Country diary 1921: deadly impact of upstream pollution

18 April 1921 The coastguard told us that all the fish in the stream running down to the sea had suddenly died in the night

The River Par cascading over mossy boulders at Ponts Mill in the Luxulyan Valley near St Austel in Cornwall.
The River Par cascading over mossy boulders at Ponts Mill in the Luxulyan Valley near St Austel in Cornwall.
Photograph: Helen Hotson/Alamy Stock Photo
The River Par cascading over mossy boulders at Ponts Mill in the Luxulyan Valley near St Austel in Cornwall.
Photograph: Helen Hotson/Alamy Stock Photo
Helena Swanwick
Mon 12 Apr 2021 01.00 EDT

North Cornwall
There has been a wretched mishap in the vale which runs down to the sea between the great caverned rocks. Through this vale, celebrated for its beautiful nestling village, its old church and nunnery, its plume-like elms housing a rookery, its banks of primroses and violets and ferns, there runs a charming little trout-stream. Not long ago the owner had added to the stock some 600 young fish, and all was well till this week, when one morning, looking into the clear water, we saw a small trout lying with its silver belly upwards at the bottom of the stream.

We took it out; it was dead, but we could see nothing wrong with it. Then we saw another and yet another, and then we met the coastguard, who said that all the fish in the stream had suddenly died in the night. All the countryside was talking of it. “Even the worrums have been killed,” said one man. It seems that someone in a little town some five miles up had been using carbolic for sanitary purposes, and this had killed the pretty fish.

The Hlcarpenter.com, 18 April 1921.
The Hlcarpenter.com, 18 April 1921.

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