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".

Monday, 11 August 2014

Dinghy cruising up the River Lynher part two

Having semi successfully sailed off the mooring at Henn Point and located the red port can buoy that marked the entrance to the Lynher, Arwen and I were ready. Before us stretched a sinuous river, one that had flowed over the centuries through a landscape comprising of slates and grits laid down in Devonian times. Ancient woodlands spread down to the waters edge and throughout the Lynher's length, people through the ages had used it as a transport route. This is part of the ancient Tamar Valley Industrial heritage. There were things to see, appreciate and marvel at.

A scan of pilotage notes showed 0.4NM on a bearing of 256M to beggar island buoy.  And so we ghosted into the Lynher past the small craft moorings on its northern side, pushed along by a gentle 2 knot intermittent breeze from the north. That was to be indicative of the passage, gentle shifting breezes that built slightly and then dropped away completely. But time was now on our side and the scenery was stunning, the weather hot, sunny and blue skies; the river empty of boat traffic, peaceful, serene and inviting.

Weardle quay, with its cottages and quayside slipped gently away aft. Now residential properties, there was little from the water view to show that once it had been a major naval training school with its own GWR railway holt above it in the hill on what is now the hidden main line Penzance to Paddington.

Wearde Quay today

HMS Defiance was a 5000 tonne warship built at Pembroke Docks in South Wales. Completed in 1861, she was then already obsolete, made redundant by the advent of the new ironclad warships and thus in the early 1880's the Sea Lords, on deciding that Devonport should have its own Torpedo Training Establishment, ordered that Defiance be converted to a sea training school and moored permanently off Weardle Quay in the Lynher.

HMS Defiance Sea Torpedo and Dive Training School
Various vessels were assigned to her, tugs, pinnaces and tenders, to carry stores, personnel and messages. Other hulks were added to her, connected by an extensive network of footbridges and by 1920 she had a complement of 1000 personnel. But time, water and ever expanding demands took their toll on the Defiance and in 1930 she was towed away and the training school was closed, so ending 45 years of naval training at Weardle Quay.
One other little footnote of interest.............A Captain Henry Jackson met one young Guglielmo Marconi at a war office conference in 1896. They struck up a lasting friendship despite their age difference and so it came to pass that the first ever ship to ship radio communication took place at HMS Defiance training school on the River Lynher. Jackson set up a radio transmitter on a gunboat HMS Scourge. By 1897, signals from the Scourge could be received anywhere she went in the Tamar estuaries!

Beggar Island, slipping past on our port side.
Its extensive sloping rocky platforms hidden under the water, a nasty trap for the unwary boats who try to take short cuts or cut inside of the red port marker. Winds were light from the north east and Arwen's sails were fully out to capture what breeze there was; centreboard was raised and the mainsheet trailed slightly in the water on the port side. Fickle winds gave a slow drift past the island "presumed to be the retreat of the notorious Bampflyde Moore Carew, King of the beggars" according to Nettleton's Guide to Plymouth. We didn't see any beggars but there were plenty of birds and I am sure one or two were spoonbills although I could have been wrong.

Before us now lay a tight turn south west, following the sinuous channel down to sandacre buoy; we were searching for the green starboard can...224M on the compass; ahead lay HMS Jupiter Point, the sail training centre, its small craft moorings and the permanently anchored HMS Brecon in mid channel. She, a Falklands war veteran is now the first taste of life on board ship that all naval recruits get, but as we glided past, she was empty; no action today at the training school. In someway I was rather relieved. Contending with speeding ribs, novice naval recruits and the hoarsely barked commands of the frustrated but eternally humorous Chief Petty Officers would have spoilt the tranquillity.

view across from Anthony's Passage with HMS Jupiter and HMS Brecon in view

The rumbling of a train over a viaduct caught our attention; through the trees on the north bank could be glimpsed partial flashes of a First Great Western Train, southward bound for Penzance. The opening of Forder Lake hove into view with the great viaduct to its rear. I was tempted, very tempted to mosey into the Lake but it would have required starting up the motor and I was unsure of what to expect. Quick reference to the chart and pilotage notes indicated there would be sufficient water to sail in and out again.......but that nagging, niggling self doubt gremlin appeared on my shoulder, whispering away in my ear......"Don't go in Steve; what if you get stuck; keep to the schedule Steve, up river; we go upriver....."  And again due to lack of confidence in my own abilities I erred on the side of caution.....but next time we visit the Lynher....we visit with the intention of sailing in, just as next time we go to Calstock....we sail all the way!

