Today’s walk was not the one advertised in the current programme, it was changed due to NewBridge at Gunnislake being closed after its recent damage with no precise date for its re-opening, but as we now know, the bridge actually opened several days ago. Our numbers were down to just 18 this week probably due to the fact that it rained throughout the walk, but did we care about the weather, not a bit! Two parking wardens were strolling around Gunnislake car park as we gathered so I explained that we had yet to obtain our tickets and would do so shortly before leaving at 10.30am and they were perfectly okay with that.
This is a walk that has only taken place on two occasions and both were in 2017 and looking back at the articles that I wrote at that time, I described the walk as ‘short but strenuous’ a sentiment equally relevant today, but we took it slowly and were still back within the two hours of free parking time. Once again our route began by passing the public toilets, the red phone-box and William the miner relaxing on his bench before following Commercial Street to reach a short, narrow footpath. It was obvious that
volunteers had been along here recently because the vegetation had been cut back and those brambles that were prone to attack anyone walking this way had been draped with sacking and carefully pegged into place over the top of them, thanks guys! Making our way downhill towards Newbridge Hill the smell of wild garlic was very powerful as this common perennial with its clusters of white flowers grew in profusion a bit further along at the foot of the wall on our left.
Everyone was interested to see what kind of job the workmen had made of the repairs to the bridge and all agreed, it looked quite impressive and essentially as good as new, but we didn’t linger long and soon Rosy and I were leading the group to the left along the Discovery Trail. Further up I knew the path went off to the left, but Rosy said to look for this bollard which was placed here to stop cars going any further, we would then know we were on the right track.
Right along this path the dripping wet leaves were glowing in the natural daylight, young ferns were unfurling, Wood Rush was flowering and mosses were soaking up the rainwater; a lovely earthy smell hung in the air. As we continued ahead, the sound of rushing water could be heard long before we ever spotted the River Tamar raging along over the rocky river-bed like a series of rapids. It may well have been raining, but everyone was dressed for the weather and we were feeling content. Hushed conversation could be heard behind us from old and new members of our group with many seeing beautiful places such as this for the first time and enjoying every minute, but I had warned them at the outset that the route would become steeper further on! Rosy and I kept our eyes peeled for this small flight of wooden steps which would lead us closer to the water as we neared the former Gunnislake Clitters mine and once at the bottom the river was thunderous as we resumed the walk towards the mine’s ruins.
Just as in 2017, we took a little detour for the newer walkers to see the original wheel pit which Rosy informed everyone was a listed structure, then we backtracked a bit to climb a set of steep wooden steps towards the impressive riverside engine house which appeared to be built directly over the pit that once housed the waterwheel, plus a lone chimney that was standing nearby. A long steep path followed with the reward of a ten minute break at the top. Moss-covered rocks quickly became temporary seats as we got our breath back and enjoyed a welcome drink. Leaving the Discovery Trail to continue to the right towards Chilsworthy, our group then followed the lane as it climbed ever higher towards North Dimson, but we were compensated with this sight of deep blue Bluebells as we neared the brow of the hill.
It was all downhill from here to Middle Dimson where at the junction; we crossed towards Chapel Street before turning sharp left to follow Hooper’s Lane back to Gunnislake village. I wonder what the other drivers returning to the car park made of our bedraggled bunch with wet hair plastered to our heads; we must have made a real talking-point!