My very good chum Lesley, took me to Kit Hill for a sun-downer walk back in May. It is an amazing spot, the highest point in Cornwall’s Tamar Valley. From the summit you can see for miles and miles – south across Cornwall, north to Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor.
The hill itself is an outcrop of the Cornubian batholith, a mass of granite rock formed 280 million years ago, and covering much of the Cornwall-Devon peninsula. The granite is formed from crystalized and solidified magma that has boiled up from deep within the earth’s crust. The resulting rock is mineral rich: principally the tin ore cassiterite, but also copper, lead, zinc and tungsten.
There are signs of mining dating back to medieval times, although this involved only surface quarrying of weathered out tin stones, or ‘shodes’. It was not until the eighteenth century that men were working in deep-shaft mines, drained by adits (horizontal shafts driven into the hillside.) However you look at it, tin mining was a tough way to make a living.
The ornate chimney in the first photo dates from 1858. Now it is used to house various masts. Back then, and until 1885, it was part of the pumping arrangements for several mining concerns on the hill. Further down is the the chimney of the South Kit Hill Mine (Bal Soth Bre Skowl in Cornish), and the town of Callington below it.
The shaft of this mine reaches a depth of over 90 metres (300 feet). The chimney served the steam engine house which operated machinery to crush and sort the ore. The mine was worked between 1856 and 1882, but foundered as the quality of accessible tin declined and the business became mired in legal actions for fraud.
Now these chimneys serve only as mysterious and dramatic landmarks within a 400-acre countryside park. It is a wilderness place rich in wildlife: deer, badgers, skylarks, buzzards, stonechats and sparrow hawks. There are signs of ancient humankind too – a 5,000 year old Neolithic long barrow, and some 18 burial mounds, dating from the Bronze Age, including one beneath that ornate chimney stack.
When Lesley and I were there we were treated to some marvellous views of a cuckoo – a bird more usually heard than seen, it having well known tendencies to sneakiness and stealth. There was also a rapid fly-past by two small raptors – too swift for identification but probably sparrow hawks since this is their well-known milieu. Stone chats and pipits bobbed about in the gorse, and around us the land stretched out as far as the eye could see, its fields and boundaries, in their own way, a document of human activity and endeavour over many centuries. And a very special place. Thank you, Lesley.
copyright 2017 Tish Farrell
19 thoughts on “Traces Of The Past ~ Monuments To Cornwall’s Tin Miners”
An interesting region
You aren’t satisfied with one trace of one past are you? But then I suppose no landscape ever just offers one past. Great photos and great history, and a wonderfully diverse place to walk with a friend at sundown.
One trace is never enough, Meg. You know that 🙂
You’re very welcome 😊
I’ve done a bit of digging and I think the two falcons were hobbies 🦅
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Ah! Well done you. Tx
Stunning photos and such rich history and nature. Not to mention those views…
Thank you, Jude. I know these are subjects close to your heart 🙂
Thank you AND Lesley. Somewhere for me to visit when I return to Blighty.
You are most welcome 🙂
Wonderful views Tish and lucky you having a local friend to show you around. Bodmin moor is in Cornwall though, not Devon.
Oops! Will ament. Thanks, Gilly.
I like how you photograph chimneys. That first shot looks as if the chimney has shot the smoke-like clouds into the sky 🙂 I am always glad to see bits of “your” history Tish with unforgettable views of the surrounding countryside.
Thanks, Paula. Glad you like my chimneys.
drinking in the views and a close-up with nature (cuckoos an especial favourite of mine). You have captured the drama of these old tin mines so well and there is a whiff of Poldark in the air (I do not watch TV now but the old episodes were especially good).
A whiff of vintage Poldark, I like that, Laura. I remember liking it at the time too.
The second photo tugs at my heart strings, Tish. As a lass, living in a London hostel, one of my roommates was a girl from Callington. We’ve since lost touch, but oh how I wish we hadn’t.
It’s sad to lose touch. Sorry to provide a tug or two.