Walk - Kilminorth Woods from Looe Station
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the railway station walk down Station Road to the bridge and cross the river to West Looe.
- Turning right on the path around the amusement arcade, go through the big car park beyond (Millpool car park) and make your way to the water's edge.
- Turn left (west) and carry on along the path by the river until you come to the gate at Kilminorth Woods.
Kilminorth Woods, together with Trenant Woods, across the water, forms one of the largest valley oaklands in Cornwall. The area has been continuously wooded for at least 400 years and Kilminmorth is classified as a semi-natural ancient woodland.
It is not described as a natural woodland, because coppicing took place for much of that time, artificially extending the life of the trees by many centuries. In coppicing, young trees are repeatedly chopped down, leaving a stump which produces thin branches to be harvested for brushwood, poles or firewood. In due course, when these branches are lopped, the process begins all over again. It keeps a tree in a juvenile condition, meaning that a regularly coppiced tree will never die.
Since coppicing is carried out in rotation through a woodland, the trees throughout are of many different ages, which provides a diversity of habitats for a wide range of species.
- You have a choice of routes through the woods to reach Watergate, at the far end: Choose the left-hand path for a woodland walk, taking in the Giant's Hedge.
The Giants Hedge is an earthen bank extending from Lerryn to Looe. It is thought to be from the Dark Ages, and was probably a boundary wall marking the territory of a local chief (see the Talland & the Giant's Hedge Walk). Stretches of it in Kilminorth Wood are as much as a metre high, and are still sturdy.
Alternatively, carry straight on ahead at the gate into the woods from Millpool, to follow the river bank past the old boatyard to Watergate.
The old boatyard stood on land reclaimed during the Second World War for this purpose, and it continued production until the 1990s, remaining an important source of employment in Looe.
The third choice of route might be to start out on the river path and then take a left-hand turn, further on through the woods, to turn right again on the top path through the trees and get the best of both worlds.
Kilminorth is a Local Nature Reserve, with an abundance of species through the year. Although the wood is predominantly sessile oak and birch, there are also beech and sycamore trees growing here, as well as sweet chestnut and the occasional Scots pine, and a holly understorey. In the spring there are banks of primroses and bluebells, followed by wood anemones, wood sorrel and dog violets. Blossom tumbles through the wild cherries, and in the summer honeysuckle twines through the undergrowth. Autumn brings edible berries to the bilberry bushes, and a profusion of fungi in the dark damp corners.
Many different mammals live among the trees, from tiny shrews and dormice all the way up to roe deer. Butterflies love it here, too. Look out for the white orange tip, the brown speckled wood, the holly blue and the silver-washed fritillary. You'll have to look even harder for the very rare "scarce merveille du jour" moth, which is found here, because with its mottled green-grey wings it is perfectly camouflaged against the lichen-clad trees! Other moths living here include hawk moths, swallowtails, and the peach blossom moth with its bold white spots.
Birds include predators like buzzards, sparrowhawks and sometimes peregrines, as well as owls. Nuthatches and various tits scamper around in the trees, as do squirrels, and green and greater spotted woodpeckers can be heard drilling in the bark for insects, while the liquid notes of birdsong from warblers, blackbirds and mistle thrushes mix with the gentle cooing of woodpigeons.
Many different species of waterbirds and wildfowl make their home on the creek, to be joined at various times of year by migrant visitors passing through. These include herons and Canada geese, as well as smaller birds such as shelduck, little grebes and dabchicks. The shrill calls of oystercatchers and curlews mingle with the cries of the gulls coming in from the sea, while further inland you may be lucky enough to glimpse the blue and orange flash of a kingfisher over the water.
- Reaching Watergate, turn left on the road and walk gently uphill to Kilminorth.
- At Kilminorth carry on past the turnings left and right, leading to buildings, until you come to the lane on your left at the right-hand bend.
- Turn left here on the footpath and follow it downhill and through the fields to the path which drops steeply through the woods.
- Turn right on the path at the bottom, and follow it back down through the woods to Millpool car park. Retrace your steps through West Looe to re-cross the bridge, and then turn left up Station Road to return to the station.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Looe.