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Rising on the borders of Cornwall and Devon, the rivers Tamar, Tavy and Lynher, form one of the last, unspoilt drowned valley river systems in England.
On their passage to the broad estuary near Plymouth, the rivers flow through a series of deep meanders, steep gorges and wooded valleys. A ribbon of woodland extends along the Estuary margin although it is often no more than a mature hedgerow above a steep earth bank. In the middle valleys where the ridges are wide the high land has an almost plateau character and there is a feeling of remoteness and solitude. The landscape contains a wide variety of wildlife habitats, including many ancient woodlands and wetlands that provide important wintering grounds for wildfowl and wading birds.
People have lived in the Tamar Valley for centuries, and the diverse scenery reflects the impact of their activities in an area rich in natural resources. Field patterns disclose ancient farming practices, disused mine workings reveal intensive mining activity during the 18th century, and old orchards scattered on the warm, south-facing valley slopes are the remnants of market gardens that were widespread in the area at the beginning of the 20th century.