Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2005-2006

Short breaks from poring over the newspapers as the Bushies implode

Devon and Cornwall in the springtime

Whenever things start to pile up and get on top of you, it's time to take some time off and go to Cornwall.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Sennen Cove and Land's End on the Southwest Coast Path, 20 April 2006

Kristin and some of the old mine works on the coast near Botallack. We're setting off on a rain-threatening day from Botallack Manor to Land's End.

The Crown Mine engine houses at Botallack, closed down in 1895, restored in 1985

"There are two engine houses at the Crowns. The lower house held a 30-inch pumping engine, built in 1835 to replace a smaller engine at the same location. It was built on the bare rock with no foundations, the rocks being bolted and mortared in place.This building weighs around 1200 tons, all brought down the cliff. In addition the metal work weight about 100 tons. Above this is the winder for the Boscawen Diagonal Shaft, built in about 1860." (reference)

Some of the tin mine shafts are said to extend out under the sea for as much as a kilometre -- the novelist Wilkie Collins ventured into one of them in its heyday and claimed that he could hear the surf overhead (Rambles Beyond Railways, 1851). The upper engine house powered wagons running up and down the rails in a 32-degree inclined mine shaft. Naturally, there were appalling disasters from time to time. Thus the modern Cornish strength of spirit.

The ruins of the mines are ubiquitous throughout the region and especially along the Coast Path. Whoever started it off -- Celts, Phoenicians, Raelians -- millennia ago, the remnants of the industry are the hallmark of the region, and the loss of the industry is its curse. (Especially after the wool industry did a runner as well.) But if the old shafts and engine house don't produce tin now, they do produce historically-minded tourists, and that's going to have to do.

You may wonder why Cornwall had the mineral mines that the rest of Britain missed out on. There is a simple geological explanation. During the late stages of the cooling of the mass of granite that makes up a lot of Cornwall, fissures opened up in the granite when it was still molten, and more hot molten rocks bubbled up through the granite from the earth's interior. These new rocks contained many minerals, and as they crystallized they formed mineral lodes - tin, copper, zinc, lead and iron with some silver. Because the ore bearing rocks formed in this way, rather than being sedimentary rocks like coal (hence coal is laid down in great flat plates), they have to be mined vertically rather than horizontally. Each fissure has to be mined straight down into the earth. Each fissure needed a separate mine. Therefore a great many vertical shafts were needed, rather than the one shaft that was used in coal mining.

Inevitably the mine shafts dropped below the level of the water table, and the water had to be pumped out if mining was to continue any deeper. Hence pumps and the houses for the engines that drove the pumps were a necessary part of mining. These engine houses were the sturdiest buildings in the mines, as they had both to house the machinery and support the massive beams that worked the pumps. It is not surprising that it is the engine houses that survive in Cornwall. In addition the closer to sea level the engine was sited, the less the height the water needed to be pumped to remove it from the mine. Therefore we find today some of these engine house perched on the sea cliffs.

Cornish Mines and Mining History in Cornwall

This is famous Cape Cornwall, supposedly "England's only cape", which is supposedly a projection of land that separates two seas (like Cape of Good Hope, Cape Horn). Well, okay, but if you can see a difference between the sea on the left (the Atlantic Ocean) and the sea on the right (the Atlantic Ocean), inform someone at once. Some Victorian Horatio-Alger figure made his fortune exploiting the natives in South Africa and came back, calling himself "the Colonel" no doubt, to establish himself here, build the monument out there, and call this "the Cape".

Wikipedia to the rescue

Cape Cornwall is a small headland in Cornwall, England, four miles north of Land's End near the village St Just. The cape is the point at which Atlantic currents split, either going south up the English Channel, or north into the Bristol Channel and Irish Sea.

The cape was once thought to be the most southwesterly point in mainland England; however, following accurate surveying, Land's End was found to be the most westerly point.

The site is also notable because a bunch of Romans left behind some extremely early Christian symbols here, and the vicar missed the point and threw them down the well, so they've gone back to heaven now. The photo above was taken from the Coast Path, where sadly it skirts along the edge of a 900-hole Country Club golf course.

Mine shafts are everywhere. Luckily, they all come outfitted with that little yellow square "danger sign" to alert you before it's too late.

The Southwest Coast Path provides some of the most delightful walking you'll find anywhere.

With surprises. This fissure leads who knows how far back into the cliffside. It being nearly summer and all, we dumped out the hiking headlamps before leaving home, so we couldn't get more than 40 meters into it, even by blasting off the camera flash.

The narrator, where once tin, copper, zinc, and arsenic snuggled side-by-side cozily for eons.

A bit of the beach of Sennen Cove appears in the distance, as the rain begins to take itself seriously.

Sennen Cove, on the way to Land's End

The caption should have read "It's amazing what you can do to an Atlantic grey seal with just a ski pole", but that didn't seem right this time. That poor guy was tied up around the tail and killed some time ago, some unpleasant story there! (Not the one in orange, that's Kristin.) Not something you'd normally want to just leave lying around on your beach (the seal, not Kristin).

Kristin abandons the Coast Path (up over the cliffs) to look for little nature things in the intertidal pools.

Here comes the rain!

Just (in a conventional adolescent manner) to complete the "mission", one dashes along in the rain the last mile from Sennen Cove to Land's End. Here it is (don't worry about WHAT that is, we'll be back later in better weather).

Now, this looks like a REAL cape! The First and Last House (sic) and "The Longships" out in the fog, with the lighthouse on it.

Views in the rain near Land's End (the Earth giving the finger to the Sky, or to Somebody Up There?)

Rainsoaked and windbattered, longing for a look at The Guardian, one returns to Sennen Cove (the lower part, along the beach) from the Land's End side.

Back in Sennen Cove, Kristin in our absence has just scored both The Guardian and The Independent and learnt that we've missed the last bus back to St Just.

Never mind, we call a taxi and go have a nice cuppa (or pint-a) in the Old Success Inn in Sennen Cove (dreaming of the Queen's Arms a few hours hence), reading The Guardian and The Independent, respectively.

Pubcrawling in Devon and
Cornwall, 2006

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 6 May 2006, revised 16 September 2008, 6 May 2013.

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