Walk - Talland Bay & the Giant's Hedge 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 2019. 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 is a local nature reserve and is a haven for wildlife. It is an ancient oak woodland and has been continuously wooded for more than 400 years, thanks to the practice of coppicing which has prolonged the life of individual trees throughout the woods (see the Kilminorth Woods Walk).
Many species of birds nest here, including birds of prey such as the buzzard and peregrine, waterbirds like herons and shelducks, and songbirds such as mistle thrushes and goldfinches. Spring flowers include primroses and bluebells, followed by dog violets and wood anemones, and many different species of moths and butterflies flutter through the woods. In summer woodpeckers drill in the trees for bugs, while in autumn squirrels collect nuts and a wide assortment of fungi provides food and shelter for an equally diverse range of insects and invertebrates. In winter you may glimpse a shy roe deer through the trees.
- Turn left, uphill, (signed to Giant's Hedge as well as Watergate), following the waymarkers along the top path until you reach a small footpath signed through the trees on your left.
- Take this path and follow it steeply uphill, carrying on up through the holloway beyond to the fields at the top. Follow the signs through fields to come out on a track which leads to the road.
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 Millpool entrance 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.
1930s archaeologist C.K.Croft Andrew suggested that the Giant's Hedge originally ran from the Lamanna Chapel, above the Coast Path as you come into Looe, (see the Looe to Polperro 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 this is likely to be from more recent times than the Giant's Hedge.
- Turn left on the road and walk about half a mile to the main Polperro Road. Cross the road to carry on in the same direction on the small road beyond, past Waylands Farm, to the sharp left-hand bend at Tencreek.
Take the footpath through the caravan site and follow the waymarkers downhill through fields, keeping the hedges on your right, past the tower to the road.
The pair of towers on the hillside, identified on the map as landmarks, have a matching pair on the hillside above Hannfore, as you approach Looe. This is a nautical measured mile, which the navy uses to measure a ship's speed (see the Looe to Polperro Walk).
- Turn right and follow the road down into Talland.
Talland Bay has been the scene of many a shipwreck, three of which still lie on the seabed and are frequently visited by divers. In 1922 a French trawler, the Marguerite, was driven onto the rocks by a south-westerly gale, and her boiler is still visible on the shore at low tide.
Talland's two tiny and secluded shingle beaches were much loved in the past by smugglers, and tales abound of the men who brought their goods ashore in the donkey carts which carried seaweed up to the fields for fertiliser, or even, in one legend, in a hearse (see the Talland from Polperro Walk).
Other people who have spent time here in more legitimate pursuits include Dame Judi Dench, who enjoyed many a childhood holiday in Talland, and TV's Richard and Judy, who have a home here.
Offshore is Looe Island which is owned and manged by Cornwall Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve, and can be visited on special tours which rum most days during the summer - see their website for details
- In the car park turn left onto the South West Coast Path and follow it around the coast and back to Looe, walking past the harbour to regain the bridge, crossing it to return to the station.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Looe and Polperro, as well as the Smugglers Rest and the beach café at Talland.