__West CornwallCornwall Catchment Overview

Water features heavily in Cornwall’s culture, with 422 miles of coastline and the river Tamar forming the border between Devon and Cornwall, Cornwall is only attached to the UK by 10miles of land. As a result of this, historically Cornwall has relied on water for much of its economy, from fishing through to tourism.

Cornish rivers are highly dendritic, with 15 river catchments spreading through the county.  The main rivers are the Lynher, Camel, Fal, Fowey and the Hayle. Each river has numerous tributaries feeding them. Due to Cornwall’s unique shape rivers are typically short, the longest rivers in Cornwall are the Camel (50Km) and the Fowey (35km).

North & East Cornwall

North & East Cornwall

Cornwall has a diverse geology which is mineral rich, giving rise to varied habitats and leading to a world famous mining heritage. Currently granite, slate, aggregate and china clay are mined from the area.
This diversity in habitats means that Cornwall is environmentally important, with 166 Sites of the county is classified as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Due to the influence of the Gulf Stream, Cornwall is regarded as one of the warmest counties in the UK. However, the climate within Cornwall demonstrates significant variation across the county. In general, the North West coast is colder than the southern coastline. The warmest districts are the Isles of Scilly and West Cornwall with more than 1700 day degrees centigrade. Here, plant growth ceases for only a few days each winter and on average there are more than 250 frost free days.

In terms of rainfall, East Cornwall gets least rain -85cm at Bude - the Centre receives the most – 126cm at Bodmin – whilst in the West, the figures fall again to 110cm at Falmouth. Rainfall in Cornwall demonstrates a strongly cyclical pattern (most falls October-January) in contrast to counties further east where rainfall is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year.

Land use

Cornwall has a population of 532 300 with the main urban areas being Truro, St Austell, Camborne and Redruth, Falmouth and Penryn. 10 701 of these people are directly employed in agriculture. Cornwall is the third largest county in the south west at 3,563 sq km. Predominantly agricultural, 74% of the land is farmed. Overall, of the farmed area 20% is used for arable crops, whereas 73% of the land is dedicated to grassland. There are approximately 9640 farm holdings registered in Cornwall, with smaller farms being favoured.

Truro is the capital of the county and Cornwalls only city. The name Truro is derived from the old Cornish word for ‘three rivers’ as Truro is situated on the confluence of the rivers Kenwyn, Allen and Tinney.

Bodmin moor is situated in North-east Cornwall and consists of 208 sq km and is a mixture of grazing for farm animals and wetlands. Wetlands form an intrinsic and functionally extremely important part of Cornwall's landscape, ranging from soligenious and valley mires on Bodmin Moor ( e.g Draynes valley and Cardinham moor) to intertidal saltmarsh wetlands such as those situated just south of Lostwithiel (Shire Hall mire and Maderley Moor). Goss Moor, the source of the river Fal, supports the largest inland wetland in Cornwall, and is a mosaic of dry and wet heath, mires and willow scrub.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Cornwall Catchment Activities

There are a wide array of activities and projects now under way in the Cornwall Catchment and several others that are being developed as a result of the Catchment Partnership's ongoing work to improve the health and functioning of this important catchment landscape.

loading map - please wait...

Wild Penwith: 50.124487, -5.679195
Wetland Example of Payments for Ecosystem Services (WEPES): 50.258560, -4.947550
South Cornwall River Improvement Project: 50.338000, -4.795000
DRY Project: 50.332165, -4.634989
marker icon

Wild Penwith
Led by Cornwall wildlife trust and part of the Upstream thinking project, Wild Penwith aims to create a ‘living landscape’ on the Penwith Peninsula.


marker icon

Wetland Example of Payments for Ecosystem Services (WEPES)
Wetland Example of Payments for Ecosystem Services (WEPES) is a project set up to restore a section of historic flood plain on the river Fal in West Cornwall.


marker icon

South Cornwall River Improvement Project
In 2012, the South Cornwall River Improvement Project received funds from the Catchment Restoration Fund in order to improve the ecological status of the rivers within the South Cornwall and St Austell Bay area in accordance with the Water Framework Directive. 


marker icon

DRY Project

The Drought Risk and You (DRY) Project is a unique project set up by the University of West England to provide an evidence – base resource for drought risk management using a number of different disciplines.

Droughts and water shortage threaten the environment, agriculture, infrastructure, society and culture, affecting us all. The DRY project was founded in April 2014, with an aim to develop an easy-to-use, evidence-based resource to inform decision-making for drought risk management in the UK over a four year period.



Latest Cornwall Catchment News

[display-posts category="Cornwall,policy,tools" include_excerpt="true" image_size="thumbnail" wrapper="div"]



Data & Evidence

It is vital that participatory, stakeholder-led catchment planning is underpinned by robust data and evidence.

For coherent, integrated spatial plans to be created, stakeholders (1°, 2° and 3°) and technical specialists in a partnership need to work with an impartial broker/facilitator to collate and scruitinise all of the data and evidence relating to environmental infrastructure and ecosystem services provision for their area/catchment of interest.

Data and evidence for catchment management planning can come from a huge array of sources (see right).

The Cornwall Catchment Plan

As a society, we place numerous societal and economic demands on the landscapes around us which put strain on our catchments ability to provide the crucial services on which we rely – clean water, food production, protection from flood and drought and places to live and enjoy recreation. The Catchment Based Approach aims to bring people together to understand and address these competing demands.

The Cornwall Catchment Plan will adopt a stakeholder‐led ‘ecosystem services’ approach to catchment planning. This involved the host organisation working with stakeholders to identify areas within the catchment which play, or have the potential to play, a particularly important role in the delivery of clean water and a range of other benefits (services) to society.

Only when these areas had been identified was it then possible to identify groups within society who benefit from the services they deliver and to create mechanisms through which these beneficiaries can contribute financially to support or enhance their delivery.

Where beneficiaries already make financial contributions, the aim must be to ensure that these contributions are spent as cost effectively as possible to derive the greatest achievable environmental outcomes.

Through this process the stakeholders will develop;

  • A shared understanding of the pressures affecting ecosystem service provision in the catchment
  • A shared vision for a catchment landscape with a blend of environmental infrastructure that may be able to deliver all of these vital services optimally in the future 
  • A clear understanding of what is currently being done to realise this vision and what additional actions may be required to bring it to full reality.

Creating a Sustainable Future: Ecosystem Services and Spatial Planning

Leave a Reply