Walk - Rocky Valley
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the layby below Halgabron on the Boscastle road walk a short distance towards Tintagel. Turn left on the small road to Halgabron and follow it steeply uphill past the houses.
- Take the footpath on the left, shortly after the houses, and follow it through the fields and on along St Nectan's Glen. Fork right in the valley to climb to St Nectan's Kieve.
In 1985 the glen was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Ferns and mosses love its damp shade, and two rare liverworts grow here, as well as rare mosses. There are also dippers nesting in the rocks near the kieve.
'Kieve' comes from an old English word meaning 'basin'. St Nectan's Kieve is a plunge pool at the base of a 60-foot waterfall, where the Trevillet river, having carved a number of kieves into the Devonian slate higher up the rock walls, emerges through a natural rock arch to fall the last 12 feet.
In keeping with the numerous myths in the area concerning King Arthur, it is said that the ritual turning his men from squires to knights took place in St Nectan's Kieve. As they passed through the rock arch they were reborn, and as they dropped into the pool below they were cleansed.
Although the path through the glen is a public right of way, and entry to the tearoom at the top is open to all, there is an admission charge to see the fountain and kieve. See the St Nectan website for more information.
St Nectan is said to have been one of the 24 missionary offspring of the fifth-century King Brychan of Brycheiniog. Arriving on the North Devon coastline from Wales, the saint established a hermitage in a remote and densely wooded valley near Hartland, with a well nearby (see the Speke's Mill Mouth Walk).
He is believed to have sited another hermitage here, above the waterfall. The small building beside the path today is reputed to be his hermit cell. It is, in fact, a nineteenth-century summerhouse, although the cottage built here at around the same time is said to have been constructed around the ruins of St Nectan's chapel. When the weather was stormy, according to local legend, Saint Nectan would ring a silver bell to warn sailors of the rocks at the mouth of Rocky Valley.
- At the top of the steps turn left to take the track over the hill towards the coast, following it downhill to Trethevy.
Towards the bottom of the hill you pass St Piran's Well. Cornwall's patron saint of tin miners (see the Holywell St Piran Walk) is said to have fallen to his death here, at the ripe old age of 200 years old, after a drinking session with his pal St Nectan.
- In Trethevy take the lane to the right and walk to the road.
- On the road turn right to pick up the footpath opposite to Trevalga.
- In Trevalga bear left and then turn left on the road. When it splits into two lanes take the right-hand fork.
- Turn left on the South West Coast Path and follow it past Ladies Window and on along Trevalga Cliff, where the quarry workings sound like windchimes as you walk on them.
- Descending steeply to Rocky Valley, leave the Coast Path to turn left and walk up through the valley back to the road at the start of the walk.
The maritime grassland in Rocky Valley is full of wildflowers, and occasionally an otter is seen in the river. The flowers ensure a thriving insect population, too, which includes the dramatically-patterned tiger moth and the thrift clearwing moth, whose larvae live on the pink-headed sea pink plant also known as thrift.
As you head towards the road you come to a ruined mill, built into the cliff beside the stream. Trewethet Mill is particularly renowned for the Celtic labyrinth carved into the rock-face beside it. There is evidence of people living here in the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) period, but the carvings are thought to be from the early Bronze Age that followed it between 1800 and 1400 BC. Some historians believe that the carvings were actually faked by locals in Victorian times, bringing in tourists by tapping into the Romantic movement's revival of popular intgerest in Celtic matters. Others say that there is evidence of a fainter carving that was original, while the clearer ones are fake.
Further upstream, beside the road, Trevillet Mill as it stands today was built in the eighteenth century on the site of a fifteenth-century mill. Inside, the nineteenth-century mill machinery has been restored and includes two millstones and a sack hoist. The mill was made famous in a painting by the nineteenth-century landscape artist Thomas Creswick, of the Birmingham School of artists.