River Camel

River Camel

river_name = River Camel

image_size = 300px
caption = The Camel valley in winter. Taken from between Pendavey bridge and Polbrock looking upstream
origin = Bodmin Moor
mouth = Padstow Bay
basin_countries =
length_mi = 30
elevation =
mouth_elevation =
discharge =
watershed =

The River Camel is a river in Cornwall, UK. It rises on the edge of Bodmin Moor and together with its tributaries drains a considerable part of North Cornwall. The river issues into the Celtic Sea area of the Atlantic Ocean between Stepper Point and Pentire Point having covered a distance of approximately 30 miles. The river is tidal as far upstream as Egloshayle and is popular for sailing, birdwatching and fishing. The name "Camel" derives from the Cornish language for 'the crooked one', a reference to its winding course [cite book|last=Mills|first=A. D.|title=The Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names|publisher=Parragon Book Services Ltd and Magpie Books|date=1996|pages=p.65|isbn=0752518518] .

Geology and Hydrology

The River Camel rises below Hendraburnick Down (UK Grid Reference SX135875) on the edge of Bodmin Moor, an area which forms part of the granite spine of Cornwall. The river's course is then through upper and middle Devonian rocks, predominantly slates such as Upper Delabole Slates, Trevose Slates and Polzeath Slates. These stretch right to the coast, although Pentire head is composed mainly of pillow lavascite web | title = Killas | publisher = Cornwall Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites Group | url = http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/rigs/killas.php | accessdate = 2008-08-12.The only active quarry in the River Camel catchment area is Delabole Quarrycite web | title = BGS GeoIndex | publisher = British Geological Survey | url = http://www.bgs.ac.uk/GeoIndex/index.htm | accessdate = 2008-08-14 although there has been mining for Lead and Antimony on Pentire Head, as well as building stone at various locations. Further inland mines surronding the Camel and its tributaries produced Lead, Copper and Iron, while Mulberry mine near Ruthernbridge also produced Tin.

The catchment area of the River Camel covers a total of 208.8km² on the western side of Bodmin Moor, and is mainly Devonian slates and Granitecite web | title = Camel at Denby | publisher = Centre for Ecology & Hydrology | url = http://www.nwl.ac.uk/ih/nrfa/webdata/049001/g.html | accessdate = 2008-08-14. Water volumes are affected by the reservoir at Crowdy Marsh, by abstraction of water for public supply, and by effuent from the sewage system around Bodmin. Data collected by the National Water Archive shows that water flow in the River Camel for 2006 is considerably below average. This correlates with reduced rainfall, particularly between the months of June and Septembercite web | title = Camel at Denby 2006 | publisher = Centre for Ecology & Hydrology | url = http://www.nwl.ac.uk/ih/nrfa/webdata/049001/g2006.html | accessdate = 2008-08-14.


The Camel estuary stretches up as far as Wadebridge, and is considered by many to be the finest part of the river. From the quays at Wadebridge, now developed with apartments and retail space on the town side, the river passes under the new bypass and leaves the disused Vitriol quay then suddenly passing Burniere Point the valley widens dramatically on the right with acres of salt marsh where the River Amble flows in. Here the [http://www.cbwps.org.uk Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society] have hides on both sides of the river; those on the Camel Trail being open to the public. The main river follows the western side of the valley, while on the eastern side a barrage prevents the rising tide from entering the River Amble.

Moving downstream a small test bore into Dinham Hill is only accessible from the foreshore at low tide, and then you reach Cant Cove below Cant Hill, with the rotting ribs of a ship sticking out of the mud. Almost opposite Cant Hill on the western shore is Camel Quarry, the piles of waste rock clearly visible above the river with the remains of a quay visible at low tide. From here the mud gives way to sand and when the tide is high enough water skiers can be seen passing Gentle Jane, named after a legendary lady who treated the ills of all comerscite book | last = Duxbury | first = Brenda | coauthors = Williams, Michael | title = The River Camel | publisher = Bossinney Books | date =1987 | location = St Teath | isbn = 0 948158 26 3 .

