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Walks from Looe

This page features a walk from Landfall Walks No. 14 (Around Looe, Polperro and Liskeard) compiled by Bob Acton of Landfall Publications. The walk is from Looe to Talland by way of the coastal path, and returns either the same way or by a somewhat longer alternative routes inland. A maps of the walk will be on site shortly and it is hoped to have other interesting walks in due course - any suggestions?

Click on walk in index or scroll down to see details - and don't forget to print out this page to take with you!

Walk from Talland to Looe and return © Bob Acton, Landfall Publications, Landfall, Penpol, Devoran, Truro, Cornwall, TR3 6NR Tel:01872 862581 Publishers of Bob Acton's Landfall Walks books featuring local history in Cornwall. Please contact them for full list


Index

WALK 1 - From Looe to Talland by the coastal path, with an alternative return

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Want more information? Contact Bob Acton, Landfall Publications, telephone 01872 862581


WALK 1 - THE COAST PATH FROM LOOE TO TALLAND

with a choice of inland routes back to Looe

Distance: About six or eight miles, of which nearly three-and-a-half miles are along the coast.

Please don't let the distances given above deter you from attempting this walk, even though the coastal walking is fairly strenuous. I think it would be a pity to cut out the inland sections, which are attractive in themselves and offer a strong contrast with the coast, but if you don't feel you can manage it all you could do most of it by bus. If you plan to do that, I suggest you check bus times beforehand (Hambly's Coaches, 01503-220660). Buses stop on request at Parker's Cross. You could avoid the inland walking completely by continuing along the coast to Polperro - almost six miles from the centre of Looe - and getting the bus back from there.

Refreshments are available in Looe all year round, of course. Talland has a seasonal beach cafe plus a licensed restaurant and a hotel. In addition there are caravan parks or camp sites en route, such as the one at Tencreek, where you may be able to buy provisions. There are public toilets at Looe (*) and during the season at Talland.

LOOE

Looe is really two towns, each of which till 1832 returned two MPs. "There is only one borough more rotten than East Looe," one gentleman said during the debates in Parliament leading to the Great Reform Act, "and that is West Looe." But even if it were only one town I doubt if I'd be able to do its history any kind of justice in the space available, so I shall limit myself to providing notes on the features of greatest interest on or close to the walk route. If you want to read about Looe, John Keast's book (see Further Reading) should be available in the shops, and it is particularly valuable for its selection of old photographs. The Cornwall Heritage Project's "Looe Town Trail Walkabout" and Nancy Jolliff's pamphlet, "Looe's Pocket Book of History" are very useful and excellent value. (Nancy Jolliff conducts guided tours of the town during the summer, and I am told they are very interesting.) A little book, long out of print, that's well worth looking out for is J.Smyth's "A History of Looe", which gives fascinating extracts from many early sources, including a history of the two towns published in 1823 by Thomas Bond. Personal impressions of Looe in the middle of the 19th century are to be found in Wilkie Collins' "Rambles Beyond Railways" (1851). Lastly I recommend a visit to the attractive little museum, housed in the early Tudor Old Guildhall, Higher Market Street, East Looe - just a few yards from the beach. As well as many artefacts and documents, the display includes a fine collection of old photographs and paintings - and the building itself is a fascinating exhibit.

The directions start and end at the big Millpool (*) car park in West Looe, on the north side of the bridge. Before you set off, do call at the Discovery Centre if it's open. Most of the year it opens six days a week (not Saturdays), but it is closed in January and February, and opens every day in the high season. Several of the things on display and for sale would be sure to help you enjoy exploring this area. I particularly recommend the leaflet, "Explore Kilminorth Woods" in connection not only with Walk 9 in this book but also with this walk if you choose to come back that way.

THE MILLPOOL

"Amongst other commodities afforded by the sea, the inhabitants make use of divers his creekes for grist mills, by thwarting a banke from side to side, in which a flood-gate is placed, with two leaves; these the flowing tide openeth, and, after full sea, the waight of the ebb closeth fast, which no other force can doe: and so the imprisoned water payeth the ransome of driving an under sheete (i.e. undershot) wheel for his enlargement." So wrote Richard Carew in his "Survey of Cornwall" (1602), and as usual it is hard to better the clarity and vigour of his explanation. This particular tide mill, once known by the Cornish version of "mill pool", Polvellan, was built by Thomas Arundell of Tremadart between 1614 and 1621, some say at the suggestion of Carew, who owned a tide mill at Antony, near Torpoint. It started as a grist mill, using four sets of stones to grind corn for brewing.

