The river Fowey has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Sitting on the quayside in Fowey, watching the sailboats ferry meandering across the water is a favourite pastime of many. If you’re staying at CLC Trenython Manor, just a few minutes’ drive away, spending a day or two exploring the river Fowey will give you an insight into this enchanting part of the world.
The harbour mouth is guarded by St Catherine’s Castle on the right and the medieval blockhouse at Polruan on the eastern side. Every now and again, a huge ship will make its way up the channel to the docks behind the town; Fowey is still a working port.
The deep harbour serves Cornwall’s China Clay industry. The docks – 2km from the harbour entrance – receive and dispatch clay from the St Austell area for use around the world.
Music, saints and canoes
The railway partners the river upstream past Sawmills Studio, the site of recordings for bands like Supergrass, Oasis and the Stone Roses.
Onwards to Golant and you’ll discover Encounter Cornwall who operate canoe trips along the river and through its wooded creeks. Golant is also on the Saint’s Way walking route and at the top of the hill is a church dedicated to St Samsom, who rocked up here in the 6th century from Wales.
As you emerge from Golant, the river widens where it’s joined by the Lerryn River. The woods on either side of the water running towards Lerryn village is only navigable at high tide. The woods on either side are thought to be the inspiration for Kenneth Graham’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’.
Walk the woods
The woods have good walks on both sides. On the northern bank, they lead to St Winnow where a church dedicated to the saint sits beside the Fowey River.
Above St Winnow, the river meanders between mudflats and water meadows to the ancient Cornish capital of Lostwithiel. In Medieval times, this was an important port. However, the tin mines that exported from here were the cause of the silting up of the river. Today the town is a pleasant place to wander around with plenty of antique shops to visit and some good places to eat.
A little further up river is Restormel Castle, built on the site of a 13th century Norman castle. ‘Res’ in the name denotes ford – a place for crossing the river. Likewise, Respryn Bridge crosses the river, lying just below Lanhydrock House with its beautiful gardens and walks. Follow the drive from the house to the railway station and Bodmin Parkway, and you may be lucky to see the steam trains from the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
To the moors
The river runs through the broad Glynn Valley, and at Two Waters Foot (near Trago Mills) the Loveny River joins the Fowey. Together they run to the pretty village of St Neot on the edge of Bodmin Moor.
At Golitha, the Fowey turns onto the moor itself. At the top end of the valley, the A30 crosses the river just before the village of Bolventor, home to Jamaica Inn. This is the wild part of Cornwall, and the source of the river Fowey is not far away.
If you’re a confident walker, then you can head across the open moorland to the north of Jamaica Inn. Into the boggy landscape is the source of the river Fowey, between Brown Willy, Cornwall’s highest peak, and Buttern Hill.
There is little to see now, but it is said the Chapel of St Peter of Fawe once marked the place, but no trace of the building remains.