The Loe circular walk

The Loe

A circular walk around the Loe Pool, the largest natural freshwater lake in Cornwall, and along the Loe Bar, one of Cornwall's most treacherous beaches on which 100 of those onboard the HMS Anson drowned metres from the shore, motivating the invention of the rocket lifesaving apparatus that saved thousands of lives.

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The walk follows the River Cober through Coronation Park to the bridge and then joins the tree-lined bridleway through Penrose to the coast near Porthleven. The route then crosses the Loe Bar and follows the path around the Loe Pool to reach the woods. Paths through the woods and a track past the engine house of Wheal Pool complete the circular route.


  • The path from direction 3 to direction 4 can flood after prolonged periods of rain. This is normally not that deep but waterproof boots are needed. If the path becomes impassible, the path from the fork at direction 2 can be used as a backup.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 6.2 miles/10 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes in summer, waterproof boots after wet weather

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 103 OS Explorer 103 (laminated version)

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


  • 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


  1. Facing away from the road, make your way to the footbridge on the right side of the car park, located half-way along the first of the two parking areas. Cross the bridge and turn left on the other side. Follow the path until you reach another footbridge.

    Up to the end of the 19th Century, the area now occupied by Coronation Park was an area of waste ground that was often flooded and sometimes grazed by donkeys that mischievous children attempted to ride whilst the farmer wasn't looking. To commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1912, it was transformed into a swimming and boating lake.

  2. Continue ahead over the small bridge then follow the path alongside the river to a junction with a Penrose National Trust sign. Continue on the path along the river until it ends in a junction with a gravel path.

    During the 1960s, the formerly meandering River Cober was canalised as part of measures to prevent flooding in Helston but this had a detrimental effect on the wetland willow woodland habitat. A series of pipes have now been installed so that when the water level rises, the river can discharge water into the woodland. This is restoring the habitat and also further improves the flood defences by allowing the river to discharge floodwater more quickly. Since the work has been done, there has been a substantial increase bird life and otters have even been seen recolonising the area.

  3. Turn right, away from the river and follow the path until it ends on a track at a waymark.

    After prolonged wet weather, the path across the walkways can flood. Sometimes this is relatively shallow on the walkways and passable with waterproof boots but if it's too deep to cross, if you backtrack towards the previous direction, there is another path leading from the grassy area which joins the same tarmacked track a little further up. Turn left onto the tarmacked track to reach direction 4 and continuing ahead from here to reach the gatehouse at direction 5.

  4. At the waymark, turn left onto the track and follow it to a gate at a gatehouse.

    There are nearly 400 miles of public bridleway in Cornwall, marked with blue waymarks, which are also open to horses and cyclists, although there is no obligation to make them navigable by any means other than on foot. The general public are also legally entitled to drove livestock along public bridleways, and although Cornwall has more than its share of eccentrics, this is something we've yet to see.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the track, past a waymark, until you reach a junction with a wooden signpost.

    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".

  6. Turn left in the direction indicated for the Loe Bar and follow the track to another junction opposite the National Trust café.

    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.

  7. Turn left at the junction and follow the track a short distance to another signpost at a junction of tracks

    Bluebells are extremely poisonous, containing a number of biologically-active compounds and were used (probably with varying success) in mediaeval medicine. The sap was used as a glue for book-binding as its toxicity repelled insects. It was also used to attach the fletchings onto arrows.

    Trees grow from a microscopically thin layer of cells that sits between the bark and the wood. On the outside it produces the inner bark (phloem) and on the inside it produces the outer section of wood (xylem).

  8. Continue ahead in the direction signposted for the Loe Bar. Follow the track for just under a mile until you eventually reach the gate of another gatehouse at the coast.

    Amongst the species of tree growing around the Loe Pool are sweet chestnuts.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and there is evidence of its cultivation by humans from around 2000 BC. It was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops.

  9. Go through the gate and walk a few paces further to a coast path signpost. Turn left, signposted for Gunwalloe, and follow the path down to the beach.

    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.

  10. Continue ahead along the Loe Bar and bear left slightly to the edge of the Loe Pool. Follow along the edge of the pool to where a sandy path runs along the far side of the pool.