In 1666 a lease was granted for a dyehouse to be built between the mill house and the bridge; at some later date this was converted into a cider house. In 1883 the mill was put to the task of grinding bone for fertiliser. Yet another change of use came when a saw-mill was set up - whether in the mill itself or an adjacent building I do not know - with the millpool acting as a timber pound. A letter in a local newspaper of 1928 states that the mill "was in practical use until a very few years ago, and ... the mill wheel was only removed within the last two years, when the mill building was rearranged internally in order to form the power station of the Looe Electricity Company." The present small lake represents, of course, only a fraction of the original reservoir, which totalled thirteen acres enclosed in a wall some six to eight feet high, 700 yards long, "and almost broad enough for a coach to pass over it" according to Thomas Bond (1820). Several paintings and old photographs on display at the museum in East Looe show the mill and millpool as they were when in use as such.

Many small tide mills were in use once in Cornwall: one, also a bone mill, was at the head of the creek I can see as I type this, at Penpol on the Fal; but the only others I know of to compare with the one at Looe in scale are at Copperhouse (Hayle) and Sea Mills near the mouth of Petherick Creek.

A. Walk towards the bridge. If you have parked towards the upper end of the car park, the most attractive way is along the water's edge. A footpath runs along the old tidemill wall between the lake and the river, and then turns right beside Pearn's boatyard to bring you to the road close to the Discovery Centre; there turn left. The old building which when I wrote this was occupied jointly by Goslings Tea Shop and The Old Mill Gift Centre is still recognisably the mill shown in the old pictures, despite the recent addition of an extra storey. A few steps on the left of the tea shop entrance lead down to where the millwheel and sluice once were. A short section of path down by the water, called "River Walk", starts immediately beyond the gift shop. I suggest you use it and continue ahead underneath the bridge.

LOOE'S BRIDGES, NEW AND OLD

The bridge you now see was built in 1854-5, "at a cost of £2,980, with nine misshapen arches" say Henderson & Coates (see Further Reading), when the sudden increase in road and river traffic resulting from the success of the Caradon mines rendered the old bridge inadequate. Even the new one proved unable to cope with modern traffic, and in 1960 its width had to be doubled. The old bridge was about a hundred yards further downstream. It was begun in 1411, and the task seems to have taken well over twenty years: a document dated 1436 refers to "the bridge of Loo, then newly rebuilt." (The quotation is again from Henderson & Coates, and the last word of it clearly implies that some sort of bridge preceded it.) William of Worcester wrote in 1478, "Low brygge is a very neate brygge about vi bow-shots in length." Borlase (18th century) stated that the bridge was nowhere more than 6ft 2in wide, and this was one of the two main reasons why it eventually had to be destroyed, unlike the one at Wadebridge, which was originally 9 feet wide. The other reason was that the quays needed lengthening, so the old bridge was in the way. A chapel dedicated to St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, was set at the middle of the bridge. Whether the bridge had twelve, fifteen, sixteen or eighteen arches depends on which contemporary account or picture you read or look at.

Continue along the West Looe waterfront. About 30 yards after you come up to road level, look at the shapely wall on the right, with a sign "The Quay". Underneath that sign is a much older one, a granite tablet which reads:

R E P E A R E D

BY THE COUN

T Y       1 6 8 9

This refers not to the wall or the quay but to the original bridge, and it marks the point where that crossed the river.

West Looe Quay was developed and improved in the middle of the 19th century to serve the Caradon and Cheesewring mines and quarries, but since the railway terminus was (and is) at East Looe the berthing facilities on that side were more important. Indeed, Buller Quay, where the harbourside car park is, was usually known as Copper Quay at that time. As you look ahead towards the harbour entrance, notice the road cut into the cliffs on the right, complete with arches and little castellated turrets (though the arches are better seen from the other side of the river). This is Hannafore Road. It was designed, like the New Bridge, by Joseph Thomas, and opened in 1895. The work involved, which included blasting out much of the cliff and building retaining walls, took two years. Two arches were built over salt cellars belonging to the Pilchard Stores on the quay then. The towers were an afterthought, purely for aesthetic purposes, although they served as emplacements for guns during the Second World War.

Continue past the public toilets to the little church of St Nicholas.

