Waterfalls and Wishes at St Nectan's Glen


Cornwall is full of myths and legends and one of these is Saint Nectan.  Saint Nectan was a  sixth century hermit who lived at the top of the waterfall in a tiny cell.  He was reputed to have rung a silver bell during storms to warn ships of the rocks at the mouth of Rocky Valley a short distance from the Glen.  

It is also believed that he healed a young boy as well as coming to a grizzly end at the hands of cattle robbers.  Tradition has it that wherever his blood fell foxgloves grow.  The tradition remains today to take foxgloves to the glen on 17th June, his feast day.

In Cornish the valley is known as Glynn Nathan meaning 'deep wooded valley of Nathan' which is another possible origin of the name.  Sources from the late 1700's show the glen being called Nathan's Cave and two individuals living in the village called Nathan.  Either way, St Nectan's Glen is a special place both spiritually and scientifically.

Walking through the valley following the River Trevillet, the small river jumps over rocks and stones, heading towards the sea just a few miles away.  The path is easy and flat until the last push to the hermitage at the top of the waterfall.  

Along the path the spiritual nature of the glen becomes apparent with coin studded wishing trees.   Each coin is placed as a wish for health and recovery.  If a coin is removed then the person removing the coin will fall ill.  This wishing tree was just a remaining stump but many wishing trees are still living and flourishing.

A number of rare plants thrive in the glen and it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Importance.  Walking down to the waterfall the bird song fills the air and the noise of the water intensifies the closer to the falls you get.

All along the path are ribbons tied to trees and small scratched stones with messages. These are seen across Cornwall at sacred wells, such as those at Carn Euny Part of me loves the symbolism of the clootie, but some of the more 'modern' offerings grate with my conscience and what man is doing to a beautiful area. The kieve (waterfall basin) is filled with offerings - ribbons, fairy stacks and small messages.

The main feature of St Nectan's Glen is the small but perfectly formed waterfall.  Dropping 18m through the Devonian Slate which forms the cliff walls.  It finishes with an entry into the plunge pool through a perfectly formed hole in the rock.  The original kieve is behind the opening in the rock.  Over time the hole formed to allow the falling water to continue its journey down the valley.