Lake Skimmel

Just down the road from us is Skimmel Bridge, from which the hamlet of Skimmel Bridge takes its name. It’s where the Newlyn stream passes under the road from Tremethick Cross to Sancreed. In dry summers (remember those?) the Newlyn stream isn’t much more than a babble over the stones, with a couple of sandbanks just below the bridge, but after heavy rain it becomes swollen with brown peaty water pouring down from the Penwith moors around the Men an Tol. Penwith is small, however, and the Men an Tol isn’t far away, so the torrent subsides fairly quickly. Or it used to.
There have always been occasions when it’s rained hard for a long period, flooding the woods, but until a year ago, whenever the rain stopped, the woods drained, and the stream reverted to its normal winter volume. In November last year, it rained hard everywhere (see Thursday’s trains), scouring the rocks at the foundations of the bridge. The wood flooded, but it didn’t drain away.

Lake Skimmel

Lake Skimmel

The stream above the bridge is actually two streams, with an island in between. The larger western stream passes under the two main culverts of the bridge, while the smaller eastern stream has its own little culvert, and it’s the eastern stream’s little culvert that became partially blocked last November, leading to the formation of the scummy brown pond that is Lake Skimmel. Last winter was wet. The summer that preceded it was also wet, but not as wet as the winter. The autumn between the wet summer and the wet winter was also pretty damned wet. For months the northern end of the small culvert was submerged, so it was impossible to see what was blocking it. In March it rained hard again, and the stream poured across the road, scouring the foundations some more, and the following morning there were logs and branches strewn in the roadway. There’s now also a long crack in the tarmac where the bridge was ‘repaired’ some years ago.
It did finally stop raining, Lake Skimmel finally drained away, and we were able to see the logs and branches that had been blocking the culvert. Finally. My next door neighbour, a farmer, put on his waterproofs and waded in, removing all the branches and logs he could reach, but it seems that there are more branches and logs deep inside the culvert. There’s also a lot of gravel. In the past, our ancestors would have been panning the gravel for tin, I expect, but now all it does is clog up the spaces between the logs and branches.
My wife rang the council, and the highways, and the other council, and another farmer, who came and shook his head. His wife rang the local councillor, who said he’d look into it. Meanwhile, the highways (or possibly the council) told my neighbour to leave it alone, because it could be dangerous. Summer came, and green plants grew in the silt. Someone from the highways turned up, looked at the bridge, and said it would be all right.
As summer gave way to autumn, it started raining again, and a few weeks ago Lake Skimmel made its reappearance. My wife rang the council again, and the highways, and a couple of men wearing high-vis suits came, in a van. They even arrived on a day when the water level was reasonably low, so that they were able to hoik out a few of the branches from the mouth of the culvert and leave them on the bank. They said that there was some more ‘stuff’ deep in the culvert that they couldn’t reach (which everyone knew), and they went off. Needless to say, when it rained, the branches they’d left on the bank washed right back where they’d come from, and lodged against the ‘stuff’ that’s blocking the culvert.
Skimmel Falls

Skimmel Falls

Lake Skimmel is full, and will probably remain so now until the spring, pouring into the larger western stream over the picturesque Skimmel Falls. However, geologically speaking, lakes are short lived features of the landscape, either draining away or silting up. Admittedly, geological time runs on a very slow clock, and Lake Erie isn’t about to disappear overnight, but eventually Skimmel Falls will presumably erode a channel deep enough to cope with the water in Lake Skimmel, and the wood will settle down to being a wood again. Either that, or the bridge will just wash away completely.

8 thoughts on “Lake Skimmel

  1. A lesson in modern geology…lakes are formed by the neglect of council men in high viz suits…so reads a 22nd century geography book. Great post, Francis! This rain stuff though, that’s another story. I gather it has something to do with a weather front that usually hovers over the north of Scotland but has now been hanging around the south of England for the past year or more. Seems the Scots have had less of the wet stuff than usual (apart from last Thursday). I suppose there has to be an upside for someone!

    • Thanks, Val. Glad you liked the post. I see no reason why the trend for man made disasters should be confined to the weather. I’m sure the men in high-vis suits can turn their hands to all sorts of things.

  2. Wish I’d been allowed to do O level geography and not been kicked out for being disruptive. Very interesting. So, as I understand it, your bit of Cornwall is slowly turning into Norway. Which means they’ll be filming Cornish noir detective series there soon. So that’s OK, then.

    • Haha, Carol. It turns out we have something in common after all. I was thrown out of A level geography for not taking it seriously. As I recall, though, Norway is cold and snowy. A bit like Hertfordshire, only steeper.

        • Haha! It looks like we have the beginnings of an exclusive club here. Good people who’ve been thrown out of geography classes. I did scrape a pass at O level geography (grade 5), though, and only got thrown out of the A level class, so I’m obviously the junior member, and possibly the least good.

          • I wasn’t thrown out of geography classes but my geography teacher did throw board erasers at us when we got things wrong. I still didn’t pass that one though.

          • I had a history teacher during my brief and inglorious time at the grammar school who threw wood-backed board dusters at us, usually accompanied by the words, “You trog!”

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