ST NICHOLAS CHURCH

The original church here was built by the lords of the manor of Portlooe some seven hundred years ago as a chapel-of-ease for the people of Porthbighan ("little port"), as West Looe was then called. Their parish church at Talland was inconveniently distant, as you are about to discover! The dedication to St Nicholas of Myra probably had less to do with "Father Christmas" than with the legend of his calming of a storm at sea: he is called "the Patron Saint of Sailors". At some time in the late 17th century it ceased being used as a chapel and became West Looe's Guildhall. "A cage for scolding women" adjoined its staircase at one time, the borough prison was built next door, and the old church itself was sometimes used as "a place for strolling actors to exhibit in." In 1852 the local vicar, the Rev. Edward Seymour, wrote of "the people of West Looe, of whom very few ever set their feet within the walls of a Church, and who cannot be persuaded to cross the river to East Looe Church". Largely as a result of Seymour's campaign, St Nicholas's was repaired and restored to sacred uses. It was further restored in 1915, and according to Charles Henderson, "no part of it is older than the 15th century."

From the church retrace your steps for a few yards and go left up Fore Street. Notice the little hexagonal building in the middle of the square: it dates from 1853, and was originally a covered market. Keep to the left side, and take the narrow, steep path up on the left, Hannafore Lane. From this you get wonderful views: first the one shown in my drawing on the title page, looking over St Nicholas Church to the twin towns , the harbour and the bridge; later of the river mouth, the beach and the coast to the east; and finally of Looe Island. The pier on the other side of the harbour entrance was built in the middle of the 19th century as part of the improvements associated with the sudden increase in trade related to the mines; it was originally straight, and called "The Groyne". Nowadays it is known, not surprisingly, as Banjo Pier: the round end was another work of Joseph Thomas, who added it in 1898 in order to reduce the amount of sea-sand being carried upriver by the tides, and it works.

The lane eventually widens to a road. Take the first left turning, which brings you to the clifftop road (Marine Drive) at or near Nailzee or Neil Sea Point. Turn right, eventually passing more public toilets. You will find these when you are roughly opposite Looe Island (*).

LOOE ISLAND

Over to Richard Carew again. "Almost directly over against the barred haven of Loo, extendeth S. Georges Iland, about halfe a mile in compasse, and plentifully stored with Conies (rabbits). When the season of the yere yeeldeth oportunity, a great abundance of sundry sea-fowle breed upon the strond, where they lay, & hatch their egges, without care of building any nests: at which time, repairing thither, you shall see your head shadowed with a cloud of old ones, through their diversified cries, witnessing their general dislike of your disturbance, and your feete pestered with a large number of yong ones, some formerly, some newly, and some not yet disclosed; at which time (through the leave of Master May, the owner) you may make and take your choyce." Until round about the time when Carew was writing the island was always called St Michael's, since there was an early medieval chapel dedicated to that saint on it: see the later note about Lammana Chapel. The earliest record we have of the name "St George's Island" dates from 1602 - presumably in the passage I quoted at the start. Why the change? No one knows for sure; Oliver Padel comments, "It may even have originated as an error." Legends about the island include the story that Jesus Christ as a child and his uncle Joseph of Arimathea visited it when trading for tin; the same is said of the other offshore Cornish island of St Michael, in Mount's Bay. Much later in time, many tales of smuggling have of course been associated with it. Since 1964 it has been owned by Evelyn and Babs Atkins, who bought it for £22,000. Evelyn has written two books relating their experiences here: see Further Reading.

B A kissing gate at the end of the road admits you to the coast path. It's worth taking the side path up to the right to see the excavated remains of Lammana Chapel (*) - and to enjoy the superb view up there. The path to it runs along the lower edge of the gorse patch.

LAMMANA CHAPEL

The story behind this little building and the excavation of the remains of it is told on an "interpretive panel" at the site. For more detail, read the booklet by P.O. & D.V.Leggat, "A Tale of Two Medi‘val Chapels in Lammana Parish (Looe)" (1993). Oliver Padel suggests that the name, Lammana, may derive from the Cornish "lann managh", "church site of a monk".

From the seat beside the fence surrounding the chapel ruins you have an excellent view of Looe Island, with the Eddystone Lighthouse on the horizon - about eight miles away. Return to the coast path below. A few stepping stones help you across a small stream, and then there is a rather grand wood-and-stone stile. The next stream, crossed by a footbridge, is flanked by a boggy patch where water-loving plants of many kinds flourish. An old wall near the stile just beyond the stream may be a relic of a long-gone watermill belonging to the manor of Portloe, recorded as long ago as 1251: the cove below is called Old Mills Cove. Here you are entering the National Trust property announced on the sign as Hendersick, which is the name of the farm a short way inland. A stiff climb comes next - I counted 73 steps - after which the path is level and gives a fine view of Hore Point ahead. After another stile you can look down to a rather grey beach, a long way below. Sheep graze the green valley running inland at the point where the path curves south towards the headland.

