The public saw the long overdue reopening of the ‘Great Dock' at Morwellham Quay. A handful of carefully selected VIP guests attended to witness the event, made possible through public funding.
Directors and Trustees of the Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust were joined by Representatives from Devon County Council, West Devon Borough Council, and Tamar Valley Services to witness the event.
According to the Tamar Valley AONB website -
"This joint project with West Devon Borough Council and the Tamar Valley AONB, has brought together £0.5 million funding from Devon County Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, South West RDA, Devon Renaissance and Objective 2 to carry out the comprehensive restoration to the quays"
We sent our photographer down to Morwellham to see for ourselves what half a million pounds of public money buys you. At first glance (from a distance at least) the overall impression was good - the main quay area has been cleared of weeds, resurfaced with a black gravel and the area immediately around the partially refurbished Garlandstone has been tiled.
However, on closer inspection it is clear that the work has been both badly thought through and sloppily executed. The adjacent quay area's surface has already been covered with the same gravel and after a single high tide and moderate rainfall has become a dirty sodden mess. The tiles chosen to replace the original glazed ones are porous so will be vulnerable to frost damage and will inevitably become muddied the first time the river floods the quay.
It is also clear that the gravel surface (having not been compacted) will quickly become untidy and uneven with the passage of traffic and totally unsuitable for wheel chair users and those with other mobility problems.
Then there are the repairs to the edge of the great dock itself which, far from being ‘a complete' refurbishment appears to have been the work of amateurs.
The right side of the dock which was in a state of collapse prior to work commencing has been extensively re-piled by driving substantial timbers into the deep mud and using ground anchors to prevent them from being pushed out of place. Only time will tell how effective this strategy will be, but given that the contractors appear to have been unable to construct a straight edge on the dock side (something apparently possible in the 19th century but not in the 21st) one can't help but wonder how long the repairs will hold up. Having compared the plans submitted for the project with the work actually done on the ground, the results are a little disappointing.
The opening ceremony itself was pretty well as expected, with various speakers standing in the pouring rain addressing the assembled guests, singing the praises of the work carried out and the bright future ahead for Morwellham Quay and the Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project.
Whilst on site, our photographer took the opportunity to see what else had changed at Morwellham Quay, and it would appear that the answer is ‘not much'. Photographs revealed a 10 inch long metal spike sticking up from a discarded timber on the central quay area, discarded gas bottles, and piles of discarded waste.
Hardly what you would expect for a ‘Grand Opening' and certainly not up to the standards that should be expected by paying visitors to the site. Then consider the piles of black bin bags, lack of available staff to run the mine train (apparently they all turned up at once) and archaeological remains left uncovered to corrode on the quay side. Is this the best we can expect from "An award-winning, evocative museum and visitor centre in the heart of the newly inscribed World Heritage Site and Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" ?
The editor would like to thank Sarah Black for her report and Cornwall Media and Digital Imaging for the photographs.