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The history along the Mineral Trails

Great Wheal Busy | Killifreth Mine

An optional loop can be taken through the deciduous Unity Wood. Don’t be fooled though; this is every bit as hollow as the rest of the trail! 

Reaching Wheal Busy, the Wild West theme is continued; here, in 1810 a gun battle broke out after a dispute with a neighbouring mine. The Wheal Busy miners came out on top and appear to have gotten away with it!

Returning to the trail you will see Hawke’s Engine House at Killifreth Mine. Built in 1920; this is the tallest still standing engine house in Cornwall!

Basset Monument

Standing 240m above sea level; the monument to Francis Lord De Dunstanville Basset is the most prominent landmark in West Cornwall. This granite obelisk standing nearly 27.5 metres high was built in 1836. 

From this lofty site, within an Iron Age round over 2000 years its predecessor, the finest views of both north and south coastlines can be found.

Poldice Valley

Ascend the gentle gradient beyond Wheal Maid Valley to reach Poldice Mine – the greatest of all the ancient tin mines. By 1725 it was over 200m in depth; making this the deepest mine in the world. Pumping was always an issue; but aided by the Great County Adit miners kept pushing the frontiers of engineering.
The earliest record of this mine comes from the deposition of a court case in 1512: “Thou art a theff and yu stolys my Tynne”, Cornwall must have been like the Wild West! Many ruins in this valley point to different eras of mining; the last finally concluding in 1918. These are well worth taking time to explore. 

Carn Brea | Basset Lodge

Boasting magnificent views overlooking both Redruth and Camborne, Carn Brea stands up to 225 metres above sea level. From the ridge of Carn Brea the best views of West Cornwall are taken in and are a reminder of the importance of the Bassett family to this area.

The iconic Carn Brea Castle also stands proud on the hillside. It is understood this 14th century castle was extensively rebuilt in the 18th century as a hunting lodge by the Basset family. 

King Edward Mine

Just outside the village of Troon (Tre-woon; “House on the Commons”); lies this ex-Camborne School of Mines training venue turned mining museum. 
Once called  “South Condurrow”; the venture had a change of patronage in 1901 for the accession of Edward VII to the crown.
The early history of this mine is very well known; first being worked in the 1530’s and later yielding £7,000 in 1722; we know this information because a Swedish spy – Henric Kahlmeter – tasked with a mission of industrial espionage in England recorded these details in his travelling journal. 

Great Consols | Wheal Maid Valley

At the turn of the century in 1800, the many small mines here had all but been lost to obscurity. This all changed when one man – John Taylor – took over and consolidated the venture into the richest copper producer the world had ever seen. 
Taylor was also responsible for the Devoran-Portreath mineral tramway itself; and he achieved all of this before his 25th birthday. He is amongst the greatest worthies British mining has ever known. 
The valley today is well favoured amongst BMX & mountain bikers; the striking moonscape was last used as a tailings dam by Wheal Jane in the 1970s. Many open and grilled mineshafts form conspicuous portals down into the belly of this hollow landscape. 

South Wheal Frances | Wheal Basset

Continuing the legacy of the Basset family; these two mines represent the best preserved mining remains anywhere on the trail.  The ruins at surface are, however, just the tip of the iceberg with tens of miles of workings laying flooded below. 
The mine worked the famously rich great flat lode; an unusual feature given the normal high angle of Cornish tin lodes. The mine’s namesake – Lady Frances Basset – inherited her father’s peerage and barony in 1835; however, childless upon her death in 1855 both these titles demised.
The mines were tried on a large scale during WWII when it was considered critical for domestic supply. Over a dozen well preserved engine houses can be enjoyed on this section of the Great Flat Lode trail.

Devoran Quay

Early Victorian Cornwall saw its own industrial revolution flourish. Devoran – a once insignificant mooring – became the busiest port in the county in the space of a few years. 
Copper ore would be transported by horse-drawn trams for dispatch to the South Wales smelters; the returning vessels supplying anthracite for the dozens of steam engines draining the Gwennap mines.  
Today all is quiet and the pier commands panoramic views for bird watching. On a pleasant day, bring a picnic and enjoy the public green where the trail meets the south coast after 11 miles cross country.

Restronguet Creek Mine

It has to be seen to be believed: at Tallack’s Creek, South of Devoran Quay is the remains of an Engine House (1822) right on the foreshore; the mine and its miners worked beneath the very sea just adjacent. 
An iron-cased shaft was sunk to the submarine tin deposit through an artificial island, purposely heaped up mid-creek; levels extended in all directions, people working day and night, while ships passed and re-passed overhead. 
Within a period of 5 years the mine had made a vast profit of £28,000; not bad for an investment once called “Oh So Foolish”.

The wildlife along the Mineral Trails

Barn Owl

With its long wings and long legs it can be distinguished from other owls due to its short and squarish tail. It can measure between 25 and 45 cm in length with a wingspan between 75 and 110 cm in length.

Green Woodpecker

Distinguished by its distinctive markings, namely green on top, yellow underneath and a red crown. The males can be identified as having a red centre in their moustachial stripe, whereas it is all black in females. Its loud calls are known as yaffing.

Red Deer

Often spotted in rural areas, the Red Deer is the UK’s largest land mammal. Their summer coat is reddish brown to brown, and their winter coat is brown to grey. Large males can be easily identified by their highly branched antlers.


This bushy tailed omnivore has a long narrow snout. Foxes are known for storing food, burying it under leaves, snow or soil to eat later. Males are called dogs, females vixens and their young are referred to as cubs.

Common Lizard

Commonly found near water or moorland and they are particularly fond of warm places. They also like basking and can sometimes be found on the stony ballast around railway lines. The male lizard is usually brown in colour and the female often has dark stripes.


The otter is short limbed and has webbed paws. It lives in dens called a holt or couch and near to water, as fish are the main part of their diet. The lowlands provide an adequate food supply throughout the year, and wooded river edges in Tehidy Woods provide excellent habitat for resting and breeding.