Fowey, England

May 10, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

After an overnight sail along the south coast of England, we arrived in Cornwall before breakfast for a spectacular entry to the harbor at Fowey, a name derived from the Cornish word for beech trees. These Cornish harbors have nurtured generations of seafarers, fishermen, and sailors in the navy. Geomorphologists recognize these harbors as rias, inundated river valleys that were formed from isostatic rebound, for the coast of south-western Britain has been slowly sinking since the retreat of the ice cap some 10,000 years ago—even as the northwest has been gaining in height. The harbors thus created are deep and sheltered, and they allowed National Geographic Explorer to moor upstream beyond the town, which clings attractively to the steep western shoreline of the estuary.

A visit to the Eden Project was the highlight of the day for many. A disused china-clay quarry up to the end of the last century, it has been transformed into a hugely successful educational and recreational center that promotes understanding of environmental issues on a global scale. Massive covered biomes house flora from contrasting climatic zones and the entire site has been regenerated with vibrant plant life, art installations, and informative exhibits. Some guests continued on tour in the afternoon to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan while others returned to Fowey for an afternoon of personal exploration. The Heligan gardens were developed by the Tremayne family in the 19th century but fell into decay after the Great War, when so many of the garden staff failed to return from the western front. The gardens, totally overgrown, were rediscovered in 1990 and a slow but thorough process of loving restoration has ensued so that the fine rhododendron, azalea, and camelia collections are now recognized as being of national importance.

A nature walk was also offered with good opportunities for birding in fine coastal scenery. Our circular walk took us along the eastern shore of the estuary from Bodinnick to Polruan, with historic lime kilns and a good view of the author Daphne DuMaurier’s former home. A variety of common garden birds were observed including sparrows, chaffinches, and chiffchaffs.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales. Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally. He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world. In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals. In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City). He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

About the Photographer

Doug Gould

Expedition Leader

Travel and adventure were an integral part of Doug’s upbringing in a small town on the south shore of Long Island, New York. Growing up on the Great South Bay, his family claims Doug learned to sail before he learned to walk. Whether it was camping, sailing, birding, traveling across country or spending most of fifth grade living in Europe, Doug’s formative years left him with a love of wildlife, the outdoors, and a desire to keep moving. 

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