Penrose to the Loe Bar circular walk

Penrose to the Loe Bar

A circular walk alongside the Loe Pool to the Loe Bar and back via the farm on the hill spur which in Cornish gave the name to the Penrose Estate.

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The walk begins through the parkland surrounding Penrose House then follows the woodland along the edge of the Loe Pool to the coast beside the Loe Bar. After a climb to the top of the hill, the rest of the return route is an easy walk on the bridleway.

Considerations

  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 3.3 miles/5.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 103 OS Explorer 103 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Cornwall's largest natural freshwater lake
  • Historic Penrose Estate
  • Mature broadleaf woodland in the Cober valley
  • The Loe Bar - a geographical oddity with some rare wildlife

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the bottom of the car park and follow the path to emerge on a tarmacked driveway. Turn right (signposted Loe Pool) and follow the driveway to a junction with a Private sign ahead.

    The Penrose family owned a large estate to the south of Helston since mediaeval times which eventually extended from Gunwalloe to one side of Porthleven Harbour. In 1771, it was sold to John Rogers, who became the new squire of the estate and it remained in the Rogers family for another two centuries. In 1974, a large part of it, covering 1,500 acres, was gifted to the National Trust. Penrose House remains as a private family home. This was originally a U-shaped building created in the 17th Century by the Penrose family and remodelled a number of times in the 18th and 19th Centuries by the Rogers family.

  2. Turn left and follow the track to another junction.

    Squirrels assess each of their acorns before burying them. If an acorn is too light (which suggests it might have a hole), the squirrel will eat it immediately rather than risking it going mouldy.

  3. Turn right (also signposted Loe Pool) and follow the track to a junction just before a metal gate.

    Sycamores like moist soil and the young trees need a lot of water (equivalent to an inch of rain per week) to get established. For this reason, sycamores are very often found along streams or in low-lying meadows that collect water. Once their roots grow deep enough, the mature trees can withstand drought by tapping into underground moisture.

  4. Turn left between the metal bollards and follow the track across the meadow to another junction.

    The small building in the middle of the meadow at Penrose is a bath house built in 1840 which contains a walk-in slate-lined bath in mock Roman style.

  5. Turn right (signposted The Stables) and follow the track back across the meadow to reach The Stables (café).

    In 2012, Lieutenant Commander John Peverell Rogers died. His elderly wife continued to live in the house and his son Charles - heir to the estate - lived in a cottage as a recluse, suffering from poor mental health. In 2018, Charles died from a methadone overdose at the age of 62 by which point he was sleeping in his car. Charles died apparently without an heir and his mother died two weeks later.

    A local care worker, at the time known as Jordan Adlard, had suspected ever since he was eight that he was the illegitimate son of Charles, but Charles had refused to do a DNA test. After Charles died, the test confirmed what Jordan had suspected and in 2019 the low-paid worker, struggling to pay his bills, become the owner of an estate estimated as worth £50 million. Jordan Adlard-Rogers and his family now live in the house.

  6. From The Stables, continue following the track alongside the metal fence to pass a junction to the right and reach a second junction to the right with a "Porthleven via inland route" sign. Stay on the main track a little further, around a bend, to reach a wooden gate on the right with a wooden post with yellow and blue waymark arrows.

    During winter, from November to March, winter heliotrope is visible along the edges of roads and paths as carpets of rounded heart-shaped leaves.

    From mid November to January, the plants produce spikes with pale pink scented flowers. The scent resembles marzipan i.e. almond and vanilla.

    During winter, from November to March, winter heliotrope is visible along the edges of roads and paths as carpets of rounded heart-shaped leaves.

    The leaf shape of winter heliotrope is similar to its close relative butterbur, but the leaf edges are more rounded than butterbur and the leaves are evergreen whereas butterbur puts up flowers before it has any leaves. Both plants spread via rhizomes (underground stems) and their broad leaves can crowd out other plants making them potentially invasive.

  7. Go through the gate on the right and follow the path alongside the wall to reach a kissing gate.

    The second part of the Latin name of red campion - dioica ("two houses") - refers to the plants' gender. Some plants are male and others are female. The male plants' flowers can be recognised from five yellow stamens sticking out from a protruding ring in the centre of the petals. The female plants' flowers have no protruding ring and instead have 5 curly white stigmas. These produce a white froth to trap pollen.

    Navelwort grows along the wall.

    The succulent leaves of navelwort can be eaten and used in a salad. Older leaves become more bitter so the younger leaves are recommended. The crunchy stems can be added at the last minute to a stir-fry as an alternative to beansprouts. Care should be taken not to pull roots out of wall when breaking off leaves.

  8. Go through the gate and the one immediately opposite and follow the path a short distance to another gate. Pass to the right of this then follow the path until you reach a fork in the path with a waymark.

    The woodland is a mix of deciduous trees including beech and oak.

    Oak was often associated with the gods of thunder as it was often split by lightning, probably because oaks are often the tallest tree in the area. Oak was also the sacred wood burnt by the druids for their mid-summer sacrifice.

  9. Keep right at the fork and follow the path uphill to another junction.

    Bluebells are very vulnerable to trampling. The reason for this is that when their leaves emerge in the early part of the year, they are powered by the stored sugars in their bulbs. Sunlight is very limited at this time of the year and even more so in the shady places where they grow. In order to survive, they then need to photosynthesise flat-out to store enough starch in the bulb for next year's growth. If a bluebell’s leaves are crushed, it cannot photosynthesise and and doesn't have enough reserves left in its bulb to grow new ones. It's therefore important to stick to footpaths in bluebell woodland and best to take photos with a zoom lens from there as wandering around in the bluebells to take photos will inadvertently kill them.

