Beautiful Fowey river walk — Lerryn to St Winnow

This walk takes you along the banks of the Fowey river, from Lerryn to St Winnow (or vice versa) and is around five miles there-and-back walk. It’s mostly easy walking but with a couple of styles along the way. We did this walk in mid-March and found some slightly muddy sections but walking boots were fine — no wellies required!

Be prepared for wanting to eat in the excellent little cafés at either end of the walk. Note that in St Winnow the refreshments are Easter to October only, and cash only. In Lerryn, the Lerryn River Stores keep limited opening hours in winter but the friendly pub is open from 12.00am to 12.00pm.

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The Fowey valley is spectacular at any time of year and the upper stretches of the river with its twisting wooded creeks host some of the best walks in Cornwall. This walk starts at the picturesque village of Lerryn, which is at the head of one of the Fowey river’s numerous creeks. This is a there-and-back walk though woodlands of oak, beech and chestnut trees, with little streams to cross and vignettes of the river glimpsed though trees at every turn of the path. Allow around three hours at a good pace (to get you back to your start point) — or quite a bit more if your are in ambling mode, or if you stop at St Winnow for refreshments before heading back.

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Assuming you’ll start your walk in Lerryn (you can equally well start in St Winnow and do it the other way around) then park in the free village car park by the river. If you are staying in a Lerryn cottage the village will need no introduction. Otherwise take a moment to check out the very excellent Lerryn River Stores and/or The Ship Inn. In fact you should start or finish your adventure with a breakfast, lunch or dinner in one of the other. You’ll start your walk by heading down the opposite side of the creek. If it’s low tide you can enjoy the old hexagonal stepping stones across the river — if the tide is in walk over the historic Elizabethan bridge. Queen Elizabeth herself issued an order for a levee to be charged to raise funds for its restoration in 1573 — so do take a moment to savour it.

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Turn left just over the bridge and follow the lane down the river bank until turns into a footbath. After around quarter of a mile the path turns away from the river and you’ll want to take the left hand branch of the path over a little wooden bridge to ford a creek-let. A few hundred yards later the footpath will bring you out onto a woodland forestry roadway. From here simply follow your nose. You have a couple of miles of easy walking ahead with the river on your left at all times.

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Half way along this stretch the roadway reaches St Winnow Point where there is very nicely positioned bench where you can take a rest and look south down the river towards Fowey. It’s just a mile now to St Winnow. Keep left when the roadway turns right up into the woods and follow the footpath instead. After a few hundred yards this brings you out into a field, then over a style and you have reached your destination.

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St Winnow is a tiny hamlet, recorded in the Domesday Book, and used as a setting for the original 1970’s TV adaptation of Poldark. This very beautiful church was originally built by the Normans, although what you see now is from the 1600’s built on the Norman foundations. The carved granite font is from the 1400’s and the pulpit and rood screen are beautifully carved. At high tides in summer this is a good spot for wild swimming. Don’t expect crystal clear waters — this is a river estuary – but it’s oddly thrilling, and certainly life-affirming, to float with the brackish current surrounded by ancient woodland that will have looked much the same for hundreds of years.

There are two ‘not to be missed’ experiences in St Winnow, both unexpected. First is Angie’s amazing little café — serving bacon baps and similar from Easter to October, with all produce straight from the farm. Behind it is St Winnow Barton Farm Museum, an astonishing collection of agricultural machinery and curios founded by farmer Henry Stephens in 1976, and continued by his son John. This on-going project has saved numerous extraordinary artefacts from the rust heap and is well worth a visit… and it’s free. So make sure you patronise the café wholeheartedly and leave a big tip.

The walk back will almost certainly take you longer than the walk out! Make sure you don’t miss the turnings on your way back, especially in last mile (or so) when you leave the forestry roadway on the right to take the footpath back to Lerryn. And on arrival treat yourself to a farmhouse ice cream — at the time of writing Lerryn River Stores is stocking the rather more-ish Callestick Farm ice cream.

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To stay near here, why not try Roselyn Cottage in Lerryn?