Walk - Trelawne - Kilminorth and West Looe
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the main entrance to Trelawne Manor Holiday Park take the second turning on the left and then fork right by the car park to take the path on the left a moment later. Follow it through the holiday park, past the lake and the waterworks and into Ten Acre Wood.
- When the path forks a little further on, carry straight on ahead, ignoring the paths to left and right, to come out on the road a moment later.
- Turn right on the road and then take the footpath on the left shortly afterwards, continuing on the high path (Ridgeway) through Kilminorth Wood, to come out at the gate by the Millpool car park.
Kilminorth Wood, together with Trenant Woods, across the water, forms one of the largest valley oaklands in Cornwall, and is a local nature reserve and a haven for wildlife. Classified as a semi-natural ancient woodland, it has been continuously wooded for more than 400 years, thanks to the coppicing which has prolonged the life of individual trees throughout the woods.
Many different species of waterbirds and wildfowl make their home on the creek beside the wood, 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.
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. The practice of coppicing means that the trees throughout the woods are of many different ages, leading to a wide variety of habitats. This in turn has led to an abundance of species through the year.
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.
As you walk along the path through the woods, here and there you can see what remains of the ancient earthwork known as "Giant's Hedge". The board at the entrance to the Millpool car park explains how this came to be:
"Jack the Giant having nothing to do built a hedge from Lerryn to Looe!"
Other versions attribute it to the Devil, who also found himself with nothing to do one day.
The bank stretches some nine miles, from the Fowey Estuary to the Looe Estuary, and it is one of the largest ancient earth banks in the UK. In places it is up to 15 feet high and 24 feet wide, and parts of it are stone-faced. It represents the northern boundary of a territory defined by south flowing rivers on its eastern and western sides, and by the ocean on its southern side.
It is thought to date from the Dark Ages, and historians think that it was probably the boundary of a tribal chief's petty kingdom (one of many small kingdoms around Britain before the tenth century creation of the kingdom of England). Another theory is that it may have been a "last-ditch" defence of the Cornish against the Saxon incursions of the ninth and tenth centuries.
1930's archaeologist C.K.Croft Andrew suggested that the Giant's Hedge originally started at the Lamanna Chapel, above the Coast Path as you come into Looe, (see the West Looe & Hendersick Walk), but no evidence has been found to prove this.
The holloway, or sunken track, running up from Kilminorth Woods to Kilminorth itself has been worn into the hillside by the passage of many feet, hooves and wheels over the centuries, but it is not known how old the track is.
- Carry on ahead through the car park along the riverbank.
- Reaching the end of the car park, turn left on the road, dropping onto the footpath past the amusement arcade to take the steps up to the bridge.
- Cross the road, without crossing the river, and carry on ahead along Quay Road to catch the bus back to Trelawne from the fire station on Church Street, on your right as you head towards the sea.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Looe.