As the river makes a final turn northward, the Camel Trail crosses the “Iron Bridge” over Petherick Creek, and then passes below Dennis Hill with it's obelisk and reaches Padstow where the Black Tor Ferry, officially owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, carries people across the river to Rock. Beyond Padstow lies the Doom Bar, a notorious sandbank and the graveyard of many ships over the years.

The mouth of the River Camel lies between Stepper Point on the west and Pentire Point on the east, and each headland shelters a sandy beach. Polzeath beach with its excellent surfing lies within Pentire Point, while Tregirls beach lies tucked tightly behind Stepper Point. The northern end of Tregirls beach is Harbour cove, and between here and Hawkers Cove evidence has been found of occupation during the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods, and use of Harbour Cove for trading vesselscite episode | title = From Constantinople to Cornwall | url = http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/T/timeteam/2008/padstow/index.html | series = Time Team | airdate = 2008-03-09 | season = 2008 | number = 10] . In 1827 the Padstow Harbour Association chose Hawkers Cove as the location for the Padstow Lifeboat, this being taken over by the RNLI in 1856. A new lifeboat station and slipway were built in 1931 and a second lifeboat stationed at Hawkers Cove. The station, which closed in 1962cite web | title = Padstow History | publisher = RNLI | date = 2007 | url = http://www.rnli.org.uk/rnli_near_you/southwest/stations/padstowcornwall/history | accessdate = 2008-08-07 due to the water becoming too shallow, has now been converted into a dwelling.


The Camel Estuary has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This covers the area between Padstow/Rock and Wadebridgecite web | title = Camel Estuary | publisher = Cornwall AONB unit |url = http://www.cornwall-aonb.gov.uk/documents/aonb_camel.pdf | accessdate = 2008-08-27.

Beaches and bathing

There are several sandy beaches located on the River Camel. On the western bank Tregirls beach and St Georges Well lie between Stepper Point and Padstow, while on the eastern bank moving upstream from Pentire Point there is Polzeath beach, Daymer Bay and Rock. Water quality is monitored at the latter three locations, results from 2007 being either "good" or "excellent"cite web | title = Water Quality 2007 | publisher = North Cornwall District Council | date = 2008 | url = http://www.ncdc.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=27725 | accessdate = 2008-08-11.

The Camel Trail

The Camel Trail, a favourite with walkers and cyclists, follows the trackbed of the old Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway from Wenfordbridge, past the outskirts of Bodmin at Dunmere, and through Wadebridge to end in Padstow.

Long distance footpaths

The South West Coast Path follows the River Camel from Pentire Point to Rock, and from Padstow to Stepper Point. It crosses the river using the Black Tor Ferry.

The Saints' Way footpath links Padstow with Fowey. It follows first the River Camel, and then Little Petherick Creek from Padstow to Little Petherick, before striking inland and crossing the county to the River Fowey. This route is a very ancient one used by travellers from Ireland and Wales making for Brittany and wishing to avoid the dangerous seas around Lands End.

Wildlife and conservation

There are 5 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) along the length of the River Camel. Four small SSSIs at Harbour Cove, Rock Dunes, Trebetherick Point and Pentire Peninsula are on the Estuary, while the River Camel Valley and Tributaries SSSI covers much of the Camel Valley between Egloshayle and Blisland, and then extends in several further sections of varying size right up to its source. This SSSI also covers much of the River Allen, a tributary which flows into the river immediately upstream of Egloshayle, and also some smaller unnamed tributaries. In addition to there there is also an SSSIs at Amble Marshes on the River Amble which flows into the Camel Estuary between Wadebridge and Rock.

The River Camel has been designated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee as a Special Area of Conservationcite web | title = River Camel | publisher = Joint Nature Conservation Committee | url = http://www.jncc.gov.uk/protectedsites/sacselection/sac.asp?EUCode=UK0030056 | accessdate = 2008-08-26 as being of European importance for the Otter and the Bullhead.