(One of two permissive paths provided by the Trust runs up this valley to Hendersick Farm, a car park and a minor road. The second one leaves the coast path just beyond Hore Point. I haven't explored either of these, but with the aid of a map and/or the NT's "Coast of Cornwall" leaflet No. 22 you might care to do so; either would provide a quick way back to Looe, joining the shorter of the two routes I am recommending at Portlooe.)

After two more stiles, the path passes round the thickly-vegetated headland. 47 steps lead down, then a few more go up to some jutting rocks. The small island of purple-blue slaty rock which is close after you have crossed another stile is called the Hore Stone. (There is a Hor Point near St Ives, and the name of that may derive from the Cornish word for a ram. Brian Le Messurier, author of the NT leaflet, suggests this island may really be the "Ore Stone"; whether that would allude to ore in the mining sense he does not say, but the reference is more likely to be to seaweed.)

After a tiny stream, the path divides, but the two paths converge at the next stile. Steps down from that lead to yet another stile. Approaching Talland now, you will see the lower of two large black-and-white panels. Another similar pair is above Hannafore, as you will see later if you take the shorter route. These are landmarks to enable Royal Naval seamen to measure an exact nautical mile when undertaking speed trials near the coast.

Steps lead down the steep slope towards the little beach, where the rocks are an even more startling colour than those of the Hore Rock, and bring you to the road. The Smugglers' Rest licensed restaurant is ahead, and there are a seasonal cafe and toilets at the beach, a short way along the road to the left. The stream which runs into the sea at Talland worked a watermill, the site of which is shown on Geoffrey Grigson's map as being on the north side of the road where the stream passes under it. Grigson writes of tracing the outline of the leat and millpond, and quotes Richard Carew's story of a Breton miller who was put in charge of it, and who when war came with France brought over a "French crew". They took the mill owner and his Christmas guests hostage, releasing them only on payment of a crippling ransome.

C. (If you want to continue along the coast to Polperro, turn left on the road. (The coast path from here onwards is described in a companion walk on the Polperro website - click here). Turn right on the road to visit Talland Church (*) and to join the suggested inland route back to Looe. It's a stiff climb to the church, but well worth it.

TALLAND CHURCH

The name is probably a compound of Cornish "tal", hill-brow and "lann", church-site. The church was originally dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria (from whom catherine wheels are named, since there is a legend that the Romans tried in vain to break her on the wheel before beheading her). "St Tallanus" seems to be a 15th-century invention. The oldest parts of the building, including probably the base of the detached tower (or perhaps I should say "semi-detached", in view of the unusual roofed gallery linking it to the rest of the church), date from the 13th century. As usual in Cornwall, many additions and improvements were made two centuries later. Perhaps the most notable feature inside is the carved woodwork, especially the pews, "some with quaint little bearded men who keep their hats on" (Arthur Mee). The church also contains one of the finest slate carvings in Cornwall, that of John Bevill of Killigarth, who died in 1579. Few if any suits of armour, surely, could have been more intricately decorated than his. (See Walk 11 for a little information about Killigarth.) Another interesting slate is set in the floor before the chancel step. It commemorates Jane Mellow and her baby son, who both died in 1628 when he was born, and shows her lying in a four-poster bed hugging the baby. The child is swaddled into the likeness of an Egyptian mummy. The Victorian restoration of Talland church (1848-50) was less drastic than at many other places, but medieval wall paintings and an early rood-screen were destroyed then. The fine carved wagon roof in the south aisle was restored in 1907; "perhaps too thoroughly!" comments the church guide booklet. One of the more interesting carved tombstones in the churchyard is referred to at the end of the note on Lansallos church in Walk 12.

After looking at the church, continue a little further along the road.

D. Take the signed public footpath on the left: up two short flights of steps with a stile at the top. The path runs uphill, along the left side of the field, taking you quite close to the upper landmark panel. Look back for a fine bird's-eye view of the church. Follow the hedge round to the right at the top of the field and go through the second gateway, where there is a wooden post with yellow arrows. "Skylarks!" says my notebook: there were at least four riding high over these fields when I walked this. Still keep beside the hedge on your left for a while. The next yellow arrow, beside a gateway on the left, points ahead, but what you are aiming for is the far right-hand corner of this field, and it's obvious that most walkers before you have taken the direct route, diagonally across the field towards the caravans. (The OS map isn't much help, because it seems to show the path as following a field boundary which has disappeared. See the remarks on rights of way, page 5.) The coastal view eastwards from here is long. After the stile, keep left beside the hedge as you pass through the Tencreek Holiday Park. (Tencreek: Cornish, keyn cruc, ridge barrow.) Another stile brings you to a road.

