We have a range of estuaries – all with a varied history of their uses and development … many are recorded in early annals, and in the Domesday Book of 1086.
|Carrick Roads on River Fal|
Cornwall had numerous ports for its varied goods – fish, tin, copper, iron, lead, manganese ore, slate, grain and imports particularly of coal to fire the mines.
Tiny inlets were so important in the early years of Cornwall – transportation by boat and small ships were the easiest way to export and import goods, including slaves.
|Cornish moorland lake|
The rivers meander down from the moorland spine … bubbling away, creating marshy areas, through the tiny fields of the farms … through ancient woodlands, into the estuaries with their saltmarshes and mudflats.
The four south coast Cornish estuaries are Rias … created after the Ice Age from an ancient valley, which flooded as the melt waters caused the sea level to rise dramatically. Typically rias are dendritic in outline – treelike – thus the estuaries are very irregular and indented ... giving plenty of coves and creeks.
|River Tamar with its catchment area -|
the boundary between Devon and Cornwall
The River Tamar gives us the border between the two very distinct counties of Devon and Cornwall … the border was declared by King Athelstan in 936.
The Tamar valley played a huge role in Cornwall and Devon’s agricultural, economic and mineral development … now Plymouth is Devon’s major port and dockyard … having seen many notable events … including the Pilgrim Father’s departure on The Mayflower in 1620.
|1904 photo of China Clay landings|
Further west on the south coast comes the ancient port of Fowey … it was on the trade route from Ireland, which ran overland from the Camel estuary, to the continent.
The River Camel (in Cornish meaning crooked river) – it rises on the edge of Bodmin Moor and drains most of north Cornwall.
|The River Camel|
The River Gannel (in Cornish meaning lovage (as in the herb) river) drains north towards Newquay … the estuary contains an historic boatyard and is an important location for migratory birds.
Hayle, aptly named Heyl for estuary … was a convenient place to land coal from South Wales and then taken inland by mule. Once the railway and steam ships came in – Hayle’s importance faded but its early history is fascinating: Neolithic finds, Bronze Age and even the Phoenicians were here.
Helford River on the south coast serves the local area – but Falmouth, slightly east, has much better deep water facilities. Helford has the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, the Duchy Oyster Farm and many creeks – of which Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek is the most famous.
Falmouth our last estuary – is a huge ria – with very large deep water moorings for naval ships, and in recent times for mothballing uneconomic container ships … though times are changing for those too and they are mostly gone.
Five sites of Special Scientific Interest have been designated along the River Fal ... nature reserves, wetlands, dry heath, ancient woodland, rich ground flora on the flood plain, mud flats and salt marshes – all preserving our heritage, wildlife of many sorts … birds, otters, as well as coastal life … algae, shellfish, worms, crustaceans etc
Cornwall as its peninsula shape dictates was a focal point for early marauders … while the estuaries served the locals, the economic way into England, as too invaders … the Vikings came by ship, the Romans built roads … it is a county that has had to constantly change and adapt with the times.
That is E for Estuaries, environmental havens at all times, and economic ones throughout the reaches of time … existence, slavery to tourism …
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