Saturday, 18 July 2009

Rivers of Cornwall

The River Camel is a river in Cornwall, UK. It rises on the edge of Bodmin Moor and together with its tributaries drains a considerable part of North Cornwall.

The Camel valley in winter. Taken from between Pendavey bridge and Polbrock looking upstream

Map showing Celtic /Keltek Sea (pale blue)

The river issues into the Celtic Sea area of the Atlantic Ocean between Stepper Point and Pentire Point having covered a distance of approximately 30 miles. The river is tidal as far upstream as Egloshayle and is popular for sailing, birdwatching and fishing. The name Camel derives from the Cornish language for 'the crooked one', a reference to its winding course.

Geology and hydrology
The River Camel rises below Hendraburnick Down (UK Grid Reference SX135875) on the edge of Bodmin Moor, an area which forms part of the granite spine of Cornwall. The river's course is then through upper and middle Devonian rocks, predominantly slates such as Upper Delabole Slates, Trevose Slates and Polzeath Slates. These stretch right to the coast, although Pentire head is composed mainly of pillow lavas. The only active quarry in the River Camel catchment area is Delabole Quarry although there has been mining for lead and antimony on Pentire Head, as well as building stone at various locations. Further inland mines surrounding the Camel and its tributaries produced lead, copper and iron, while Mulberry Mine near Ruthernbridge also produced tin.
The catchment area of the River Camel covers a total of 208.8km² on the western side of Bodmin Moor, and is mainly Devonian slates and granite. Water volumes are affected by the reservoir at Crowdy Marsh, by abstraction of water for public supply, and by effuent from the sewage system around Bodmin. Data collected by the National Water Archive shows that water flow in the River Camel for 2006 was considerably below average. This correlates with reduced rainfall, particularly between the months of June and September.


The mouth of the River Camel seen from Pentire Point with Trebetherick Point in the foreground.

“ The next five and a half miles beside the broadening Camel to Padstow is the most beautiful train journey I know ” — John Betjeman, Betjeman's Cornwall.

The Camel estuary stretches up as far as Wadebridge, and is considered by many to be the finest part of the river.

Wadebridge, Old Bridge

From the quays at Wadebridge, now developed with apartments and retail space on the town side, the river passes under the new bypass and leaves the disused Vitriol Quay then on passing Burniere Point the valley widens on the right with acres of salt marsh where the River Amble flows in. Here the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society have hides on both sides of the river; those on the Camel Trail being open to the public. The main river follows the western side of the valley, while on the eastern side a barrage prevents the rising tide from entering the River Amble.
Moving downstream a small test bore into Dinham Hill is only accessible from the foreshore at low tide, and then you reach Cant Cove below Cant Hill, with the rotting ribs of a ship sticking out of the mud. Almost opposite Cant Hill on the western shore is Camel Quarry, the piles of waste rock clearly visible above the river with the remains of a quay visible at low tide. From here the mud gives way to sand and when the tide is high enough water skiers can be seen passing Gentle Jane, named after a legendary lady who treated the ills of all comers.

Black Tor Ferry

As the river makes a final turn northward, the Camel Trail crosses the triple-span “Iron Bridge” over Little Petherick Creek, and then passes below Dennis Hill with its obelisk and reaches Padstow where the Black Tor Ferry, officially owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, carries people across the river to Rock. Beyond Padstow lies the Doom Bar, a notorious sandbank and the graveyard of many ships over the years.
The mouth of the River Camel lies between Stepper Point on the west and Pentire Point on the east, and each headland shelters a sandy beach. Polzeath beach with its excellent surfing lies within Pentire Point, while Tregirls beach lies tucked tightly behind Stepper Point.

Hawkers Cove

The northern end of Tregirls beach is Harbour Cove, and between here and Hawker's Cove evidence has been found of occupation during the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods, and use of Harbour Cove for trading vessels. In 1827 the Padstow Harbour Association chose Hawker's Cove as the location for the Padstow Lifeboat, this being taken over by the RNLI in 1856. A new lifeboat station and slipway were built in 1931 and a second lifeboat stationed at Hawker's Cove. The station, which closed in 1962 due to the water becoming too shallow, has now been converted into a dwelling.

Stepper Point viewed from the east across the River Camel estuary

History and infrastructure
Cornwall is a county of high cliffs and deep valleys, so rivers have been used for transport throughout history. Being one of the few safe havens on the north coast of Cornwall, the Camel Estuary has been used since Roman times, and most likely earlier. The river has been navigable beyond Wadebridge with the highest quay being at Guineaport, and then beyond that at least as far as Pendavy a mile further upstream.
The river Camel and its tributaries are crossed by more Listed bridges than any other river in Cornwall.

