“I have never seen so many natural beauties in such a limited spot as I have seen here” – JMW Turner
The Tamar Valley is renowned for its natural, unspoiled beauty. Born in London in 1775, Turner is known to have travelled the Westcountry, sketchbook and pencils in hand, recording anything and everything of interest. His observation was absolutely correct, for the area is quite diverse: from high granite ridges and exposed moors to lush, deep wooded valleys, pasture land, rivers and tidal estuaries. The Valley is dotted with historic stannary towns, pretty villages, and of course, Britain’s Ocean City Plymouth.
The Valley spans two counties, on one side Cornwall, and on the other Devon. The river Tamar provides a precise border between the two. The entire area is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and provides locals and visitors alike with some of the loveliest landscapes to cherish and enjoy.
Arguably, there is no better time to visit than in the spring and we very much regret that our highly valued visitors and guests have been unable to join us to enjoy Easter time, May bank holidays and half-terms owing to the disruption that Covid-19 has brought. However, the Valley is still here and thriving in all its wonderful glory. Things will get back to normal and when that happens, we’ll be waiting to welcome you once again.
In this article, we take the briefest look at why a visit to the Tamar Valley is a must when we come out of lockdown. Why ‘briefest’? well because there’s simply so much that we could write about, much more than can be summed up in one article. So if something here catches your eye and you want to know more, get in touch or follow the links in the text.
From the bustling streets of Plymouth to the peaceful woody glades at the higher reaches of its three rivers, the Valley has a great deal to offer.
If a rural break is for you, then just a few short miles from the city of Plymouth you will find yourself in the lush, green countryside. The Tamar Valley is predominantly a rural landscape that can be enjoyed on foot along the many, many miles of footpaths; on a bicycle or on the water.
The Valley lies between two vast expanses of open moorland. To the west Bodmin Moor and to the east Dartmoor. The high moors provide exhilarating and sometimes challenging walks with spectacular views at every turn. For a truly authentic experience of the moors, we suggest that walkers seek out the less well-known areas. But be warned, the weather conditions can change quickly and when the mist descends it’s incredibly easy to get completely and hopelessly lost.
The moors also give rise to two of our rivers. The Lynher, springs high on Bodmin moor before flowing west to east to join the Tamar. The Tavy begins its journey south near Devils Tor on Dartmoor, before winding its way down to join the Tamar slightly north of Saltash.
The lower slopes of the moors give way to rich, fertile farmland and grazing, creating a patchwork of greens and golds interspersed by ancient woods. As the Tamar flows towards the estuary, its densely wooded banks rise high above the water, crowded with conifers, oak, ash and sweet chestnut. Adventurous types can surf among the treetops at Tree Surfers at the Tamar Trails Centre.
If the city scene is for you then be sure to visit Plymouth with its fascinating history and ancient monuments. Plymouth offers something for everyone whether you like to shop at the modern Drake’s Circus, mooch around the eateries and boutiques at Royal William Yard or take in the sea breeze and a cool beer on the Barbican. Plymouth is also home to the UK’s largest marine aquarium and a fascinating glimpse into the world below the waves.
Click here to find out more about our wonderful city.
When you visit the Tamar Valley, you’re never far from the sea with two coasts to choose from. Beach lovers should head down to the Rame Peninsula and its spectacular wide sandy beaches around Whitsand Bay. Or the smaller, east-facing shingle and sand beaches of Kingsand and Cawsand. Walkers can pick up the Southwest Coast Path there.
Alternatively, head northeast to the Atlantic coast and its stunning beaches at Widemouth Bay and Bude. At low tide, Widemouth beach offers a plethora of rock pools to explore, and at Bude’s Summerleaze Beach, visitors can swim safely in its huge Tidal Pool.
This particular stretch of coastline is steeped in smuggling history. With its rugged shore and many inlets and caves, a clandestine trade in goods from the West Indies thrived as Ocean-going vessels bound for Bristol held secret rendezvous with small boats off the Devon and Cornwall coasts.
5. Big Skies
The sky-scapes over the Tamar Valley are spectacular, both by day and by night. With your back to the night sky over Plymouth, there’s very little in the way of light pollution giving an amazing view of the stars.
By day you can see the weather rolling in and rolling out for miles. Scroll through our gallery of huge skies over the Valley.
- The River Tavy belongs to Devon
- The River Lynher belongs to Cornwall
- Both flow into The Tamar south of the Bere Peninsula
The Tavy is an ancient and sometimes wild river that winds its way down through Tavistock. Its waters offer the chance to enjoy kayaking. swimming, fishing and bird watching.
The Tavy also feeds Tavistock canal which connects the town with Morwellham Quay and was once an important trading route to Plymouth and beyond.
Just twenty miles long from its source on Bodmin Moor, the Lynher flows east to west until it enters the Tamar at the Hamoaze. As the river nears the coast its tidal range is as much as sixteen feet and at low tide, the mudflats provide a home for wildlife including kingfisher, otter, dipper, avocet and black-tailed godwit. If you ask the Royal Navy personnel stationed at the School of Seamanship at Jupiter Point, they will tell you that they are regularly visited by seals who like to nap on the Hard.
Rising as a tiny spring just four miles from Bude, the River Tamar defines the Valley and marks the border between the peoples of Devon and Cornwall. Although the river marks the border, nonetheless it belongs to Cornwall. So, if you are on or in the river, you are still in Cornwall until you reach the Devon bank.
At some sixty miles long. the river has many tributaries including the Carey, Thrushel, Inny, Ottery, Claw, Lyd, Kensey, Deer, and of course, the Tavy and Lynher.
In recent years the Cornwall Wildlife Trust started a programme to reintroduce Ospreys into the Valley. Also known as Fish Eagles, these magnificent birds can occasionally be seen fishing along the Tavy and Tamar, as well as in and around Plymouth Sound. The estuary provides a good feeding ground for them, as migrating birds return from spending the winter in Africa.
The Greater Horseshoe bat is one of the UKs most endangered species and can now only be found in Southwest England and Wales. The many abandoned mines in the Tamar Valley provide an ideal habitat for these endearing little creatures and in 2003, cavers discovered the Valley’s Horseshoe maternity ward just over half a mile underground in one such tunnel. Since then, the Tamar Valley AONB has been working tirelessly to increase breeding numbers to ensure the species continues to thrive.
These are just a couple of examples of the many fascinating creatures that call the Tamar Valley home.
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With thanks to those who contributed images:
TON Dorne Services
Article written by Tamar Marketing