When tin was king.
This section of rugged coastline over the centuries has been the scene of intensive mining mainly for tin with some copper, silver and arsenic. The extrusion of granite into the area’s sedimentary rock produced extensive mineralisation. Surface mining is thought to have commenced about 2000BC when it was found that adding tin to copper produced the much harder Bronze. Tin was subsequently used in pewter and coins. The industrial heritage now on view dates back to the 16th century when underground mining as well as opencast developed on a large scale and reached its peak in the 19th century until a collapse in the price of tin and copper made it unprofitable.
The remains of pumping houses, crushing plants, winding wheels, open shafts, associated works and spoil heaps are found scattered all the way up the coast but are particularly frequent in the Pendeen area. Some of the workings went deep under the sea. The tin ore was crushed before smelting. What a sight it must have been when the industry was booming.The early bus from Penzance to Land’s End was full, my companions on the front seats upstairs were a couple from Canada on a grand tour. We marvelled at the bus driver’s skill negotiating the narrow Cornish lanes. As expected Land’s End has become a theme park and lots of tourists were arriving by coach for a morning’s visit and opportunity for some shopping etc.
I quickly bypassed the ‘attractions’ and headed for the most westerly point, Dr. Syntax’s Head, past several first and lasts. It was a beautiful clear morning but I couldn’t make out the Scilly Isles. The Longships lighthouse was however very prominent out to sea.
There were seals in the bay as I walked round to Sennen. A couple of rock climbers were just setting off for would be a perfect day on the cliffs, I was envious. Sennen Cove was busy as usual and a coffee in the cafe was hurried but the situation is magnificent.
I climbed out onto Aire Point and followed the path easily to Cribba Point with a few of those dreaded steps. There was a zigzagging drop into Cot Valley and then a stiff pull up the other side.
An English girl was walking with a Spanish speaking lad, turned out he was from Nicaragua, and giving him lessons in English although he spoke well with an accent. I greeted him in Spanish and conversed for a short time. As they proceeded ahead of me I heard him say that I spoke Spanish like he spoke English, thought that was more of a criticism than praise.
Ahead was the hump of Cape Cornwall with its landmark chimney and lots of visitors. I didn’t go onto the point but chatted to the volunteer at the NT car park, a very friendly Annie, is it any wonder that I take so much time to walk short distances.
Shortly after climbing up I was descending through gorse and bracken into the Kenidjack valley with its atmospheric ivy covered mining buildings.Climbing out the other side I tried to find the descent route into Carn Kenidjack where I did a classic climb, Saxon HVS 5a, over 20 years go with my friend Pete whilst on a Cornwall trip. Today everything looked steep and dangerous, I didn’t have my climbing head on. More of that trip later. Somewhere down there …
The next few hours were spent wandering through the old tin mines. In the distance was the prominent Pendeen Watch Lighthouse but by now I’d had enough and escaped up a lane to Boscaswell to catch the bus back to Penzance. On the way up there was a more modern mine, Geevor, which operated into the 90’s but now is a tourist destination only. Sat at the bus stop was an old bearded guy who remembered those times and was all to happy to chat about them.Not a bad start to my walk up the coast.