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The Loe

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The Loe

The Loe
Location Cornwall
Lake type Eutrophic
Primary inflows River Cober
Primary outflows Mine adit
Basin countries United Kingdom
Max. length 2 km (1.2 mi)
Max. width 0.8 km (0.50 mi)
Surface area 50 ha (120 acres)
Max. depth 6 m (20 ft)
Surface elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Islands None
Settlements Helston

The Loe (Cornish: An Logh), also known as Loe Pool, is the largest natural freshwater lake (50 ha and maximum depth of 6 m) in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The earliest recorded appearance of the name was in 1337, when it was called "La Loo",[1] but is mentioned as 'the lake' in 1302.[2] Situated between Porthleven and Gunwalloe and downstream of Helston, it is separated from Mount's Bay by the shingle bank of Loe Bar. Both the Loe (including the southern arm known as Carminowe Creek) and Loe Bar are situated within the Penrose Estate, which is administered by the National Trust,[3] and are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England.[4] It is within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Beauty AONB[5] and is considered a classic Geological Conservation Review Site.[6]

Formation of Loe Bar

The Loe was originally the estuary of the River Cober, a ria or drowned river valley now blocked by a sand and shingle bar with a fresh water lake behind. The valley can be traced several kilometres out to sea.[7] The age of the bar is disputed, with estimates ranging from several thousand years to c. 700 years. With the melting of ice-sheets and glaciers after the last ice age, sea levels rose and reached their present levels about 6,000 years ago during what is known as the Flandrian Marine Trangression.[8] The most likely origin is a barrier beach, that gradually moved onshore, as the sea level rose during the Holocene. The shingle coming from drowned terraces of the former river that flowed down the English Channel (the nearest onshore source is 120 miles away in East Devon).[6] It is thought that Longshore Drift plays an important part in the maintenance of the Bar, with a strong current flowing to the south-east from Porthleven to Gunwalloe, depositing shingle along the Bar. The ebb flow is not a simple reverse flow and is not strong enough to remove all the deposits.[9] The bar itself is a sediment sink as far as the overall beach budget is concerned.[6] The deposits have been tentatively dated as Eocene[9] and compared with Gunwalloe beach material, very little of the Loe Bar shingle is locally derived. The composition of the Bar deposits are: Chalk flint 86%, Quartz 9%, Grit 2.6%, Greensand chert 2% and Serpentine 0.5%.[9]

To prevent flooding in parts of Helston, the Bar has occasionally been breached, a practice known locally as "cutting", with the last occurring in 1984.[10] The Bar has always resealed itself.[11]

Historical records

  • 13th century (1260) The townspeople of Helston buy the rights to the port of Gweek at the head of the Helford River.[11]
  • 1272 King Edward I granted certain lands in or near Helston to William de Treville on condition that he should, at his own expense, bring a boat and fishing-hook and net for the King's use on the Loe, as often as he should visit the Borough.[12]
  • 1281 The first documentation of the name Penrose; John de Penrose.[11]
  • 1534–43 Visits by John Leland. First to mention the "casting up of sands that made a bar stopping the River Cober from flowing out to Sea."[13]
  • 1602 Richard Carew. "The shingle was relatively porous and fresh water could leave and seawater enter depending, on the relative heights of the pool and sea".[14]
  • 1771 Penrose bought by the Rogers family for £11 000.[11]
  • 1807 Over one hundred people were drowned when the Captain of HMS Anson, beached the 44-gun frigate on the Bar when caught in storm on her way to the Brest blockade. A memorial cross to the dead can be seen on the coastal slope near Carminowe Creek. A consequence of this disaster was the development of the rocket life-saving apparatus by Henry Trengrouse who witnessed the wreck, and an Act of Parliament for the Christian burial for those lost at sea.[11]
  • 1837 Report on the possibility of creating a harbour by the civil-engineer James Rendle. The estimated cost of £118,523 was considered too expensive to take the project further.[11][15]
  • c. 1850 Tin waste from the mines at Porkellis Moor begin to block the inner face of the Bar reducing the porosity.[16]
  • 1865 Breach of the Bar.[17]
  • 1874 The last known occurrence of manual cutting.[9]
  • 1889 Enlargement of the 1780 adit which regulated outflow.[9]
  • 1924 Freak wave caused flooding in Helston.[9]
  • 1938 Mining activity ceased up river.[9]
  • c. 1940 Loe Bar mined and timber baulks or booms moored on the surface of the Loe to prevent seaplanes landing. A pillbox was built near Bar Lodge.[11] By 2010 erosion had caused the pillbox to fall onto the beach.
  • 1974 Ownership of the Penrose Estate (apart from the house) is transferred to the National Trust.[11]
  • 1979 First time a channel is cut by JCB.[18]
  • 1984 Heavy rains in October and November lead to the last cutting of the 20th century.[9]