There are two nature reserves on Camel and its tributaries. The Walmsley sanctuary of the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society is situated on the Amble marshes on the River Amble above Trewornan Bridge. Hawke's Wood reserve is owned by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and is situated on the south side of the Camel Valley between Wadebridge and Dunmere. Here there is an abandoned quarry in a mature woodland of predominantly Sessile Oakcite book | last = Bere | first = Rennie | title = The Nature of Cornwall | publisher = Barracuda Books Limited | date =1982 | location = Buckingham | isbn = 0 86023 163 1 .


Although very few British animals rely largely on rivers for their habitat, one of the few that do, the otter, can be found on the Camel.


With the large areas of salt marsh on the estuary, the River Camel provides an excellent location for birds. Large flocks of waders can be seen in winter, preyed on by local Peregrines, and a migrant Osprey often pauses a few days to fish in Spring and Autumn. Mute Swans nest at several locations, particularly near to the bridge in Wadebridge where there is often a nest on a small island a few yards downstream of the bridge. Ducks are also found on the river with Shelduck, Shoveller and Mallard on the estuary and Teal further upstream.

The Camel estuary was one of the first places in England to be colonised by Little Egrets, the birds being particularly seen on mudflats at low tide. Other rarities include an American Belted kingfisher seen in the 1980's for only the second time in England.

Upstream on the River Camel, and on several of its tributaries, Kingfishers can be seen.


The Camel Estuary is a Sea Bass conservation area and these can be seen by surfers in summer. Flounders can be found in the brackish waters as far upstream as Cant Hill.

Salmon and Sea Trout can both be found in the River.

Occasionally Basking Sharks can be seen in the mouth of the rivercite web | title = Marine sightings of Basking Shark 'Cetorhinus maximus' in Cornwall | publisher = Cornwall Wildlife Trust | date = 2008 | url = http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/nature/marine/sight/species.php?common=Basking%20Shark | accessdate = 2008-08-11. Although not strictly a fish, Common Dolphins can also be seen as far upstream as Daymer Baycite web | title = Marine sightings of Common Dolphin Delphis delphis in Cornwall | publisher = Cornwall Wildlife Trust | date = 2008 | url = http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/nature/marine/sight/species.php?common=Common%20Dolphin | accessdate = 2008-08-11.


By the Atlantic Ocean the flora is distinctly maritime, characterised by Thrift and Bladder campion on exposed clifftops and Spring squill and heather growing in the turf. Stunted Blackthorn and Gorse also tolerate more exposed sites, while the quarry on Stepper Point is home to many species of marsh plants. Above Egloshayle there are beds of Yellow Flag Iris while the wooded slopes of the valley are filled with Bluebells in spring.

The Camel is also home to two particularly invasive non-native species; Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam. Both of these are the subject of manual control on various stretches of the rivercite web | title = Invasive weeds on the River Camel | publisher = Westcountry Rivers Trust | url = http://www.tamarconsulting.org/wrt/projects/invasiveweeds.htm | accessdate = 2008-08-26.

History and Infrastructure

Cornwall is a county of high cliffs and deep valleys, so rivers have been used for transportation throughout history. Being one of the few safe havens on the north coast of Cornwall, the Camel has been used since Roman times, and most likely earlier. The river has been navigable beyond Wadebridge with the highest quay being at at Guineaport, and then beyond that at least as far as Pendavy a mile further upstreamcite book | last=Fairclough | first=Anthony | coauthors=Wills, Alan | title=Bodmin and Wadebridge 1834 - 1978 | publisher=Bradford Barton | year=1979 | location=Truro | pages=p21 | isbn = 0 85153 343 4 .

The river Camel and its tributaries contain more Listed bridges than any other river in Cornwallcite book | last=Kentley | first=Eric | title=Cornwall's bridge & viaduct heritage | publisher=Twelveheads Press | location=Truro | isbn = 0 906294 584 .


The main tributaries of the River Camel are the Allen, the Ruthern, the De Lank and the Stannon. Other tributaries include the River Amble, which joins the Camel near Burniere Point and the Polmorla Brook which joins the Camel immediately above the bridge at Wadebridge.

External links

* [http://www.swuklink.com/BAAAGBHC.php River Camel page at swuklink.com]
* [http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5787 Saints' Way page on Cornwall County Council website]
* [http://www.southwestcoastpath.com/ South West Coast Path website]


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