A proud Cornishman, recently invited us to visit Cornwall. We stayed at Sennan, right next to Land’s End. There was a stupendous beach with a view across the wild sea that stretched, uninterupted, to America. The steep cliffs that still had ship wrecks rusting on them.

Botallack engine house, part of the Botallack tin mines, Cornwall. UK ©Vision Fountain

It was a blustery October week-end and splendidly wild. My immediate thought was a comparison to Wales, my homeland. Humid air was rushing in from the Atlantic and across the narrow Peninsula, causing all kinds of havoc. The weather moved from misty rain, to clear skies, followed by a sudden downpour all in the space of two hours. Ponies, similar in stature to Welsh ponies, roamed the cliff tops. Then there were the bi-lingual signs and the fierce Cornish nationalism.

Botallack engine house, part of the Botallack tin mines, Cornwall. UK ©Vision Fountain

But what nailed the short excursion, and left me with a deep yearning to learn more, was the mining. I had no idea of their number nor their place in history, not just Cornish history but the industrial heritage of the UK. Tin, copper, and arsenic, and also silver and zinc were mined here. In the 1800’s Cornwall produced half of the world’s arsenic.

The engine house of Botallack tin mine has clung onto the rugged coastline since around 1795. Though the area has been mined since the 1500s. The tunnels from the mine stretch far under the ocean. The conditions for the miners must have been perilous. If you want to know a tiny bit more watch an episode or two of Poldark, which featured the Botallack engine hosues (though that caused some controversy for the National Trust, who mange the site).

Since 2006 Botallack has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – “Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape.” – ends