Walk - Trelawne - Bishop's Walk

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. Going through the main entrance into Trelawne Manor Holiday Park, take the second turning on the left and then fork right by the car park to take the path on the left a moment later.

The 1086 Domesday Book lists the manor of Trelawne as 'Trewellogen/Trevelloien: Reginald from Count of Mortain. Manor house, home of the Trelawney family, who settled here before the Conquest.' The Trelawny family tree in England runs from Eduni de Trelone, who was born in 1087, but it was not until 1600 that the family came to own the manor, when Elizabeth I sold it to Sir Jonathan Trelawny after it had been confiscated from Henry Grey (Duke of Suffolk and the father of Lady Jane Grey). The estate stayed in Trelawny hands after this until 1920.

In 1284 Trelawne was known as Trevelowen, meaning 'Elm Tree Farm' in Cornish, but by 1725 this had changed to its present name.

The current manor house was not built until 1450, although the north-west stair turret is though to be late thirteenth century. It was rebuilt in the eighteenth century, when Edward Trelawny erected a new wing after a fire, and remodelled again in the nineteenth century by the Cornish architect J P St Aubyn, who also reconstructed the chapel, built just after 1700. The bell in the clock tower is inscribed '1665 B P J Trelauny'.

This was the famous Bishop Trelawny, who was born here in 1650. After an illustrious academic career at Oxford, he was ordained in 1673 and appointed as Rector of Southill and then St. Ives in 1677. A staunch Royalist, he supported King James II in the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 and was rewarded by the king with the Bishopric of Bristol.

However, when James granted religious tolerance to the Catholics in his 1687/8 Declaration of Indulgence, and ordered that it should be read out in every church in the land, Trelawny refused to do so. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, along with six other bishops who also stood out against the declaration, and they were charged with 'seditious libel'. Three weeks later the trial was held, and there were celebrations throughout the country when he was acquitted and released.

Shortly afterwards, James again found his crown under threat, this time from William of Orange, and he offered Trelawny the Bishopric of Exeter. Sir Jonathan turned it down, instead offering his allegiance to William, who duly made him Bishop of Exeter himself in 1688, after defeating James. In 1707 he was appointed Bishop of Winchester, and he stayed there until his death in 1721, when his body was brought back to be buried in Pelynt.

  1. Follow the path through the holiday park, past the lake and the waterworks and around the edge of Ten Acre Wood.

In the Domesday Book, Trelawne Manor was rated at 'two carves and half, two servants, and ten acres of wood'.

There were inhabitants here long before the eleventh century, however. In the field above Ten Acre Wood, archaeologists investigated faint traces of a bank and ditch and found them to be the relics of an Iron Age or Romano British round, or fort, dating to somewhere between 800 BC and AD 409. There have also been many finds around Trelawne of leaf arrowheads, flint blades and other stone tools dating back to the Stone Age, and there are numerous ancient sites elsewhere around the district.

  1. When the path forks a little further on, take the left-hand path to walk downhill through the wood, curving around into Polzion Wood, until you come to a path running steeply downhill to the right.
  2. Turn right onto the track and follow it to the road.

This is Kiln Wood. On the river bank is an old lime kiln, once used to make fertiliser by burning limestone, which was brought here by boat.

To the south east, on your right as you walk downhill, is Kilminorth Wood, an ancient semi-natural woodland which has been continuously wooded since before Bishop Trelawny was born. A massive earthwork, known as the Giant's Hedge and thought to be a territorial boundary from the Dark Ages, stretches all the way from Kilminorth to Lerryn, a distance of some ten miles. Although much of it has disappeared over the centuries, in places it is up to 15 feet high and 24 feet wide.

  1. Turn left on the road, walking along the edge of the wood to the junction.

Here the West Looe River winds along beside you, rising from a series of springs near Dobwalls. Much closer is St Nonna's Well, just a mile or so upstream, one of Cornwall's many holy wells and a site for modern-day pilgrims, who tuck small offerings into the crevices around the site: money, ribbons, crystals, notes. Maybe this is because of an old rhyme attached to the well:

If you visit the well of St.Nonna,

be sure to leave a gift of pins,

for those who fail to place such items,

will be haunted by the moths of sin!

Another legend tells of a farmer who took a fancy to the granite basin in the well, but whose various attempts to steal it were thwarted by the well itself, resulting in his finally either him or his oxen being killed on the spot (depending on the version you hear!)

Overshadowed by an oak tree whose roots began to undermine it, the well was restored by the Trelawny family in the nineteenth century under the supervision of Cornish historian Arthur Quiller Couch. Like the chapel which once existed nearby, licensed in 1400, the well was dedicated to St Nonna, one of Cornwall's 200 Celtic saints and the mother of the Welsh saint, David.

  1. At the junction fork left to walk back to Trelawne Manor.

On the far side of the spur to your right as you approach Trelawne Barton is another Iron Age hillfort, known as Hall Rings, although, like the round at Ten Acre Wood, much of it has been eradicated through ploughing. There are a number of other possible sites for Iron Age or Romano British hillforts in the immediate area, including St Non's Camp, near St Nonna's Well, an enclosure built in a figure of eight and thought to have used to guard the river crossing below it. Archaeologists also suggested that Pelynt churchyard may have been built on a round, given its shape and location, but no trace of one was found when it was excavated for roadworks. There is another in a field at Barcelona which, although also heavily ploughed, is visible in aerial photographs.

Barcelona is thought to have acquired its name after Bishop Trelawny's second son, Harry, fought in the War of the Spanish Succession, defending Barcelona in 1705.

Trelawne Barton was built around 1690 by Bishop Trelawney and was the manor's home farm. It is now owned by local historian and Cornish Bard, Carol Vivian, author of many books on Cornish history, some of which are available in Trelawne Manor and Pelynt Church. Thanks go to Carol Vivian for her expert help.

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