Day 93: Southwest to CornwallMay 19, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C
Another long day today, but also a very special one - I turned 36 today! Up early to a nice card from Shandos and Schnitzel, and then spent an hour or so on Skype with both parents. Hit the road around 9am, heading southwest towards Cornwall, the very edge of the UK.
The main reason for heading to the area was of course the usual - a UNESCO World Heritage site listing! The entire peninsula of Cornwall is dotted with the ruins of copper and tin mines which enjoyed their heyday in the Industrial Revolution. As large engines were developed and bigger machines built, demand for the raw metals found in Cornwall boomed massively, and the area had a huge influx of people. But of course, the inevitable happened and it became more economical to extract minerals elsewhere. One by one, the mines closed, the last coming in the 1980s.
These days, the ruins of about 20 mines are still standing, and together comprise the world heritage site. We couldn't hope to cover all 20 mines (even if we were inclined to, which we weren't), but we created a short-list and set off on the couple of hours drive down to Cornwall.
First stop was at Redruth, and a large old mine called West Pool mine. Quite a lot still standing - chimneys, buildings, even the enormous single-piston steam powered engine which had a diameter of nearly 2 metres. Incredible power there, although it no longer worked. We busied ourselves exploring the site, along with a sister mine just nearby that still had a working beam engine (though much smaller, and these days powered by electricity).
Cornwall is surprisingly long (though quite narrow), and we still had a long way to go, so we had a quick salubrious birthday lunch at McDonalds and then got back on the road around 2pm.
Next stop was the Geevor Mine, which was the second-last mine to close in the area - it actually ran until 1986. This was situated quite near the coastline, and some of the huge tunnels there ran out under the water at depths of up to 2000 feet! Since it had been built quite a bit later than the other mines (started in 1901), it was in much better condition and the displays were excellent too. Though because of the UK's "safety culture", you had to wear a hard-hat at all times while on site. Felt very strange to be walking through a typical museum wearing a giant yellow helmet!!
The key attraction here is the underground tour, where they take you into a section of the mines. This part was actually an older mine, not part of Geevor itself, which they actually had no idea existed until the museum was opened in the mid-2000s! Crazy.
It had probably been dug in the 17th and 18th centuries, mean it was all hand tools (on granite, no less) and a bit of gunpower - scary to use with no proper fuses and while your only light is a spattering animal fat candle! We enjoyed the tour, though it was very cramped and damp in places, up to 20 metres below the surface!
By now the museum was closing and we couldn't check in until after 6pm, so we headed for Land's End - the most westerly point in England, and almost the most southerly as well. It's essentially thought of as the furthest point of the UK (and the farthest from John O'Groat's at the northern tip of Scotland). It was awful.
There's a small theme park set up, where they apparently charge for entry, and then charge separately for all the rides as well! But it's not outdoor rides, they're all indoor rides so you could be anywhere. It's also covered in tacky souvenir shops and over-priced food stalls, basically the worst of tourist tat you can imagine. Thankfully we'd arrived after 5pm when the parking was cheaper, everything was closed and entry to the area was free. There's even a guy who has a replica of the famous Land's End sign, but charges 10 pounds for a photograph with it and suggests that you can't get a photo with the real thing any more! Thankfully he wasn't around, and neither was anybody else, so we enjoyed the view and the quiet. And a reasonably-priced drink from the restaurant nearby.
Leaving the restaurant it was now after 6pm, so we hopped in the car and headed for our accommodation. As it's fairly sparsely populated out here, we were staying in a 400-year-old working farmhouse, hosted by a lady named Sarah. Took a bit to find since it was out on the moors, but we made it in the end! Greeted by her border collie Floss, along with 4 ducks, a cat, 2 ewes and several newborn lambs, all of which Schnitzel was VERY interested in.
We dropped our stuff and headed back down into a nearby village, where I wrapped up my birthday with a traditional English pub dinner. We shared curries, and pints. Back to the farmhouse where we watched a beautiful sunset over the water and then headed for bed. Another long day awaits!Read more