Duloe to Herodsfoot

A circular walk through the woodland along the West Looe River to Herodsfoot from Duloe where Cornwall's smallest stone circle stands.

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The walk passes through Duloe to the church then descends into the West Looe Valley. The route follows the river to Herodsfoot through woodland and then crosses the river at Herodsfoot to return through woodland on the opposite bank. The return to Duloe is on a small lane from Tremadart which climbs out of the valley more gently than the initial descent.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 6.3 miles/10.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)

Highlights

  • Duloe Stone Circle
  • Views of the West Looe River
  • Woodland wildlife
  • Bluebells in spring

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Plough

Directions

  1. Make your way out of the car park and cross the main road to the pavement opposite. Turn left and follow the pavement past the pub to the sign for Duloe Stone Circle.

    The first record of the settlement of Duloe is from 1283. The name is from the Cornish words dew (two) and loch (pool). This could be a reference to its position on the spur of land between the East Looe and West Looe rivers, both of which have tidal creeks. In early documents, Duloe is sometimes referred to as Lankyp which is thought to be along the lines of "churchyard of St Cuby".

  2. At this point you can make a short diversion to the left to see the stone circle and afterwards carry on a short distance further on the pavement to reach the cemetery.

    Duloe stone circle consists of 8 quartz stones and is the smallest stone circle in Cornwall. It was reconstructed in the 1800s but prior to this may have not been a stone circle at all, but rather an elaborate cairn. During the 19th Century, an urn containing human bone was found on the site which is thought to date from the Late Bronze Age.

  3. Go through the pedestrian gate and follow the path to a gate into the churchyard. Go through this and keep the church on your right to reach a tarmac path leaving the churchyard near the entrance to the church.

    The oval churchyard at Duloe is thought to be the remnants of a Celtic religious enclosure dating from the early mediaeval period. The church building contains elements from several different periods of rebuilding. There are substantial remains from the 13th Century, when the tower was also built. The church was extended in the early 15th Century to add the north aisle with the small chapel and the chapel retains many of the 15th Century features. The church underwent a Victorian restoration in 1860 and the pyramidal roof was added to the tower as part of this.

  4. Make your way out of the churchyard and turn left to reach the road. Turn right onto the road and follow it through the national speed limit signs and downhill to where the tarmac peters out and a track continues ahead from a metal post.

    The carved font basin was brought to the church from Trenant. Before this it is recorded as being used as the basin for St Cuby's Well and removed to Trenant in 1822. The font appears to be a Norman design and is thought to date from the late 11th Century. One theory is that it was originally the font for the church, but was removed in the 15th Century when the church was restored, and could have ended up in the well after this.

  5. Follow the track downhill into the valley until it ends in a T-junction with another track.

    In folklore, the bluebell is a symbol of constancy, presumably based on the fact that they flower in the same place every year. It was said that anyone who wears a bluebell is compelled to tell the truth. This is probably the origin of the "…something blue…" that a bride should wear on her wedding day.

    Mosses' lack of deep roots mean they need to store their own supply of water during dry periods which is why they are found in shady places that are not dried-out by the sun. This also applies to moss on trees - it rarely grows on the south-facing part of the trunk which can be used as a crude form of compass when navigating.

  6. Turn right and follow the track to reach a bridge.

    Holly is able to adapt to a range of conditions but prefers moist ground. It is very tolerant of shade and can grow as a thicket of bushes underneath larger trees. However, given the right conditions, holly trees can grow up to 80ft tall!

  7. Cross the bridge and turn right on the other side. Follow the track a short distance to a fork where a grassy track rises to the left and the stony track continues to the right.

    The West Looe river rises near Dobwalls and runs for roughly 8 miles through Herodsfoot and Churchbridge before entering the creeks of the flooded river valley just below Milcombe with a final mile along the creek to its confluence with the East Looe river. The sedimentary rocks surrounding the river form an aquifer reserve which results in the river levels being topped up by groundwater during periods of low rainfall.

  8. Keep right to stay on the stony track and follow this until it ends on a lane.

    Rosebay willowherb is a tall plant with a spike of pink flowers in late summer which can often be seen beside paths and tracks. Their long leaves have a distinctive thin, white vein along the centre.

    It is a pioneer species which is good at colonising disturbed ground as its seeds travel long distances in the wind and remain viable in the soil for many years. It was considered a rare species in Britain in the 18th century but spread along the corridors cleared for railways in Victorian times.

  9. Bear left onto the lane and follow it uphill to reach a gravel area on the right with a path departing beside a wooden barrier.

    The settlement on the opposite side of the river is known as Churchbridge and a short distance downriver is the older settlement of Tremadart.

    The first record of Tremadart is in the Domesday survey of 1086 and a private chapel was licensed there in 1310. The settlement was formerly known as Tremoderet (which is very similar to Tremodrett near Roche, and thus possibly from the same family name i.e. Modrett's farm). The mills at Tremadart were in existance before 1814 and still in use in 1919.

  10. Bear right through the gravel area and follow the path past the barrier. Continue to reach a crossing of paths with a footbridge to the right.