E. Here you have a choice to make. If you want to return to Looe by bus, go straight on to the main road, which is on the bus route. There is also a choice of ways for walking. Both are attractive, but I recommend the longer one if you have the energy and the time.

ROUTE A (about a mile and a half), via Portlooe, is entirely along minor roads.

ROUTE B (about three miles), via Parkers Cross and Kilminorth, starts on minor roads, and then there is a choice of woodland and riverside paths.

ROUTE A:

Turn right along the road, passing the entrance to the holiday park. At the T-junction turn right again, following the sign to Portlooe and Talland. At the first left turning, notice the small granite pillar which commemorates the fact that it was at this spot, known as "Pulpits", that John Wesley preached on the occasion of his first visit to Looe, when he was banned from the town. You could take that turning, but it's slightly better to go on till you reach the houses at Portlooe and then turn sharp-left along a very narrow, high-banked road. At the T-junction turn right. As you start descending gradually towards Looe the view ahead improves, but don't miss the little Celtic cross almost hidden by vegetation beside the road. It is at a corner, where a rough lane comes from the right, and underneath a sign advertising the Duchy Guest House. The cross was found on a nearby farm and set up here in 1930 by the Looe Old Cornwall Society. They chose this spot because another old cross, known as Parlooe Cross (probably a corruption of "Portlooe") had once stood here. What looks rather like a slightly tilted mine chimney ahead is the upper panel of the other pair of landmarks which measure the nautical mile. Before long you reach the first houses of West Looe, and you have two choices of route, both attractive: Either turn left at Downs Lane (where the yellow lines start) and on to West Looe Downs. Go through a gate on your right where the tarmac surface ends. The property of West Looe Town Trust, the Downs afford splendid views of the bay and harbour. Making for the trees ahead, descend to West Looe quay via a zigzag route to emerge near the bridge. (Please note that this is a permissive rather than public path: see page 5.) Return to the car park by the riverside path you used at the start. Or go on down West Looe Hill to the quayside and turn left there. Care is necessary, particularly in summer, because the pavement - where there is one - tends to be blocked in places by parked vehicles.

ROUTE B:

Continue ahead on the road heading north. Cross the main road and still carry on in the same direction. This road gives good, open views on both sides; where it turns left there is a particularly lovely valley ahead. Now it runs quite steeply downhill, becoming increasingly pretty, I thought, as it approaches Kilminorth Farm (now at least partially converted to holiday cottages), with its duck pond.

F. The first of several possible routes back into West Looe is a path which starts at a gate on the right side on the left-hand bend just before you reach Kilminorth Farm (now a holiday complex). There is a public footpath sign at the start, and also the first in a series of yellow waymark arrows. This is the shortest way, and it gives some excellent views. If you decide on this one, you go along a grassy lane at the start, through three farm gates in quick succession. The lane gradually opens out into a field. Keep along the top. (Look back for a good view up the West Looe valley.) Go through the gate ahead and keep by the hedge on the left, then go through the gate on the left. (Excellent view here, over Looe and along the coast eastwards.) Now don't go steeply downhill, but head for an open gateway in the hedge on the right, cutting off the top corner of the field as you walk. Once through that gap go diagonally left down the big field. At first it's best to head towards the furthest left part of the sea you can see. When two power-supply poles on the edge of woodland below come into view, go to the right-hand one, which looks slightly less tall than the other. This is near the bottom corner of the field, where there is a stile. Cross that and go straight on, down a slightly sunken lane through the woods. At the junction, keep to the main path, forking right, still downhill. This soon crosses a wide track, which I presume to be running along the top of the Giant's Hedge. Keep on down till you come to a wooden post with painted bands; to the left of it are a seat and a notice about conservation of oak woodland. Turn right here for the most direct way back to the car park.

G. The second way back to Looe is the public bridleway which is signposted on the right as you descend the road towards Watergate - about a quarter of a mile beyond Kilminorth Farm.

But I would find it hard to resist the temptation of continuing down the road to the delightful little settlement of Watergate.

H. Before the left turning beside the West Looe River there is a public footpath sign pointing right, and then a wooden post offers you the choice of the Riverside Walk and the Giant's Hedge Walk, both one-and-a-half miles to Looe. The waymark posts provided on both these and the bridleway make directions scarcely necessary.


This information transferred from printed version to web page 18 July 2000

Want more information? Contact Bob Acton, Landfall Publications tel: 01872 862581

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