Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Mines of Cornwall

Cornwall looks hopelessly pastoral today.  Sheep, dairy cows, and endless hedge-defined pastures.  In the 19th Century, quite another story.  Cornwall was where the metals action was.  Tin and copper, as usual found with smaller concentrations of tungsten, manganese, etc. were major products, with the coastal area peppered with small shafts and mine openings everywhere.  Given the high costs of transporting ores, small scale smelters to extract metals from the ores were everywhere.

Today, the old smelters and mine houses are among the most popular targets for photography along the Coast Path.  I have no pride, I joined the crowd today.

The abandoned mine shafts, on the other hand, are among the greatest dangers along the this part of the coast. They undoubtedly cause more injuries than the occasional walker tumbling off the Path and into the sea.  Where landowners have been conscientious, the shaft openings are covered with conical metal hats.

But, overall, probably one out of ten abandoned shafts is marked, let alone covered.  For the rest, the Coast Path relies on signs with stern warnings not to stray off the path.  Which adds a certain edginess to efforts to tramp through the gorse in search of just the perfect place to take a picture.