Cotehele and Burcombe Valley Walk
Discover wildlife-rich woods, meadows and orchards as you explore a lesser known corner of the Cotehele estate, the Burcombe Valley, land recently taken back under direct management by the National Trust.
Before you start:
Bring your walking boots for this trail. There are moderate to steep climbs in a couple of places, with some uneven areas underfoot. There are also two stiles along this route.
Cotehele Quay car park
Start your walk at the Edgcumbe tea room. Walk along the historic quay, past the Discovery Centre and join the road. Follow the road as it takes you beside reedbeds and over a stone bridge above the Morden stream.
Reedbeds are an important habitat. Otters, Water Rail, Swans and Reed Buntings all live here. To maintain this habitat and its biodiversity, the rangers manage these reedbeds by cutting small sections each year. This is done to stop trees taking over and dead reeds from building up which would eventually dry the reedbeds out. The photo shows the new growth in a section cut in 2020.
When you reach the junction, turn left and follow the road sign to St Dominick, taking extra care on the road. After about 20m, take the public footpath on your left, this leads you down to Dung Quay. Take in the view across the reedbeds to Cotehele Quay and then follow the path around the lime kilns and back up to the road. Cross over the road and enter the woods opposite, joining the St Dominica trail.
Continue along the woodland ride for a few minutes until you come to a junction with a sharp left-hand fork. Take this turning and leave the St Dominica trail for a gradual uphill path back on yourself. Continue along this path until you reach a wooden fence and gate. Walk through the gate to emerge from Bohetherick Wood onto a meadow with fabulous views across the Tamar.
The paths you walk through the woods are known as woodland rides. They are made for access but offer value to the flora and fauna living in the woods too. Because the canopy is open here, more light allows for a more varied selection of wildflowers to grow, these in turn are used by bees, hoverflies and butterflies. In Spring and Summer, you’ll find many different species using the paths with you. These rides are kept open by walkers using them and by the ranger team who will cut back the vegetation once a year during Summer.
Follow the along the top of the meadow. In summer the grass is alive with meadow brown butterflies and bees. The hedge on your right is a wonderful nectar source for insects and contains a mixture of trees, such as, hazel, dog rose and sycamore.
Hedgerows are an important ally in our fight to reverse biodiversity loss and climate change. The linier feature of a hedge cutting though a field gives wildlife a safe corridor to move from one habitat to another. The flower, shrub and tree species store carbon and give nectar, fruit, berries and nuts to everything from insects to birds and mammals. Many of these species will also use the hedge for nesting or shelter. After World War 2 the UK lost tens of thousands of miles of hedges to create more room to feed the nation. The few hedges that remained have often been cut at the same height year after year. This creates a squat and boxy hedge with holes and gaps, resulting in them being neither useful for wildlife, nor as a stock proof barrier to keep livestock enclosed. The hedge you walk along in this field is an example of a good healthy hedge as seen in Spring and Summer by the abundance of species here.
After about 20m, you will come to a metal gate which takes you down to shady path back to the lane. You will emerge beside a grand, Victorian cottage called Bohetherick Lodge, a grade II listed building. Turn right and, taking care on the lane, continue uphill into the village of Bohetherick.
Take the first left you come to in the village and walk down the narrow lane into West Bohetherick. Continue along this lane past the row of cottages as it dips gently downhill and views across the Tamar Valley open up on your left. Stay on this lane for another 500m until it ends at a junction. Ignoring both turnings, cross the road and walk through the gate opposite, joining the St Dominica trail's alternative route.
Dry Stone Walling
Towards the end of West Bohetherick you will pass West Bohetherick Farm. The wall on your right was built by rangers and volunteers and is an example of a Cornish hedge. Cornish hedges are dry stone walls built from two parallel lines of stone, with the middle filled with soil. These structures are a haven for many species of wildlife. Common Lizards use them for shelter and hibernation. This wall is south facing too, so from April to October you may get lucky and find one basking in the sun.
