The RIVER CAMEL (Cornish : DOWR KAMMEL, meaning crooked river) is a
United Kingdom . It rises on the edge of
Bodmin Moor and with its tributaries its catchment area covers much of
North Cornwall. The river flows into the eastern
Celtic Sea between
Stepper Point and
Pentire Point having covered about 30 miles. The
river is tidal upstream to
Egloshayle and is popular for sailing ,
birdwatching and fishing . The name Camel comes from the Cornish
language for 'the crooked one', a reference to its winding course.
Historically the river was divided into three named stretches. HEYL
(Cornish : HEYL, meaning estuary) was the name for the estuary up to
Egloshayle, the RIVER ALLEN (Cornish : DOWR ALEN, meaning shining
river) was the stretch between
Egloshayle and Trecarne, whilst the
CAMEL was reserved for the stretch of river between its source and
* 1 Geology and hydrology
* 3 Recreation
* 3.1 Beaches and bathing
* 3.2 The
* 3.3 Long distance footpaths
* 3.4 Water sports
* 4 Wildlife and conservation
* 4.1 Birds
* 4.2 Fish
* 4.3 Flora
* 5 History and infrastructure
* 5.1 Water pollution incident
Tributaries and their names
* 7 References
* 8 External links
GEOLOGY AND HYDROLOGY
River Camel rises on 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 through upper and
Devonian rocks, predominantly the Upper
Trevose Slates and
Polzeath Slates that stretch to the coast, although
Pentire Head is composed mainly of pillow lavas . The only active
quarry in the
River Camel catchment area is at
Delabole and there
has been mining for lead and silver on
Pentire Head , and building
stone at various locations. Further inland mines surrounding the Camel
and its tributaries produced tin , lead , copper and iron ;
Mulberry Mine near
Ruthernbridge produced 1300 tons of tin between
1859 and 1916. Several small China Clay pits also operated in the
19th century around Blisland. The young
River Camel at
Slaughterbridge upstream of
The source of the Camel is at 218 metres (715 ft) above sea level
and it has an average incline of 7m/km. The upper reaches of the
Camel and its tributaries are mainly moorland giving way to woodland
and farmland, predominantly livestock. This means that 64.8% of the
catchment is grassland, with a further 14.8% arable land and 12.9%
woodland. Of the remaining 7.4%, 4.5% is through urban or built-up
areas, 2.7% is mountain, heath and bog and the remainder is inland
The Camel's catchment area covers 413 km2 on the western side of
Bodmin Moor, and is mainly
Devonian slates and granite , with some
shales and sandstones. Water volumes are affected by the reservoir at
Crowdy Marsh, by abstraction of water for public supply, and by
effluent from the sewage system around
Bodmin . Data collected by the
National Water Archive shows that water flow in the
River Camel for
2006 was considerably below average. This correlates with reduced
rainfall, particularly between the months of June and September. Data
from 2013 and 2014 also shows below average annual flow but with
points of higher that average flow during Winter.
Sketch map of the
River Camel estuary The estuary of the
River Camel seen from
Pentire Point with
Trebetherick Point in the
foreground. The estuary of the
River Camel looking seaward from
Doom Bar sandbank extends across the Camel estuary
The next five and a half miles beside the broadening Camel to Padstow
is the most beautiful train journey I know — John Betjeman,
Estuary (Cornish : Heyl Kammel) stretches from Wadebridge
downstream to the open sea at
Padstow Bay. The quays at
now developed with apartments and retail space on the west bank. North
of the quays, the river passes under a concrete bridge carrying the
A39 bypass and past the disused Vitriol Quay. Downstream of Burniere
Point the valley widens on the right with acres of salt marsh where
the River Amble flows in. Here the
Preservation Society has hides on both sides of the river; those on
Camel Trail are 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.
Downstream from the Amble, an adit can be found on the foreshore
below Dinham Hill, only accessible from the foreshore at low tide, the
remains of Wheal Sisters copper mine. Cant Cove lies on the east bank
below Cant Hill and the rotting ribs of a ship project from the mud.
