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The Hidden Beauties of Cornwall - Luxulyan Valley
Cornwall boasts some beautiful scenery. With towering cliffs on the north coast, wooded estuaries on the south coast plus gorgeous sandy beaches on both coasts, it has a beautiful and varied coastline while inland there is Bodmin Moor with its wild open scenery, rocky tors and views across the entire county.
It is hardly surprising that this wealth of natural beauty has provided the setting for books, films and tv series as diverse as Poldark which was based on the historical novels written by Winston Graham and Doc Martin a whimsical gently comedic tv series starring Martin Clunes in the title role. Though these programs are very different they have one thing in common, the non speaking character of the Cornish landscape. The media exposure has added to the popularity of the county as a holiday destination and better transport connections have opened the county to all year round tourism.
Summer holiday visitors may make a bee line for the beaches but they will be missing some rare treats if they ignore some of the less well known locations in the hinterland of Cornwall.
The Treffry Viaduct
A Woodland Wonderland
Just a minute or two off one of the main arterial routes through Cornwall there is a woodland wonderland full of trails that lead through the valley past rocky outcrops, leats and even a waterfall up to an achievement of Victorian endeavour - the Treffry viaduct.
This is the Luxulyan Valley which, although sometimes quite busy at weekends with local walkers with or without pets, can be totally empty during the week even in mid summer. So if you are looking for a real escape from the crowds this is a place to visit.
The Luxulyan Valley woods shroud the hills just beyond the large village of St Blazey which straddles the A390. St Blazey will be known by anyone who has travelled from the east to visit the Eden Centre and anyone interested in the centre should find something to like in the valley.
When approaching from the east the village is at the bottom of a steep hill known as Penpillick Hill. Near the bottom of the hill look out for a lane on the right of the road with a sign post to Pontsmill. Within a moment you will find yourself on a single track lane leaving the rush of the main road well behind. There are limited passing places in the lane so cautious driving is required but at the end of the lane a parking area awaits where you can leave your car free of charge while you explore the valley. You will drive over one bridge and see a cottage immediately in front of you across a second bridge. The parking is on the left before the second bridge. The cottage you see in front of you was originally an old inn but it is a private residence nowadays.
Historically. the bridge at Pontsmill was the lowest crossing point of what was once the large estuary formed by the Par river but we are talking medieval times for when the geography of the area was so dramatically different.
Now if you don't like leaving your creature comforts behind when you visit the countryside then the Luxulyan Valley is probably not for you. There are no public loos, no cafe or gift shop. but if you can live without these facilities for an hour or two then you will enjoy the peace and wildness of this often overlooked beauty spot and for anone on a low holiday budget the valley is a great location as from parking to exploring it is absolutely free.
Penpillick Hill to Pontsmill
Foot of the Luxulyan Valley.
Exploring the Valley
Leave the car park on foot with the second bridge and the old inn cottage on your left so that you cross the lane and head towards the bottom of the woods. On your left and behind the cottage the Newquay to Par railway line is hidden by trees. You will be able to see this line from different parts of the walk and it crosses the lowest trail on a high bridge at its beginning but the trains are infrequent so your peace will not be disturbed.
One feature of the valley is water. The river Par runs along the bottom of the valley, tumbling over rocky bolders for most of its run. Leats (like miniature canals) run along the higher levels of the surrounding hills and a waterfall from one leat tumbles from the higher paths down to the very lowest level where it runs under the path and joins the river.
The abundance of water means that walking the valley in the winter months can be a muddy experience and water proof or wellington boots are recommended footwear.
Which Route to Take
As you enter the valley you have a choice of two routes. The lower path which runs along the side of the river is very suitable for all ages and the even path makes it suitable for families with children in push chairs and elderly people. The lower path takes you under the railway bridge, along by the Par river past a waterfall and the repaired ruins of the Trevanny China Clay Driers before crossing over another bridge and on to the slightly more uneven section of the lower path which is once more crossed by the railway on another high bridge.
Not long after the second railway bridge you have three routes to choose from. To your left there is a stone bridge over the river and if you take this path you will reach the lane which heads up the valley. The last time I walked this path it was badly overgrown and so cannot be recommended. Instead follow the path to the right where you can continue in a right hand direction to a path that will take you up the valley side through banks of wild bilberry bushes and eventually back to the incline so that you can complete a short circular walk of approximately an hour. If you want a longer walk then follow the route that branches away from the right hand bend. This is a narrower path that runs quite close to the lane and quite soon you will find the Treffrey viaduct in front of you.
Straddling the valley the viaduct was built with a dual purpose. It is an aqueduct carrying a leat from one side of the valley to the other and above the leat there was a railway to service the mining and quarrying carried out through the valley.
At this point in your walk you may wish to take one of the step ways that have been created to climb the valley side to the top of the viaduct. Then you can head back along the top track beside a leat and passed the water wheel before heading down the incline to complete a circular walk that takes approximately two hours if you do not rush.
The last part of this route, down the incline, is quite uneven and not recommended for push chairs.
For the more energetic walker without push chairs and the like you can take the right hand path at the start which leads up the incline. A steep but direct walk to the water wheel and then on to the viaduct. Followed by a gentle stroll along the lower route to return to your car.
The Par River
White Water on the Par River
A Quiet Back Water on the River
The valley has a rich industrial history and is part of the UNESCO inscribed Cornish Mining World Heritage site. Which is made up of a number of locations in Cornwall of significance to mining history.
Travanny China Clay Driers
Luxulyan Valley Water Wheel
Flora and Fauna
The valley is the home for many species of animal, bird and plant. Look out for the bobbing motion of the Dipper, a small dark brown bird with a white chest. This little bird is quite shy but if you walk quietly along side the river you may catch it as it flits along the river pausing on the various rocky landing places where you will see it doing the characteristic bobbing up and down motion from which it gains its name.
In early spring you may come across a patch of native daffodils and later in the season the steep woodland banks are made a misty blue with bluebells that fill the air with their sweet perfume. Pale lemon primroses and dark purple violets grace the banks of the middle walk way.