These two photos show Forder Lake and viaduct

The viaduct is a listed building! Forder Lake is an ANOB (Area of outstanding Natural Beauty) and a Conservation Area as well. It has a mill pond and unusually an artificial island made up of old wooden boats! named after a medieval fording point across the brook that feeds into it, the area was an important medieval industrial site with flour and fulling mills, quarries, lime burning kilns and an extensive market gardening area. The flour mill is mentioned in historical documents dating from 1296; it was valued at £24.0S.3d in 1373 when the Black Prince granted the manor to his loyal servant in arms Sir Henry Loring. In the 1600's the fulling mill was weaving cloth, cleaning it, shrinking and thickening it. The quarries were working the 'Blue Elvan Dyke' stone, the internal tramways taking it down to the quayside where it was loaded into Tamar sailing Barges to be used later as road stone in the growing towns of Devonport and Plymouth. 

one of the Forder Mills and the millpond

Forder Lake didn't always smell nice either! Dock dung from Devonport in the form of street sweepings and night soil was bought back to the quayside; a highly valued commodity by the manor farmers....a rich organic fertilizer to be spread across their fields!! As the industrial revolution spread across the country, the 1800's saw the Tamar sailing barges with their long booms and high peaked mainsails bring cargoes of limestone, coal and dock dung; and carry away stone, grain, fruit and veg.....but alas by the 1930's these fine boats had seen their heyday come and go. One remains....the Shamrock.....restored and moored at Cotehele up the Tamar (see previous posts on cruising the Tamar for further details about Shamrock or use the blog search engine box).

Cormorants flew past, low skimming the waves, wings almost touching the shimmering olive green waters. In the distance shrill cries of oystercatchers pierced the early afternoon tranquillity. Ahead, a large yacht (well large by Arwen's standards...around 30'), slowly drifted upriver, cautiously keeping to the main channel. It was reassuring to see, that like me, the skipper was navigating from one buoy to another; religiously keeping to the deepwater channel. From his position towards Ince Buoy, pilotage notes from the RYA suggested that he could only proceed further upstream if he was within 2 hrs of high tide; and he was; timing it to perfection! Arwen with her three sails was gaining ground on him and I made the decision to fall off the wind slightly; to slow down our track; what was the hurry; why overtake; why intrude on his crews sense of serenity and enjoyment?

Not that I had any choice in the matter....fir that fickle breeze had disappeared. We were becalmed. Carried along only by the current and with barely any steerage control on the rudder, we found ourselves mid channel with nowhere to go.........!  Anthony's Passage was aft; through the trees on the hill to the north, slightly aft of us could be seen occasional glimpses of the Motte and Bailey castle....Trematon Castle. Ahead lay Shillingham Point and the wide entrance to Wivelscombe Lake with its creeks, mudflats and salt marshes.  In the wide bay immediately abeam, riding at anchor, a blue hulled wooden drascombe, its tan sails neatly furled on its masts. I scoured the gravel tree backed beaches for signs of life, but the owner didn't appear. It did seem a lovely landing spot though. Inaccessible except by boat, a gentle hillslope leading away to the horizon and the rolling Cornish countryside behind. The farmers had taken advantage of the fine weather, The grain crop had been harvested on the hill; all that remained were the golden stubble. A Buzzard wheeled overhead, periodically dive bombed by crows or jackdaws. Eventually losing interest, the mighty bird disappeared off to the north and the crows returned to their oak tree to saviour their victory. Four on just didn't seem a fair fight somehow!

Trematon Castle

Trematon castle! My what a history. Storage place of Sir Francis Drakes treasures after his 1580 circumnavigation when he harried the Spanish off South America. Gold, silver, previous gems, emeralds by the score.....all stored their prior to being handed to the Queen. He was a pirate wasn't he!  A real interesting character is Sir Francis...pirate or hero? Maybe both? 

Aerial view Trematon Castle

The castle has a 12th century Keep and was built by Robert, Count of Mortain, half brother of one William the Conqueror! The castle is built on the original site of a roman fort.....many have always thought that the romans stopped at Exeter....well not so....they managed to get a foothold in eastern parts of Cornwall! Trematon castle was part of a Caput, a former central settlement in Anglo Saxon times; a multiple estate of an English feudal barony. And then it hit, having lived in this area for over 25 years, didn't I know about these places? Why had we never visited them before? I felt a 'road trip' with number one son coming on........and soon!

And so, after a tiny bit of gentle motor cruising with jib furled and mainsail sheeted in tight so that Arwen's mainsail lay amidships, we reached Ince Point; Black rock buoy 238M lay ahead; and finally a breeze. Not much but enough to guarantee that from now Arwen would sail. From the north east the smooth river waters rippled as the breeze exerted its friction on the surface; Arwen's mainsail eased out languorously to port, her jib fluttered and filled; sagged and filled again. With centreboard up, we slowly made progress south west.........Ince Castle, Black rock buoy and that mid channel shoaling sand bank lay ahead.  Arwen creaked, the sails flapped, the mainsheet dragged limply over the side, sending a small wake astern........1.3 knots......but hey, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the sun was hot, the river was ours..................serenity enclosed us and the Lynher valley continued to unfold her natural and historical treasures for us to admire...............................

(Please note: health warning: don't rely on these bearings and distances.........on two or three occasions I found I had got them slightly wrong.....pilotage is still a new devious art form to ordnance survey maps - well that's different....those I understand fully!! If you are going up the Lynher by all means use my figures but check them before you go......several times!!)

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