Map of Camel Estuary

Tributaries and their names
The main tributaries of the River Camel are the Allen, the Ruthern, the De Lank and the Stannon. Other tributaries include the River Amble, which joins the Camel near Burniere Point and the Polmorla Brook which joins the Camel immediately above the bridge at Wadebridge.
In terms of its name there is evidence that what is now known as the River Camel has had several names in the past. The name Camel is derived from Middle Cornish Cam-El, Crooked one, and seems originally to have referred only to the upper parts. The lower part of the river was referred to as the River Allen, a common Celtic river name of unknown derivation, however in the 19th Century the name Allen was trasferred to the River Layne which flows into the Camel just above Egloshayle.

Polzeath Beach from Pentire Point

The Camel estuary appears to have been called the River Hayle from Middle Cornish Hayle, estuary and while this may have been as much a description as a proper name, the continued use of the name Hayle Bay for the bay containing Polzeath beach supports this. In turn it has been suggested that the River Layne may have previously been called the River Dewi given the number of places along its course which contain the element

The River Fal flows through Cornwall, United Kingdom, rising on the Goss Moor (between St. Columb and St. Austell) and reaching the English Channel at Falmouth.

Pendennis Castle

On or near the banks of the Fal are the castles of Pendennis and St Mawes as well as Trelissick Garden. The River Fal separates the Roseland peninsula from the rest of Cornwall. Like most of its kind on the south coast of Cornwall and Devon, the Fal estuary is a classical ria, or drowned river valley.

Flushing, from Fish Strand Quay, Falmouth, with rainbow

St Mawes Castle and Pendennis (background)


The Old Harry Ferry

The river is crossed by the historic and scenic King Harry Ferry, a vehicular chain ferry that links the villages of Feock and Philleigh approximately equidistant between Truro and Falmouth.

The name Fal is Old Norse/Danish Viking, and dates from the Viking Age, a time when the Danes allied with the Britons of Cornwall, and caused devastation to Cornwall's Anglo-Saxon enemy in Wessex.

The River Fowey is a river in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.

Lanhydrock House

It rises about 1-mile (1.6 km) north-west of Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor, passes Lanhydrock House,

Restormel Castle and

Lostwithiel Village

Lostwithiel, then broadens at Milltown before joining the English Channel at Fowey. It is only navigable by larger craft for the last 7 miles (11 km).


There is a ferry between Fowey and Bodinnick.

Lostwithiel Old Bridge

The first road crossing going upstream is in Lostwithiel.

Stepping Stones to cross the River Lerryn at low tide for the shop at Fowey

The river has seven tributaries, the largest being the River Lerryn. The section of the Fowey Valley between Doublebois and Bodmin Parkway railway station is known as the Glynn Valley (from Glynn House, Cardinham). The valley is the route of both the A38 trunk road and the railway line (built by the Cornwall Railway in 1859). The railway line is carried on eight stone viaducts along this stretch (see Cornwall Railway viaducts).

Golitha Falls

Golitha Falls are a set of waterfalls located to the north of Bodmin Moor. There is a 1-3-mile (4.8 km) riverside walk, from the visitor car park. The crux of the falls require careful footing, over steep sided banks.

The name is pronounced Goleetha, derived from the word for obstruction in Cornish
Origin of the nameThe origin of the name Lostwithiel is a subject much debated. In the 16th century it was thought that the name came from the Roman name Uzella, translated as Les Uchel in Cornish. In the 17th century popular opinion was that the name came from a translation of Lost (a tail) and Withiel (a lion), the lion in question being the lord who lived in the castle.
Current thinking is that the name comes from the Old Cornish Lost Gwydeyel meaning "The place at the tail end of the forest".

The River Hayle is a small river in west Cornwall, UK which issues into St Ives Bay at Hayle on Cornwall's Atlantic coast.
The River Hayle is approx 12 miles (19 kilometres) long and it rises south-west of Crowan village. Its course is west for approx 5 miles (which brings the river to within 3 miles of the south coast at Marazion in Mounts Bay).I then flows through a steep wooded valley north of the granite high ground at Trescowe Common, formerly a mining area, before turning abruptly north near the hamlet of Relubbus. It then follows a northerly course for the remaining six miles to the estuary and passes St Erth.

