First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Birdsong was loud in the trees of the Luxulyan Valley on a morning of brilliant sunshine. Among the mossy trunks of oak and beech the giant legs of an aqueduct stepped across the ravine, a scene from a post-apocalyptic dream.
All over Cornwall, the landscape goes hand-in-hand with the architecture of long-dead industries, most notably here in the twisting valley that winds down towards the china clay port of Par. When Joseph Treffry built the structure that served as aqueduct and viaduct across the Luxulyan Valley in 1839-42, it was just one piece in a great jigsaw of tramroads, watercourses and railways this powerful engineer and industrialist created to link up his copper and tin mines and granite quarries with the ships and quays he operated down on the coast.
Nowadays the Luxulyan Valley is a showpiece of beautiful woodland where liverworts and mosses thrive in the stonework of Treffry’s redundant tramways and water gurgles seductively along his abandoned leats.
From the eastern end of the viaduct we followed the granite setts and rusted rails of the Higher Tramway beside the ferny channel of Carmears Leat, then down a long steep incline. Wagons of coal for the steam engines that pumped out the mines were drawn up this tremendous slope; tin ore rattled down in the opposite direction, heading for the port.
At the foot of the incline a chalky grey lane shadowed a tangle of railway lines along the flat valley bottom where glossy horses grazed and the stream beds sparkled with chips of mica. A swift blast of traffic fumes and noise at the level crossing in St Blazey, and we were heading away and up through quiet beechwoods on the Saints Way path.
Dark Ages pilgrims and holy wanderers used this ancient route across the Cornish peninsula to shorten the perilous sea journey from Ireland to the Continent. The Way led us north across undulating farmland with glimpses of the sea and of the Cornish Alps, pyramidal china clay tips, once dazzling white, now greening over.
Soon a run of stone arches, pale grey and ghostly, floated into view above the trees of the Luxulyan Valley, and we dropped down to cross the Treffry Viaduct in woodland now hushed with the approach of nightfall.
How hard is it? 5 miles; easy; woodland, farmland tracks; many stiles on homeward leg.
Start: Black Hill car park, Luxulyan PL24 2SS approx (OS ref SX 059572)
Getting there: Luxulyan Valley is signposted from Luxulyan (signed from A390 at St Blazey, A391 at Lockengate).
Walk (OS Explorer 107, interactive map at luxulyanvalley.co.uk): Up steps by info boards; right along leat; in 30m, left up woodland path to Treffry Viaduct (057571). Left; in nearly 1 mile, at foot of incline (070563), ahead along lane. Follow lane; then from Ponts Mill (073561) follow old railway track south to A390 in St Blazey (071551). Right; in 100m, right (‘Luxulyan’). In half a mile, right (062553, ‘Saints Way’/SW) up woodland path. In 100m bend right along edge of woodland. Follow SW (cross logo, yellow arrows/YA) past Nanscawen (060554), Great Prideaux (058558), Trevanney Farm (056566) and on across fields for 1½ miles. Descend into valley. Just before bridges, right off SW (053574, YA). In 50m cross stile into field; in 100m, left at cross-paths to gate onto old tramway (055573). Right across Treffry Viaduct and retrace outward route to car park.
Lunch: King’s Arms, Bridges PL30 5EF (01726-850202, kingsarmsluxulyan.org)
Accommodation: Old Vicarage, Luxulyan PL30 5EE (01726-858753, tovl.co.uk)
Info: Friends of Luxulyan Valley (luxulyanvalley.co.uk)