River Walk from St Erth

Wednesday, 10th June 2015


I hope you all like the new blogsite; blood, sweat and tears were shed in the setting up, but here it is all fresh and new.

For the Wednesday walk we went to St Erth and followed instructions from iWalkCornwall.co.uk – we took a couple of wrong turnings but made it back safe and sound nonetheless!  Actually, it wasn’t a difficult walk – perfect for a lovely day like today and only a short drive from The Birdies Bistro on the Hayle Estuary to which we repaired for lunch having completed the trail.

Enjoy reading


St Erth circular (4.5 miles)

We started outside of the Church of St Erth determining to have a look inside when we got back, and crossed the ancient bridge to find the riverside path.  St Erth was the main crossing point of the River Hayle before the causeway was built in Hayle in 1825.  Now it’s a little village just off the A30, although its kept its train station on the main line through Cornwall and from where the branch line heads off through nearby Lelant to Carbis Bay and St Ives, a very picturesque journey and worth taking.

We start walking along the river, which is narrow but quite fast flowing and lined with reeds and wild flowers, in fact almost completely overgrown in some parts.  I’m inclined to think that the little pink flower that you can see in the bottom left of the picture and is evident along the whole of the riverside, is red campion, but a visit to the Canal and River Trust website has this plant in it’s ‘rogues gallery’ as the Himalayan Balsam.DSCN0568

Apparently this invasive species has ‘explosive seedpods’ that can shoot seeds up to seven metres and each individual plant produces another 800!  It survives without much light but in the process suffocates other plants and when it dies back in the Autumn it leads to erosion of the river bank.  This along with the presence of giant hogweed, also dominant here, causes significant problems along our waterways.

But the water when we can see it is very clear, tumbling over a stony river bed which supports an abundance of plant life itself including a bright red seaweed like plant which I haven’t been able to identify:DSCN0563There are also trout in the river and we see them rise to the surface and leap out to catch flies, of which there are swarms in this warm weather.


We see butterflies and dragonflies as well, and this little beauty, which conveniently lands on a blade of grass allowing Mr RR to take it’s picture:



It’s a damselfly, probably female as it is metallic green with clear pale wings, whereas the male is metallic blue with with blue bands on his wings.  Unlike dragonflies, damselflies fold their wings together when they’re at rest, like this one is doing. They’re a predatory insect, finding their prey on waterside plants.

Across on the other bank we can see rabbits – this one obligingly stayed still for a portrait:

DSCN0569and all around are house martins (or are they swallows?).  Can you remember the differences?? I get very confused between them.  We also hear and see a reed warbler across the water – perched appropriately on a reed stem but too quick moving for pictures.

Walking on, we pass the Hayle Gauging Station, operated by the Environment Agency and part of the Hayle Flood Defence system.  It records various measurements on its website and a quick look at it today tells me that the water was 0.26 metres deep at 0400 this morning.

The River Hayle at the Gauging Station
The River Hayle at the Gauging Station

A little while later we take the first of our wrong turns and cross a bridge too soon, leading to a pleasant walk up a country lane before we realise we’ve gone wrong.  We head back down the hill and further along the riverbank before crossing over the correct bridge and turning away from the river and uphill between trees, past some lovely cottages and then onto farmland.  On the way we pass Elder trees now in flower:


and we start to think about making cordials and wines, which, the instructions tell us are quite easy to make ……maybe one day!

My lovely ‘Edible Wild Plants and Herbs’ book tells me that this plant is surrounded by mystery and magic – legends that the Cross was made of elder wood and that Judas Iscariot was hanged from an elder tree meant that people were afraid to cut elder.  In England they were planted near cottages to protect the inhabitants from lightning and witches and since pre-Roman times all parts of the tree have been used medicinally.

The elder tree is easy to grow and is beautiful at this time of year and has a heavy scent.  My book gives lots of recipes including for pickled elder shoots, elderflower fritters, ice-cream, syrup and jam.  When I’ve tried some of them I’ll let you know!

We also see the sloe berries just beginning to form on the blackthorn bushes – and that’s a whole other wild food story we can go into one day!

Sloe berries
Sloe berries

The route becomes a little confused now and we get muddled about pathways and stiles.  However we can see the church tower in St Erth ahead so we just keep going in that direction, across several ‘cattle grid’ type barriers which are surprisingly difficult to keep your balance on:


Eventually we find ourselves back at the village and turn into the churchyard for a look around.  Just inside the gate is this sad memorial:DSCN0601

There was indeed a cholera epidemic in Cornwall that year, thought to have been brought in from Exeter and causing at least 300 deaths across the county.

Another memorial in the shape of an extremely tall cross, towers above us, a bird perched on top:DSCN0603

Erected by Helen Carter to the memory of her husband Herbert Carter V.C. who died on active service in 1916 in British East Africa, and dedicated to the men of the village who lost their lives in both wars.

We walk on around the churchyard looking for the main door, but we are to be disappointed as its firmly padlocked – the first church we’ve not been able to see inside of on our rambles.  There are carved wooden rafters in the porch way which I manage to photograph between the prison like barred gate before we turn away and set off for lunch.


We stop for a look at the noticeboard at the entrance to the churchyard in case it tells us the reason for the locked doors, but no luck.  I did, however, find one last creature willing to stop for a picture:


At first I think it’s a moth but this is a male ‘scorpion fly’ so called because the female has an upturned tail like the sting of a scorpion, although this fly is harmless.  They are scavengers, including on spiders webs and are widespread throughout the country from May to August preferring damp or shady places. Me, I prefer sunny tea gardens with a lovely fish finger sandwich and a cup of char!

(Total miles walked this year – 404 miles!)

Unfinished detail

Associated artwork for Ricketyrambler by Mr RR:



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