The beautiful scenery and wildlife around the College and Argal Reservoirs near Mabe and Penryn have always been attractive to local people in the know about this hidden gem. Now the area has benefited from a considerable facelift with improvements to the existing footpaths, improved drainage and new bridges complimenting the existing facilities such as a children’s play area, toilets and car park. In 2014 a new cafe (Caffe Torelli) added to the reasons to visit this South West Lakes Trust managed site.
The lakes are easily accessible from either the Penryn Cricket Club or the main SW Lakes Trust car park at Argal. There is a charge for parking at the SW Lakes official car park at the Argal Reservoir. However alternative parking can be found nearby on the road to Mabe Church or the layby on the main road between the two reservoirs.
The 2 main route options offer either an off road 2.2 mile loop around the Argal Reservoir or a 1 and a quarter mile (2.5 mile out and back) off road route along the north-west bank of the College Reservoir. Or you can of course combine any of these 2 options plus link to the numerous other more minor footpaths in the area to make a longer route to run. To link with other footpaths I recommend OS Explorer Map 103 The Lizard.
The official signs below outline the course of the two routes.
The red lines indicate the main paths, 2.2 miles around the Argal Lake or 1 and a quarter miles along the north-west bank of the College Lake.
The main car park is also indicated on the map (this is also the location of the cafe and children’s play area).
Today on a crisp early autumn morning my run starts at the Penryn Cricket Club. Following the public footpath sign onto the cricket grounds I carefully track around the edge of the pitch and head to a small gap in the bottom right hand hedge, this leads to the footpath, which is briefly redirected by a new housing development before heading out to the College Reservoir.
After passing the Cricket Club and the housing development the path runs under the Penryn bypass flyover.
Possibly local, or possibly University of Falmouth art college inspired, the graffiti at the flyover is no ‘Banksy’. However the slogan “True friends stab you in the face” emblazoned on one of the concrete pillars of the bypass does hint at some intelligence or insight. Possibly a late night moment of clarity?
Leaving the graffiti and traffic behind, the path enters the wooded lakeside and within 50 metres I am surrounded by trees and birdsong.
The path can be quite marshy in winter, but considerable improvements have been made to the path in recent years. The worst areas are now covered in boardwalks making the route passable now at any time of year.
Extra care is required crossing the road between the two lakes. Cars fly around the blind bend at 50-60 miles an hour.
Once safely across the road, the path continues around the Argal reservoir.
The path is more open around the Argal reservoir allowing for wider vistas taking in the surrounding fields and farmland. On the north-west side of the Argal, Mabe church can be seen on the hill.
The more open paths and fields of the Argal Reservoir contrast with the ‘mangrove swamp like’ paths of the College Reservoir.
A cow with horns and calf look on with curiosity as I run by.
I ran the route during a particularly long dry spell. In several areas along the lake the remains of old field systems and farm buildings could be seen along the waters edge.
Hidden in the trees at the furthest point along the path from the car park a bird hide nestles in the trees.
If all the fresh air and scenery gives you an appetite Caffe Torelli offers breakfast, baps and bagels in the mornings alongside coffees and teas. After 11am light bites and snacks are available to compliment your chosen beverage.
Despite the routes being short distances the Argal and College reservoirs are well worth a visit. A big thanks to all at the South West Lakes Trust, the TVC (The Conservation Volunteers) and the STA Cornwall Trust for funding improvements to this site. Well done.