Cornwall Walk Of The Month: Golitha Falls

Woodland rambles perfect for young and old

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Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
21 April 2022

This month we ventured to one of the best known beauty spots on Bodmin Moor, Golitha Falls. Pronounced ‘Gol-ee-tha’, the falls are a series of stunning cascades and small waterfalls along a section of the River Fowey as it makes its way through the ancient oak fairytale woodland of Draynes Wood.

Steeped in history

Draynes Wood, which features in the Domesday Book commissioned by William I in 1085, means it truly is an ancient woodland fit for the setting of any fanciful fairytale. The area is now a National Nature Reserve managed by English Nature and has also been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) on account of its woodland flora.

In the springtime you will see a carpet of bluebells as well as wood anemone, the floral marker of any ancient woodland. The reserve is also home to over 120 species of moss and 50 species of lichens.

Close to nature

As you wonder through the woodland, high up in the trees, you will see bird boxes everywhere to cater for the flourishing bird life that call the beautiful woodland home. Stay until dusk and you will be rewarded with sights of the Lesser Horseshoe, Brown Long-Eared and Noctule Bats swooping through the woodland canopy.

The bat population have housed themselves in the old Wheal Victoria copper mine which was started in 1844 and is situated on the banks of the falls.

Mining remains

Ninetieth Century, Wheal Victoria Copper Mine was once a hive of copper mining activity. Today as you wander through the woods, you will see the moss covered remains of the adits (horizontal passages leading into the mine for the purposes of access) as well as the relics of what was once the walls of the large waterwheel and caged off deep mine shafts.

The rust covered pipe that runs through the wood runs from Parsons Park China Clay pit and was used to pump liquid kaolin from the pits for drying. All these scars of the industrial age have now been reclaimed by nature, making it look like they belong there.

A river runs through it

The river is home to various fish including salmon and sea trout and otters are frequently seen here. Throw dormice into the mix too and you begin to understand why this area is so protected. It really is thriving with life and beauty.

In winter, after heavy rainfall the river gorges, flowing much more rapidly and falling down the cascades with with a lot more power making it utterly beautiful but also quite dangerous. So dangerous in fact that according to legend, this is where the last King of Cornwall, King Doniert who ruled in the 9th Century, met his untimely death when he drowned in the cascades over a thousand years ago in 875AD. History is murky as to whether it was a tragic accident or murder motivated by the kings collaboration with the Vikings against the Saxons.

Pack up a picnic or sample the renowned takeaway

In spring and summer the river runs much calmer, so the banks provide the perfect place to spread out a blanket, tuck into a homemade picnic and soak in the scenery. The carpark located by Draynes Bridge is free to park at and home to the award-winning Inkie’s Smokehouse, which is known for its BBQ food and ice creams.

There are several well marked trails through the wood, some of which are accessible by wheelchair and others that require a bit of climbing and clambering over rocks. My recommendation is to take wellies or good walking boots as it was quite boggy in places even though it was quite a dry period when we went.