I recently discovered a pamphlet in a charity shop, it is an early publication by E. C. Axford, called ‘The Cornish Moor’. There are very few books about Bodmin Moor so I was excited to find it. I soon realised that the same author had also written the 1975 topographical guide to the moors that I often refer to.
On the first page of the pamphlet Axford proposes something interesting. Dartmoor is so named as rising up out of the earth of that vast landscape is the source of the River Dart. By that logic Bodmin Moor should actually be called Fowey-moor. (And indeed it was for a while during the 13th century, but the name fell out of usage.) Bodmin Moor, Fowey-moor or the Cornish Moor or whatever you choose to call it remains pretty much untouched by development. This is wild Cornwall and in one of its wildest parts the Fowey River rises.
There’s no great fanfare. No flag or monument marks the spot. Just a marshy piece of ground and the slow tickle of a tiny stream of clear water. Leland writes that the river rises ‘in a wagmore in the side of a hil’. A fair description.
The source lies in a small valley between Brown Willy and Buttern Hill. Although there is little to see now it is said that the place was once marked by a small chapel. Called the Chapel of St Peter of Fawe, no trace of any building remains.
To the Sea
From here the Fowey river runs through the heart of the Bodmin Moor. For nine miles it is a moorland river. It dashes through some of Cornwall’s most picturesque scenery before bursting out miles later, into the Fowey Estuary and then the salty waters of the channel.
The estuary is known as the Usell (Uzell) which means the howling place in Cornish.
As the river heads down from the moor it passes through the picturesque town of Lostwithiel. Slowly growing wider and more powerful with every mile, the Fowey has seven tributaries, the largest of which being the River Lerryn.
They say that from small acorns great oaks grow and it could equally be said that tiny springs will eventually form great oceans!
Below is a beautiful film made by Flying Fish Productions following the river from source to sea!
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The Buttern Hill Bronze Age Cemetery and Cist
King Arthur’s Bed, Trewortha Tor
7 thoughts on “The Source of the River Fowey”
In Oregon we hiked to the springs that started rivers. It is amazing to see the source. Thanks for sharing the Cornwall one.
What a pretty seaside village, almost looks like something out of a book.
You should read ‘The River Fowey’ by Wilson MacArthur