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A Cornish U3A study day

A Cornish U3A study day
11 January 2018

Gillian Brown of Callington U3A relates how U3A members spent a day learning about the history and geography of Cornwall, from maritime heritage to local fauna.

The Study Day started with a very interesting 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 the valley today has one of the finest areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The first speaker was Rick Stewart who is the mine manager at Morwellham Quay, the historic port and copper mine in the Tamar Valley. Rick has a wealth of knowledge and expertise. The Trevithick Society has published his book on Devon Great Consol. 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

Our second speaker was Joe Lawrence who is lead ranger for the Cotehele Estate and Cadsonbury, he is also the line manager of the Shamrock, a 117 year old 32 tonne Tamar Sailing Barge. 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.

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 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, please go to for more information.

It was a interesting and informative day. U3A members attended from Callington, Saltash, Launceston, Liskead, and Gunnislake.

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