Exploring tidal creeks

Steve and I had been examining the 2.5″ OS map and found a possible causeway across the creek just west of Gerrans, so today we set out to explore the area.  Totally different experience to the coastal path – met no-one, but found evidence that local folk use the area.  One little knoll overlooking the creek had been cleared of rank vegetation creating a small circle, accessed by a narrow but recently cleared pathway.  Either a picnic spot or site of dark and exotic rites, but someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create it.

Looking down onto Polingey Creek from the ritual cleared circle.  The causeway is visible just over the vegetation.

Looking down onto Polingey Creek from the ritual cleared circle. The causeway is visible just over the vegetation.

The tide was right for us to cross the causeway, and we did.  Stopped to listen and draw for an hour.  We watched rooks bothering (or trying to bother) young buzzards high overhead.

Looking east across the causeway.  The large seaweed strewn section behind Steve's head is where the mill building once stood, in the middle of the barrage.

Looking east across the causeway. The large seaweed strewn section behind Steve’s head is where the mill building once stood, in the middle of the barrage.

The next day we learnt more about the causeway.  Its one of many once common barrages used to power tidemills.  A waterwheel placed in a gap in the dam would drive the millstones on both rising and falling tides.  Chris Insoll told us that there is another at Froe, and the tidal pond (behind the barrage) at Place has been filled and turned into a lawn.

Detail of a beautifully built boat store (?) at Polingey, just west of the causeway.

Detail of a beautifully built boat store (?) at Polingey, just west of the causeway.

We made a circular walk via Polingey, Lanhay and a very steep and rather overgrown V-shaped valley back to Gerrans for a pastie from Ralph’s whilst watching oystercatchers sneaking up on limpets in the harbour.  They are good at it, catching several unawares, knocking them off their low-tide homes and gobbling up the soft parts.

Over a pint of Proper Job we planned the afternoon’s explorations.  Steeply up and out of Portscatho by the footpath heading south from near the Plume of Feathers, then across fields (past the sewage treatment plant) a little road and another path to Pelyn Creek.  From there head north to Percuil where we might see the remains of the mooring where coal boats and others once moored to deliver and collect goods. Returning via Polingey Creek again to see it at high water.

Gerrans and Portscatho activated sludge sewage treatment works.  Oddly there are no signs directing visitors to this state of the art plant.

Gerrans and Portscatho activated sludge sewage treatment works. Oddly there are no signs directing visitors to this state of the art plant.

This notice indicates that human error can still be a major factor in sewage treatment management.

This notice indicates that human error can still be a major factor in sewage treatment management.

We encountered a problem at Pelyn Creek.  One footpath terminates on the beach just south of the stream, and the other (to Percuil) leaves on the north side of the stream.  This close to high tide the stream and sea are essentially one body of water, which we had to cross or retreat.  Someone had left two biggish tree boughs across the stream.  I volunteered to go first.  The first stride put me one third of the way over, and in a meta-stable situation.  The second step was less well thought through – onto the other tree bough, which was clearly resting on the far bank, but only floating at the nearside.   With the third leaping stride I was ashore.  Working on the  principle that, if your foot is only underwater for a second its probably not very wet, I ignored it until we got home.  Steve saw the need for good stability in the centre of the stream and found a long sturdy stick which reached the stream bed and provided the extra balance as he crossed cool, calm and (unlike me) dry.

Polingey Creek at high water - no sign of the causeway.

Polingey Creek at high water – no sign of the causeway.

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