► For more information and shorter trails visit:
► Start point: Main car park, Godolphin House, Godolphin Cross, Helston, Cornwall, TR13 9RE
► Walk: 4.5 miles, challenging terrain, some steep stiles. Allow two and a half hours
► Facilities: Toilets and café at Godolphin House
The 17th-century grandeur of the National Trust’s Godolphin House, near Helston, makes regular appearances in the latest BBC adaptation as the exterior of Francis Poldark’s estate, Trenwith. Although the house dates back to the early 14th century and the estate the 12th century, if ever there was an estate which epitomised the era of Poldark it is Godolphin.
The Godolphin family’s wealth increased greatly during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries directly as a result of the copper which lay beneath their lands. As a result the house and gardens and the surrounding estate make an excellent place to explore if you wish to experience the Cornish landscape as Winston Graham’s famed characters might have seen it.
These interesting facts are also very relevant to the walking route, because even today abandoned mine shafts and workings are dotted around the landscape, sometimes guarded by high moss covered walls known as ‘collors’ and so it is very important to stick to the main paths and to keep dogs on leads in some areas.
I have walked this route many times, in all seasons and although it is perhaps at its most breathtaking in the spring, when the bluebells arrive in late April, it is always an inspiring and invigorating walk.
From the main car park, you begin by following signs for ‘pedestrians’ which lead you through a short woodland path, past a map of the estate, to the entrance to the house and café. Before you go in, just beside the edge of the disabled car parking spaces, is a gate signposted towards Godolphin Hill.
I headed through this gate which takes you along a track across a field and then to a wooded lane known as The Slips. This leads you up to scrubland at the bottom of the circular Godolphin Hill. Soon, you reach a junction in path. Turn right following the signpost pointing directly (and visibly) to the top of the hill. As time has passed I have found the hill easier to climb, but be warned, the track is rugged and boggy after wet weather. It is well worth the climb however, as when you read the top you can enjoy a rare view which takes in both the north coast towards Hayle and St Ives, and the south coast, towards Rinsey Cove and Mount’s Bay to the south.
As always, I paused at this point. You can see many of the old engine houses and remnants of the mining works which once dominated this part of Cornwall from this point. It is very easy to imagine stepping back in time to a time where mining dominated the county.
A shorter walk at this point, advisable if you wish to avoid climbing over steep stiles, involves simply retracing your steps. For those who wish to explore the estate a little more extensively however, head directly across the hill, following the path and continue down until you come to a fork in the path. I followed the right-hand pathway and continued carefully to the bottom of the hill. At the bottom, turn right and skirt the base of the hill.
After a short distance, I came to an old-fashioned stepping stone stile in the wall which borders the base of the hill. The stiles here are comprised of stones jutting out of the five-foot high wall which you must climb and then descend into the long grassy field beyond. From here I walked along the right hand edge of the field which takes you to the outer edge of the Godolphin estate. Continuing down a wooded pathway at the bottom of the field I soon came out and turned right on to the main road at the point where it bridges the River Hayle. Crossing the road bridge, I then followed the public footpath sign to the right, directly after the bridge. This took me back over the river, via a wooden footbridge.
This next stretch of footpath along the River Hayle is beautiful and a wonderful space for spotting dragonflies and river birds. You soon come to a car park which you turn right into, then, on your left, continuing on a parallel course with the main road, you find signs for public footpath along a woodland trail. The path gets very tricky at this point, but I followed the trail most trodden and eventually came to a farm track crossing the pathway. I turned right for a short distance until I came to another stile leading me to a footpath on the left-hand side of the track, which led to a path along the right-hand edge of a field just beside some woods. At the end of the field, there is a stepping-stone stile to clamber over, before you cross the road and then climb another stone tile before more sedately walking down a new set of wooden steps into another field.
At this point Godolphin House is just a short distance away. Follow the path up a slight hill along the right hand edge of the field and you eventually come back to the spot near the disabled car park where you began.
As always, I stopped in at the National Trust café. On offer here are tea, coffee, sandwiches and some delicious home-made cakes. There are also crafts, cards, books and art, and you book private tours around the house here.
If you love discovering mining heritage and enjoying new landscapes, it is well worth exploring the estate and to lingering to investigate all that the house and gardens have to offer. Godolphin is something of a hidden gem in Cornwall, well worth discovering.