St Ives Community Consultation: Easter Boating at Consols Pool

Easter boating at Consols pool goes back generations. Sadly, the pandemic meant that last year’s event was cancelled and, in fact it has also been cancelled in other years, for example in 2009 after the move to Cornwall Council. As Government guidance is due to change again, St Ives Town Council is considering what should happen this year.

Unfortunately, COVID is not the only challenge to the future of this tradition. This consultation sets out some of the issues we face for the future and seeks local people’s views on what happens next.

Many local people know about and celebrate the tradition. But what some might not know is that the pond has always been in private ownership. Each year the Council seeks permission from the landowner for Good Friday. In order to get proper access, permission is also asked of the neighbouring properties to remove their garden fences temporarily. This is usually, very generously given but that relies upon who lives in the properties at any time.

Apart from ownership, the pool itself suffers with two issues. First is the growth of weed on the surface which traps the boats. This needs to be removed regularly. This has been done by the town council in the past and by local volunteers. (Weeds stopped the event in 2009).

But the much larger problem is the silting up of the pond. Every few years the silt must be cleared to enable a water level high enough for the boats to be sailed. The method of doing this has to be agreed with the Environment Agency. They are focused on protecting fish and eels and ensuring the silt is disposed of properly. Silt must be removed and disposed of by contractors and quotes for the cost are now in excess of £10,000.

In the past, the Environment Agency (the EA) has attended to operate the sluice gate and raise the water level. If this is not done carefully, this can cause local flooding. In future, the EA have advised that they cannot justify the cost of attending on a bank holiday weekend.

Also, in the modern world, the Council now has to consider whether this is an event and, if its staff are involved in managing it (eg mending the jetty, manning the boat to release toy boats, clearing weeds and operating the sluice gate), are they insured and what are the risks of something going wrong. All this on land the Council doesn’t own.

What Happens for the Future?

The Council therefore needs to make a very difficult decision about whether it’s a good use of public money (in excess of £10,000 plus on going staff time and costs) to de-silt someone else’s pool to enable to tradition to continue. We would, therefore like your views about whether the Town Council should continue to de-silt and manage the pool using public funds to carry on the tradition?

Other options

St Ives takes pride in many of its historic traditions (eg feast and Knill) and wherever possible, preserve them. However, it’s also useful to consider that they can change naturally over time and be re-invented.

The origins of the Easter boating are far older than Consols pool – over 1,500 years old.  Local fishing communities sailed miniature boats into the sea as an offering to placate the storm gods and ask for safe passage. This tradition took place at Cock Bank Pool – a large sea pool, which ran between Smeaton’s Pier to Pedn Olver. Only when this pool and the spit of sand disappeared did the boating move to the engine pools of Wheal Speed and Consols. This gradual transition was also influenced by the moving of people to the top of town.  In 1930 the ‘popular pastime of sailing model yachts’ took place both in the harbour and ‘the pond at Hellesveor’ where the sluice gates had been closed to allow water to collect for the occasion. The following year West Cornwall Model Yacht Club were granted permission to use the Bussow Reservoir on Good Friday for the event.  So it is clear that the annual event was important but the location, less so.

Given this, the Council also want to explore whether the town should celebrate a return to the much older tradition of launching the boats to sea. There are downsides, because of course this would be tide dependent and the right place would need to be found. The maritime service suggests that launching the boats from the harbour beach, below the harbour office is a possibility – you may have others.

Before making a decision, the Council is asking the community to give its views about the future of Good Friday boating.

  • Should it continue at Consols, even with the very high cost.
  • Do people accept that, at some point in the future, the land owners might not give their permission for the event.
  • Should it be returned to its early origins of launching boats at sea. How would that work and what would the best location be?
  • Are there other ideas about how the town can continue this tradition?

We would ask that as many people as possible could respond to this questionnaire so that the local community’s views are represented.

Complete the survey

Deadline for comments is 5pm Wednesday 3rd March 2021