Looe Valley Walk

From the edge of the moor to the sea.

I have to admit, I’m not a keen walker. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no couch potato, frequent trips to the gym and running along the beach feature in my keep fit regime, but ambling along in a pair of hiking boots hasn’t up to now done it for me. So when the call came to do this particular walk for the magazine, it was only the phrase “…it’s a bit of a jaunt, but I know you’re pretty fit” that massaged my mid-forties male ego enough to do it.

 

 

So it’s mid May and muggy and I’m in the old market town of Liskeard. As I leave my car at the council car park just up from the town’s mainline station, I do a last minute check. Water, food, camera. This would be a long trek following the West Looe River all the way down to the sea - 10 miles of mud, heavily forested terrain and possibly dense bluebell cover, channelling Indiana Jones, I was ready.

 

Heading past the railway station on the left is an old Toll House and just a few yards on, the road forks to the right and leads down the hill to the tiny hamlet of Lamellion. Being a self styled journalist means that I always tend to be on the look for another story and just to my left I see a sign reading “Devon and Cornwall Wools”

 

A quick flash of the calling  gets me a quick guided

tour around. I learn that this vast depot is the collection point for all the shorn fleeces in Cornwall and beyond, handling around one and a quarter million kilos of wool annually.

Nipping up the hill past hedgerows groaning with wild garlic and campions, I pass the hamlet of Boduel, mentioned in the Doomsday book as having one slave, two villagers, three small holders and worth eight shilling. Just up from the cluster of houses is an old stone cross, the type of which were thought to have been used as way markers between parishes: this one perhaps dates back to the 10th century

 

 

 

Directly across the road I take the lane and where the lane bears right I turn left on to an old track. Traipsing trough the mud, I come to a narrow tarmac road and head downhill past Plumtree Organic Farm. It’s at this stage I realise all I can hear are birds singing and a turkey gobbling in the distance somewhere, a perfect bucolic scene that quickens my pace and gets me relaxing into my stride.

 

 

 

Past a couple of old cottages at Scawns; at the old mill, I bear left onto a bridleway and it’s here that I pick up the river. Albeit a bit of a stream at this stage, it would be my fast flowing companion for the rest of the journey. At the fork in the lane I keep right until I reach a stile on the left with a yellow way marker. Keeping to the bottom edge of the steep field I cross another style and walk through woodland where the valley opens up a little and the river meanders through a meadow with a forest of pine trees cascading down the hill.

 

The obvious path leads to a gate where I cross a stile and reach the tarmac road. I turn right to Herodsfoot which is a pretty charming village positioned between four valleys whose streams all join the river. A bench on the green by the War Memorial is a perfect place to have a well-earned rest. The memorial commemorates "those who served", as Herodsfoot is known as a ‘Fortunate’ village: everyone in the village who served in the World Wars came back.

 

Following the sign for Lanreath and Pelynt I make a quick turn left and follow the route of the valley south. About a mile further on, after crossing a small bridge, I take the Forestry Commissions path through the woods on the left. If I cared to count them, perhaps there would be hundreds of shades of green in the leaves lit by the struggling sunlight.  Reaching the tarmac road, I turn left downhill and take the track marked as a public bridleway on the right. A fair way on, I come to a clearing and take the left track over a small stone bridge which judging by the squat appearance of its design, must date from medieval times.

 

The path descends through a carpet of bluebells to another stream where I bear left and immediately right to follow the path through a meadow full of reeds. Opening out in a field, the path continues to another stile where I then keep the river to my left. Four hours into the walk and I’m beginning to feel a little lonely. Except for one woman with a gigantic dog, I haven’t seen anyone. Although the path seems well worn, I feel as if I’m the only one who has been this way for along time and as I can only see hoof prints in the mud, I could be right. A bit further on and I pass through what I think is the best part of the route, a woodland full of flowers, singing birds and the sky blotted out by a huge canopy of trees. As I head towards the sea, there is an almost tropical feel in the air.

 

Eventually emerging on to the road, I turn right, cross the bridge and head uphill until I reach the sign for Watergate and then follow the route to Watergate and Kilminorth passing old limekilns on the way. At Watergate village the route heads left and on to the marked riverside walk. From here the smell of the sea hits me and I can hear the familiar cry of seagulls, Looe can’t be far away. Walking through the woods and eventually by the estuary shoreline, I reach my destination.

 

With a final dash, I catch the next train from Looe station. After 6 hours, I eventually sit down and enjoy the view on the 20-minute trip back to Liskeard. Am I a convert to this walking for pleasure malarkey? Definitely enjoyed the natural remoteness but note to self, next time take friend or dog or both to combat endlessly talking to myself! I’m such tedious company!

Need to know

Length: 10 miles.

Time: Give yourself at least 6 hours unless you’re a gung-ho hiker.

Going: It’s more or less downhill all the way, so easy going, but it’s a long way. Muddy track

 

Facilities: None on route. Take a picnic and enjoy the riverside location

 

Return Train Times: www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk