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Wildlife in Cornwall - The Gannel Estuary

The Gannel Estuary has something to interest everybody from the beautiful salt marsh plants to the mystery of the Gannel Crake and provides a home for many different plants and animals.

Algae and Asters
Shifting sands and mud and changes in salinity make the Gannel a hostile place for all but a few specialised plants. There several areas of salt marsh on both sides of the main river channel and at Penpol Creek including pioneer communities with only a sparse covering of green algae as well as well developed vegetation. During the spring these areas are alive with the fragrant scurvy grass, thrift , sea aster and sea purslane form painted edges to the channels of mud where the wading birds feed on shellfish worms and crabs. Towards the sea on Pentire Point East cliff vegetation takes over and spring squill, kidney vetch and wild carrot provide displays of colour.

Godwits and Greenshanks
Up to 5000 birds have been recorded here sheltering from harsh northern winters including dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, whimbrel, grey plover, greenshank, godwits curlew, widgeon and teal. The different bill shapes and lengths allow the different waders to feed on their own particular favourite animal living in the soft mud.

There is much of historical interest on the Gannel with evidence of mans occupation from the bronze Age to the present day. At Trethellan Farm a Bronze Age village once existed that has revealed much information on life at that time whilst overlying the site was an Iron age burial ground that also provided many interesting finds. Also at Trethellan a lead mine operated until about 1860 whilst on the southern shore there was a lead and silver smelting works. Iron ore from the Great Perran Iron Lode was brought to the Gannel for shipment to Wales whilst Welsh coal for the Truro smelting works was unshipped at Trevemper and Penpol. The old packhorse bridge still exists at Trevemper, the tidal limit of the estuary, having been rebuilt with one arch in the last century.

Reeds Boatyard
The old boatyard area at Tregunnel is now a delightful spot to stop a while and enjoy the view. In the 1800's you would have seen ships of up to 250 tons being built here, launches took place in the evening on a Spring Tide and were great events locally. Today smaller boats are still moored and repaired in the area.

Penpol Creek
Once known as the Port of Truro, goods were brought into the Gannel and taken up the track leading from the Creek by cart or packhorse. remains of the quay are easily visible as are the remains of a lime kiln where limestone was unloaded and burnt before being spread on the land to improve soil quality. Today the Creek provides a home for wildlife - great spotted woodpeckers can be heard "drumming" in the spring, whilst recent years has seen the graceful little egret, a large white wading bird from the continent, feeding here at low tide.

Treringy Round
This is an Iron Age round surrounded by earth banks and ditches.

Crantock is delightful old village with a fascinating church, magnificent beach and sand dune system. Taking its name from St Carantoc or Caratocus a Welsh or Irish bishop who studied under St Patrick, the village dates back to 460 AD when a group of Irish hermits founded an oratory here.

The Gannel Crake
This name is given to a terrible sound heard on the Gannel at different times of the day and the night. Some say it is the call of a vixen or perhaps an unusual bird while others say it is the cry of " a tortured human soul ". A man who heard it in the 1800's said " it was like nothing on earth, like a thousand voices pent up in misery, with one long wail dying away in the distance" .Who knows what this strange phenomenon could be ?.

Walking and Riding on the Gannel
There are numerous walks to be enjoyed around the estuary including the two circular walks shown on this leaflet. Please follow way marked routes as some paths are permissive and exist only through the goodwill of the landowning community. A delightful day out is a walk around the estuary to Crantock where a cream tea provides welcome refreshment. For horse riders there are rides daily from Trenance Stables that use the bridle ways and take in parts of the foreshore Please try and avoid riding on areas of the vulnerable salt marsh as it takes many years to re establish if badly churned up.

Tides and Ferries
The Gannel is tidal and a dangerous place to swim or wade, in order to walk right around the estuary you will need to avoid high tide. There are two foot bridges, at Trennance the bridge is covered for about an hour either side of the high tide whereas the Penpol bridge is covered for about 2 1/2 hours either side of high tides. Ferries operate primarily on a seasonal basis from Fern Pit to Crantock Beach and the Gannel Ferry Service provide a service from Trethellan Steps and opposite Penpol to Penpol Creek. ( out of season contact Gannel Ferry Services on 0637 871021)

The St Agnes - Newquay Countryside Service is helping to manage the Gannel as a place for both people and wildlife to enjoy, help us to do this by following the Country Code, in particular keeping dogs under close control where they may disturb feeding birds. Please remember the Gannel is a very sensitive area and if possible keep to routes that avoid the foreshore, less erosion is caused and the view is often much better. The Country Code The work on the Gannel is supported by the National Trust, Newquay Town Council Restormel borough Council and Trewithen Estates.

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