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The Strange Dichotomy

T w i s t i n g and turning upon itself in great loops and bends, the river Tamar between Gunnislake and Plymouth flows through a hilly and tumbled valley rich in surprises. Half in Cornwall, half in Devon, its unusual and varied scenery is among the least known in the country and it hides relics of an industrial past hardly known outside Devon and Cornwall. The Tamar Valley today is devoted to agriculture, but in the 1850s and 60s it rivalled West Cornwall in importance as a source of copper. For nearly thirty years after that it was the centre of arsenic production in the British Isles, and it had long been recognized as an important area of lead and silver mining. At a time when ships were changing from sail to steam, furnace-linings for marine boilers were made from the growan clay of its granite hills; bricks from the same clay found a ready export as far afield as Russia. All these industries— one employed over a thousand people while others were little more than family enterprises— grew up in an isolated countryside where people lived in close contact with their surroundings. Its compact and close-knit character is well illustrated by looking at Calstock in the days when all the mineral produce of East Cornwall was shipped through its quays down the Tamar to the sea. The rise and decline of this river port illustrates the story of the Tamar Valley. Today Calstock has one of the highest unemployment rates in Devon and Cornwall; one quarry works where once there were ten. But between the 1860s and 80s a man living there could have been housed, clothed and shod with bricks, serge1 and leather produced within a mile of its quays. Paint coloured by ochre produced from