Boscastle to Minster Church Short Walk
- Distance:2 miles
- Walk grade:Moderate
- Start from:Boscastle car park
- Recommended footwear:walking boots
- Boscastle harbour
- Pretty riverside and woodland scenery in the Valency valley
- Ancient Minster church
- Daffodils in churchyard in March
- Wild garlic in churchyard in Spring
- Take the path from the top of the car park in Boscastle
Boscastle is a small fishing village located on the North Cornish coast, just north of Tintagel. Boscastle is one of the few sheltered inlets on the North Cornish coast and therefore a likely landing point for tin traders of ancient times, possibly as far back as Phoenician traders in 2000 BC. The river also provided power for a number of mills which date back at least as far as the 12th Century. In more recent times, as well as being a fishing harbour, Boscastle was a small port (similar to the others on the north coast of Cornwall) importing raw materials such as limestone and coal, and exporting slate and other local produce. In Victorian times, as many as 200 vessels came each year, mostly from Bristol and South Wales.
In 1302 the name was recorded as Boterelescastel which meant "castle of the Botterels". It's possible this became shortened to bos because this was the Cornish word for dwelling ("bos-castel" would have been understood by Cornish speakers as "village with the castle" as the word kastell also existed in Cornish).
- Follow the path up the left hand side of the river
Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells with a fine up to £5,000 per bulb!
- You can cross the river into Minster wood (on the right hand bank) over the stepping stones!! (you'll see the sign for minster wood opposite), alternatively you can continue a bit further up the river to cross it over a footbridge
The steep Valency Valley acted as a funnel for the dramatic flash flood in 2004 that put Boscastle on (and nearly wiped it off) the map. Over 1.4 billion litres of rain fell in the course of 2 hours which is thought to have been caused by the Brown Willy effect, where the high tors on Bodmin Moor cause the repeated formation of rainclouds which blow along the prevailing wind and then dump their rain. Around 50 cars were swept into the harbour, the bridge was washed away and roads were submerged under 9ft of water. A total of 91 people were rescued in the largest peacetime rescue operation ever carried out in the UK.
- If you decided to go for the footbridge option, then cross the river once you reach the footbridge next to a bench
- Follow the path uphill through Peter's Wood and towards Minster Church
- At the waymark where the path forks, take the left fork
Minster (St Merthiana's) Church, in a valley on the outskirts of Boscastle, is on a site which dates back 1500 years to Celtic times. It was originally known as "Tolcarne" which means literally "rocky hole" and has been interpreted as meaning a chapel made from rocks. Parts of the church there today dates back to 1150, built by William de Bottreaux. The church was restored twice after falling into disrepair, so there are some features that date back to the Tudor period and others to Victorian times. Look out for the mysterious carved scissors on the tower wall. No one knows why they're there! Suggestions include a trademark of the stonemason, or an homage to the wool trade which funded the church restoration. In early spring, the church is surrounded by a carpet of daffodils and wild garlic.
- Go through the gate at the top of the wood out onto the lane and turn right
- Head a short distance up the lane past Minster church to the churchyard entrance
- Head down through the churchyard and turn left down some steps and across a bridge
You'll notice that there is lichen growing on many of the headstones in the churchyard. Of the 2,000 British species, over a third have been found in churchyards and more than 600 have been found growing on churchyard stone in lowland England. Almost half the species are rare and some seldom, if ever, occur in other habitats. Many churchyards are found to have well over 100 species.
- Go out through the gate at the bottom of the churchyard back into Peter's Wood and return through the Valency valley to Boscastle
Wild garlic is best harvested in early spring before it flowers and the leaves start to die off. Unlike domestic garlic, the leaves are the useful bit rather than the bulb, so cut/pull off the leaves (don't pull up the plants). The leaves are quite delicate, so you can use quite large quantities in cooking; therefore, harvest it in the kind of quantities that you'd buy salad leaves from the supermarket. There are some lillies that look fairly similar (and some are poisonous) but the smell is the giveaway: if it doesn't smell of garlic/onions, then it's not wild garlic.
For more information about Boscastle and Minster Church see the following page about Boscastle.