11th December 2014- River Hayle, Cornwall
Me n’ Paddy Garcia
PG suffering river-watching withdrawal symptoms, and alarmingly high winds this day, an inland rather than coastal walk seemed wise, so we decided to walk up the River Hayle.
Set off from the church at St Erth along the footpath. We wended through Battery Mill, an interesting collection of fisheries, cattery, dog spa, caravans and various other light industrial stuffs. Then it was off along the river path proper- a very easy stroll right next to the water.
River beautiful. Stone-cold clear, even after the stormy weather. Not very wide but deep in places, and fast flowing, yet we could always see to the bottom. Some lovely bends where a fly fisherman could spend a happy day. This prompted a consultation with the Devil’s Window to find out about the fishing rights, and the discovery of an incredible fact.
Turns out you probably wouldn’t want to eat any fish you caught in the River Hayle. Despite its idyllic appearance, the river is still contaminated with heavy metals (copper, tin and cadmium mainly) from historic mining. Far too toxic for normal ‘metal-naive brown trout’, who are highly sensitive to toxins, there is nevertheless a population of hardy brown trout in the Hayle. A recent study has shown they have evolved genetically to tolerate the metals. This makes them, apparently, one of the most important populations of trout there are. Amazing. Still wouldn’t want to eat them.
Digesting this fascinating information (and wondering why PG had never read about it in Trout and Salmon), we continued up the river, enjoying head-high stands of reeds and dense scrub all around. Just before Relubbus we stopped at a caravan park for chocolate supplies and crossed the river, climbing up through woodland onto the hillside.
Met a very friendly cattle farmer at Trannack (‘ansome’) and a man carrying a chicken, then off up and down muddy hillsides, through brassica fields and past Chynoweth until we reached a high point where great views down across the Hayle estuary emerged. We then headed on over the top and down to St Erth, passing the marvellously secret-looking Old Vicarage.
Generally associate St Erth with industrial estates and train changing, but the village itself was charming. Quick look around the churchyard to admire the handsome slate gravestones, including a rather chilling one from 1832 (did they not know the names of the victims? Or the stone was put up after the ‘awful visitation’ when the information was lost?). Then back in the car to Godrevy to admire the stormy waves.
Not a spectacular walk, and short (3.5 miles) but very, very interesting. Pesk, it survives the Kober ha Stean.