open the curtains

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Mermaid’s Purse

I didn’t mug a mermaid. It was already empty when I found it discarded amongst a tangle of seaweed on the river beach looking more like a fishing float than anything of value. Algal blotches spotted its sides like a paving slab in need of a power hose and a couple of strands of sea lettuce hung limply off its broken purse strings. But I still picked it up. After all, any purse, lost, stolen, wilfully abandoned, might still be identifiable. Even a mermaid’s purse. Continue reading


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River Fal 7: Mothballs

– Lamouth Creek – Roundwood – Cowlands Creek (where?)

From Trelissick garden I meander through the wider estate to Roundwood Quay on the conjunction between Cowlands and Lamouth Creeks and the Fal. The tide waters haven’t made it all the way up here yet, and the creek mud is runnelled with mini-rivulets mapping out fluvial geomorphology speeded up and scaled down. This is where to find all the textbook river features denied the Fal by eustatic sea level rise: look, here’s some channel braiding, leading to a delta before the water drivels into the main body of the creek, and there’s even a tiny ox-bow lake over there. At the end of the creek the remains of an Iron Age fort stand in the woodlands. No one knows why it was built or what it was used for, but even so long ago the Fal must have been a geographical advantage. A troop of green clad National Trusties are wielding saws and shears in the undergrowth – probably removing more of those dreaded rhododendrons. Most environmental management is just gardening on a grander scale after all. It’s the same principle as the weeds in Mylor churchyard, just more plants growing in the wrong place at the wrong time: after all, these guys’ colleagues are weeding round the rhododendrons back at Trelissick.

From Roundwood Quay

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River Fal 6: Hydrology

– Restronguet to Trelissick (where?)

Just upriver from the conjunction of Restronguet Creek and the Carrick Roads stands Porthgwidden, Cornish for ‘white bay’: a pale Art Deco style building which must have an impressive view right down the estuary out to sea. The house was originally owned by the Holman family, who made their fortune, yes, you guessed it, in mining. An even more appropriate name would perhaps be Aberfal, the Cornish for mouth-of-the-Fal, as it is less than half a mile upstream from here that the estuary narrows considerably, leaving the name Carrick Roads behind on the nautical map and officially becoming the River Fal. Physically the river finally loses the feeling that it’s a piece of trapped sea and starts to feel a little more riparian. I apply the term with deliberation as although its meaning is to all intents and purposes ‘rivery’, the word derives from the Latin riparius: ‘of or related to the bank of a river’. Our own word river itself is of appropriately convoluted origin fed by both riparius and the Old French rivere, which in turn was related to arrive, meaning ‘to bring a ship to shore’. Another connection is to rival from rivalis: Latin for ‘a person using the same stream as another’. It seems fitting that a thing so varied and variable as a river should have a name influenced by as many different but related roots, as if the word itself is echoing the ever-moving body of water that connects and combines its tributaries, and unifies stream, eddy and flow between its own confining banks.

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