Looe is a town of many facets. It’s a busy fishing port on an attractive part of the coastline in South East Cornwall and is divided in two by the River Looe which is skirted by woods. It’s the ultimate coast and countryside destination.
While walking along the coast here is tempting, I also enjoy taking a stroll around Kilminorth Woods, which are next to Millpool car park. It’s best to park at the far end so you’re close to the entrance gate, though there are also spaces right next to the gate as well.
I come here all year round to enjoy the wildlife and my camera’s telephoto lens gets a great deal of use snapping the birds along the estuary and anything else I can spot in the woods.
A circular walk around the woods to Watergate and back is about 2.7 miles and if you also visit the beach it’s 4.7 miles.
Kilminorth, together with Trenant Woods opposite, form one of the largest valley oaklands in Cornwall, so within the woods you’ll find mostly sessile oak and birch trees. While it’s not a long walk, it’s an opportunity to slow your pace and take in the abundance of wildlife around you.
By the gate is a large carved map the woods, announcing it as a local nature reserve with routes in red, blue and yellow. The best part of walking here is that there are regular signposts telling you how far you are from your destination and also tasteful information signs along the way about wildlife that can be found in the area.
This walk takes the lower path to Watergate and then circles back along the top path. Go through the gate and set off on the wide path. A little way along take note of the path going up and left as this is the one you’ll be coming back down on. Keep following this lower route and cross a little bridge and around the corner you’ll find a picnic area and an open area by the river.
This is the site of an old boat yard which stood on reclaimed land and used in the Second World War. It closed in the 1990s.
Not too long after this you’ll come to a signpost which gives you two alternatives for the path to Watergate. One is a low tide path next to the river, the other is above that, but both meet up around the corner. Even though it was low tide, the ground was very muddy so I took the higher path. Where the paths meet, as signpost tells you that you’re three-quarters of a mile from Watergate.
The views are mostly of trees, as West Looe river is veiled by them and you only get tantalising glimpses until you reach watergate.
It was lovely to see so many holly trees with red berries, also ferns, ivy and mosses. There were no flowers out at this time of the year, but in spring and summer you can enjoy a variety including bluebells, wood sorrell and dog violets.
About a quarter of a mile out from Watergate, you’ll start seeing more of the river and will eventually emerge though a gate to an open area with a bench and another carved nature reserve sign.
Once you’ve enjoyed watching the river, then continue past the bench and onto the road. Turn left and start walking uphill – it’s short but steep! Just when you wonder how much further it is, a stone wall will appear on the left around a turn and that is also the location of return footpath.
On the carved wooden signs for Kilminorth Woods you may have noticed an odd rhyme – “Jack the giant had nothing to do, built a hedge from Lerryn to Looe.” You may also have noticed Giant’s Hedge on some of the signposts. Shortly along from the gate you will discover what the rhyme and the name refer to.
It’s thought that the Giant’s Hedge dates from the sixth century and at one point was nine miles long. The stone-face earth bank is one to two metres high and some of the sections in Kilminorth Woods are well preserved. The reason for it is unknown, but most likely it served as a border on the land.
Continue along the path and it opens out to a nice viewing area through the trees.
The path starts to go downhill, a little steeply and then branches off to the right. Take the right hand path, which is fairly narrow in places.
A little further on and you’ll see the other path, slightly lower and wider which mostly runs parallel to the one you’re on. I prefer this upper route as it seems slightly wilder. It’s strange to think that civilisation is so close by when it feels like you’re deep in the woods, surrounded by birdsong and nature.
Ignore any signposts until you come to one with a yellow dot which says ‘alternative return route’. Then follow this down to the other path where it tells you that Looe is one mile away. Continue along this wider path, ignoring a signpost to the river on your left. The path seems to loop away from the river and back again, before descending to the gate you saw near the start of the walk.
Then head to the right and back to the main entrance of the woods. From here I usually drop my rucksack off at the car and then continue on the path next to the estuary and around to the bridge. This is also a good place to spot some birds. In the woods I generally hear them, but they remain elusive to the sight. Along the estuary I’ve seen egrets, swans and ducks as well as seagulls.
When you reach the bridge, cross it and then wend your way though the variety of shops and quaint streets until you get to Looe Beach.
Looe Beach is flanked by Banjo Pier, which is shaped like a banjo, and as the is beach gently sloping, it’s a popular spot for a dip in the summer months.