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The Wenford Dries to the Doom Bar along the Camel Trail

23/03/20
by Karen Simons

What do the Wenford Dries, a source of china clay in North Cornwall, and the Doom Bar, a shifting sandbank, have in common? They are at either end of our new Camel Trail stile-free walk, once connected by the railway that serviced them both, carrying the sand for use on the fields and the clay from Bodmin Moor.

The Wenford Dries

My family have lived in North Cornwall for many years, enjoying not only the magnificent rugged coastline but also the quieter, historic inland sites. Living close to the moor, we were well aware of the importance of china clay to the local economy. The Wenford Dries, built at the turn of the last century, are an impressive reminder of this heritage. They are now derelict, sitting proudly at the start of the Camel Trail in Wenfordbridge.

Clay was blasted from the ground by water cannon and pumped to the settlement tanks, where it was dried by the furnace before being loaded onto the railway trucks to supply the local potteries. There is still a working pottery at Wenfordbridge.

Vibrant Birdlife on the Camel Trail

The walk along the disused railway track is a nature trail and in particular a wonderful opportunity to bird-watch. The list is endless, but we have seen grebe, swan, Canada goose, barnacle goose, shelduck, wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, cormorant, gull and tarn, egret and heron.

Padstow Harbour and the Doom Bar

Further along, as the Camel becomes tidal, are the oyster beds. These are long racks with bags of oysters laying on them. They are sold, along with a multitude of other seafood, in the restaurants and cafés on Padstow’s harbour.

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Synonymous with Padstow is the infamous Doom Bar, a shifting sandbank that has been making its presence felt since the times of Henry VIII. Situated between the headlands of Stepper Point and the Rumps at the mouth of the Camel estuary, its erratic movements make navigating the channel into Padstow Harbour treacherous, hence the name – now well known as one of the most popular real ales in the country.

A staggering 10 million tons of sand or more have been dredged from the sandbar over the years, to be used as a soil improver, yet this is a continuous job and one which you will see in evidence as the sand is landed daily.

The Shipwreck of the Maria Asumpta

Unfortunately over the years there have been numerous shipwrecks, forced onto the rocks after misjudging the Doom Bar.  One such was witnessed by many spectators in 1995, when the Maria Asumpta floundered and sunk with the loss of three lives. My parents were watching and my father painted the magnificent brig, to auction in aid of the RNLI.

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If your holiday has taken you to Padstow, on the Camel Trail, the South West Coast Path or Saints Way, there is so much to see and do: Prideaux Place; Puffin Island; St Endoc Church, where Sir John Betjemen is buried; and the famous Rick Stein Fish and Chips.





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