Thursday, 16 April 2015

"Poldark Country" : Cape Cornwall to Botallack

My favourite section of the magnificent Cornish coastal path is the World Heritage area around Botallack, steeped in mining history with spectacular rugged clifftop scenery.

Last month I took a relatively easy 2.5 mile walk from Cape Cornwall to Botallack. Cape Cornwall is a headland near the town of St. Just, and was once thought to be the most westerly point in Cornwall. What many people think is a monument on the headland is the chimney of a mid-19th century tin mine, which was retained as an aid to navigation, no other trace of the mine remaining.

Cape Cornwall
Cape Cornwall with the Brisons rocks one mile south west
Proceeding east from Cape Cornwall the majestic grandeur of this coastline becomes apparent, with many reminders that we are now in an area which has been intensively mined for copper and tin over the centuries.

After ascending the cliff, the path drops down to the Kenidjack Valley, cut by the Tregeseal river, which was a source of power for the many waterwheels powering tin workings along its length.  Now so overgrown as to be inaccessible are the ruins of the Kenidjack arsenic works, which recovered arsenic from the concentrates of the nearby tin mines.

Kenidjack arsenic works
Kenidjack arsenic works
Ascending the cliff again a magnificent 19th century mining panorama appears, with the distant Crowns engine houses on the left and in the foreground the ruins of the Wheal Edward stamps engine house on the left and the West Wheal Owles pumping engine house and the remains of the winding engine house on the right.

Wheal Edward stamps and West Wheal Owles engine houses
Work began on extracting tin and minerals at Wheal Owles in the 1850s. At its height it had 29 miles of levels and 11 steam engines at the site. However, tragedy struck in January 1893 when flood water broke through the underground workings trapping one boy and 19 men. Their bodies were never recovered and the mine remained closed from that day.

Arsenic works Botallack
The remains of the Botallack arsenic works with the headgear of the 1980s Allen's Shaft in the background
Passing the remains of the Botallack Mine dressing floors and arsenic works, the Crowns Engine houses, the most photographed engine houses in Cornwall (posting of 30 May 2010) come into full view, the large pumping house on the left and the smaller winding house on the right. For the BBC’s 2015 adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, Wheal Owles and the iconic Crowns engine houses doubled as the Poldark family mines (posting of 29 March 2015).

Crowns Engine Houses Botallack
Crowns Engine Houses
The next 2 mile stretch of coast path takes in the mines that worked well out under the sea bed, the submarine mines of Botallack, Levant and Geevor (posting of 2nd October 2014).

More Cornwall Walks
More on Cornish Mining
More on Cornwall

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