enclosures attached and a few also had internal partitions.

  16. Walk uphill onto the downs and follow along the wall on your left until you reach a raised mound beside the wall at the top of the hill.

    Looking across the barren granite landscape of Bodmin Moor, it may seem strange that so many settlements can be found here from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. About 10,000 years ago, Bodmin Moor was almost entirely covered in forest, and the Neolithic tribes would have lived in forest clearings. During the Bronze Age, the majority of forest was cleared for farmland. The burning and grazing, over several thousand years, has resulted in poor soils which are naturally quite acidic due to the granite rocks. This, together with the exposure to the wind, is why the few trees on the moor today are generally stunted.

  17. Turn right towards the rectangular fenced enclosure in the distance (King Arthur's Hall) and walk to the nearest corner of the fence.

    Several varieties of heather grow in Cornwall and are most easily recognised when they flower from July to September. The one with the most brightly coloured (purple) flowers is known as bell heather due to the bell-shaped flowers. This is the earliest one to start flowering - normally in June. Bell heather is usually interspersed with ling or common heather which has much smaller flowers which are usually paler and pinker and come out at the start of July. A third kind known as cross-leafed heath is less abundant but can be recognised by the pale pink bell-shaped flowers that grow only near the tips of the stems, resembling pink lollipops. A fourth species known as Cornish heath grows only on the Lizard and has more elaborate flowers which are mostly pale with a dark purple crown at the front.

    The area of Bodmin Moor designated as an Outstanding Natural Beauty also has an International Dark Sky designation due to an exceptionally high quality night sky. Cornwall Council has committed to protect this as part of its Planning considerations.

    More about the IDA accreditation for Bodmin Moor.

  18. Bear right and follow along the fence on your left to reach the stile and gate forming the entrance to King Arthur's Hall.

    King Arthur's Hall is a rectangular enclosure on the downs near Casehill, which are consequently known as King Arthur's Downs. It has been known as King Arthur's Hall since at least Tudor times, and is marked on maps drawn in the early 1600s. Historians are scornful of the King Arthur connotations, but are unsure of its exact purpose. Many think that due to the standing stones, it was a ceremonial site. It has also been suggested that it may have had an altogether more practical purpose - as a cattle compound. Estimates date the structure to around 2000 BC, in the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age.

  19. Facing out from the enclosure entrance, turn right and head (almost back the way you came from) to the right-hand corner of the wall ahead with a fence on top of it.

    Facing out from the enclosure entrance, the complex of buildings directly ahead is Ivey Farm, used for filming Nampara cottage in the BBC's Poldark series. The moorland between here and the cattle grid into the property is Access Land, but note that beyond the cattle grid is private land.

  20. Continue ahead, following along the wall on the left to a waymarked ladder stile.

    There are 33 regions in England designated Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) many of which were created at the same time as the National Parks. In fact the AONB status is very similar to that of National Parks.

    There is a single Cornwall AONB which was established in 1959 and is itself subdivided into 12 sections. 11 of these are stretches of the coastline and the 12th is Bodmin Moor.

  21. Cross the stile and follow the wall on the right to a stile in a fence at the end of the wall.

    The walls are built from the pieces of granite removed from the fields to make them easier to cultivate.

    Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids arising from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  22. Cross the stile and follow the wall on the right, around the walled enclosure, to a gateway in the corner of the field.
  23. Go through the gateway and follow the wall on the right to a stone bridge and wooden stile in the right corner.

    The stream you cross is a tributary of the De Lank river.

    The De Lank River springs from Rough Tor Marsh, between the two highest peaks on Bodmin Moor and joins the River Camel near Blisland. It is an important wildlife habitat, noted for diverse and abundant flora and fauna and its surrounding banks, woodlands and marshes have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Together with the River Camel, the De Lank is an important habitat for the otter which is present along the whole length of the river.

    The name is reported as being from a Cornish name which is recorded as Dinlonk. The Cornish word lonk means gully. The name of the riverside settlement Lank is almost certainly related.

