The Camel Trail

by frankbeswick

The short but scenic Camel Trail is possible to do in a day, and it is a lovely journey,

Let me state clearly, the Camel Trail is nothing to do with camels. The word camel is derived from the Cornish word cam, which is a Celtic word meaning crooked. The Camel is a Cornish river. This word is also found in the name of the river Cam, which runs through Cambridge. The course of the walk follows the course of the river down from the rain-soaked granite and peat bogs of Bodmin Moor, down to the point at which it makes a bend to reach the sea at the tourist venue of Padstow, of culinary fame. It is a scenic walk and is great for a summer venture.

Roe deer. Picture courtesy of Andreas, of Pixabay


The river gurgles out of the sodden ground of the unobtrusive hills of western side of rain-soaked granite fastness of  Bodmin Moor. The spring from which it arises is on Hendraburrick, and as it begins its exuberant journey to its ultimate home in the sea it joins with several tributaries that drain North Cornwall, such as the river Amble. The valley is narrow and high-sided, a geographical feature that makes for a rapid rise in flood water levels in rainy periods. 

In addition, there is a tidal barrage on the river Amble to prevent sea water flooding in during periods of low pressure, when ocean waters can flood up the small tributary. Yet in times when  conditions are good the valley makes for good walking.

The path is well-made, It follows a route just above the bottom of the valley on an old rail track, which hails from the days when a steam train ran along the route. Those were the days when quarrying the local slate was good business that required heavy transport to move it to the docks at Padstow. The line also took tin from the mine in the valley. It was taken to the docks and ferried across the Bristol Channel, which separates Cornwall from South Wales, where there was a metal smelting capacity. As a community line it also ferried people to Padstow. But economics is a cruel task master, and while there is a surviving quarry, the tin mine was shut before the  second world war. Eventually in the post-war period the line was modified. A  steam train still provides a tourist attraction, but running alongside it is a well-made path that is suitable for pedestrians and cyclists. The path cuts its way through the tree-lined slopes of the valley. There used to be elms, until fungal disease killed off the mature specimens. Elms  are vulnerable after they are six years old, so there are some young elms. We are hoping to introduce varieties immune to the disease, but there is still a long way to go with the elm. The wild service tree is also present in the valley, which makes  it a part of Britain with a distinct flora.

The valley is designated an area of outstanding natural beauty, where the visual glories of nature are found alongside a peaceful ambience, and the only sounds other than the chugging of the steam train are the winds stirring the branches of the trees, the river flowing across its stony bed and the sounds of animals Sixty percent of the valley is grassland for cattle grazing, so cattle noises are sometimes evident. Yet the normally silent badgers dwell in their setts up the wooded slopes. The stream is a well-known trout fishery, and seabass are known to come into the estuary of the camel and make their way up stream. These fish are protected and no one may fish for them or take them away. But the  curlew, a bird with a curved beak suffering serious decline in England, is found making its mating calls in Spring, and it can be seen feeding near the streams. Be assured that the curlew is highly protected.


Aidan Semmens

Farming the Valley.

The main crop of North Cornwall is beef and dairy cattle. But the geological conditions mean that farmers need to take measures to deal with flooding. Obviously, getting the animals safely uphill is important, and this works well in spring, when the rain has made the grass rich and moist, but the shallow soils of the slopes tend to dry out in summer. The farmers tend to use an ancient technique. Meadows! These are fields deliberately allowed to flood in spring, making the meadow grasses rich in moisture. Then when they are ready in the  drier period, the animals are brought down to the meadows to feed. If possible a farmer can have a valley bottom lagoon which is fed from tidal waters and provides crops  for much of the year.

But there is a surprise in the valley, though on the upper slopes. A vineyard! The story of this home of sparkling English wines must begin with a clarification. There is a distinction between English and British wines. The latter have no vintage, but are made of various wines blended together; but English wines have a name of origin and compete with the best. The Camel Valley Vineyard specializes in sparkling wines. The method by which they are cultivated involves a slightly slower process than the best wines from Europe, and this enables some subtle tastes to develop. These tastes have a subtlety that matures with time in the grape. The grower detects a hint of strawberry in the wine and subtle hints of apple. Although the vineyard suffers from the unavoidable vagaries of the British climate, with its lurking threats of spring frosts, it is a prize winning, much acclaimed vineyard with hopefully a great future.