Site of Special Scientific Interest

Loe Bar

The beach from Porthleven to Gunwalloe is important for coastal geomorphology as it is formed by a barrier beach moving onshore since the Holecene and maintained by a predominantly south-west wave regime. During storms the Bar can be overrun by the sea forming a series of washover fans resulting in, annual laminated sediments, which are unique in Great Britain. The habitat is unique in Cornwall with rare species of plants, bryophytes, algae and insects. It is also an important overwintering site for nearly eighty species of birds and up to 1,200 wildfowl. At the last assessment on 8 September 2010 the lake was found to be unfavourable condition, with no change from the previous assessment. The reasons being inappropriate water levels and water pollution, due to agriculture run off and discharge from the sewage treatment works below Helston.[19]

Loe Bar is the only site in Britain where the subspecies leechi of the Sandhill Rustic moth is found.[20]

Porcellio dilatatus is an uncommon species of woodlouse with scattered records from most of the British Isles. Loe Pool is the only Cornish site. Also found on each of the inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly.[21]


The Loe is reputed to be the lake in which Sir Bedivere cast King Arthur's sword, Excalibur,[11] Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor shares this legend which is comparatively recent, Tennyson choosing Loe Pool in his Idylls of the King.[22]

A local legend states that the giant Tregeagle was doomed to remove the sand from Gunwalloe to Porthleven, from which the sea would return it. In the course of one of his journeys he is said to have dropped a bag of sand at the entrance of Helston harbour and so to have formed the Bar.[11][12] Local superstition also warns that the Loe claims a victim every seven years, a legend shared with other waters such as the River Dart.[11][22]


  1. ^ Cornish Place Names, page 122|author=O.J.Padel
  2. ^ Toy's History of Helston, pages 384 to 394
  3. ^ National Trust. Penrose Estate: Gunwalloe and Loe Pool. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  4. ^ Natural England. SSSI units for Loe Pool. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  5. ^ Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  6. ^ a b c May, V.J. Loe Bar. In May, V.J. and Hansom, J.D. (2003) Coastal Geomorphology of Great Britain, Geological Conservation Review Series, No. 28, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, 754 pp.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Bird, Eric (1998). The Coasts of Cornwall. Fowey: Alexander Associates.  
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Murphy, R.J., (1986). A Study of Loe Bar. In Cornish Studies 14:23–33.
  10. ^ Davies, David. "Loe Bar: A Geomorphological Analysis". Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Le. Messurier, B. and Luck, L. (1998) Loe Pool and Mount's Bay. No. 12 in The National Trust Coast of Cornwall series of leaflets.
  12. ^ a b Toy, H. S. (1936) The History of Helston. Oxford University Press
  13. ^ Chope, R. P. (Ed.) (1918). Early Tours in Devon and Cornwall. Itinerary of John Leland (1534–43), pp. 30–1, cited in Murphy, R. J. (1986). A Study of Loe Bar. In Cornish Studies 14:23–33.
  14. ^ Martin, B. (c. 1770). The Natural History of Cornwall and Devonshire.
  15. ^ Rendle, J. M. (1837). Report on the practicability of forming a Harbour at the mouth of Loe Pool, in Mount's Bay, near Helston in the County of Cornwall. Plymouth: J. B. Rowe, cited in Murphy, R. J. (1986). A Study of Loe Bar. In Cornish Studies 14:23–33.
  16. ^ Esquiros, A. (1865). Cornwall and its Coasts. Chapman and Hall, cited in Murphy, R. J. (1986). A Study of Loe Bar. In Cornish Studies 14:23–33.
  17. ^ Chapman, V. J. (1964). Coastal Vegetation. Pergamon Press, cited in Murphy, R. J. (1986). A Study of Loe Bar. In Cornish Studies 14:23–33.
  18. ^ West Briton, 22 Feb 1979, cited in Murphy, R. J. (1986). A Study of Loe Bar. In Cornish Studies 14:23–33.
  19. ^ "Diversity of lake life is harmed by water pollution". West Briton. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  20. ^ Natural England. Loe Pool SSSI Designation. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  21. ^ Gainey, P.A., Neil, C.J. and Turk, S.M. (2009) Freshwater and Terrestrial Crustacea. In CISFBR, Red Data Book for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 2nd Edition. Praze-an-Beeble: Croceago Press.
  22. ^ a b Weatherhill, Craig; Devereux, Paul (1994). Myths and Legends of Cornwall. Wilmslow: Sigma Press. p. 170.  

External links

  • Geological Conservation Review
  • History of Helston

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