    The first trees evolved about 360 million years ago which were a bit like tree versions of mosses. Seeds hadn't evolved at this point and so they reproduced via spores. After the arrival of the seed came conifers which were the dominant form of trees for nearly 200 million years. The flower evolved around 100 million years ago and following this, broadleaf trees appeared and eventually out-competed conifers in many habitats.

  10. At the junction, keep left to follow the path downhill. Continue to where it bends sharply at a waymark post then around the bend to descend to meet the main track.

    Beech bark is very delicate and does not heal easily. Consequently some graffiti carved in beech trees is still present from more than a century ago. This is a practice that should be strongly discouraged as it permanently weakens the tree, making attack by insects more likely which can prematurely end its life.

  11. Turn right onto the track and follow this for roughly a quarter of a mile to a path on the right opposite a signpost for Coast Path to Porthleven, just before the lodge.

    The Loe was originally the estuary of the River Cober which was flooded after the last Ice Age when sea levels rose. The contours of the original valley can be traced for several miles out to sea. The estuary is now blocked by a bar of sand and shingle which has created the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall. The earliest record of the name was in 1337, when it was called "La Loo", but is now pronounced "low". It is from the Cornish word logh which is equivalent to the Scottish "loch".

  12. Turn right and follow the path to a junction. Keep right and follow the path signposted "The Stables via Higher Penrose" uphill to a junction with post with signs including a lower one for "Stables - Inland Route".

    The Loe Bar is composed mainly of shingle that is not of local origin: it is mostly chalk flint. It is thought that this was washed down from the terraces of the river which the English Channel once was, when sea levels rose after the last Ice Age. It is also thought that the bar of shingle initially formed offshore and then slowly moved towards the shore so that the bar across The Loe may not have been in place until early mediaeval times or at most a few thousand years ago. The bar was originally porous, allowing seawater into the lake but fine silt released by mining activity upriver has caused it to seal so that it is now freshwater. To prevent flooding in parts of Helston, a disused mine adit has been repurposed as an overflow from the Loe Pool into the sea. On occasions this has blocked and so the Bar has been intentionally breached to release the build-up of water, but the Bar has always resealed itself. It is thought that Longshore Drift plays an important part in the maintenance of the Bar and causes it to gradually accumulate more sediment over time.

    During violent winter storms, waves have been known to break all the way over the bar into the Loe Pool. Even under normal conditions, the sea off the beach is extremely dangerous and a number of people have been drowned, some just from paddling. It is notorious for its massive unexpected shore dumps which can appear out of nowhere even in calm weather and suck people under the water as the shingle caves in beneath their feet. Some locals have called for a skull-and-crossbones to be added to signs on the "killer beach" which is reputed to take one soul every seven years.

  13. At the junction, turn right (signposted "Stables inland route") and follow the path which narrows into an unsurfaced path. Continue on the path for just under half a mile until it ends in a pedestrian gate.

    The streamers on swallows tails serve an aerodynamic function, assisting tight turns to catch insects. Experiments with sand martins found that they could be "pimped-up" by adding artificial streamers to their tails which afforded them increased manoeuvrability in a flight maze. The suggestion for why swallows have evolved streamers and not sand martins is partly the speedier insects that swallows need to catch and also that sand martins live in burrows and this would risk breaking off one streamer, leading to unbalanced flight.

    Extracts from ivy were used in herbal remedies and still form the basis of some modern-day cough medicines. It is said to have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. A study for English Heritage also found that roadside ivy absorbed particulates from the atmosphere which may lead to its use in improving air quality.

  14. Go through the gate and bear left across the track to the gate opposite. Go through this and follow the path towards the farm, then around to the right to a signpost before a gate with a gap to the left.

    The first record of the settlement and manor of Penrose is from 1345 as Penros Methele although Roman coins from around 100 BC were found near the house. The name is from the Cornish words pen, meaning "end" or "top" and ros which has a few different meanings, but in this case, "hill spur" fits the landscape. Penrose is divided into Higher Penrose (the farm) and the lower area with the stately home known now just as Penrose. This division has existed from mediaeval times - Penros Bighan first recorded in 1367, meaning "little Penrose".

  15. Turn left (signposted "Penrose Hill car park") to follow the path around the farm buildings. Continue on the waymarked path until it ends in a gate onto a track.

    There are 2 sparrow species in the UK but only the house sparrow is common in Cornwall. Since the 1970s the UK house sparrow population has declined to less than half with an even greater loss in urban areas. Consequently the house sparrow is now red-listed as a species of high conservation concern. The exact causes for the decline are not known although a number of likely factors have been identified. In the countryside a reduction in aphid populations due to changes in farming practices is thought to be significant whereas in urban areas a loss of suitable nesting sites and a more intense level of predation by cats may be significant. Since 2008 the population seems to have stabilised but no-one is quite sure why.

  16. Go through the gate and cross over the track to the signpost opposite. Bear right onto the grassy path running parallel to the track and follow this until it ends.

    Magpies are often found on farmland such as this.

    Since members of the crow family will eat the eggs and chicks of other birds, there has been concern that magpies might have an effect on the songbird population. However, an extensive study by the British Trust for Ornithology using 35 years of data found that the presence of magpies appeared to have no measurable effect on songbird numbers. It is thought that availability of food and suitable nesting sites are probably the main factors limiting songbird populations. Hedgerows are a particularly important habitat.

  17. Turn left onto the track to return to the car park and complete the circular route.

    Many Cornish place names contain the word "rose" (Roseland, Roseworthy, Roserrow, Penrose and even just Rose) but these come from the Cornish word ros which can either mean "promontory" (e.g. peninsula or hill spur) or "moor" so are likely to be descriptions of elevated landscape features. Confusingly though, the Cornish word for "rose" is also ros.

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