Almost opposite Cant Hill on the west bank is Camel Quarry, the piles
of waste rock clearly visible above the river with the remains of a
quay visible at low water. From here the mud gives way to sand and
Gentle Jane, named after a legendary lady who treated the ills of all
Porthilly Cove on the east bank, the estuary widens and swings
to the north. On the west bank, the
Camel Trail crosses the
Iron Bridge” over
Little Petherick Creek then passes
below Dennis Hill and its obelisk .
The fishing port of
Padstow stands on the west bank from where the
Black Tor Ferry (officially owned by the Duchy of
Cornwall ) carries
people across the river to Rock .
The mouth of the Camel lies between
Stepper Point on the west and
Pentire Point on the east, and each headland shelters sandy beaches.
On the west side of the estuary,
Tregirls beach is protected by
Stepper Point. At the northern end of
Tregirls beach is Harbour Cove
and between here and Hawker\'s Cove evidence has been found of
occupation during the
Bronze Age ,
Iron Age and Roman periods, and use
Harbour Cove for trading vessels.
Padstow Harbour Association chose Hawker's Cove as the
location for the
Padstow lifeboat . Operations were taken over by the
RNLI in 1856. A new lifeboat station and slipway were built in 1931
and a second lifeboat stationed at Hawker's Cove. The station closed
in 1962 because silting rendered the channel too shallow. The
building is now converted to residential use.
Beyond Hawkers Cove, the
Doom Bar extends across the estuary. The
sandbank has been the graveyard of many ships. A legend as to how the
Doom Bar came about describes how a local fisherman is reputed to have
shot a mermaid with an arrow, with the result that she cursed Padstow
by putting the sandbar between the harbour and the sea.
On the east side of the estuary, the village of Rock is centre for
sailing , dinghy racing and marine leisure. From Rock, dunes and
intertidal sands extend north as far as Brea Hill . Beyond Brea Hill
Daymer Bay with a beach north of which is the settlement of
Trebetherick . A stretch of rocky foreshore swings east to the bay and
Polzeath , a location for surfing . North of Polzeath,
Pentire Point marks the northeast extremity of the estuary.
Estuary has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty (AONB), covering the area between Padstow/Rock and Wadebridge.
The estuary comprises part of the
Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural
Beauty . Almost a third of
Cornwall has AONB designation, with the
same status and protection as a National Park.
BEACHES AND BATHING
On the western bank Hawker's Cove,
Tregirls beach and St Georges Cove
Stepper Point and
Padstow , while on the eastern bank
moving upstream from
Pentire Point is
Daymer Bay and
Rock . Water quality is monitored at
Daymer Bay with
water classification for the years 2012 to 2015 for both locations
being "Excellent". Water quality was previously monitored at Rock,
results from 2007 for all three locations on the eastern bank of the
river being either "good" or "excellent".
THE CAMEL TRAIL
Camel Trail crosses Petherick Creek on this bridge which
formerly carried the North
Camel Trail , used by walkers and cyclists , follows the trackbed
Wadebridge Railway from
Wenfordbridge , past the
Bodmin at Dunmere, and through
LONG DISTANCE FOOTPATHS
South West Coast Path follows the
River Camel from Pentire Point
to Rock , and from
Stepper Point . It crosses the river
Black Tor Ferry .
The Saints\' Way footpath links
Fowey . It follows first
the River Camel, and then
Little Petherick Creek from
Little Petherick, before striking inland and crossing the county to
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 .
The section of the river between and Tuckingmill Bridge and Penrose
Blisland is Grade 2 for kayaking but illegal unless you
obtain permission from the riparian owners (both banks).
WILDLIFE AND CONSERVATION
There are five Sites of
Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) along the
length of the 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
Blisland , and extends in several
further sections of varying size up to its source. This SSSI covers
much of the River Allen, a tributary which flows into the river
immediately upstream of Egloshayle, and some smaller unnamed
tributaries. In addition there is an SSSI at AMBLE MARSHES on the
River Amble which flows into the Camel
River Camel has been designated by the Joint Nature Conservation
Committee as a
Special Area of Conservation of European importance
for the otter and the bullhead .
