Cornwall is blessed with some truly beautiful pockets of woodland, large or small, coastal or upland, native deciduous or managed coniferous, these areas of trees are a welcome escape from busy everyday life.
In spring wildflowers carpet the ground, summer brings fruitfulness and vitality, while in the changing moods of autumn and winter Cornwall’s woodlands really come into their own. Forests are a gift to anyone interested in wildlife, an inspiration for photographers and artists but also places where everyone can feel closer to nature and find a moment of calm or the space to reflect.
So with that in mind here is our guide to some of Cornwall’s best woodland walks, whatever the season!
Discover ‘Forest Bathing’
“Solvitur ambulando: it is all solved by walking” - Saint Augustine.
Studies have also shown that taking regular walks in nature can be enormously beneficial to both our physical and mental health. Forest Bathing or ‘Shinrin Yoku’ is a Japanese concept, a process of relaxation to help you escape the strain of everyday life. It is the simple technique of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, taking the time to pause and observe nature around you. Forest Bathing, or simply finding the time to take a walk outside, has been shown to help both adults and children to de-stress and has a positive effect on their health.
So, a walk in the woods can not only be fun and educational, it can also improve your overall wellbeing!
North Cornwall Woodlands
Cardinham Country Park
Cardinham Woods is one of the largest areas of woodland in Cornwall covering roughly 650 acres. The trees here range from managed conifer forest to native broadleaf species and there are numerous walking and cycling paths. Four marked trails have been laid out especially for visitors to enjoy. These range from the Lady Vale Walk (1.5 miles) which takes you along beside the river to the site of a vanished 12th century chapel, to the Wheal Glynn Walk (2.5 miles) taking in the valley’s fascinating mining past and the longer Deviock Walk (4 miles) with the chance of spotting deer amongst the trees. This woodland is also especially popular for bluebells in spring.
To help you to navigate and plan your adventure download the free trail map for the woods, produced by Forest England. The Lady Vale Walk is an ‘easy access’ trail considered suitable for pushchairs and wheelchair users.
Parking and toilets are available and there are picnic areas, as well as the Woods café which is open Wednesday to Sunday.
Cared for by Natural England Golitha Falls Nature Reserve covers some 44 acres within the confines of a long, sheltered gorge. The ancient oak woodland huddles around a dramatic stretch of the Fowey River and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, rich with unusual plant species. More than 120 types of moss, 48 species of lichen as well as countless wild flowers have been recorded here.
The river, which tumbles over a series of stunning cascades and waterfalls, is home to salmon and sea trout and there are also colonies of brown long-eared and lesser horseshoe bats in the trees. This is a fantastic place to relax and a photographers’ dream, especially in bluebell season.
There is a large parking area with toilets and a small café with outside seating and BBQ area. The main path beside the river is fairly accessible, though quite uneven in places, access to the lower falls does require some climbing over rocks.
Tregargus Valley - This fascinating stretch of woods was once used in the China Clay industry but now the Barn River charges down through a picturesque valley which is littered with the old ruins of the areas industrial past, now reclaimed by nature.
Dizzard Woods – These exceptional woods cling to the cliffs of Cornwall’s wild north coast. Owned by the National Trust Dizzard Woods is considered a temperate rainforest and is made up of stunted sessile oaks, a miniature forest like something out of a fairy tale.
South Cornwall Woodlands
Idless is an area of mixed woodland roughly 2.8 miles in length managed by Forestry England. Its close proximity to the city of Truro makes it popular with local dog-walkers, however Idless is large enough to still be a peaceful escape whatever the time of year. There are no signposted trails here, just a beautiful network of paths for you to discover. The main trail from the car park follows the stream before branching off into the woods.
In spring this is a perfect woodland for photographing bluebells and, surprisingly, hidden amongst the trees you can also find the remains of an old gunpowder works and an Iron Age fort. The pine trees provide a fresh scent as you walk, while native trees are home to squirrels and wild birds.
These woods are popular with horse riders, runners and cyclists as well as walkers. There is a little café and a large carpark.
Tregoniggie Woods is a nature reserve owned by Cornwall Council and managed by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. This woodland contains a variety of trees including Ash, Elder, Hazel and Willow as well as a healthy population of grey squirrels and birds. One particularly ancient ash tree is known as the Tregoniggie Titan and is a focal point for many walkers. There is also a delightful play or picnic area where dead trees have been carved and painted like giant totem poles.
The Bickland Water stream flows through the reserve and in spring the leaf litter becomes a riot of colour as daffodils and other native wildflowers push through. It is possible to make a gentle, circular route around the woods, crossing the stream on stone bridges.
