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.
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.
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.