There are two nature reserves on Camel and its tributaries. The
Walmsley sanctuary of the
Birdwatching and Preservation
Society is on the Amble marshes on the River Amble above Trewornan
Bridge. Hawke's Wood reserve, owned by the
Cornwall Wildlife Trust ,
is on the south side of the Camel Valley between
Dunmere. Here is an abandoned quarry in a mature woodland of
predominantly sessile oak .
With the large areas of salt marsh on the estuary, the river provides
an excellent location for birds. Large flocks of waders can be seen in
winter, preyed on by peregrine falcons , 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.
Shelduck , shoveller and mallard are found on the river and teal
The estuary was one of the first places in
England to be colonised by
little egrets , the birds are seen on mudflats at low tide. Other
rarities include an American belted kingfisher seen in the 1980s for
only the second time in England.
Upstream and on several of its tributaries, kingfishers can be seen,
Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve at Hawkes Wood is noted for
nuthatches and tawny owls.
There are three birdwatching hides. Tregunna Hide (Grid reference SW
969 738), owned by
Cornwall County Council, is located by the Camel
Trail and is open to the public. Burniere Hide (Grid Reference SW 982
740) is owned by the
Birdwatching and Preservation Society
(CBWPS) is open to members. In addition the CBWPS own the Walmsley
Sanctuary which covers over 20 hectares (49 acres) on the River Amble,
with two further hides for use by its members. The Walmsley sanctuary
is nationally important for wintering waders and wildfowl. These
hides are located on the estuary below
Wadebridge while upstream of
Wadebridge there is a hide overlooking Treraven Meadow located 500m
from Guineaport towards
In 2016 a Dalmatian Pelican was recorded on the
River Camel at
various locations between Rock and Dinham
The 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 be found in the
Occasionally basking sharks can be seen at the mouth of the river and
very occasionly bottlenose dolphins can be seen.
Atlantic Ocean the flora is distinctly maritime, characterised
by thrift and bladder campion on exposed clifftops and spring squill
and heather in the turf. Stunted blackthorn and gorse 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 home to two invasive non-native species; Japanese
Himalayan balsam . Both are the subject of manual control
on various stretches of the river.
HISTORY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Cornwall is a county of high cliffs and deep valleys, so rivers have
been used for transport throughout history. Being one of the few safe
havens on the north coast of Cornwall, the Camel
Estuary has been used
since Roman times, and most likely earlier. The river has been
Wadebridge with the highest quay being at Guineaport,
and beyond that at least as far as Pendavy a mile further upstream.
The river and its tributaries are crossed by more Listed bridges than
any other river in Cornwall. Most notable is at Wadebridge, the
lowest bridge on the river. This was built in the 15th century to
replace an earlier ford which was considered dangerous to use at
certain times. Thomas Loveybond, Vicar of Egloshayle, was the mover of
construction while John de Harlan was the actual builder. The bridge
has been widened at least twice over the years, and was granted Grade
II listed status in 1969.
WATER POLLUTION INCIDENT
Camelford water pollution incident
In July 1988, the water supply to
Camelford and the surrounding area
was contaminated when 20 tons of aluminium sulphate was poured into
the wrong tank at
Lowermoor Water Treatment Works on
Bodmin Moor . An
inquiry into the incident (the worst of its kind in British history)
started in 2002, and a report was issued in January 2005 but questions
remain as to the long-term effects on the health of residents. Michael
Meacher , who visited
Camelford as environment minister, called the
incident and its aftermath, "A most unbelievable scandal."
TRIBUTARIES AND THEIR NAMES
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
In terms of its name there is evidence that what is now known as the
River Camel has had several names in the past. The name Camel is
derived from Middle Cornish "Cam-El", "Crooked one", and seems
originally to have referred only to the upper parts. The lower part
of the river was referred to as the River Allen, a common Celtic river
name of unknown derivation, however in the 19th Century the name Allen
was transferred to the River Layne which flows into the Camel just
above Egloshayle. The Camel estuary appears to have been called the
Hayle from Middle Cornish "Hayle", estuary and while this may
have been as much a description as a proper name, the continued use of
Hayle Bay for the bay containing
Polzeath beach supports
this. In turn it has been suggested that the River Layne may have
previously been called the River Dewi given the number of places along
its course which contain the element.
