MEMBERS of the History Society were transported to the River Torridge last week. They followed the river from its source at Hartland Point as it meandered for 70 miles, South, East and North – and all from their seats in Old Schools. This wasn't a talk which depended on slides or even photographs. Charles Innis conveyed his passion for the Torridge in words, and his love for the river and the pleasure it had brought him over many years was very clear and contagious.
I'm sure I wasn't alone in leaving the meeting determined to explore reaches of the Torridge which the poet Ted Hughes loved and described as "a paradise". Charles' rapt audience learnt of the life of a salmon and we discovered how the river had changed over the years. In 1927 a 57lb salmon was caught. In 1932 36 nets in the estuary caught six thousand salmon. The Queen Mother even fished the Torridge.
But with pollution, a change in farming methods and disease, the salmon in the river suffered a dramatic decline. Since the 1980s there has been some improvement, less pollution and culling of fish and man has helped salmon to survive. There are still problems such as the invasion of Himalayan balsam, wild mink and American signal crayfish, which kill natural crayfish. You can appreciate the beauty of the river at Hele Bridge, Hatherleigh and nearby Sheepwash, and those who listened to Charles Innis will surely look at its waters with new eyes and greater appreciation.