The Hayle Estuary encompasses a disused port on the east bank and a substantial area of salt marsh named Lelant Saltings to the west. The port was once of considerable importance to Hayle's industry (see main article Hayle). Lelant saltings is an important habitat for birds and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds runs a nature reserve there. Areas around the estuary are designated as sites of special scientific interest

The River Looe is a river in south-east Cornwall, which flows into the English Channel at Looe. It has two main branches, the East Looe River and the West Looe River.
The eastern tributary has its source near St Cleer and flows south, passing close to the western outskirts of Liskeard. The western tributary has its source near Dobwalls.

River Looe meets the Sea splitting the village
here at the harbour wall

South of Liskeard, the Looe Valley Line railway follows the course of the river to Looe.
The lowest stretch of the rivers form the Looe Estuary.

The River Lynher (or St Germans River) flows through east Cornwall, passing St Germans and enters Plymouth Sound at the Hamoaze.
The river is approximately 21 miles (34 km long), rising at a height of approximately 920 feet (280m) on Bodmin Moor and flowing into the Tamar Estuary near Plymouth.
It has four main tributaries, the largest of which is the River Tiddy. The smaller tributaries include Deans Brook, Withey Brook, Marke Valley and Darleyford streams and Kelly Brook.
The Lynher and its tributaries are largely used for rod and line fishing, particularly for brown trout and Atlantic salmon.
Its estuary is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and also a Special Protection Area. Many species of animals can be found here, including the kingfisher, otter, dipper, avocet, and black-tailed godwit; the triangular club-rush (scirpus) also grows on the banks.

The River Tiddy is a small river in south-east Cornwall, the main tributary of the River Lynher. The Tiddy rises near Pensilva and flows south east past the village of Tideford until it joins the Lynher.

The Red River is a small river in north-west Cornwall, UK which issues into St Ives Bay at Godrevy on Cornwall's Atlantic coast.

Godrevy Point

The Red River is approx 8 miles (13 kilometres) long and gets its name from the mineral deposits associated with tin mining which formerly coloured its water red. The river's gradient is relatively steep; it falls 170 metres from source to sea.

St. Ives Bay, Lelant Towans

The Red River rises from springs near Bolenowe on the Carnmenellis granite batholith, an upland plateau . The river flows north, passing through a gorge in the granite ridge west of Carn Brea. Beyond the gorge, the river passes Tuckingmill, once a centre of mining and associated industries. At the hamlet of Combe, the Tehidy Stream joins the Red River which then turns west towards Godrevy.
The Red River's catchment area includes the major mining areas of Tuckingmill, Pool, and Camborne. Thus:
"The Red River catchment has been subjected to mining and mineral working for many centuries, particularly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It has been extensively tin streamed and its water used for mineral processing, both for use in the mineral separation processes and as a source of power. As a result of past mining activities the river has undergone many modifications and for significant parts of its course the river has been diverted, canalised, and, in places, embanked. Very little, if any, of the river can be considered to be in a truly natural condition." Quoted from Cornwall County Council study of the Red River. Since mining finished, the Red River has lost its distinctive colour and natural ecology and biodiversity are re-establishing.

The Truro River is a river which begins in the city of Truro in Cornwall, England, UK. It is the product of the convergence of the two rivers named Kenwyn and Allen, which run under the city: the River Truro (named after the city) flows into estuarial waters where wildlife is abundant and then out into the Carrick Roads. The river is navigable up to Truro.

The River Truro with a riverboat

Truro, Large Celtic Cross

The river valleys form a bowl surrounding the city on the north, east and west and open to the Truro River in the south. The fairly steep-sided bowl in which Truro is located, along with high precipitation swelling the rivers and a spring tide in the River Fal, were major factors in the cause of floods seen in 1988 which caused large amounts of damage to the city centre. Since then, flood defences have been constructed around the city, including an emergency dam at New Mill on the River Kenwyn and a tidal barrier on the Truro River, to prevent future problems.

The River Valency is located in north Cornwall with many tributaries, and after running past Lesnewth cuts a valley before entering the sea at the harbour of the village of Boscastle.

Source of River Valency

Boscastle Harbour

One of its tributaries is the River Jordan, which it joins in Boscastle just before the B3263 road bridge.

The Valency valley is steep-sided and the sides of the lower section are wooded. The valley has been flooded many times, most seriously in 2004 when significant channel erosion occurred.(Heavy rainfall for 5 hours over a wide area in the afternoon of 16 August 2004 led to severe flooding and structural damage.)
The name has been explained as a corruption of the Cornish Melinjy (i.e. Melin-Chy = Mill-house) from the mill which existed in mediaeval times.

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