* ^ "
Cornwall Rivers Project Geography Camel and Allen".
www.cornwallriversproject.org.uk. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
* ^ Weatherhill, Craig. A Concise Dictionary of Cornish
* ^ "Geology of Britain viewer". British Geological Survey.
* ^ "Killas".
Cornwall Regionally Important
Geological/Geomorphological Sites Group. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
* ^ "BGS GeoIndex". British Geological Survey. Retrieved
* ^ "Pentireglaze Mine". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ "Penbugle Mine". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ "
Bodmin Moor Consols". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ A B "Wheal Sisters". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ "Mulberry Pit
Tin Mine". aditnow.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ "Durfold China Clay Works". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ "Carwen China Clay Works". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ "Temple China Clay Works". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ A B C D E F "49001 - Camel at Denby: Land Use". Natural
Environment Research Council. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
* ^ "camel and allen". Westcountry Rivers Trust. Retrieved
* ^ "Camel at Denby". Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Retrieved
* ^ Murray, John (1984). Betjeman's Cornwall. London: John Murray.
ISBN 0-7195-4106-9 .
* ^ Place-names in the Standard Written Form (SWF) : List of
place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel. Cornish Language
* ^ "Camel Quarry". mindat.org. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
* ^ A B Duxbury, Brenda; Williams, Michael (1987). The River Camel.
St Teath: Bossiney Books. ISBN 0-948158-26-3 .
* ^ A B "From Constantinople to Cornwall". Time Team. Season 2008.
Episode 10. 2008-03-09.
* ^ "
Padstow History". RNLI. 2007. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
* ^ Bishop, Ray (1994). North
Cornwall Camera. Bodmin: Bossiney
Books. ISBN 0-948158-97-2 .
* ^ "Camel Estuary" (PDF).
Cornwall AONB unit. Retrieved
* ^ "Bathing Water Profile for Polzeath". Environment Agency
Bathing Water Quality. Environment Agency. 2016. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
* ^ "Bathing Water Profile for Dammer Bay". Environment Agency
Bathing Water Quality. Environment Agency. 2016. Retrieved 2016-09-23.
* ^ "Water Quality 2007". North
Cornwall District Council. 2008.
* ^ "Guide to the
River Camel (Tuckingmill to Penrose)". The UK
rivers guidebook. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
* ^ "River Camel". Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Retrieved
* ^ A B Bere, Rennie (1982). The Nature of Cornwall. Buckingham:
Barracuda Books Limited. ISBN 0-86023-163-1 .
* ^ A B C "Walmsley Sanctuary".
Preservation Society. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
* ^ "Hawkes Wood".
Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Retrieved 2010-01-28.
* ^ A B "Reserves & Hides".
Birdwatching & Preservation
Society. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
* ^ "camel estuary wildlife". camelbirder. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
* ^ "First sighting of a Dalmatian pelican in the Camel Estuary".
Cornwall today. Tindle Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
* ^ "Marine sightings of Basking Shark \'Cetorhinus maximus\' in
Cornwall Wildlife Trust. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
* ^ "Invasive weeds on the River Camel". Westcountry Rivers Trust.
* ^ Fairclough, Anthony; Wills, Alan (1979).
Bodmin and Wadebridge
1834 - 1978. Truro: Bradford Barton. p. 21. ISBN 0 85153 343 4 .
* ^ Kentley, Eric. Cornwall's bridge & viaduct heritage. Truro:
Twelveheads Press . ISBN 0 906294 584 .
* ^ "History of Wadebridge". intocornwall.com/awmp creative media.
* ^ "
Wadebridge Bridge, Wadebridge". British Listed Buildings.
The Independent , 16 April 2006, Poisoned: The Camelford
* ^ A B C Weatherhill, Craig (1995). Cornish Place Names and
Language. Sigma Leisure. ISBN 1-85058-462-1 .