The Area

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The Tamar Valley

Exploring the area

Moorings on Tamar Plymouth Devon

The Valley possesses some of the most beautiful and unspoilt scenery in the West country. 

The valleys of the Tamar River and its tributaries, the Tavy and Lynher, are designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Weir Quay is the perfect place to come ashore to refresh, relax or to exercise on some truly remarkable local walks. Shops, pubs and trains are 2 miles distant.

There are some very comfortable and relaxing hotels and B&Bs for longer stays as well as numerous local sites and attractions to visit.

The steep valley sides and huge meanders in the river have made land communication difficult throughout history, and it has been largely bypassed by modern development. But the landscape has been molded by many years of settlement and local industry - including farming, forestry, horticulture and mining. Many of these activities have now ceased, but have left indelible marks adding to the character and beauty of the modern landscape.

Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers villages

The Bere Peninsula grew in importance when silver was discovered in the area in the 12th century, the area shared in the local mining boom of the 19th century.

Bere Alston

The Peninsula is in the parish of Bere Ferrers, but Bere Alston is now the priciple settlement of the parish, being one of the largest villages in Devon. Bere Alston was founded as a mining settlement in the 13th century and the silver-lead mines were worked until the late 1800s. Good examples of miners' cottages can still be seen throughout the village.

2 miles from Weir Quay Boatyard, Bere Alston has a number local grocery shops, a Post Office, pub - The Edgcumbe Arms and other services. It is also a stop on the Tamar Valley Line. Situated high above the Tamar Valley, the village has spectacular views across the valley to Cornwall, which can be particularly breath taking at sunset.

Bere Ferrers

The smaller village of Bere Ferrers is picturesquely situated on the banks of the River Tavy. Also 2 miles from Weir Quay Boatyard, the village has a smaller post office (open mornings only), a shop and hairdressers and the charming Olde Plough Inn. Bere Ferrers is also on the Tamar Valley Line.

 

Local History and Mining Heritage

Salt mines, Tamar River: Salt mines, Tamar River The area surrounding Weir Quay Boatyard is steeped in fascinating history.

The River Tamar has been the official border between Cornwall and Devon since Saxon times. Its importance as a trade route is inextricably linked to the history and development of the area.

Salt Marshes on the Bere Peninsula (copyright B Gable/AONB 2006)

As the centre of the global mining industry, the Tamar was the most important inland waterway in the south west. In the 19th century, more ships and a greater tonnage of cargo landed in the Tamar than Liverpool and the River Mersey. Mining thrived in the area from medieval times, exploiting silver and tin reserves - but it was copper in the 1800's which made the greatest impact. 

In today's tranquility, it is hard to imagine that at the height of the mining boom there were over 100 mines along the river. Atmospheric chimneys and ruins throughout the valley serve as a reminder of this industrial past. As you sail up the river today, you will pass the remains of a number of quays, all of which served their own mines or industrial complex.

Today the historic importance of the Tamar Valley is internationally recognised and the area forms the start of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) designation for the West Devon and Cornwall Mining Landscape.

Weir Quay itself was formerly an industrial hamlet, serving its large silver-lead smelting works through the 19th century. Today the remains of an old lime kiln can be clearly seen a few hundred yards south of the Boatyard, and along are the remains of the South Tamar Silver Mine. The mine workings extend under the river. In 1856 operations at the mine were brought to an abrupt halt by the river breaking through into the levels. Fortunately this happened on a Sunday so there was no loss of life but the mine was abandoned.

The river was also used to carry agricultural produce from the fertile valley slopes downstream to the markets of Plymouth and beyond, and in return lime and 'dock-dung' were brought to the many small quays dotted along its length.

Many traditional Tamar sailing barges worked on the river and shipbuilding thrived in the area. One of these barges - the Shamrock - has been restored and is on show at Cotehele Quay, near St Dominick. The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth also has a display at the Quay where you can find out more about the river trade and related industries. Impressive steamers also brought early tourists to the area on river cruises, including Queen Victoria and her family in 1856.

Today the steep sides and huge meanders in the Tamar valley and river means it has been largely bypassed by modern development. However, the many years of settlement and local industry have left their indelible marks which add to the character and beauty of the now peaceful modern landscape.

Busy Towns and Sleepy Villages 

The valley is marked by four ancient towns: Launceston in the North - with its steam railway and Norman castle; Tavistock to the East - gateway to Dartmoor with daily pannier market for food and crafts; Callington in the West - with its unusual mural trail, and Saltash - best known for Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge, now partnered by the impressive road bridge.

Wildlife and Birdspotting

Avocet Tamar River: Avocet, Tamar River

 The Tamar is especially important for its natural environment. 

Since commercial fishing stopped in 2004 there are now plenty of salmon, sea trout, grey mullet and bass in the river, and their predators are also seen in good numbers, including herons, cormorant, shag, kingfisher, seals and otters.
 
Flanked by ancient woodland along lengthy stretches, the Tamar provides rare habitat and a haven for birds and butterflies as well as rare lichen and orchids. The Tamar-Tavy Estuary and the Lynher Estuary are both protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest because of the wildlife habitats provided by its mudflats, saltmarshes and reedbeds.

The area is a European designated Special Area of Conservation for its birds, most particularly the large numbers of avocets and little egrets. These and other wading species can best be observed from the river as they feed on the mud banks at low water. 

Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor is within half a hour and has some wonderful walks, pubs and places to go.              

To go to Dartmoor.co.uk to see lots of places to go, things to do on the beautiful moor follow this link.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.