Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Meandering up the River Tamar part 4

At the start of the first big meander loop the landscape has changed dramatically. The river flows gently, no waves. The wind has dropped. The current as the tide carries us along is pretty fast and the outboard is on idle yet we make around four knots.

Past a series of big yachts moored in the deep water, past old little launch ramps, decayed and dilapidated; past eroded trees, fallen from the steep hillside banks; the brown water laps at Arwen’s hull. There is a stillness and calm about the valley and its river. On a low hill a tractor chugs around an area of hooped poly tunnels. Ploughed soils are rick loamy dark brown. Herons, suddenly disturbed by our appearance, take off, skimming low across the brown waters, the beat of their long wings, steady and rhythmic.

Trains can be heard in the distance behind us, rumbling across the seven spans of the Tavy iron bridge. A two car train appears briefly on the hillside, making its way up one of the most attractive branch lines in the UK, the Tamar Valley Branch line to Calstock.

The banks are changing. Flat expanses of huge reed beds with thick brown oozing mud; they are the home of wading birds; the snow white egrets, the tall grey herons and occasionally even the rare and famed Avocets, symbol of the RSPB. The mud flats rise a metre or so above us. On the inner bank there is an embankment of some sort, overgrown with marshland plants and reeds.  Beyond them lie green fields tinged with yellow – buttercups blooming.  It is glorious, stunning scenery.  The Tamar River and its banks are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a European Special Area of Conservation, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. One of its special features is the low rocky reefs far inland where zonation of rocky habitats, both intertidal and subtidal can be observed. Those very reefs are the ones I keep a wary eye out for. They really do extend inland!

Much of this landscape we pass through is owned by the Cornish Wildlife Trust. The SSSI status of the valley is due to its unique biodiversity and varying habitats for waders and wildfowl. Wintering avocets, black tailed godwits, whimbrels, greenshanks, golden plovers and more…. They are all here watching us as we make our slow progress up the silent river. As I watch the trees and reed beds, I’m pretty sure eyes are watching us back!

The channel Thalweg meanders. A little bit of knowledge about rivers is useful after all! I ferry glide Arwen from one side of the channel to the other as we follow the Thalweg (a current that marks the deepest part of the channel).  Every so often, a tiny tributary breaks through the reed beds. A narrow waterway deep into the heart of the reeds, it is tempting to push up one of them and explore further. But wisdom takes over, for although it is a rising tide, the tiny channels, barely the width of Arwen’s beam, are choked with old reeds. What I would need is a punting pole, for use of the outboard would be impossible. Getting in would be easy………getting out…….well that could be trickier. I wonder how Arwen would punt backwards?

Between the reed beds we glimpse houses, exquisite cottages. What an amazing place to live. All this nature and scenery on your doorstep; it’s another world. Sadly I know little of it which is shameful given it is on my doorstep figuratively speaking!

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