Walk 142: Boscastle & the Valency Valley

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4.5 miles (7.3km)

Time to walk: With a look around the church & a few stops, this walk took us roughly 2.5 hours

Difficulty: A combination of hard surfaces, grass & forest tracks. A word of warning…the path from the valley floor up to the church is quite steep & may be slippery in wet weather. Also, Boscastle has suffered major flood damage in the past, caused by water coming down from the hills into the river you’ll be walking along. Things like the stepping stones may not be accessible during bad weather

Parking: The main public car park in Boscastle

Public toilets: In the car park at the start & end of the walk. There’s nothing in-between

Map of the route:

Boscastle is a village & fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, 14 miles south of Bude & 5 miles northeast of Tintagel. The harbour is a natural inlet protected by two stone walls built in 1584 & is the only significant harbour for 20 miles along the coast. The village extends up the valleys of the River Valency & River Jordan. The South West Coast Path passes through the village

Able to trace its roots back to the Iron Age, the name of the village comes from Botreaux Castle, a 12th century motte & bailey fortress, of which few remains survive. The castle was anciently in the possession of the de Botreaux family

Boscastle was once a small port (similar to many others on the north coast of Cornwall), importing limestone & coal, & exporting slate & other local produce. Much of the land around the village is now owned by the National Trust

A flash flood on 16 August 2004 caused extensive damage to the village. Residents were trapped in houses as the roads turned into rivers. People were trapped on roofs, in cars, in buildings & on the river’s banks, & the village’s visitor centre was washed away

A total of 91 people were rescued & there were no fatalities, only one broken thumb. Around 50 cars were swept into the harbour & the bridge was washed away, roads were submerged under 9 ft of water, making communication effectively impossible until flood waters subsided

Boscastle was flooded again on 21st June 2007, although the scale of destruction was not as serious as in 2004

Ready to go?

Let’s Walk!

1. Is there seriously a nicer place to start a beautiful walk, on a warm, sunny day, than on the footbridge looking towards Boscastle Harbour?

There’s several places to visit within the harbour area, including the Visitor Centre, run by the National Trust, art galleries, cafes & the famous Museum of Witchcraft & Magic

The museum is dedicated to European witchcraft & magic. It houses a collection of objects relating to folk magic, ceremonial magic, Freemasonry & Wicca that is described as the largest in the world. It was founded by the English folk magician, Cecil Williamson in 1951 to display his own personal collection of artefacts. The Museum is held in high esteem by the British occult community

2. Walk down the left side of the river towards the harbour entrance…

On reaching one of the harbour walls, climb the steps on the left. Be careful though as there are warnings that these may be slippery if wet…

3. Once higher up on the path, the natural inlet to the harbour can be seen. There are paths leading up to the top of the cliffs on either side if you’re feeling energetic…

On the top of the left cliff’s a white building which is the NCI Boscastle Lookout Station. The building was once a Summerhouse. We didn’t have time to visit it, but apparently the views towards Tintagel are superb

4. If you do decide to visit the Lookout Station it’s possible to follow the footpath signs across Forrabury Stitches to the church & then pick up the path we’ll be walking on again

Our route doubles back on itself & follows the upper path back towards Boscastle. The views back towards the village are stunning & it’s difficult to imagine the devastation that was caused by the floods…

5. The path descends down to the river level again. Continue to the junction with the road…

On reaching the junction, carefully cross New Road & walk up the hill by the side of the Wellington Hotel…this is the Old Road

The Wellington Hotel is one of North Cornwall’s oldest Coaching Inns & dates back to the 17th Century. It was originally known as “The Bos Castle Hotel”, but was renamed in memory of the Duke of Wellington after his death. Their website tells us that many notable people have stayed there over the years including Edward VII, Thomas Hardy & Guy Gibson, of Dambusters fame

6. Walk up Old Road, which is quite steep in places & also narrow, with no pavements so be careful. The valley you’re now walking up is the Jordan Valley & you can hear & get glimpses of the river on the left

As you reach the top of the first hill the road enters a lovely square…

Directly to the right of the house in the photo above is one of the village’s old pumps…

7. Continue up the hill, passing some rather attractive cottages. To the left of these is the site of Bottreaux Castle, which we mentioned earlier. If you wish to visit the mound where it once stood, pass through the gate on the left

The road bends sharply uphill once more passing Boscastle Community Primary School. We loved the motif on their badge

8. The hill becomes quite steep once more & this is the old part of the village. The road, which is now called Fore Street, is the steepest street in the village

On the left’s the Methodist Church. The first chapel was built here by John Rosevear as a thanksgiving offering that one of his merchant ships escaped from French Privateers & came safely into Boscastle harbour. His son Thomas Pope Rosevear rebuilt the chapel, which was re-opened & dedicated on 1st February 1825

Further up on the right’s the old village hall, which was built in 1900. It was built on the original site of The Bottreaux Family’s personal chapel, which fell in to disrepair & was demolished in the 1870’s, the current building was opened as St. James’ Mission Chapel in September 1900

9. Turn left opposite the village hall at the footpath sign & follow the track…

…which descends into the valley by the river to arrive at a small holding. Now there’s a warning on the fence that you should definitely take heed of, although we didn’t see the goose!

