I paddled the River Fowey today, with friend Stuart, from Lostwithiel to Fowey and back. Those river paddlers out there may be puzzled by the "..and back.." but there in-lies the joys of the Cornish Southern flooded Rias. It can't happen that often but today was one of those days that the tides were such that we could get in at the top paddle with the tide going out, have some lunch as the tide turned and paddle back up to the car.
There are a lot of good things to be said about the Fowey. The first is perhaps the get-in. In the town of Lostwithiel one needs to negotiate the one-way streets to get to the Parade by the 12 Century bridge (photo above). Providing you can get a parking spot (not many but we were lucky) you then have a lovely little picnic spot with insitu BBQ stands and benches next to a gravel beach. We were pushing our luck a bit with the tide as high was at 8am and we were edging towards 10! That didn't make us lose sight of the priorities however and I busied myself looking deranged to onlookers as I practiced poling between the arches (poling is a traditional canoe skill where you stand in the boat and use a long pole to punt your way often upstream against the flow) whilst Stuart popped into the nearest bakery to ensure that we were well provided with second breakfast and pasties for lunch (this is a Cornish expedition after all!).
The first section, because we faffed, was pretty low. In fact neither of us had paddled it so low and it was looking dubious as to whether we would make it past the mud flats. Much as I enjoy Stuarts company I don't think either of us fancied sitting on a mud flat for 6 hours til the tide came back in! As it happened with steady paddling, a few grounding moments, judicious use of the pole and at one point stopping in the middle of a drained river bed to ask directions from a Cockler (Google it!) we made it through. From Lostwithiel and past St Winnow the Fowey meanders and is very picturesque with wooded vistas that could lead you to think your boat had taken you to Canada if it weren't for the occasional quaint church spires.
Down towards the tributary from Lerryn the channel widens considerably although that was no use to us on the way down as it was mostly mud. On other occasions I've paddled up to Lerryn and rate it highly, particularly with the convenient pub. You do need a high tide for this though.
Passing Golant the River starts to show more and more signs of being linked to the sea. With the tide nearly out now we passed a few folk making use of the exposed sand bars to do maintenance on the many boats moored here and other digging about for shell fish.
It also shows signs of industrial heritage with the train line to carry clay to the ships. The clay ships are proper beasts, particularly when you're in a 16 foot canoe but there were none here today. Taking our chances crossing behind the Bodinnick ferry we stopped at busy Fowey. Some thoughtful fellow had provided an ideal landing spot with ladder to the pub. And so as a mark of respect to this public spirit we availed ourselves of a pint and bag of crisps from the establishment and surveyed the hubbub from our handy vantage point.
With a bit of time spare until the tide turned and not feeling we could quite claim to have paddled to the sea yet we traveled on to St Catherine's Bay. There we brewed up with the help of Kelly (Kettle) to wash down the pasties.
I have a habit of finding adventure just about anywhere. Here I share some of them with you dear readers...