After lunch was late in the day for kingfishers we thought, but almost at once we saw a grey heron in a tree surrounded by little egrets. Were they protecting their nests or threatening its? Hard to say although more egrets arrived and the heron stayed put.
The inland area of Looe was still in sight as we entered the wood, muddy but not too much of a problem underfoot. A steep hillside on our left, the river on our right, we had the first bluebells, plenty of primroses, and the delicacy of wood melick just opening its near-purple flowers branching like barley on slender stems. Against the trees or moss it was particularly lovely. As if to match the grass there was a shelduck on the opposite shore.
Three walkers heading for Looe told us the worst of the mud was yet to come. There were low banks either side of the path or tree boles to use so we managed to avoid the heaviest mud. Carpets of last year’s leaves also helped. Foresters were at work, their chainsaws covering the birdsong in places, though we heard enough to keep us happy.
Not sure what was meant by Watergate – nothing political we guessed – we were keen to find out. The path was well above the water but, as we would discover, a higher return route was available, though only slightly less muddy. A mile and a half the signpost had indicated: more like two, one of us said as we read there was only a quarter of a mile to go. That too, because there was no sign saying “Watergate”, seemed optimistic, especially after two locals said it was “just up there.”
We had come down to the water’s edge, and a road ran onward. Determined to find Watergate, two of us pressed on while the others stayed among the wild garlic at the roadside. “Just up there” was a sturdy structure in Cornish granite, arched openings on three sides and a ramp off the hillside on the fourth. Had it reached or crossed the river it would clearly have been a watergate. Perhaps it had done once. From the top there were chutes down into the body of the structure. A mystery best left so, we decided and began the journey back.
The choice was as before or the higher path into the wood. “Steep” said the notice. No problem, we decided, and set off. For some reason the signs directed us away from a bridle track to a higher path through trees. It may have exclusive to the foresters. Who knows? We saw one dog walker who was happy enough to use it. We stayed above, however, and towards the end had the reward of the meaning of a local rhyme that a giant had nothing to do so built a hedge that ran to Looe. It was in fact a dry stone wall but in Cornwall’s climate hospitable to plant life and from many years back covered in moss, grasses and other plants. Only where the cover had collapsed in places were stones visible.
We had almost reached the end of the walk, coming down to a by-road below the traffic from Liskeard to Looe with a small stream feeding the river beneath. The egrets were still in the tree. Things that happen in Cornwall happen slowly, as a mile and a half seems to spread beyond two. Waiting for us in the car was a chillbag of the morning’s fresh fish from the market: no better way to end a day.