There is also Prideaux deer park. Prideaux  is  a stately home dwelt in by the same family for four hundred years, though the estate is several hundred years older and may go as far back as Anglo-Saxon times. This means that it was previously owned by a Saxon whose estate was confiscated by the Normans, but what his name was no one knows. The deer are roe deer, a type of deer introduced by the Normans, so it is likely that in Saxon times the native red deer were kept. The small roe deer are kept in an enclosed woodland made up of native deciduous species. They are treated well, but annually culled to keep deer numbers at a stable level and the venison sold to local butchers. Visitors can come to the stately home, and see the deer in the park, though visitors should check on opening times.

Hobby Horse
Hobby Horse
Jonnie Spooner, of pixabay

The Lower Reaches

At last the walker reaches the fishing port of Padstow, whose fishing boats supply the tourist trade in this centre for gastronomic excellence. The town is the base for internationally renowned fish and sea food chef, Rick Stein and his son and heir, Jack. Rick has a long list of television appearances on the subject of cooking to his credit. But the port has a history. Besides having been a fishing port it was once a port taking a significant traffic in freight. In the days when slate was mined it took the quarried goods by sea, and tin was borne from the valley's small tin mine to South Wales across the Bristol Channel, which separates South Wales from Cornwall, where the tin ore would have been smelted. That trade faded out in the twentieth century. While some of the responsibility for decline in trade must fall on the general decline in sea freight in favour of road traffic, there was marine problem as well. Something known as the Doom Bar had much to do with it. The Doom Bar is a sandbar that forms in the harbour. It acquired the name because it was the cause of the doom of many large vessels. Dredging did not solve the problem, and with the decline in sea freight the measures to remedy the problem became uneconomic.

But the town has its own tourist attraction. Go to Padstow on Mayday, May the First, for the Hobby Horse festival, a remnant of an ancient pagan Celtic celebration of the onset of Spring and all its abundant fertility. Look at the picture above and in the bottom right you can see the horse. It does not look very much like a horse, but that does not matter. There are two distinct horses, but the rivalry is friendly and the main aim of the celebrations is for townsfolk and visitors have a good time

The Camel valley is not a circular walk, so walkers  need to have a clear idea of their  route, but  the valley is a great place to enjoy nature..



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Updated: 06/11/2024, frankbeswick
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frankbeswick on 06/15/2024

The same as American railings, hot rolled steel.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/15/2024

Thank you for your comment below in answer to my previous, same-day observation and question.

Online sources associate Unitedstatesian metal railings with hot-rolled steel.

What kind do British Isles-ers make their metal railings from?

frankbeswick on 06/14/2024

Hardwood, as it is more durable than softwood.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/14/2024

Thank you for your comment below in answer to my previous, same-day observation and question.

Online sources associate Unitedstatesian wooden sleepers with:
hardwood species such as beech, hornbeam and oak;
such softwood species as Douglas fir, larch and maritime, red, Scots and southern pines.

What wood predominates among British Isles-er wooden sleepers?

frankbeswick on 06/13/2024

The metal railings are melted down and the metal reused. The wooden sleepers are sold off for a variety of purposes. Some are used to make raised beds in horticultural projects

DerdriuMarriner on 06/13/2024

Thank you for your comment below in answer to my previous, same-day observation and question.

It seems to me that there should be some possible final destinations for those disassembled tracks.

Would the aforementioned tracks be burned, build another railroad track, do duty in a railway history museum, go into a landfill or serve as recycled wood?

frankbeswick on 06/12/2024

When a route is being converted from railway to footpath the railway is disassembled. All the tracks are taken up.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/12/2024

The third paragraph to the first subheading, Source, advises us that "The path is well-made, It follows a route just above the bottom of the valley on an old rail track, which hails from the days when a steam train ran along the route."

Do rail tracks stay in place or do they ultimately get disassembled?

frankbeswick on 06/11/2024

I do not know of any such tale.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/11/2024

Thank you for your comment below in answer to my previous, same-day observation and question.

English Wikipedia associates St Petroc now with Bodmin and Little Petherick.

The aforementioned article describes St Petroc as depicted either with a wolf, for having tamed him in India, or, in the way of British saints, with a stag.

Is there a surviving folktale or legend or myth or tradition for invoking British saints with stags and stags with British saints?

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