GF Blog 24 – Week 19

May 10th

This week we have a gorgeous walk learning about the Par Bay mussels, latest on De-Sal and some grim stories of  a government grant scheme for insulation & fossil-fuel boiler replacements  

David Edyvean tells us all about mussel farming
Hallane Mill near the beach, with a leat but no other good old bits remaining!

Checking back into the old sound recordings of my dad, as he talked about life in the 1930s (the story is now available on Meadow Barns YouTube channel), I was reminded that his grandparents lived near a tiny hamlet on the south coast called Trenarren. The only reason you possibly may have heard of this place, is because the writer AL Rowse lived in a mansion there, between 1957 and his death in 1997.

To find out more, here is a useful article

Last weekend, just beyond Trenarren in glorious sunshine I thoroughly enjoyed a walk with 2 guides (one for nature the other for archaeology) on the far promontory called Black Head. Our first guide was David Edyvean, of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (now re-named a far less poetic, ‘National Landscapes’). But there is a lot more to David than just volunteering his special landscape knowledge, cos his main job in the week is looking after underwater equipment for Westcountry Mussels of Fowey. We heard how high quality the local water is and saw in the distance all the lines reaching out into St. Austell Bay. The majority of ropes are for mussels, but also may involve a few experiments with growing seaweed in a similar fashion.  


We now farm all our mussels in St Austell Bay in the rich, warm gulf stream which wraps around the Cornish coast, bringing its abundant nutrients and clean water – the mussels are in their element!

David is clearly very proud to be associated with such a high-quality product, in what he says is the best water of the UK. I was sorry therefore, to feel obliged to ask ‘what do you think a De-Salination plant will do to the business?’ And even more sorry to hear him answer, we think it could ruin everything for us ☹; which brings me to ..

De-Sal latest news

This week I received a series of emails about the De-Salination test drilling. This is taken from one, and if you are local please find a few minutes to join in. The first responses we made achieved change. Need to keep at it.

We need to stop South West Water test drilling in St Austell Bay

SWW have applied for a licence from the Marine Management Organisation to conduct initial surveys in St Austell Bay. The plans are for 18 different test drill sites between 20-30 metres deep. SWW have consistently failed to include the special maerl seaweed data in their maps showing the proposed route for the marine pipelines. The site coordinates submitted in the application show a line STRAIGHT THROUGH THE MAERL. The methods outlined for sampling also indicate they PLAN to damage seagrass at one of the borehole sites!

After only 24-hours, the MMO have extended the consultation period from 28 DAYS to 42 days, but we’d like more time to develop our formal objection response to the SWW’s plans.

Stopping the investigations could stop the whole project!!   PLEASE HELP!

We are consulting environmental lawyers to help us develop a formal objection in response to these plans but meanwhile, WE NEED YOUR HELP!

PLEASE email today to request that the consultation period is extended to the maximum time permitted. Just copy and paste:  

Dear Daniel

Re: South West Water MLA/2024/00129 GI Works

Thank you for extending the consultation period from 28 to 42 days. I believe this application is of sufficient importance and impact to the marine environment, combined with the wider implications of the proposal on land and to the local community to merit the maximum consultation period permitted by the MMO.  I therefore request a further extension to the consultation period to allow time to prepare a formal objection. 

 Say No to Desal! If we can stop these investigations, it may stop the whole project!


On 6th May the BBC reported a changeSouth West Water plans to deliver a smaller than planned desalination plant in Cornwall later in 2024.

In 2023, plans were announced to build a large plant at Par.

Now, it plans to create a smaller desalination plant in Par, using existing infrastructure, to “avoid any impact to the marine environment”.

The company said this plan would give it more time to develop its application for a larger desalination plant. The plans are part of a £125m project to increase water resources in the region.,impact%20to%20the%20marine%20environment”.

A really good thing to see, in the email campaign, is the strength of local feeling and the excellent teamwork that has resulted. Up the hill here, I was very happy today to receive a call and commence discussions with the NFU, who are interested in helping to organise and promote a session of advice and support for landowners on both sides of Meadow Barns – Tywardreath to Lostwithiel, Luxulyan to Par. Will explain more about this as soon as I hear further.

Diagram of the mussel ropes

Government schemes for replacing boilers

For a good number of years there has been grant funding available for any homeowner or tenant of a private landlord, to help replace an old oil or gas boiler with a more environmentally friendly option. But – as you may expect – there has been a distinct division between funding for people in receipt of state benefits, and others. A really good summary is on Money Saving Expert web page:-

There are two schemes – the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, designed for those on a low income, and the new Great British Insulation Scheme which is open to a further 400,000 households.

