Sea farers around the North Cornwall coast are only too aware of the perilous rocks and cliffs that make up the dramatic landscape; Padstow is one of these locations, a beauty spot with an underlying danger. The Doom bar. The Doom Bar is named after the infamous sandbank at the mouth of the Camel Estuary, Nr Padstow. There are many legends surrounding the sandbank’s origin but the Doom Bar’s notoriety is built on the wrecks of a countless number of ships that over the centuries came to grief within its reach.
There are many stories of the Doom bar and it’s making from the scientific to the romantic. Choose your own story but I like the mermaid legend.
According to local folklore, the Doom Bar was created by the Mermaid of Padstow as a dying curse after being shot. In 1906, Enys Tregarthen wrote that a Padstow local, Tristram Bird, bought a new gun and wanted to shoot something worthy of it. He went hunting seals at Hawker’s Cove but found a young woman sitting on a rock brushing her hair. Entranced by her beauty, he offered to marry her and when she refused he shot her in retaliation, only realising afterwards that she was a mermaid. As she died she cursed the harbour with a “bar of doom”, from Hawker’s Cove to Trebetherick Bay. A terrible gale blew up that night and when it finally subsided there was the sandbar, “covered with wrecks of ships and bodies of drowned men”.
The ballad, The Mermaid of Padstow, tells a similar story of a local named Tom Yeo, who shot the mermaid mistaking her for a seal.
John Betjeman, who was well-acquainted with the area, wrote in 1969 that the mermaid met a local man and fell in love with him. When she could no longer bear living without him, she tried to lure him beneath the waves but he escaped by shooting her. In her rage she threw a handful of sand towards Padstow, around which the sandbank grew.