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".






Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Meandering up the Tamar part 5


Some banks are littered with old wrecks. How heart breaking it is to see old boats abandoned and neglected.  One is an old paddle steamer. To think fully restored, what a sight that would be making its way up the Tamar, taking tourists to Cotehele House on the higher tides. Another wreck, if it can be called that, is the bow section of a hull; upright between support stands…half finished? Cut in half in some serious marine accident? How random is it?


We follow the course taken by many a fine sailing vessel in the past. Vessels of 300 tonnes used to sail as far as Morwellham quay just above Calstock. Coal and fertiliser were bought upstream along with sea sand to spread on the fields.  Limestone was imported and burned in the numerous limekilns that line the banksides at river quays such as Haldon and Cotehele.  Later, street sweepings and other refuse from Plymouth and Devonport were carried upstream, another source of manure for the fields along the valley sides!  Later still, large baulks of timber for pit props along with coal to power the mine pumps were carried up the river.  In the meantime, Bricks, Granite, Copper, Lead, and manganese ores were exported downstream.  Agricultural produce was another major cargo downstream to the rapidly growing towns of Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse.


A typical Tamar sailing barge was built on the river bank, was up to sixty tonnes and had a peaked gaff rigged mainsail and a fore staysail.  They must have taken some piloting and river craft on the part of their skippers!  In 1820 or 1821 the first paddle steamer on the Tamar inaugurated a service between Calstock and Devonport to deliver foodstuffs to the Devonport steamer quays, where it was put on the railway to be taken to London by next morning.  By now it was the early 1800’s. What a major part in local history has this river played. Sadly, the railway connections to Tavistock, Calstock and Gunnislake sounded the end of the river traffic. Minerals were directly shipped out by train. The lucrative tourism trade continued on the packet steamers from Devonport until around 1939 when local piers at Plymouth and Devonport were closed and the packet steamers requisitioned for the war.
As we round the final part of the first meander, high on the hillside we get our first glimpse of Pentille Castle amongst the oak trees.


Having refuelled the outboard at Saltash and Cargreen, I’m now having a mild panic about how much fuel is left and where can I moor to refuel. I can’t reach the mooring platform at the bottom on Pentille Quay with its bathing house.



The tide hasn’t reached it yet. No choice but to push up river and hope that I can get alongside Haldon Quay for a brief stop.  Refuelling in the centre of the river is not a prospect I look forward to!

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