Working with and for nature: creating new habitat at Cotehele quay

The field beside the River Tamar at Cotehele quay

We're planning to develop a wildlife rich intertidal habitat in the field below the woodland path by Cotehele Quay.

This project is part of a much larger programme of improvements to the River Tamar being undertaken by the Tamar Catchment Partnership (my-tamar.org), which includes the Environment Agency, Natural England and the National Trust. It aims to create a system that is more resilient to the challenges posed by climate change and to provide a richer environment for people and for nature.

What are we planning?

The field, which is very wet and currently of little agricultural value, will be allowed to flood with the tides and naturally develop into a wildlife rich habitat.

The River Tamar and the Cotehele quay field we're planning to develop
The River Tamar and the Cotehele quay field
The River Tamar and the Cotehele quay field we're planning to develop

With support from the Environment Agency and Natural England, we plan to reverse work carried out in Victorian times, when the field, which was originally a small wetland area, was drained and contained with a bund (an artificial bank) which now requires regular and expensive maintenance by the Environment Agency.

A small breach will be made in the existing bund to allow tidal waters to inundate the field and over time create a rich intertidal habitat. Some work will be done to create a more varied topography within the field to give nature a head start and the site will be contained by a small bund alongside the existing quay car park. This work will be developed and designed with experts and project partners to ensure best practice.

Plans showing the proposed works created by Bailey Partnership
The plans for the intertaidal habitat creation at Cotehele with Bailey Partnership
Plans showing the proposed works created by Bailey Partnership

Why are we doing this now?

Increasing river levels and degrading of the bund mean that the field regularly floods in an uncontrolled way and will do so more often as the impacts of climate change take hold.

The Environment Agency have indicated that they will no longer maintain the bund which contains the field. We’re taking this problem and turning it into an opportunity to create a new space for nature, while also allowing the Tamar to regain some of its natural form.

Uncontrolled flooding over the damaged bank at Cotehele quay after the February storms
Uncontrolled flooding over the damaged bank at Cotehele quay
Uncontrolled flooding over the damaged bank at Cotehele quay after the February storms

When will the work be carried out?

Planning applications for works that are required will be submitted to Cornwall Council towards the end of September 2020. It is then planned that work on the ground to dig the internal channels and bund will commence in Spring 2021, with the final breach of the riverside bund, to allow water to ingress the area taking place in September 2021.

The work will be funded from the National Trust’s Enterprise Neptune coastal appeal with the additional support of a grant from the Environment Agency Water Environment Improvement Fund.

Uncontrolled flooding at high tide in February 2020
Flooding at Cotehele quay in February 2020
Uncontrolled flooding at high tide in February 2020
Shamrock Tamar sailing barge in her mooring at Cotehele Quay

Conserving 'Shamrock'

'Shamrock' is a lovely old boat built in 1899 in Plymouth and now retired on Cotehele Quay. A major restoration project uncovered serious structural issues which need to be fixed to make her ship-shape again.