In Praise of Cornish Ferries

 We regularly visit Cornwall and usually take a ferry trip as part of the holiday. This year was no exception. We stayed near the Lizard and took the foot ferry across the Helford River to Helford Passage (Glendurgan) and later when we stayed near Mevagissey we took the ferry to Fowey.
I think this was the first time we crossed the Helford River but the Mevagissey - Fowey ferry is an old favourite. 

Helford Ferry

I notice from our blog that in 2013 we took the same journey and our eldest granddaughter Amelia, then just three, “took the controls” of the boat on the journey. The sea state for this year’s trip was not so calm and on the way back from Fowey the side screens on the NB Bessie James had to be raised with a strong offshore wind and choppy waves creating spray.

Leaving Mevagissey

We can recommend the Helford River Ferry trip because both the villages of Helford and Helford Passage are delightful (with good pubs at either end). We spent a wonderful afternoon at Trebah Gardens which has developed into a must-see location for gardeners. I managed to cross the Helford River four times during our visit because Maggie left her newly purchased walking stick at the pub and I volunteered to go back to get it.

So just how many public ferries are there in Cornwall and how many have we, over the years, used? Well the Cornwall Council web site very usefully provides a definitive list as part of its public transport service remit.

Foot Ferries

We have used all the foot ferries above with an asterisk. We have yet to visit the Isles of Scilly and haven’t had a vacation near Plymouth, so I suppose it’s safe to say that we have tried all those “local” to us - currently 8/12. I think my favourite is the Mevagissey to Fowey ferry, but the quaint and very short journey from St Mawes to Place is fun. It turns a 8 mile walk into a mile and a half boat ride (no contest unless you want the exercise).

Vehicle and Foot Passenger
Torpoint - Plymouth - Torpoint Ferry

Of the vehicle ferries, we have used the two in the west. Most notable is the wonderful, and popular, King Harry Ferry which takes you close to that jewel of a National Trust property, Trellisick.

When we visited Fowey this year we saw the Bodinnick car ferry operating and the Polruan Ferry foot ferry was very busy. The short trip across the river, the long journey around the estuary and the difficulty of parking in Fowey must help keep the foot ferry thriving.  

Bodnnick Car Ferry

Although going by boat in Cornwall is great fun, I don’t think I can leave this post without reporting on an incident that happened to us in the 1980s. We went for an afternoon trip to Falmouth from St Mawes with our family (four adults and two children). It was a warm summer Sunday. As we got near to Falmouth we casually asked the boat skipper when was his last journey of the day. “This is the last journey – I’m mooring up at Falmouth”. We had an expensive 30 mile round trip in taxi to get back to St Mawes and it was a squash getting us all in the car together. That’s probably why the Mevagissey to Fowey ferry take great care to tell you their running times and insist that if you book a particular time slot you stick to it. Pity the skipper in the 1980s didn’t do the same. Still, we learned a lesson about ferry travel.  

Another Source of the Thames

Travelling through Gloucestershire on our way to Cornwall we paused at Seven Springs. We have passed along this route a few times and never given it thought. This time we decided to have a coffee at a well-equipped van in a lay-by just off the A436. Like many lay-bys it used to be part of the original road before it was straightened. As we wandered around the picturesque site under the shade of beech trees we noticed a set of steps down to a small stream running under the road and to decided to investigate.

Coffee by the springs (7)

The stream was crystal clear with water bubling from a series of springs (and yes there were seven). We had stumbled on the reason for the name of the hamlet but it turned out we had also come across something a bit more intersting.

Investigating Seven Springs

Where the stream passes under the main road we found a stone embeded in the bridge proclaiming in Latin "Haic Tuus O Tamesine Pater Septemgeminus Fons". Obviously something Thames related - I never learnt Latin.

Latin Inscription

It all became clearer when we discovered a grubby notice in the lay-by from the local parish council who stated the sites claim to be the "the ultimate source of the Thames". It was Coberley Parish Council who arranged to the engraved stone to be set into the bridge. The waters from the seven springs form the River Chum and this flows into the Thames at Cricklade. On the basis that the waters at Thames Head sometimes run dry, and the waters from Seven Springs do not, they consider their claim to be the true source is convincing.

The Parish Council also point out on the notice that regarding this as the Source of the Thames adds an extra 14 miles to its length making it 9 miles longer than the River Severn and the longest river flow in the UK. So perhaps the answer to the quiz question "What is the UK's longest river?" could be the Thames, or perhaps more accurately the Chum/Thames.

Either way, I still can't get out of my head the Michael Bentine (It's a Square World) sketch where they search for the Source of the Thames. They find it to be a dripping tap in a field, they turn it off and this drains the whole river.