Cardinham Woods Trails

Forestry Commission, Dunmere,

Bodmin, Cornwall

2 miles east of Bodmin off unclassified road at Turfdown 3 mile from A Map reference: SX099

Four trails with themes: Riverside Walk – H miles; Bluebell Walk – 2-mile extension of Riverside Walk taking in bluebell glades; Panorama Walk – miles (also connected to Bluebell Walk) with some steep sections; Silvermine Trail- l{-mile extension of Riverside Walk with trip to Hurtstocks lead and silvermine

Illustrated trail guide from Forestry Commission and local tourist offices; car park, picnic area

At the turn of the century, visitors to Cardinham Woods, tucked away on the edge of Bodmin Moor, were few and far between; the odd tinker or traveller, villagers searching for firewood and the passing poacher came and went and the local wildlife had free run of the valley. However, in the Thirties, the vale had a change of destiny when the Forestry Commission acquired the land from the estates of two neighbouring Lords.

At that time the woods were entirely oak coppice and during the next five years the unemployed of Bodmin – some thirty or so men – were set to work clearing the land and replanting it with conifers. A variety of species were chosen, including Douglas fir, Japanese larch, Sitka and Norwegian spruce, hemlock and the better-known Scots and Corsican pine. This latter variety, ranging in colour from dark, bluish-green through silvery grey to yellowish-green, ensures that the valley always looks attractive and that the overall appearance varies according to the season. The woods are a pleasant contrast to the stark moor.

In this country, a conifer will take about fifty years to reach maturity and consequently many of the trees at Cardinham have reached an ideal stage for felling. However, the Commission are exercising a policy whereby some trees are thinned out after twenty years onwards and others are allowed to continue growth, so avoiding wholesale clearance and allowing visitors the chance to observe the conifers throughout all stages of their growth.

To visit Cardinham Woods, take the A38 towards Plymouth and follow the road to Car-dinham village. After half a mile, turn left and the road leads to the southern edge of the forest and to adequate parking facilities. Here the Forestry Commission have erected a series of picnic tables and benches which have been hewn from local timber for visitors’ use.

Parties with elderly members in their midst should also note that seats have been constructed at regular intervals along the route of the Riverside Walk.

In the car park, a large noticeboard lists and colour codes the four way-marked walks that the Commission have recently established. These range from a mile to three-and-a-half miles in length and cover a variety of terrains and gradients.

The shortest trail – just a mile – back-tracks along the course of the stream into the heart of Caliywith Wood and follows the route of the Commission’s own roads. It is a level walk on firm paths that provides an opportunity to observe the variety of plant and wildlife that develops alongside a woodland stream. At the halfway mark, the path crosses the stream and heads back along the opposite bank in the direction of the car park.

The stone, boulder-built bridge that fords the stream, once served the former Chapel of our Lady of the Vale. The Chapel no longer stands and legend has it that the bridge was constructed from stones taken from the ruins. From the bridge, visitors can strike out in a choice of directions and follow either the Bluebell or Silvermine trails.

Bear left from the bridge and follow the steep path through the beech and Norway spruce of Callabarrett Wood to the top of the plateau. In late April to May the forest floor is a riot of bluebells – their bright blue heads

the Fowey is permitted as far as Lostwithiel and beach fishing from the town of Fowey itself.

Golfing enthusiasts should choose to travel either north or south for a day’s play. At St Austell, the clifftop, championship course at Carlyon Bay welcomes visitors and to the north, at St Enodoc, is the highly acclaimed seaside course amongst the dunes and flats.

For overnight stays in the Cardinham area contrasting vividly with the sharp green spring foliage of the beech. Looking down through the valley from the plateau on a clear day it is possible to see the china clay mine tips in and around St Austell.

This area of Cornwall has strong mining traditions; tin, copper, silver and lead were mined extensively in the 18th- and 19th-centuries. Striking east from the bridge, the trail passes close to the ivy-clad ruins of Hurs-tocks Mine. These ruins are now unsafe and are fenced off from the public, however it is still possible to peer down into the open pit -often partially flooded – and appreciate the appalling and hazardous conditions in which the miners dug for lead and silver during the last century.

As a monument to the mining industry of the area, the Wheal Martyn Museum has been opened just north of St Austell. Here the clay workings, settling tanks, water wheels, wagons and potteries have been preserved for visitors.

The fourth trail, through the section of the plantation known as Callywith Wood, should take walkers a good two hours to complete and, although in places the paths are steep and slippery and several of the inclines may prove strenuous, the view down the valley towards the junction of the Glynn with the Fowey is truly rewarding.

In its early stages, the trail passes through a grove of oak trees. Due to the soil and climatic conditions typical to Cornwall, the oak has never fully developed and remains a relatively small and twisted tree. Although these trees are visually appealing, the timber is of little value commercially.

On the boundary of the woods, a belt of oak coppice has been preserved as a monument to former forest practices. Cropping the coppice once provided firewood and charcoal and sup-plied the local tanneries with bark for dying the leather. Although one such tannery remains at Grampound, it has now to rely on imported acorns for tanning.

Casual visitors to Cardinham may not catch a glimpse of the forest’s wildlife while walking the trails, but naturalists who have set up observation points have been rewarded with sightings of rabbit, fox, hare and the irksome mink. Red and fallow deer do occasionally visit the woods, but these visits usually coincide with bad weather when the deer are forced from the open moor to find shelter elsewhere.

Just the other side of the A38 are the extensive grounds and woodlands of the Victorian mansion, Lanhydrock House. The paths through the 400-acre estate are open to the public and are at their best in May when there are magnificent displays of colourful shrubs such as rhododendrons and azaleas.

From the grounds of Lanhydrock, a footpath leads to the nearby ruins of Restormel Castle. A walled walk now encircles the site of the 12th-century castle and from this vantage point the River Fowey can clearly be seen.

The Fowey rises deep in the heart of Bodmin Moor and is renowned for salmon and more especially sea trout, while to the north, the Camel river is one of Cornwall’s principal game rivers which can be prolific with salmon during the autumn months. Harbour fishing in

there are campsites at Ruthernbridge, St Mabyn, Lostwithiel and Lanlivery or, should you prefer a coastal setting, at Padstow, Tintagel, St Austell or Fowey.

Additional Forestry Commission trails can be enjoyed at Tregirls and Shortlanesend or alternatively it is possible to pick up the Penin-sula Coastal Path at any number of points between Minehead and Poole.