Saturday, August 09, 2008

Canal Walk: Morewellham Quay

7th August

A Visit to the Morewellham Quay and the Tavistock Canal tunnel.

We drove to Morwellham Quay and parked in their large car park. Their leaflets say the car parking is £2.00 but we weren’t asked for money and didn’t offer any. You can walk around the site and nature trails for free or pay £8.50 to go on the guided trips of the mines, boats and school house. We chose to go for free and just walk around.
The Quay is undergoing a re-vamp at the moment; work was being done on the gardens and quayside. New information signs have recently been put up replacing the old ones which were still lying on the ground.
At the quay there are the remains of the railway which brought ore and other goods from the canal down to the ships waiting at the dock on the River Tamar. The slate sleepers of the railway are still there and further along the line the metal rails are still in place. Between the Malt House and the pub the railway passes by the remains of the incline keeper’s house. The front door opens onto the rails; the laden wagons would have rolled within inches of the front door with no warning.
We followed the brand new granite signposts to the canal incline. Unfortunately the new signs don’t do much more than point you in the general direction. The old blue waymarkers for the former blue route had all been pulled up but were still lying along the route. Past the farm and a field with a small horse and a medium sized horse we came to a path up to the canal. The steps up to the canal are steep, wet and poorly maintained. The canal is without water and overgrown. To the left of the steps is private property and closed to walkers. We went right and followed the path along the overgrown canal.
We knew the tunnel mouth was around here somewhere but couldn’t quite find it straight away. There were no signs saying anything about the tunnels location. At the end of the dry canal is junction with a water channel. The water came from a channel emerging from the trees, it flowed under a sluice gate and into a tunnel obscured by more trees and plants. This tunnel was too small to be the canal tunnel, and is in fact one of the tunnels which takes water from the canal down to the reservoir for the hydro-electric plant. Just as we were about to give up and go I spotted the canal tunnel and its date stone in the trees. It was almost impossible to take a photograph of the tunnel mouth. The tunnel is quite small for a canal tunnel.

We couldn’t find any thing that looked like an inclined plane. To one side of the steps up to the canal there was water flowing from the canal down to the docks. This water was used to power water wheels for pumping drinking water and to operate other machines. The water flows out into the dock and flushed the silt away.
We went back to the quay and had a look at the large lime kilns and the visitor centre of the hydro electric plant.
Hopefully when the renovation work has been completed Morewellham Quay will be worth a visit. The canal did not get a mention in any of the information boards regarding the re-development.

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