Under the schemes, households can get free insulation, including loft, roof, cavity wall and other types of insulation. Low-income households can also get new boilers and heating controls (through the ECO scheme only). But most will only be able to get one energy efficiency measure for free. See full details of what you can get.

The ‘low income’ group

If you meet the criteria below, you could be eligible to have multiple energy-efficient improvements made to your home under the ECO scheme:

  • You own your own home (or, in some cases, rent from a private landlord); AND
  • Your home has an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of D or below (EPC E or below if renting); AND
  • Someone living at the property qualifies for certain benefits, such as pension credit, universal credit, child benefit (subject to income limit), income support and housing benefit. See the full list of qualifying benefits; OR
  • You live in social housing, or are considered by your local council as being on low income (total household income under £31,000 a year) and vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home.

3 types of heat pumps

First let’s deal with Air Source, the least expensive. There are 2 types, both taking in cold air from outside the home and converting it to become a source of heat. One type circulates warm air (changing to cold in summer e.g. air-con), whilst the other is a wet system, heating a hot tank and circulating the water to radiators or underfloor pipes.

Then there is Water Source (not sure how costly this would be) which is available to you if you can go moderately deep into a next door pond or river, such as I wrote about for an open-air swimming pool in Bath, Somerset in Blog 2022:-

heating the bathing water will be achieved using water source heat pumps in the base of the river … a green energy solution after my own heart!

Cleveland Pools is a charitable organisation, with community at its core. Summing up, the project manager for Beard (Mark Tregelles … yes he has Cornish roots!) told me ‘The community had the initial idea for using water source heat pumps, which have been designed and installed by a Devon company called Redcotec of Honiton. There is this lovely synergy really between old and new, since the original pools were fed with river water. I am also pleased this philosophy ties in with the new policies and climate awareness of Historic England, changing the balance to be more in favour of sustainability in all heritage restoration work going forward.’

Historic England have published their climate change strategy, which you can download from the link below. In that document they high-light another heritage and hydro development in Yorkshire, not Howsham (which I featured last time) but Linton Falls near Skipton.


Here it is appropriate to make a couple more points: –

On Wednesday I was discussing heat pumps with someone who already owns an old watermill. Now that this 2-year-old blog story has re-surfaced I will certainly be putting it to him, that water source could be an easier thing to install than hydro. The one involves a big lake or pond and no regulations with the Environment Agency, the other requires a leat or launder and mill race, costs loads in licensing and red tape, fish screens etc.

Secondly, the reminder of Historic England’s climate change strategy is timely, since we are currently in dialogue with them as well, about use of china clay for restoration of leats and aqueduct.

Back to the heat pumps, the final and probably most expensive type is Ground Source, for which we have a full display at Meadow Barns.

Every type of heat pump starts out with quite tepid water or air and relies on the process of Heat Exchange to boost and boost again. That is how the final temperature is reached. As you can see on the old fridge freezer, this involves a similar process and equipment to that of a refrigerator, but running backwards … take in cool and put out warm.

Stories from friends and neighbours – in different situations


This morning my conversation was not with the featured neighbour who has Ground Source, but another who purchased a nearby freshly done barn conversion in 2021. Her house already had excellent standards of insulation, triple glazing and an Air Source heat pump and I was really interested to find out if she likes it. Here is a quick summary of the points we covered:-

She had no experience of an Air Source Pump before and generally is very happy that apart from the worst windy and wet winter days it keeps her comfortably warm and electric bills low.

(PS homes in wettest, windiest areas are not very good with air source heating).

She thinks the installation price was all paid for by an RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) grant. I questioned this, because today there is a limit of £7,500.

The RHI also pays an amount to the home owner each year for 7 years. She has a couple more years to go, but when it runs out the system will be financially far less rewarding. This is why she intends to put solar panels on her south facing roof. (Why didn’t the developers do that in the first place?)

I was interested to learn that – unlike my own RHI requirements with the biomass boiler – she is restricted in the types of white goods she is allowed to run in the kitchen/utility.  

Her ground floor has underfloor heating pipes and that works fine. She keeps a steady 19 degrees, and believes the pump only cuts in when the thermostat dictates. Funnily enough, that’s the same temperature and performance as my biomass is set to.

But the upstairs of her house requires a pump to radiators and she tends not to use that part of the system, not least because the pump not far from her bed-head, is quite noisy. The outside unit is less so (contrary to rumours you may have heard). She also reckons the price of running it would be much higher using the upstairs.