    In December 1807, the Navy frigate HMS Anson hit bad weather off Mount's Bay. They attempted to head into Falmouth harbour but realised they were trapped by the wind on the wrong side of the Lizard. The captain anchored the ship but the anchor rope snapped. A second anchor was deployed and held fast but this also snapped. As a last resort, the captain attempted to sail the ship onto the beach at the centre of the Loe Bar, but hit an uncharted reef just 100 metres off the beach. The force of the collision caused the main mast to topple onto the beach. Some of the crew were able to escape across it but around 100 drowned in the huge breakers. One of the witnesses was Henry Trengrouse who was so moved by the helplessness of the onlookers that he spent much of his life and personal savings developing the rocket lifesaving apparatus which went on to save many thousands of lives. A canon salvaged from the wreck in 1964 is on display outside the Helston museum and a cross overlooks the beach, commemorating both the disaster and the life work of Henry Trengrouse. Gold coins are occasionally found which are thought to be from pockets of the officers aboard.

  11. Turn left and follow the sandy path. Continue, passing over a small wooden footbridge, until you reach a large wooden walkway spanning the creek.

    In December 1921 the Italian cargo ship, the Tripolitania, was driven ashore on the Loe Bar in a gale. When the tide went out, the huge ship was parked upright at the top of the beach. A great effort was made to refloat her with many tons of sand and shingle being dug out by hand before the next spring tide. Tugs stood by to pull her off the bar, but another storm rose and embedded the ship even more firmly in the bar. This put an end to any chance of refloating her so she was broken up for scrap.

  12. Turn left and follow the walkway to the path on the opposite side of the creek.

    The Loe provides an ideal habitat for herons, which can sometimes be seen flying over the lake.

    Herons nest in tree-top colonies known as "heronries" where they make a large nest from twigs. It is not unusual for a single tree to contain as many as 10 nests and the overall colony can reach over a hundred nests. The herons re-use their nest for as many years as possible until it gets blown away by a storm. It is unwise to stand beneath a heronry as the birds defend their nests by regurgitating half-digested fish on those below!

  13. Turn left onto the path and follow it until it ends at a waymark on a track, just after passing along the edge of a walled courtyard.

    Swans can often be seen on the lake. Some of the shallower areas contain weed which swans can reach with their long necks.

    Swans usually mate for life, although "divorce" can sometimes occur if there is a nesting failure. The birds can live for over 20 years but in the 20th Century many swans were found to be suffering from lead poisoning. This was tracked down to the tiny "lead shot" weights used for fishing that swans would hoover up with weed and roots from the bottom of rivers and lakes. Since the introduction of non-toxic metals for making fishing weights, incidents of poisoning have disappeared and the swan population is now even growing very slightly.

  14. Bear left onto the track and follow it until you reach a tall tree with a small path below it, departing to the left.

    In 1684, the East India Company cargo ship The President was on its way back from India laden with an expensive cargo that included spices, indigo, drugs, pearls and diamonds. The valuable cargo was targeted by pirates but the heavily armed ship was able to see them off, exploding one of the pirate ships with a direct hit on the powder magazine.

    As The President approached Cornwall it faced strong winds which prevented docking to re-provision. As food supplies dwindled, the crew became malnourished and too weak to man the ship. In desperation, they ate the ship's dog but this was insufficient and the unguided ship grounded on the Loe Bar in a storm and was smashed into pieces.

    Only two crew members survived - narrowly - as after making it to shore after clinging to the cliffs, some not-so-sympathetic locals attempted to club them to death on the off-chance they might have salvaged something valuable!

    Divers have located the remains of the ship including cannons and the anchor which is now a protected archaeological site.

  15. Turn left onto the path and follow it to a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path along the left hedge. Continue on the path around the field to reach a pedestrian gate leading into the woods.

    Blackthorn is a spiny type of plum which is more broadly a member of the rose family. It is native to the UK and common on old farmland where blackthorn trees were planted as hedges to keep out cattle. It is still common in Cornish hedgerows today and also common on the coast as it's tolerant to salt.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the path a short distance to a fork at a waymark.
  17. Take the left path marked with the yellow arrow and follow this to a junction of paths at a waymark.