  24. Cross the bridge and stile into the overgrown field and cross this to reach a stile under the tree on the right. Cross this and bear left to follow the permissive path between the fences. Continue until this ends in a pedestrian gate.

    The property was owned for a number of years by the singer Will Young who became famous after winning the X-Factor in 2002. His reason for selling it was that his career meant that he was unable to spend much time here and he felt this was a waste of a beautiful property.

  25. Go through the gate and descend the steps. Follow the stony track for about 40 metres to a raised ridge on the right. Turn right and follow the ridge in an arc across the field to reach the entrance to Irish Farm with a wooden gate.

    The ponies on Bodmin Moor are semi-feral: they are all owned by farmers, but allowed to roam free on the moor. Many are not microchipped and look similar to others, so for people other than their owners, it can be difficult to tell to whom they actually belong. During the winter, natural food is scarce so the farmers supplement the ponies' diets; this prevents the ponies wandering off altogether.

  26. Bear left to join the track leading from the farm and follow it away from the farm to reach a lane.

    The Beast of Bodmin Moor is a phantom wild cat. Bodmin Moor became a centre of sightings of panther-like cats with occasional reports of mutilated slain livestock.

    A resident population of big cats is exceedingly unlikely due to the large numbers necessary to maintain a breeding population, plus climate and food supply issues would make survival in this habitat unlikely. One hypothesis is that alien big cats could have been imported as part of private collections or zoos, and later escaped or been set free. In these circumstances it's likely an escaped big cat would not be reported to the authorities due to the illegality of owning and importing the animals.

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food conducted an official investigation in 1995 and found that there was "no verifiable evidence" of exotic felines loose in Britain, and that the mauled farm animals could have been attacked by common indigenous species. However it was noted "the investigation could not prove that a 'big cat' is not present."

  27. Turn right and walk along the grass beside the road to reach a crossroads.

    Before the Industrial Revolution, gorse was valued as a fuel for bread ovens and kilns as it burns rapidly, very hot and with little ash. It was in such demand that there were quite strict rules about how much gorse could be cut on common land.

  28. Turn right at the crossroads and walk along the grass beside the lane roughly a quarter of a mile to cattle grid. Continue on the lane past Hallagenna Farm and onwards for roughly another half mile to reach a crossroads.

    Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant with a spike of pink flowers in late summer which can often be seen beside paths and tracks. Their long leaves have a distinctive thin, white vein along the centre.

    It is a pioneer species which is good at colonising disturbed ground as its seeds travel long distances in the wind and remain viable in the soil for many years. It was considered a rare species in Britain in the 18th century but spread along the corridors cleared for railways in Victorian times.

    Cornwall had a number of its own peculiar units of measurement:

    • A Cornish Gallon was a unit of weight (10 lbs) rather than volume. A Cornish Apple Gallon however was 7 lb, rather than 10 lb. Given the strength of Cornish Rattler, this is probably wise.
    • A Cornish Acre was a generous 120 acres. A unit of land consisting of 4 Cornish Acres was known as a "Knight's fee".
    • When counting fish, a Cornish hundred was, in fact, 132.
    • Finally, a Cornish Mile is 1.5 miles. Though you may suspect otherwise when walking up a steep hill, our walk distances are not measured in Cornish Miles.
  29. Cross the crossroads to the lane opposite and follow it until it ends in a T-junction.

    St Breward is on the northwest side of Bodmin moor and the parish covers both Roughtor and Brown Willy. The name of the village is said by some to come from the 6th century Cornish Saint Branwalader. Others say it is from a 13th century bishop of Exeter. Previously the village was called Simonward which, according to legend, was the name of the brewer to King Arthur's household although that might have been concocted in the Old Inn after a few ales.

  30. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane back to the Old Inn and church.

    The Old Inn in St Breward dates back to the 11th Century when it provided shelter for the monks who built the neighbouring church, and claims to be Cornwall's highest Inn. There is an open fire in winter in the 11th Century granite fireplace. The pub was used as the setting for the TV comedy drama, Doc Martin, when the baby was born to the main characters.

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

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