    Compared to red squirrels, grey squirrels are able to eat a wider diet (including acorns), are larger so can survive colder winters, and are better able to survive in the fragmented habitats created by urbanisation. They are also thought to be carriers of a squirrel pox virus which they usually recover from but has been fatal to red squirrels, although red squirrels are now also developing some immunity.

  11. Continue ahead on the main path to keep the river on your right. Follow the path until it ends via a wooden barrier in another gravel area beside a lane.

    Green woodpeckers are the largest and most colourful of the woodpeckers native to Britain and have a distinctive laughing "yaffle" call. The two species of spotted woodpecker are smaller and usually noticed from the drumming sound they make on trees although they can sometimes be heard making a short "cheep" sound. All of the woodpeckers bore holes in trees in which they nest, but only the spotted woodpeckers drill into trees in search of food, spending most of their time perched on a tree. Conversely, green woodpeckers spend most of their time on the ground, hunting for ants. The ants nests are excavated using their strong beak and ants caught on the barbed end of their long tongue. In fact, their tongue is so long it needs to be curled around their skull to fit inside their head.

  12. Bear right onto the lane and follow it to reach a junction of lanes.

    Handling primroses is best avoided as the hairs on the leaves and stems can cause contact dermatitis which is quite severe in some people. It is thought that some people may develop a tolerance with repeated exposure but nevertheless a study in a medical journal found that over a quarter of Primula growers experienced skin reactions.

  13. Continue ahead at the junction and follow the lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    Until Victorian times, residents of Herodsfoot faced a long walk up the hill to church at Duloe. A new church was built within the valley in 1850 and a Herodsfoot parish was formally created in 1851 from parts of Lanreath, St Pinnock and Duloe. The building cost was estimated at £1,500 which based on inflation would be around £200,000 in 2020. As well as a building seating 160 people, this included adjoining schoolrooms.

  14. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane over the two bridges. Continue until immediately after a postbox on the right, a track departs to the right next to Galena Cottage.

    Herodsfoot was originally just called Heriad which is from the Cornish words hyr-yard and means "long-ridge" (Herodshead was similarly Bronhiriard - "long-ridge hill"). The long ridge is likely to be a reference to the spur of land between the East and West Looe rivers. The name gradually changed from Heriad so that by the 17th Century it had become Heriod and then in the 18th Century it became Herod. The post-mediaeval English-speaking population also added the "foot" to give the meaning "foot of the stream at Heriad" (as they didn't know the name meant an upland location in Cornish).

  15. Turn right onto the track next to Galena Cottage and follow this to a gate into a property.

    The Old Zion Chapel was a Bible Christian chapel built in the same year as the Anglican church at Herodsfoot.

    By the time John Wesley died, the majority of Methodists were not attending Anglican church regularly, and following his death a Methodist church was formed, separate from the Anglican church. In the first half of the 19th Century, the Methodist movement fragmented into several different factions, often each with its own chapel in the same town. The Bible Christian movement was one of these, founded in North Cornwall in 1815 by William O'Bryan from Luxulyan. His followers are also known as the Bryonites, although after falling out with most of his ministers, O'Bryan emigrated to America. In 1907, the Bible Christian movement amalgamated with other Methodist groups to form the United Methodist Church.

  16. Go through the gate and cross the paved area to a waymarked path departing over the bridge from the far side of the paved area. Follow the path uphill through the woods past one waymark on the right (under a holly bush) to reach a track crossing the path with a waymark on the uphill path.

    Ferns evolved a long time before flowering plants and dominated the planet during the Carboniferous period. The bark from tree ferns during this period is thought to have been the main source of the planet's coal reserves.

  17. Turn right and follow the track until it ends on a lane.

    Conifers can produce an economic yield of timber up to 6 times faster than broadleaf trees. Imported species such as Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce are amongst the more common used for timber production.

  18. Turn left and follow the lane uphill until it ends in a T-junction.

    The small brick building by the stream was a hydraulic ram used to pump water uphill to Higher Bephillick. It is shown on the OS maps from the early 1900s but not in the 1880s, so likely to be from around the start of the 20th Century.

    A settlement of Bephillick was recorded in 1319 and by 1564 it had divided into two settlements of Higher and Lower Bephillick. It is not known which of the two was the original mentioned in 1319 but Higher Bephillick has been the larger settlement since at least since Victorian times and is now known just as Bephillick whilst Lower Bephillick has become Bephillick Cottage. The "Be" at the start of the name is a corruption of Bod or Bos meaning dwelling. The rest of the name could be from the name of the family that lived there in mediaeval times.

  19. Turn right at the junction and follow the road until it also ends in a junction.
  20. Turn right at the junction and follow the road back to the car park.

    The settlement of Polvean Cross, around the junction, was once distinct from Duloe and included a blacksmith and coachhouse in Victorian times. In Cornish, Polvean means "small pool" which is likely to have been a reference to a feature along the East Looe River. Cropmarks in the fields near Polvean wood suggest there was farming activity in that area during the Iron Age period.

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