Thursday 2 March 2017

Caradon Hill – Cornwall’s Old Moorland Mining History

Caradon Hill – Cornwall’s Old Moorland Mining History

A few photos from a walk this afternoon, not down The Dark Path, but up, into Cornwall’s Industrial past.  Caradon Hill is dotted with cairns, suspicious mounds and deep mines, so any direction you walk you are bound to find something interesting, especially if you are eyeing the landscape with a gamers eye. 

A moorland pony on an old mining tip (spoils and loading platforms), from the nearby mine, busy chomping the turf. 

The weather was threatening to become very stormy, as we approached the first mine building, adding to a sense of gloom. Ravens (the largest of the Corvus family) have made a nest in the upper window, a massive twiggy stack, like something out of legend.

Passing through a cool tunnel, somewhere dripping and dark, is often where you will find this character, always holding a twig.

The buildings are quite striking, looking more like weird churches, with the long high ‘window’ (the old steam pump would have filled the building, powered by the furnace that raged under the chimney stacks). 

To the south of the mine there is a train/tram tunnel, one of many that created a network that connected the moor to the coast, where the metals and minerals were loaded onto ships on Buller Quay, in Looe!

There are many spots, across Caradon Hill, where you can see old chimneys and ruinous pump houses in every direction. It was hard to imagine the noise and smoke of an industrial past, as we stomped on, to the next destination.

This ‘sett’ of Cornish mines surrounds the hill, which must be riddled with passages and mines, in all directions. There have been several eras of activity, starting with Bronze Age people, later medieval times saw a lot of tin mining, operating around the river, with the height of industrial mining in the early 1800’s, when they took everything of anything! 650,000 tonnes of copper ore were mined in three decades. That’s a lot of light bulbs and toasters.

Caradon is the local source of television, and when I say ‘local’, I mean the signal is the TV supply for all the surrounding areas, including Looe, on the coast. Weather permitting.

This small arched space is a bit of a mystery; it has a back wall, same era as the arch, with no obvious use. I did think ‘toilet’ at first, then a well or spring. There is a curious hole in the back, but it’s still a weird little curio. Answers on a virtual postcard please!

A nice example of natural granite, weathered but unbroken. Good job, ‘cos here comes the rain!

A rare glimpse into an open mine shaft. Lots of the old shafts are hidden under turf, or fenced off, for good reason. But, this one has a view hole, which is really neat. Pit props and chains are visible for quite a way, and the hole is surprisingly deep. There’s a small reservoir above the mine, on the upper bank, so it’s a weird wonder that the mines are so well preserved.

Looking in the direction of the East-West ‘lode’, the once rich seam has obvious markers in the form of chimney stacks. The Caradon Sett of mines was enormous in its ambition, many of the buildings still standing, as they are built from tough  granite.

Recent sensitive repairs and restoration means many are open to explore, without the risk of a sudden, horrible death from falling masonry. Granite packs a punch.

Oblivion Gate?

He’s always on his bloody phone!

Flora on the hill is distinctive; there’s the ever present gorse, with vivid yellow flowers, but also a surprising number of oak trees. I was reminded of Wist’s Wood in places, so if you’re into Druidism or folklore, go have a wander. It’s brilliantly isolating on the hill, with buzzards mewing, overhead.

I think this is Witches’ Butter, but don’t trust my info if you are foraging. Instead, trust the always reliable Wikipedia instead. (Don’t)

Witches' Butter -


There be gold in them thar hills, but you’d have to be a fool to find it...

Again, only a thought, but this looks like a lump of copper ore, green from oxidisation. They missed a bit!

The basin valley is formed by the river, which continues down to the nearby village of Crow’s Nest (cool name). It’s a whopping great basin, with signs that it was a used for loading and transportation by trains. The water continues down, off the moor, and eventually becomes the River Seaton.

Who needs Mars? This is a perfect spot to act out scenes from your favourite sci-fi show. We got through a few lines of Blake’s 7, Doctor Who and, of course, The Martian. Thankfully we didn’t experiment with growing potatoes, as we had a packed lunch. Plus, there are enough sheep on Caradon Hill to supply a massive Easter carvery.

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