Botallack to Higher Bal walk
Enjoy a walk along the spectacular South West Coast Path, where you'll see the remains of two of Cornwall’s ‘champion mines’, Levant and Botallack.
See the dramatic landscape of Cornish coastal mining
A century on and life is very different here, but as you walk along the Coast Path you'll get a sense of just how great a mining industry this area once was.
Levant car park, grid ref: SW368346
Begin at Levant car park, next to Boscregan Shaft, Levant Mine. Levant was one of Cornwall's most successful mines but it is probably best known for the man-engine tragedy of 1919 when 31 miners lost their lives. The man-engine shaft and the ruin of the engine house are just up the slope from the car park. The walk follows the coast path towards Botallack for just over a mile (1.6km) to Botallack Mine (Wheal Cock section).
See the views seaward from the Skip Shaft at point 2 reveals, down-slope, the circular shaft top of Wheal Cock Engine Shaft on a level platform above a massive retaining wall built into the cliff top at the time of the 1906 re-opening. Further on, at the triangulation pillar, are spectacular views across the bay to Kenidjack headland and beyond to Cape Cornwall and The Brisons.
The circular walls that you can see at Botallack Mine are modern safety features that mark the tops of disused mine shafts. Turn right at the first shaft, on your immediate left are the stone walls that mark the site of the miners changing house or dry. Follow the route to the left to the circular wall around the collar of Skip Shaft. Return to the path and continue to the triangulation pillar. Continue towards the ruined chimney stack; on the left of this path are the remains of Botallack's 19th-century copper-dressing floors. Here women and children worked to break and separate the valuable copper ores from the waste rock. This path will bring you back to the main track, turn right, follow the track for roughly 70m and then, at the Coast Path marker stone, follow the path to the right (marked St Just 1½ miles). This will take you past the 1906 tin-dressing floors and arsenic works.
Surface workings ruins
The concrete plinths and floors mark the site of the mill used to process tin ore during the last re-working. At the upper end are the huge foundations for the stamps, which crushed the ore to a sandy pulp. Below it were various devices for the extraction of the black tin using water and gravity. Several circular buddles can be seen, upon which the heavy tin particles were separated out from the lighter waste.
Beyond the tin-dressing floors, above the path, are the remains of a square building with a distinctive archway in buff-coloured brickwork. This was a Brunton calciner, and was the starting point for the extraction of arsenic from Botallack ores during the 1906-1914 re-working. By a fingerpost below the stack a pathway leaves the Coast Path sharply to the right and offers a route down to the Crowns Engine Houses.
Crown Engine Houses
The lower of the two engine houses was built in 1835 to pump water from the mine. The higher engine house was built in 1862 to provide winding power for the Boscawen Diagonal shaft, which ran out under the sea. Men were carried up and down the shaft in a gig, a purpose-built wheeled box, which was also used to raise ore. The Prince and Princess of Wales rode the gig during their visit in July 1865. Two years after, a terrible accident caused by the gig chain breaking, resulted in the deaths of eight men and a boy.
From the Crown Engine Houses, return to the main Coast Path and head for the two prominent engine houses ahead. The one beyond the burrows, immediately to the left of the path, is the engine house of West Wheal Owles, whilst the more ruinous one on the right is the stamps engine house of Wheal Edward.
West Wheal Owles
This mine was the scene of a tragic disaster in January 1893 when, due to a surveying error, miners accidentally blasted through into the abandoned, flooded workings of Wheal Drea. The sudden inrush of water flooded the mine and drowned 19 men and a boy. The mine was closed and their bodies were never recovered.
With the engine house of Wheal Edward on your immediate right, take the path that turns sharply back on your left. Keep following the main track (part of the old tramway), when you reach the car track from Botallack village, turn left and head back towards the Count House.
The Count House, Botallack, was built in 1861-2 as the residence and offices for the Captain and staff of Botallack Mine. In the heyday of Cornish mining, count houses were the scenes of lavish dinners when shareholders gathered to examine the mine accounts. The Count House is privately owned but the adjacent workshop is open to the public and has more information about Botallack. It also contains toilets, which may be welcome at this stage. From the Count House follow the main track back towards Levant.
At the top of the rise, just before Roscommon House, turn right at the footpath sign, ducking under the metal barrier and walk north north-east for about 55yd (50m) then follow the hedge line before crossing the field to the stone stile in the opposite corner. You should be heading for the ruined stack that marks the site of Nineveh shaft.
Nineveh shaft was part of the Carnyorth section of Botallack mine. Climb over the stile into the next field and, keeping the wall line on your right. Climb over a wooden stile and, again keeping the wall on your right, walk towards Nineveh cottages.
At Foxglove Barn turn left and walk across the front of the house. With Nineveh Cottage ahead climb over the stone stile on your left. Walk about 33yd (30m) north by west then turn right through the open gateway, walk 55yd (50m) north-east, climb the wooden stile into the lane. Turn left and follow the lane into Levant Road. Ahead of you is a ruined engine house, this is Higher Bal.
Originally part of a mine called Spearn Consols, Higher Bal became part of Levant Mine in 1877. There are two archways in the massive retaining wall; the first gives access to Guide Shaft, now grilled to allow safe viewing; the second leads to steep steps up to the engine house. This engine was both a pumping and a winding engine. Take care if you're exploring here as there are some unguarded drops. Return to the road, then turn right to follow Levant Road back to the car park.
Levant car park, grid ref: SW368346
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