10. What we did see though was plenty of the bees & there was honey for sale…

The footpath passes directly in front of the house & goes up to a rather attractive bridge over the River Jordan

If you look at the picture below you’ll see that the river is but a mere trickle, but imagine the amount of water that tumbled down here contributing to the flood

11. Do not cross the bridge, but turn immediately left through the kissing gate following the footpath signs towards Home Farm & Minster Wood. Cross a stile into the next small meadow & then a bridge into a larger one. The path is well marked…

Pass through the gap in the hedge above & up to the gate in the hedge in the photo below…

12. Turn left & walk through a copse which leads to an arboretum of fruit trees, known as Cold Frame Orchard. It includes some rare varieties of plum

Continue on the track over a stile, across another meadow & stile into a field where you get great views back down the valleys towards the harbour

13. Bear slightly right, looking for the stile in the gap in the hedge on the left. Do not head for the gate at the top of the hill

Cross the stile into Minster Wood. The sign posts show that you’re now entering Valency Valley

14. Minster Wood is another area that’s owned by the National Trust. In Norman times it was managed by the local monks. The trail eventually descends the valley towards the River Valency to arrive at the stepping stones

If you’re lucky & the water levels are low enough you can mess about on the stones, or sit & refresh your feet in the clear water…

We’ll pass the stones on the opposite side of the river on our return path. However, should you wish to return to Boscastle now, simply cross the stones, turn left & follow the river path all the way

15. Rested up, it’s now time for a really steep climb up the valley, following the signs to Minster Church, which we’d heard would be worth the effort

We really advise you to take your time, especially if the ground’s wet & also take advantage of the bench halfway up…

16. At times the path appears to split, but continue to head straight up. At one point it turns into some steep steps

Eventually you’re rewarded as the track finally emerges onto a road just near the church. All that hard work when you could have just driven up here!

17. Turn left &, after a few yards, you’ll arrive at the gate leading into the churchyard…

Be careful walking down the path to the church as it’s quite steep. This is an amazing place & extremely secluded. It’s seems mystical & the church is also stunning. The church is named after St Materiana who is a Welsh Saint & patron of two churches in Cornwall. We visited the other one on our Tintagel walk

There’s been some kind of church on this site since roughly 500AD. Little of this church remains & the next incarnation was built by William de Bottreaus around 1150. Over the years it fell into disrepair & had to be virtually rebuilt at the end of the 1800s

18. The church is usually open so go in & have a look around. What really impressed us was the beautiful embroidered kneeling cushions

The other thing the church is famous for is it has the largest roost of endangered Horseshoe Bats in Cornwall & the 7th largest in the UK

Come back out & explore the graveyard to try & locate the grave of a witch! Joan Wytte, known as the “Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin Town” was wrongly condemned as a witch in the 18th century & died in Bodmin jail

For many years, her skeleton hung on display in front of a coffin at the Witchcraft Museum back in the harbour, but the new owner decided she should have a proper burial. However, as an alleged witch, she couldn’t be buried on consecrated ground. Therefore her grave is just outside the graveyard perimeter

19. It’s time to head back to Boscastle & that initially means descending to the Valency River once more, albeit by a different track. Walk round to the back of the church & go through the gate below…

Carefully walk down the path, although this one doesn’t seem as steep as the one we came up on. Eventually you arrive at the river once more & cross the bridge

20. Turn left & follow the path back…the river really is pretty

The track occasionally diverts a short distance from the river through woodland, but it’s still easy to follow. Eventually, it reaches a gate & opens out into a rather lovely meadow…

Across to the right appears to be a wooden circle, but we can’t find any information about it, so presume it’s just a play feature

21. Pass the stepping stones once more. If you fancy a seat for a few minutes by the river, there’s a very attractive slate one built into the right

The path follows the valley. Again, it’s hard to imagine what the torrent must have been like coming down here into the harbour…

22. Walk through the gate at the end of the meadow into Boscastle car park…

The toilets are on the left should you require them. At the end of the road walk straight across to return to the harbour & the start of this walk

So…we’d visited Boscastle several times before & knew the harbour area quite well. What we wanted to do was get away from the tourist area & explore some of the surrounding countryside – something that we feel this walk achieves

The added & unexpected bonus was the beautiful church, which we had all to ourselves. It really is a lovely walk so, if you’re in Cornwall…

Go Walk!