    Squirrels live in the woods. You're most likely to encounter them at times when there are not many dogs being walked.

    Squirrels eyes are positioned on the sides of their head which allows them to spot predators approaching from behind them. When a squirrel spots a predator, its runs away in a zigzag pattern. This confuses many of their predators but unfortunately it doesn't work well for cars.

  18. Turn left at the waymark and follow the path until it passes around a large bend and there is a fork where a path departs to the left.

    Fungus is the Latin word for mushroom but is derived from the ancient Greek word for sponge since this is what they were thought to resemble. Biologically, this isn't so far off either as fungi are more closely-related to animals than plants.

    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.

  19. Keep right to stay on the main path and follow it to another waymark.

    The berries of holly contain a chemical compound very similar to caffeine. Only in very small doses is this a stimulant; in larger doses it is toxic. It is for this reason that you see holly berries on bushes rather than being inside the nearest bird. The birds have learned to wait until after the frosts have reduced the toxicity of the berries before eating them.

    Holly has separate male and female plants, so not all holly bushes produce berries - only female plants. In less biologically-enlightened Pagan times, holly was though to be a male plant (the spikes symbolising aggression) whereas ivy was regarded as a female plant (symbolising attachment). The Christmas Carol "The Holly and the Ivy" is thought originally to derive from Pagan fertility myths onto which Christian symbolism has subsequently been added.

  20. Bear right in the direction of the blue arrow at the waymark and then keep left down the steps. Follow the path to a junction of paths in front of a bench; keep left as you approach to reach the bench.

    Minnows are a species of small carp that live in oxygen-rich streams, typically in the upper reaches of rivers where they provide an important food source for trout. Unlike trout, minnows don't need gravel for spawning and their young hatch quickly which allows them to multiply wherever sufficient food is available.

    When minnows are injured, special skin cells release a chemical which warns others of the presence of a predator. The evolutionary advantage of this to an individual minnow is not understood as it's already too late for the minnow being eaten and the cells require extra energy to maintain them so are, if anything, a disadvantage to the particular minnow who is carrying them. One possible explanation would be if other minnows in the shoal were relatives and therefore carrying similar genes then the sacrifice would be "worth it" (genetically), but studies have found that other minnows in the shoal are often unrelated. So it appears that minnows are simply nice.

  21. Turn left at the bench and follow the path to reach a gateway with granite gateposts in front of a small stream.

    In situations where ducks need to watch out for predators, they can sleep one half of their brain at a time, keeping one eye open for danger. In safer circumstances, ducks will sleep fully.

  22. Go through the gateway and cross the stream then continue along the bridleway to emerge into a meadow. Follow the path along the right hedge to a stony path on the right of the gateway ahead.

    Robins are common enough in Cornwall to be part of the Cornish language.

    The Cornish name for the bird is rudhek from rudh = "red" (in Cornish, "dh" is pronounced like the "th" in "with"). Cornish place names like Bedruthan, Ruthern and Redruth are all based on the colour red.

  23. Join the path on the right of the gateway and follow this until it ends at a waymark beside a track.

    On the hill to the right is the manor of Nansloe, from the Cornish word nans, for valley. The two neighbouring farms also take their name from this (Higher and Lower Nansloe).

    Cornwall has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • tenow - valley floor
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream (from Old English)
  24. Turn left onto the track and follow it for just over half a mile back to the car park. Just after you pass a Penrose National Trust sign, there is a small path on the left leading into the car park; a little further along the track there is also another opening into the car park.

    The chimney beside the track is one of the remnants of the Wheal Pool mine.

    Wheal Pool was a lead and silver mine that was worked since at least the 16th Century. Initially, open-cast mining was used to reach the ore close to the surface and this was extended to underground mining at the start of the 19th Century. In order to prevent the Loe Pool from flooding the mine, a drainage adit was bored through the cliffs next to the Loe Bar at the end of the 18th Century so that the water level in the pool could be regulated.

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