We ended by a reference to other people she knows, who are making a claim right now

Through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, you could get a grant to cover part of the cost of replacing fossil fuel heating systems with a heat pump or biomass boiler.

We were both amazed at this, because biomass really is a questionable option. I have set out why many times!

HOUSES 2 and 3

These friends both qualified for funding because they receive benefits. Their houses are old, not efficient and were granted a package of insulation to interior walls. One of them also had an Air Source heat pump.

My discussions with them both, over a period of many months, focused on multiple failures and enormous inconvenience. It is hugely disruptive to empty every room, sufficiently to apply insulation panels all around the walls and then have them re-plastered and decorated. It also reduces the size of each room quite considerably. (That’s why I promote external application, beneath slate hanging). Internal or external, to end up with a happy customer a very sympathetic and efficient team of workers is essential, but from all I have heard this is never the case. Why?

One reason, the original design and specifications will be done by a company that gets a good fee, who then hands over to another, probably paid much less. The installers then try to get by with the least work and lowest price components possible.

The next reason is, workers routinely are sent from one end of the UK to another for this purpose. They leave e.g. Sunderland or Staffordshire very early on a Monday, arrive before lunch, do little on Day 1, get into gear properly on Tuesday and leave at lunchtime Friday. Anything that hasn’t been properly finished is just left, even if that means a major inconvenience or even a dangerous outcome.

If it had been a requirement to limit the geographic distance over which a company could bid to deliver the system, things would definitely work better.

HOUSES 2 and 4

Both these had heat pumps, and in both cases the pipe size installed was wrong. Let me quote from a complaint letter I have seen (for House 4), which is just so terrible to read especially bearing in mind there was an 82 year old lady with a chest infection trying to survive in the house:-  

When the Team for rectifying faults arrived, on the 1st of November, just when the plasterers finished, we quickly found out that it was even worse than expected. They were supposed to open the walls in our living room and our bedroom again (both freshly decorated) and they would have to replace most major pipework, which would include a very difficult and also finished wall in the upper landing, where the old pipes are in the wall and were left there to save time. The surveyor and the new Team stated that this never could work. That would have meant, that without notice, we should have accepted that the house is messed up again and we would have to stay in a house without heating for at least 1 night in November.

In addition to the pipe work they said a pump to increase the water pressure is mandatory (The pump we asked several times for and was already suggested by the surveyor). The downside was, that they couldn’t be sure they would find such a pump around and they would definitely not be able to finish the work by Thursday night but could not work on a Friday and not come back on the week after due to personal commitments. To make it worse, they said they could have been here the day before, which would have given them enough time. This was the climax of all the disastrous planning of this project manager. It would have meant, apart from turning the house upside down again, we would have been without heating and warm water for at least 5 days, including a weekend.

I cannot tell you how upsetting it is to read the rest of the 7- page complaint. The process began in September 2023 and – despite some help by BBC Spotlight news team – has still not been fully resolved. Sorry, there is no way to sugar this pill or pretend any kind of hope around these grant-funded installations.

My own CONCLUSION is, this can only happen because people on benefits are not respected, not treated as worthy members of the human race. Disgraceful!

As for how it stacks up environmentally, ripping out a gas boiler and putting in a Mini split system of Air to Air-Conditioning, to achieve supposedly better emissions, but powering it with electric made by a gas fired power station really seems mad. And let’s not forget, we have another option that is not even being mentioned. Here is the latest news ref HVO boilers, which project is finally attracting the attention and visits by top politicians. Sorry that it is much too small and I do not have an online link. Email and I can send you the PDF, or contact John at Mitchell and Webber to discuss further.

There is a ton more info available on YouTube re the pros and cons of heat pumps, but for now I think that’s enough.

 Future Events in Cornwall

Tomorrow Saturday May 11th – If you fancy joining the nearest River Rescue organisation international river walk day you will need to get leave a car at Par, take the train to Bodmin Parkway, walk to Golant for a pub lunch and hope you can catch a 25 bus back to Par in the afternoon..  

Sunday May 12th – the beautiful Bridge Mill, on the River Tamar near Holsworthy will be grinding corn between 11 and 4 pm. I have had a really good chat with one of their team and hope to fix up a visit later in the year, but not able to go this time.

The following Sunday May 19th – I will be leading a kind re-enactment walk on the Saints Way from Luxulyan Church to the Treffry Viaduct and beyond. We will act out work roles from the 1300s – milk maids, leat cleaning lads and an inspector of water mills, followed by a section involving the engineers of Mr. Austen Treffry as they make plans to put water over the aqueduct. We will also be welcoming a guest from America and helping her discover her family roots in the area. Text please if you want to join in.

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