Cornwall by Cornishlight
The River Tamar
forming the boundary between Cornwall and Devon in the far South West of England.
Rising only 4 miles from Bude and the Atlantic Ocean, the River Tamar flows south, slowly at first, for nearly 50 miles to the English Channel. In its middle reaches the River Tamar winds its way through steep wooded country, ancient oak woodland, the haunt of raven and peregrine falcon. This is an area strewn with the relicts of two centuries of mining. Part of Cornwall's and West Devon's World Heritage Site A few men became very rich, whilst thousands of miners toiled in often appalling conditions for a pittance, working themselves to an early grave.
The Tamar Valley together with that of the River Lynher and River Tavy is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, one of only 37 such Areas in England. Taking in not just mudflats, saltmarsh, but ancient oak woodland, farms and the granite landscape of Kit Hill. The River Tamer is crossed by several magnificent medieval stone arch bridges, such as Greystone Bridge, built in 1437, built from 40 day indulgences granted by the Church. Records of their financing survive to this day. A few miles downstream at Horsebridge, yet another fine masonry arch bridge, is the 15th century Royal Inn.
Below Gunnislake (dating from 1504 and the first bridge in Cornwall to be built using large volumes of granite), the River Tamar becomes tidal, slow moving water mudflats inhabited by wading birds and with the haunting cry of the curlew echoing on an incoming tide. High above the River is Cotehele House. Saltmarsh. Explore the now abandoned Copper Quay at Morwellham, once the busiest port in Devon and Cornwall. Hire a canoe to paddle with the tide down to Saltash, under Brunel's magnificent Railway Bridge, the Tamar Suspension Bridge, and past HM's Royal Naval Dockyard Plymouth, where the River Tamar's journey to the Sea is complete, and it empties into Plymouth Sound and the English Channel.
The Tamar Bridge was opened to traffic in 1961, replacing the centuries old ferry that used to cross the River just downstream of the Bridge. At the time the Tamar Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the United Kingdom. The central span is 1100ft. The Bridge was constructed by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company.
The River forms a natural boundary between Devon and Cornwall. Sons would join their fathers down the mine. In the mid 19th century the mines of the Tamar Valley made it the largest copper producing area in the World, following the 1884 chance find of a huge copper lode in the Devon bank on land owned by the Duke of Bedford. Many of the fine buildings in nearby Tavistock were built by the Duke. Port at Morwellham since medieval times.
Railways killed river trade. As late as the 1950's area market gardens, early flowers, tomatoes, strawberries. Renown particularly for fields of daffodils, but most of these were ploughed up during the Second World War. Though hedges still come alive with colour from these old and rare varieties in Spring. 50 run ladders would be used to carefully handpick cherries, need 3 men to move them from tree to tree.
Click on thumbnails for larger view © Cornish
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Cornwall by Cornishlight A Travel Guide with Beautiful Pictures