U3A Tamar Valley Study Day

Callington U3A …2017 Study Day entitled: The Tamar Valley, Past Present and Future.
An audience of 120 gathered for this full day event at Callington Town Hall on October 25th.
The Study Day started with a very interesting BBC DVD entitled Tamar Valley Voyage, from The Great British Story series. It followed the life of the valley from the Roman Hill Fort at Calstock, to the present day. It gave us a picture of how the valley was exploited for its minerals such as tin, copper, arsenic, lead, feldspar, silver, tungsten as they came in and out of use for over 2000yrs. It taught us about how unique the Cornish language is. And the history of the civil war with the battles of Horsebridge and the fight for the tin. It concluded that valley today has one of the finest areas of outstanding natural beauty.
We had 4 speakers scheduled throughout the day,’ the first was Rick Stewart the Mine Manager at Morwellham Quay. He told the story of how the River was the highway to transport minerals. The first evidence of mining on the Bere Peninsula was in 1290 for lead, silver, tin, copper and chalcopyrite this was not shaft mining, but Stream Panning. Shaft mining began in the Mediaeval times, they wanted the tin, as copper was valueless until they discovered how to achieve the temperature with coal to smelt it in 1688/9. During the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, a period of major industrialisation which impacted significantly on the predominantly rural landscape. The populations of villages and towns such as Gunnislake, Drakewalls, Luckett and Tavistock increased dramatically during the nineteenth century as a result of the burgeoning mining industry. Copper mining and arsenic production in particular were to dominate the fortunes of the Tamar Valley through into the twentieth century. Devon Great Consols was at one time the largest copper producer in Europe and, later in its productive life, able to supply half the world’s demand for arsenic. If you wish for more information go to www.cornish-mining.org.uk 

Our next speaker was Joe Lawrence who talked about The Shamrock a Tamar Sailing Barge. It was built in the Stonehouse yard of Frederick Hawke as a Ketch rigged Tamar sailing barge in 1899. After a long varied working life she ended up being used as a scrap iron store in Hooe Lake, Plymouth.  She was acquired by the National Maritime Museum and, in conjunction with the National Trust, taken to Cotehele Quay in 1973 as a restoration project. The restoration project restored Shamrock to as she was after being converted to a coastal vessel in the early 1920’s and was completed in 1979. She now has the distinction of being the last working ketch-rigged Tamar Sailing barge. She was named after the unsuccessful Irish challenger for the 10th America’s Cup Race in 1899.   She is considered to be the most advanced Tamar sailing barge ever built – it was a conscious effort to design a vessel which would carry the maximum cargo for her size on the minimum draft and at the lowest operating and maintenance costs. Shamrock is now permanently berthed at Cotehele Quay, a National Trust property, and still has occasional trips up and down the river.

A delicious lunch was served at 12.30 with background music from Poldark.
Our third speaker was Bruce Hunt who spoke to us about The Railways in the valley from about 1862. He had some photos of plans and building works. As the mining, quarrying, and brick making declined, fruit and flower growing was on the up. Market Gardens producing Daffodils, Double whites, Irises, Primroses, Pittosporum, Holly and lots more, also Strawberries, Tomatoes, Runner Beans and Cider Apples. Glasshouses where popping up all over, in 1949 it was recorded 138,228 boxes of flowers and 240,564 boxes of fruit, were sent by train throughout the country. Tourism started in 1930s with boat trips, picnic groups, railway holidays, but when Beeching cut the railways it all changed. Tourism is still the main industry for the area. Go to www.brucehunt.co.uk to see some great pictures.
The Final speaker was Corrina Woodall from the AONB. Her theme was Wildlife, Tamar Trails and the upkeep of the valley. She also spoke of the management, heritage, and work with other bodies to achieve their goals for the future. She spoke of the different habitats, Marshlands fresh and salt, Mudflats, Reedbeds and marine conservation. Special protection for old Orchards, Woodland and Bocage (mediaeval hedged landscape) Moorland, Heathland, and Acid grassland. Also protection for wildlife like the Greater Horseshoe Bat, Heath Fritillary Butterfly, Dormice and some fish. They can also advise on planning permissions. They Maintain the 25km of Tamar Trails. Heralds of Spring is a project to record daffodil species. They always need volunteers, please go to www.tamarvalley.org.uk for more information.
Also on show was the Callington Model Railway and a book stall with local interest books.
Thanks to Michael Farr for being the MC for the day. Also thanks to U3A members from Saltash, Launceston, Liskead, and Gunnislake who also attended.
If you are interested in joining us please go to u3asites/Callington for information on groups and events.
Gillian Brown