The Gannel Estuary

The Gannel Estuary

An Ganel

Once a harbour now silted up

One mile south of Newquay

The estuary known as the Gannel is the tidal outlet for the short river of that name whose main headwaters rise on high ground near the A30, west of Mitchell. The estuary lies between Newquay to the north and Crantock Village to the south.

Until late in the last century the mouth of the Gannel was extensively used by shipping, and its trading demise was caused partly by the development of Newquay harbour and perhaps more importantly, by the silting up of the narrow channel by banks of sand.

The Gannel Estuary

Seagoing vessels brought their cargoes only as far as Fern Pit, which was a busy little trans-shipment port. Here the cargoes of coal, fertiliser, limestone and earthenware were off-loaded into shallow-draught barges for the three mile journey on the flood tide up to Trevemper, then an important commercial centre. Limestone and coal were also barged up Penpol Creek where a ruined limekiln can be seen. A walk along the western foreshore of the wooded creek at low tide will reveal small quays, flights of steps, mooring rings and chains. Ships were built on the northern shore just below Tregunnel.

About 20 yards east of the slip at Fern Pit the visitor will notice that the slate rock is scored with several dozen holes, each the size of a dinner plate. No plausible reason has been advanced for this phenomenon which may be natural or man made.

The passage of vessels into and out of the Gannel using the narrow channel next to the rocks of East Pentire was always difficult, especially when leaving, so 'hobblers' scrambled along the cliffs with tow ropes until the breaking surf was passed, and near the point the ropes were cast off and the ship put to sea.

In April 2002 the former Admiralty supply boat 'Sanu' took shelter in the Gannel Estuary while heading along the north Cornish coast bound for Bristol and restoration. She was driven up the estuary on a spring tide and grounded. The wreck was finally removed in October 2013.

Established in 1910, the Fern Pit Cafe and Ferry is a family run business based on the River Gannel which offers light refreshments such as sandwiches, home-made cakes and drinks. The ferry boathouse is down a path below the cafe and provides access between Newquay and Crantock beach between 10am and 6pm every day during the summer. When the tide is out there is a foot bridge which can be used free of charge.

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