There is a map of the reserve at the ‘Empire Entrance’ to the woods, plenty of benches to sit on and the gravel paths would be suitable for pushchairs, though more challenging for wheelchairs perhaps.
There are no facilities here but there are shops, toilets and on road parking nearby.
Luxulyan valley – Cared for by Cornwall Wildlife Trust the beautiful Luxulyan Valley is part of the Cornwall Mining World Heritage Site. This wooded valley has numerous walking opportunities around the River Par and you can also cross the magnificent Treffry Viaduct.
Kennall Vale, Ponsanooth - Tucked away near the village of Ponsanooth, this was once the site of a gunpowder works. The beautiful woodlands are dotted with the ruined remains of this industry. The River Kennall pours through the valley, tumbling over boulders and shooting from old channels once used to power the waterwheels. Parking here is limited.
Pendarves Woods – Looked after by Cornwall Wildlife Trust Pendarves Woods covers 40 acres and was once part of the extensive ornamental gardens of a nearby estate. There is a huge avenue of rhododendrons and the large pond, which now attracts migratory birdlife, was once the boating lake. This is a peaceful, off the beaten track spot with lots of history.
West Cornwall Woodlands
Tehidy Woods Country Park, Camborne
Tehidy Woods is the largest area of woodland in western Cornwall with over nine miles of paths and 250 acres of woods and lakes to discover. Once part of the Basset family’s estate, who had lived in the area since the 11th century.
If you enjoy close encounters with wildlife then this is a great place to visit. The squirrels here are very tame and the woods, which are criss-crossed by several old waterways, are home to plenty of birdlife including ducks, swans and wading birds.
There are walking trails of different lengths to enjoy including one circular route that takes in the magnificent North Cliffs, a stunning stretch of coastline. Other circular, signposted walks go through the Oak Wood, Beech Wood and the Rose Garden. Tehidy is also home to the outdoor theatre group, Rogue Theatre, who use the woodland as the backdrop to their exciting and innovative shows throughout the year.
There is a small visitor centre, café and toilets at the South Drive entrance, with parking there and at the East Drive and North Cliff entrances. Bikes and horses welcome, dogs are not permitted in the wildlife reserve in the Beech Wood.
This peaceful reserve is a hidden treasure just a short walking distance from the busy seaside destination of St Ives. Steeple Woodland Nature Reserve covers 40 acres of steep hillside overlooking the town. The beech, oak and ash woods surround the famous Knill Monument on Cock Hill, from which there are breath-taking panoramic views of St Ives Bay.
Footpaths lead into the reserve from all directions, weaving amongst the lichen covered trees, many have been coppiced in the past meaning that their trunks have twisted into weird and wonderful shapes. There are no signposted trails but the Knill Monument, built in 1782 for a local customs officer, makes an excellent focal point and end destination. An environmental survey in 2004 identified 53 species of resident birds here, as well as foxes, badgers, roe deer, squirrels and hedgehogs.
There are no facilities in the woods but you are close to the shops, toilets and parking in St Ives. There is some on-road parking near the various entrances to the site and also wheelchair access along a wide flat path from the main gate to a viewing area.
Tremayne Great Wood, Trelowarren – a woodland of ancient oaks hugging the edges of the Helford River. Managed by the National Trust, a wide footpath leads to the beautiful Tremayne Quay built for Queen Victoria in 1847, a perfect picnic spot.
St Loy Valley – There is a saying in west Cornwall that spring always arrives first in St Loy. It is thought that bluebells and other wildflowers bloom here before anywhere else in the country. This thickly wooded valley not far from Lamorna Cove winds its way down to an isolated boulderous beach.
Ideas for Woodland Activities & Adventures
We are so lucky that wonderful organisations such as the Woodland Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the National Trust care for, maintain and protect our precious woodlands. These groups often organise volunteering sessions and events to get you involved in some fun forest activities.
While you can walk just to absorb the beauty around you, there are of course a few things you can do to make your time in Cornwall’s woodlands more of an adventure:
- People of all ages may enjoy recording what flora and fauna they spot. So take a couple of guidebooks, or even download an app, to help you identify woodland plants, insects, birds and animals. Don’t forget binoculars!
- Foraging is a great way to encourage you to get out exploring with the added benefit of coming home with something yummy for the dinner table.
- With so much natural beauty around you why not polish up your photography skills or perhaps take a sketchbook and pencils with you?
- Woodlands are not just about walking, some also allow horse riding and cycling too.
- How about a survival or bushcraft course to really get you in touch with the natural world? Wildwoodlands run courses near Bodmin, while Footsteps of Discovery teaches survival skills in woods near Newquay.
- Perhaps you have always wanted to learn to navigate and map read in the wild, there are a few groups in Cornwall that also teach orienteering in woodlands.