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Rocky Bounds of Bodmin

A moorland walk across the exhilarating wilds of Bodmin Moor.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 230ft (70m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Moorland tracks and paths and disused quarry tramways

Landscape Open moorland punctuated with rocky tors

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 109 Bodmin Moor

Start/finish SX 260711

Dog friendliness Keep under strict control around livestock

Parking The Hurlers car park on south west side of Minions village

Public toilets Minions village

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1 Leave the car park by steps at its top end beside an information board about The Hurlers stone circles. Cross the grass to a broad stony track. Turn right and follow the track, passing The Hurlers circles on the right and the Pipers stones further on.

2 At a three-way junction, by a large granite block, take the right-hand track down through a shallow valley bottom, then climb uphill on a green track towards Cheesewring Quarry. At a junction with another track, cross over and follow a grassy track uphill towards the quarry. At the first green hillock, go sharp right, then round left to find Daniel Gumb's Cave (PBackground to the Walk). Return to the path and follow it uphill alongside the fenced-in rim of the quarry to the Cheesewring rock formation.

3 Retrace your steps towards the shallow valley bottom.

4 A short distance from the valley bottom, abreast of some thorn trees on the right and just before a fenced-off mound on the left, turn off right along a path. Keep left of the thorn trees and a big leaning block of granite and soon pick up the faint beginnings of a grassy track. Follow this track, keeping to the right of a solitary thorn tree and some gorse bushes. The track soon becomes much clearer.

5 The track begins to strand. At a leaning rock, split like a whale's mouth, keep right along a path through scrub and with the rocky heights of Sharp Tor in line ahead. Keep to the path round the slope, with Wardbrook Farm left and Sharp Tor ahead. Reach a surfaced road and turn right for a few paces to reach an open gateway.

6 Go to the right of the fence by the gateway and follow a path alongside the fence past two slim granite pillars. Join a disused tramway and follow this.

7 Pass some big piles of broken rock and, about 30yds (27m) beyond them, turn sharp right at a wall corner. Follow a green track uphill and alongside a wall. Where the wall ends keep on uphill to reach a broad track.

8 Turn right along the track if you want to visit Cheesewring Quarry. For the main route, turn left and follow the track to Minions village. Pass the Minions Heritage Centre, a converted mine engine house. At the main road, turn right through the village to return to the car park.

Walk across London's Westminster Bridge and you walk across Bodmin Moor. Granite used in the fabric of the bridge comes from the now disused granite quarry of the Cheesewring that dominates the eastern section of the moor near the village of Minions. Bodmin Moor granite was also used in London's Albert Memorial and in countless other structures world-wide, including a lighthouse in Sri Lanka. Nineteenth century stone workers extracted granite, not only from the great raw gash of Cheesewring Quarry, but also from the wildest parts of the moor such as the lower slopes of Kilmar Tor, on Twelve Men's Moor, where this walk leads.

Cheesewring Quarry is the torn-open heart of Stowe's Hill. It takes its name from a remarkable granite 'tor', a pile of naturally formed rock that stands on the quarry's lip. The name 'Cheesewring' comes from the tor's fanciful resemblance to a traditional cider press, used to crush apples into a 'cheese'. There are many similar 'cheesewrings' throughout Bodmin Moor, but none so splendid as this one. Such formations were partly formed below ground millions of years ago, and were then exposed when erosion sculpted the landscape. On the way up to the Cheesewring, visit Daniel Gumb's Cave, a reconstructed version of a rock 'house' once occupied by an 18th-century stone worker who was also a self-taught philosopher and mathematician. On the roof you will see a roughly carved theorem, though its authenticity is not proven. Beyond the Cheesewring, the summit of Stowe's Hill is enclosed by an old 'pound', the defining walls of a possible Bronze Age settlement.

Relics of a much older society than that of the quarry workers' are found at the very start of the walk, where you pass the stone circles called The Hurlers. These are remnants of Bronze Age ceremonial sites, though a later culture created fanciful tales of the pillars, and those of the nearby 'Pipers'. It's said they were men turned to stone for playing the Cornish ball-throwing sport of hurling on a Sunday - to the sound of music. Relish the names, but reflect on the more intriguing Bronze Age realities. Beyond the Cheesewring and The Hurlers, the walk will take you through a compelling landscape, along the granite 'setts' or slabs of disused quarry tramways, and past lonely tors at the heart of Bodmin Moor.

What to look for

The stone setts of the old tramways are the most obvious reminders of Bodmin's stone-cutting industry, but you'll also see the remains of buildings and granite ramps from which stone was loaded into wagons. The boulders and little 'cheesewrings' of Stowe's Hill and Kilmar Tor were protected from quarrying and on Stowe's Hill especially, near the edge of Cheesewring Quarry, you may be lucky to spot the elegant motif of a fleur-de-lis carved into boulders, a mark used to designate the limits of quarrying and stone cutting.

While you're there

Bodmin Moor was exploited below ground as well as above. Its story is told at the Minions Heritage Centre in the refurbished Houseman's Engine House, once used to pump water from the South Pheonix Mine.

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