Walking the Tamar

Gunnislake 06
Tamar: from Horsebridge

Having walked the Cornish Coastal Path, we were faced with a choice of continuing the coast path to Minehead or Poole, or closing the gap to circumnavigate Cornwall. We have chosen the latter.

The plan is to walk down the Tamar, as far as we are able. There is a slight problem. Whoever created the estuary – and Slartibartfast is the obvious culprit – did not allow for walkers.

The Lynher and a lack of bridges on the lower section creates a serious barrier to progress to the west. Ending a walk at Portwrinkle would not seem like a proper circumnavigation. The alternative is to cross the bridge at Saltash and complete the walk through Plymouth, a distance of four or five miles.

A long distance path is being planned for the Tamar. The helpful people working on the plan suggested a route and we are interpreting this.

They suggest three links from the Coast Path:

  • From Marsland Mouth where the Cornwall/Devon border meets the sea, via the source of the Tamar and then southwards
  • From Duckpool, up the Coombe valley, through Kilkhampton joining the prvious route at the Tamar lakes
  • From Bude, up the Bude canal, meeting the main route at Marhamchurch

Each has its attractions but we have decided to on the most northerly option: to pick up at Marsland Mouth which we reached on our coastal walk.

To avoid the walk through Plymouth, we will stop at the head of navigation just south of Gunnislake and will canoe the last stretch to complete the circuit at Cremyll ferry.

The river does not mark the boundary between Cornwall and Devon for its whole length. There are chunks on either side which ‘belong’ to the other county. There is no convenient path following the river, either: the banks are jealously guarded by farmers and fishermen. You will see from the map that our route therefore swings widely to west and east.

Inevitably, the path crosses backwards and forwards between Cornwall and Devon. Despite our natural loyalty to Cornwall, we have to accept that the border is shared between the two counties. Crossing to the Anglo-Saxon side, we put our shoulders back, dress smartly and  watch our language hoping to reach the safety of Cornwall before nightfall.

Much of the route is on quiet country lanes, some comfortingly with grass in the middle. If one wanted the shortest route, it would be to walk the length of the ubiquitous B3254 from Kilkhampton to Launceston but this would very dull, even if one lived to tell the tale.

A journey through the landscape and history of Cornwall

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