Continue along the path, keeping the hedge and polytunnels to your left. Follow the hedge all the way to the end of the field where a stile will take you onto another field. Once again, keep the hedge to your left and head down the hill towards a large white cottage with two chimneys.
Here you will get a first glimpse of the land in Burcombe Valley which surrounds the farmhouse below you. The next part of the walk will pass through this valley and an exciting new project at Cotehele. The land was used for farming and let to a local farmer until Spring 2021. The tenancy came to an end and the management of this land is now being carried out by the ranger team with the help of one of our main farm tenants. This means we can enhance this valley for the benefit of the local wildlife. The rangers are restoring hedgerows, creating a new grazing regime to promote wildflowers, planting 100 new native trees, extending the existing orchard, fencing off areas next to the wet woodland to increase this diverse habitat by natural regeneration and leaving some areas to let nature decide what will happen.
As you approach the bottom of the hill, look for the gap in the hedges where another stile will take you onto a narrow path between hazel trees. Follow this path over a small stream down to the lane. Take care as this path is uneven and can become muddy and slippery in wet weather.
Turn left and walk briefly along the lane until you reach the way marker signalling a path through a wooden gate on your right. Follow this path uphill through the woodland ride, past orchards on your left and open meadows to your right. Listen out for the gurgling stream which this path follows.
Eventually this path leads to a wooden footbridge over the stream. Cross the bridge, turn left and follow the path until you come to a kissing gate. Head through the kissing gate and then take the narrow track to your right, walking uphill between the two hedges.
Follow this path until it ends at the top of the hill beside a large oak tree. Take a moment to catch your breath and soak in the views across the Burcombe valley. On a clear day you can just about make out the Tamar Bridge to the east. Then join the lane and turn left, continuing along St Dominica trail into the village of Burraton.
Follow this lane through the village until you come to a crossroads. Cross the road and walk up the lane directly opposite. This takes you uphill past a large grey house on your right and then a row of bungalows on your left. When you reach the next junction, turn right and walk down the lane between fields on your right and a row of houses on your left.
After about 50 metres, you will reach an oak tree and a finger post in the middle of a junction. This is Hunter's Oak. Ignore the signs to Bohetherick and Cotehele and instead take the narrow lane down the hill to your left.
Follow this lane until another track emerges on your right beside a group of large oak trees. Take this path and follow it further downhill where it narrows and eventually re-enters Bohetherick Woods. Take care as this path is uneven and can become slippery in wet weather.
Follow this path until it splits. Take the left fork, leaving the St Dominica trail for a steep path down to Cotehele Mill. Take care as this uneven path can be slippy at times.
This path emerges just above the Mill where you may wish to pause, look around the buildings and learn about the history of milling at Cotehele and in the Morden Valley. Access the Mill by turning right at the road and taking the first left you come to.
From the Mill, walk across the meadow opposite and cross the bridge over the Morden stream. Turn right and take the woodland path back to Cotehele Quay, keeping the stream to your right.
Ash dieback and bank restoration
The rangers and volunteers have had to fell a lot of ash trees around the estate because of a fungus that causes a disease called ash dieback. Ash is the UK’s third most abundant tree and it look likely we will lose up 85% over the next few decades.
To keep you safe on this walk, the rangers have had to fell any diseased trees that are close to the paths. The felled ash trees here have been used to help stop erosion along the path.
Water running down the valley, dogs and the age of the path have all contributed to the path decreasing in width. To help stop this, you’ll see felled ash trees have been left along the side. In time, leaf matter will accumulate and new vegetation will grow amongst the ash, forming a barrier that helps protect the path. In Autumn, this path is a good spot to see different fungi species.
After about 600 metres you will emerge beside the stone bridge that you crossed at the beginning of the walk. Continue down the road, following the sign to Cotehele Quay where your walk ends.
Cotehele Quay car park
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