Tucked away from the busy A30 and enclosed by green hills, the atmosphere around St Erth – a small village to the south of Hayle – is peaceful and serene. The River Hayle passes through the centre of the village here, and it’s noisy course towards the sea is a pleasant back drop to the pretty setting.
A wonderful trail has been developed here, passing many of the points of interest in the area, and it is a memorable way to spend a sunny afternoon. There is some parking near to the beautiful parish church, and many interesting discoveries to be made.
The Trail can be read or downloaded and printed from here.
In any village, the Parish church was always at the centre of activities and life-events, so it is fitting to start (and end) the walk here. Excavations in the early 1990s suggest that this may have been the site of a church from around 500 AD; the current building was constructed mainly in the 15th Century, and restored several times since that date. It is the location where the famous Cornish Engineer, Richard Trevithick, married his wife Jane (Harvey, daughter of the foundry-family from Hayle), and Jane is buried here alongside many of her family members.
Left: one of several impressive memorials to the Harvey family. Jane Trevithick (nee Harvey) is buried nearby.
Another notable family tomb here is the granite and limestone chest tomb of the Hawkins family, who lived close to here at Trewinnard in the 15th Century, and later enhanced the house and gardens at Trewithen; their resting place is close to the south end of the church.
Today, the house and gardens at Trewithen are open to the public (advance booking required) and there are refreshments available at The Tea Shed, and plentiful outdoor seating. The Trewinnard coach (brought from Spain or Portugal, and built around 1700, can be seen at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.
But my favourite part of the churchyard here are the wonderful, ancient crosses: the Churchyard Cross has a figure of Christ on one side, and rounded bosses on the obverse; and the Wayside Cross is used as a headstone for Mr Gilbart, who was the owner of Battery Mill where the cross had been discovered built in to a wall. It is wonderful to think of the adventures of this cross, and it’s eventual return to the place it doubtless guided parishioners to for centuries.
Outside of the churchyard’s protective walls, the trail has many other interesting and intriguing slices of history to reveal: the heavy industry of the foundries in Hayle spread its tendrils up-river, and Battery Mill was once a site of water-driven stamps to pulverise rocks for ore extraction. Anvil House and the adjoining Blacksmith’s Shop – on Chapel Hill - is another link to this heritage, and a time when the clang of industry must have been persistent in this river-side setting. Lush, green plants can now be purchased here.