St Wenn and Withiel

Sunday 2nd August 2015

Hello

I’m a wee bit weary after this one.  This was one long ramble.  It was warm as well.  And we had to fight our way through overgrown paths swiping at nettles and brambles with big sticks.  Well…..to be honest, Mr RR swiped and swung with a big stick, I just wandered along behind clutching a twig and sighing dramatically.

Mr RR fighting his way through the jungle!
Mr RR fighting his way through the jungle!

Lots of farm yards, ferocious dogs and tarmac along the way as well, but we struggled on – despite my suggestion that we retreat almost before we got started.

There were good bits too of course – the gorgeous views and the lovely St Clement’s Church at Withiel.

Enjoy reading about it.

RR x

(p.s. The directions and much of the information below come from iWalkCornwall.co.uk)


St Wenn circular via Withiel (7 miles)

St Wenn is a tiny hamlet somewhere south-west of Wadebridge, named after Saint Wenna, a 5th century Welsh saint.  The church in the hamlet is dedicated to the saint and was originally owned by the Earl of Gloucester (!) who gave it to Tewkesbury Abbey in 1150.  Isn’t life strange! We don’t venture inside, as, being Sunday, we suspect there is a service in progress.

Instead, we head down the lane past Glebe Farm, (‘glebe’ = land or farm donated to support the parish priest) and within a few minutes are confronted by a mud filled trench to traverse (Mr RR has his brand new shoes on…..ummmm) and  a thick tangle of brambles and stinging nettles.  I am in defeatist mode and immediately suggest an about turn in the hope of finding somewhere to walk with a tea shop within at least 5 miles!  Mr RR is determined though and, having squelched his way through the large mud pit, finds a long, sturdy stick and begins beating furiously at the undergrowth – or overgrowth I suppose.

After much swipping and swiping, he’s cleared us a sort of path through the trees and I take a deep breath and blunder along after him, trying to keep clear of flying bits of bramble and flapping away the flies that are being disturbed by the fury of the onslaught on their habitat.

Finally emerging from the jungle, we turn onto a tarmacced lane, and then a road until eventually finding our way into the hamlet of Rosenannon with its pretty cottages and Bible Christian Chapel, like many chapels now currently undergoing conversion to residential use.  Interestingly, our information tells us that many Methodist chapels were built in the centre of villages in the 18th and 19th centuries because the local church was often more than a mile away or at the top of a steep hill (see later re St Clement’s Church).

At the far side of the hamlet we descend a grassy path and enter woods, walking alongside a brook, on boggy ground with the help of a carefully laid path made of tree branches.  It’s an ancient deciduous woodland, but strangely quiet – no birds to be heard except for a loud wren shouting out his warning call at our approach.DSCN1551

A bridge supported by car tyres gets us across a stream and we emerge from the woods onto the edge of Rosenannon Downs, a Nature Reserve owned by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, then head downhill, across a ford – quite a deep and fast flowing ford – luckily via another thoughtfully provided bridge, and then start uphill along The Saints’ Way.DSCN1568

The Saints’ Way runs for 30 miles from Padstow to Fowey and our instructions from iWalkCornall tell us that this is the likely route of early Christian travellers as they avoided premature martyrdom on the rocks at Lands’ End and abandoned their ships on the North Devon or Cornish coast. Most were en route from Ireland to  Europe on pilgrimages during the Dark Ages although there is evidence that the route was used in Roman times and even in the Iron Age.

We make our way up a steep hill (remember why they built those little chapels – clever I think!) with St Clement’s Church ahead and high above us.  It’s a huge church with views from the churchyard all across the valleys and woods that we’ve just walked.DSCN1565

As we enter the churchyard we bump into the Church Warden just leaving after morning service, and he gives us a bit of history including informing us that this is the only church in the country with a listed toilet – which we are welcome to take advantage of should we find ourselves in need.

Apparently this enormous church building which seats 250, was once part of a monastery and very important in the local area.  Now, it serves a parish of just 210 people – although the warden tells us that this is still probably more than there were when it was built in the 13th century.  The St Clement, to whom it is dedicated was the third Pope of Rome.

By the 19th century the church was in a state of neglect and underwent major restoration; more recently the church organ was restored and is quite a sight to see.  The project cost over £31,000 and has its own very interesting u-tube video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJBzh86p2Ns) :

Church organ in St Clement's - which has it's own u-tube video!
Church organ in St Clement’s

It’s a light and airy church with an elaborate altar

DSCN1570

and a little porch with seats where we can sit in the shade and eat our lunch:

View from the church porch
View from the church porch

Having failed to locate the listed toilet we move on, uphill again along the road until we come to a field and from here on it’s fields, cows, horses, farmyard dogs and stony stiles all the way to the road into St Wenn at Demelza Mill.  Lots of overgrowth of the undergrowth again – Mr RR has luckily retained his sturdy stick.

I stop to practice my panoramic shooting:DSCN1574

Clever what?…

And then its a long, long, uphill road walk back to St Wenn, passing Prince’s Park on the way – an elaborate red brick, gothic revival mansion half way up the hill.   It was built by Joseph Hicks of the St Austell Brewery dynasty, designed by a German architect in the style of Joseph’s London home.  It’s strangely out of place here, but gives us a reason to stop for breath and stare for a while.

Two more nettle laden styles and we cross the fields back to our starting point, relieved, hot and tired but happy that we didn’t turn back at the start (well, Mr RR is – I’m thinking about it and will feel better after a cup of tea and piece of cake!).

Total miles walked this year – 513 (including a mile from yesterday when I walked around Porthleven harbour – I need all the miles I can get!)

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