Cadgwith Cove is one of the last true ‘artisan’ fishing coves in the UK let alone Cornwall, with its fishermen landing to W. Harvey & Sons for centuries.
There is no denying that Cadgwith Cove is a very special place. A picturesque fishing village set on the Lizard Peninsula between The Lizard and Coverack, its a popular area with the many tourists who visit each year. But its not just the location that the tourists come to see as Cadgwith Cove is a fully working fishing port. W. Harvey & Sons has worked hand in hand with it’s fisherman since the company was founded to this very day, with lorries collecting their haul of crabs and lobsters straight from the boat.
According to the history books, The village has its origins in medieval times as a collection of fish cellars in a sheltered south-east facing coastal valley with a shingle cove. Fishing subsidised local farmers’ livelihoods. Cadgwith was originally called ‘Porthcaswydh’, becoming ‘Por Cadjwydh’ in Late Cornish, and is derived from the Cornish word for ‘a thicket’, literally meaning battle of trees, probably because the valley was densely wooded.
From the 16th century, the village became inhabited, with fishing as the main occupation. Subsequently, houses, lofts, capstan houses, and cellars constructed of local stone or cob walls and thatched or slated roofs were built along the beach and up the sides of the valley leading to Cadgwith’s characteristic Cornish fishing village appearance.
In recent times a very small Anglican church was built, next to the path from the car park down to the seafront, dedicated to St Mary. This small wooden church hosts the annual Sea Harvest Festival in October as well as its usual schedule of weekly services.
In terms of fishing, Cadgwith Cove was popular for pilchard fishing until the 1950s using large seine boats and seine nets, which was a system used to enclose the large shoals of pilchards, and coordinated by the use of lookouts, known as huers, positioned on the cove’s two headlands.
In 1904, a record 1,798,000 pilchards were landed over four days. Due to overfishing and climate changes pilchards are no longer found in large enough numbers to sustain pilchard fishing in Cadgwith, instead Cornish male crabs, Cornish female crabs, spider crabs or Cornish King Crabs, and Cornish lobsters are regularly landed.
The fishermen of Cadgwith land directly on to the shore, with their boats hoisted from the water up onto the shallow rocks and shingled beach.
Julian Harvey, director of W. Harvey & Sons, said:
“The last of a breed of fishermen who live and work in the Cove, fishing traditionally and sustainably using hand made crab and lobster pots. The fishermen and Cadgwith Cove are as big of a part of Harveys as I am and we’ve always worked together. Without Cadgwith, W. Harveys & Sons wouldn’t be where it is today.”
Nigel Legge, Fisherman and Artist, added:
“Harveys have featured in all my life at the Cove,” he says. “Cadgwith and Harveys are one thing really. You can set your watch by the time the lorry arrives every day.
“Years ago, Harveys set me up with a bank account as I’d never had one in my life. They supplied the gear and we paid them in instalments. If you had a major breakdown or problem, they were there. People are quick to knock some of big firms, but Harveys are Cadgwith really. We wouldn’t be where we are without them, half of us wouldn’t even still be here.”
The heart of Cadgwith Cove came under threat recently when three of the traditional buildings that sit in the mouth of the Cove, including the one housing the 100-year-old hoist that dragged the boats up on to the shore and store much of the fishermen’s equipment, were put up for sale.
The Cadgwith Fishing Cove Trust (CFCT) set about fundraising to secure the future of these building and the fishing industry in Cadgwith by pulling together the funding to buy all three buildings to keep them safe from the ever-present threat of development, which here would mean conversion into yet more second homes and holiday lets.
Spokesman, Cadgwith Fishing Cove Trust (CFCT), said:
“Cadgwith is visited each year by thousands of holidaymakers. If our fishing activity ever came to an end, the tourism industry would shrink and many local residents would lose their main source of income. The fishermen are at the heart of our strong sense of community and we are doing whatever we can to support them.
“Our master plan is for the local parish council to take the freeholds of the buildings in order that they may be held in perpetuity for the fishermen and then for our not-for-profit charitable trust to look after the day-to-day management of them. There will be covenants requiring the buildings to be used by fishermen as long as they are so needed and preventing them from being sold for anyone’s private gain. The parish council will still exist in 50 or 100 years time and will use the buildings for other community purposes if there was no more fishing out of the cove.
“The council is raising a loan to buy one of the buildings and there is widespread support from parishioners even though the loan repayments may cause a small increase in their local council tax.
For the other two buildings, we have had professional surveys and valuations. We need to find £300,000 to purchase the freehold of the buildings themselves. On top of that, the surveys have also identified a number of urgent repairs and some further repairs to bring them up to a good standard. If we are lucky enough to have enough funding we will also be able to tackle both of these as well.”
Word soon spread and an appearance on BBC’s Cornwall: This Fishing Life highlighted the Trust’s plight along with fantastic media coverage. People from all over the UK and beyond have pledged their support and money to raise over £275,000 of the £300,000 target.
More fundraising events are planned but if you wish to support Cadgwith Cove, visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/cadgwith-fishing-cove-trust