Walk - Lands End Youth Hostel - Pendeen
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From Lands End Youth Hostel cross the stream and turn left onto the small track at Rosewell Cottage. At the road follow it as it heads towards Porth Nanven.
- Before you are halfway along the road through the Cot Valley, look out for the South West Coast Path as it climbs steeply up the hillside to your right. Carry on the Coast Path and follow it around to where it starts to drop towards Priest's Cove at the foot of Cape Cornwall.
Porth Nanven, at the mouth of the Cot Valley with its lush sub-tropical vegetation is a place beloved of birdwatchers, who hope to see a rarity like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo sighted in 1999. Known as Dinosaur Egg Beach, it is also an important geological site. It is illegal to remove the large round boulders which fell from the cliffs above. They piled up on the wave-cut platform after falling sea levels left the old beach stranded above the modern-day one.
Ballowall Barrow, on the hillside below the trig point at Carn Gloose, is one of the most dramatic and complex of the many funerary monuments along this coastline. It dates back to the Bronze Age, and possibly earlier to the Late Stone Age. In the centre of the barrow were five stone-lined burial chambers, known as cists, with a further two outside the stone platform enclosing the central mound.
Cape Cornwall marks the point where the Atlantic currents divide, some heading into the English Channel and others going north into the Bristol Channel and the Irish Sea. For many years it was thought to be England's most westerly point. Brison Rocks (The Brisons), just off the Cape, wrecked a number of ships and were said to be used at one time as a prison. They are important breeding grounds for seabirds.
The landmark tower on the cape is the chimney stack of the former Cape Cornwall Mine, which extracted tin and copper from beneath the sea from 1836 to 1879. The white building opposite is the mine's count house, built in 1861-2 as the residence and offices for the Captain and staff of Botallack Mine, as well as to serve the mine's boilers.
There was a Bronze Age burial site here and an Iron Age promontory fort. There are also the remains of an old chapel in the field below, St Helen's Oratory. The site has been in use since the fourth century, although the building is more recent. An ancient cross was found here with the “chi rho” christogram on it. The finder, a vicar of St Just in the nineteenth century, took it back to the vicarage for safekeeping; but his successor is said to have thrown it down a well.
- When the road forks at Cape Cornwall, turn right, bearing right again on the road inland from the car park. Then fork left a moment later to pass in front of the Count House. When the road veers right, take the path to your left to carry on around the edge of the hill before descending steeply into the valley below.
The Tregeseal river running through the Kenidjack Valley was a valuable power source for the tin streams and other workings along the valley. Many water-wheels were in use over the centuries. A track still runs alongside the stream. An old reservoir is still visible, as well as the remains of the Kenidjack arsenic works. The river runs into Porth Ledden Cove: a pebbly beach and a good place for seal-spotting.
The river tumbles over rocky boulders into the sea passing the substantial remains of what used to be the wheelpit housing a 32 foot waterwheel of the Wheal Call or Boswedden Mine. This valley is often overlooked by the more casual visitors who tend to focus more on the attractions of Cape Cornwall or the nearby Crowns engine houses at Botallack.
Crossing the stream, carry on ahead and then turn left on the path beyond, forking right a moment later and then left towards the top. Turn sharply right shortly afterwards to follow the Coast Path as it starts to head inland.
Note the wonderfully named gully here, the Zawn Buzz and Gen ('gully of food and song'). Castle Kenidjack, up above, is another Iron Age promontory fort, with triple-banked defences.
Above Wheal Edward Zawn, as you reach fields on your right, the path forks. Bear left here, staying left a moment later and then carrying on ahead to Botallack Mine.
The St Just Mining District is one of the oldest hard-rock tin and copper mining areas in Cornwall. Botallack is just one of many mines lying in the narrow belt of land here, no more than 3½ miles long and 1¼ miles wide.
Within both the granite of Land's End and the older slate to the north of Cape Cornwall are seams with nearly vertical lodes of tin and copper, formed at right-angles to the cliffs. These mineral veins continue under the sea, and many of the mines here had tunnels bored many fathoms below the seabed.
Botallack and Levant, a little further north, were the most successful of these mines and won the Cornish miner a worldwide reputation for their skills. The lower of Botallack's two engine houses was used to pump water from the mine, while the higher engine house, built a few years later, provided winding power for the Boscawen Diagonal Shaft, which ran out under the sea.
- Coming out on the path beyond Botallack Mine, bear left again at the junction and continue along the South West Coast Path. Bear left again when the Coast Path drops away from the track skirting the fields and follow it around above The Crowns and Botallack Head.
Ahead are two more prominent engine houses named West Wheal Owles, and Wheal Edward. Both structures were restored in 1995 by the National Trust as part of its Centenary Year celebrations. Wheal Owles was the scene of a tragic disaster in January 1893 when a surveying error led to miners accidentally blasting through into the abandoned flooded workings of Wheal Drea. The sudden inrush of water flooded the mine and drowned nineteen men and a boy. Their bodies were never recovered.
- When the Coast Path joins the track above it, turn left to the junction with the Levant Road. Turn left again here and carry on to the Levant Mine. Unless you want to visit the mine, carry on along the Coast Path to Trewellard Bottoms, ahead.
The famous Levant engine is housed in the small engine house perched on the edge of the cliffs. Restored after 60 idle years by a group of volunteers known as the 'Greasy Gang', this is the only Cornish beam engine anywhere in the world that still works on steam on its original mine site.
The Cornish Beam Engine was originally developed to pump out floodwater from these deep mines. A pivoted overhead beam applied the force from a vertical piston to a vertical connecting rod, with the engine directly driving a pump. This was first used in Cornish mines in 1705 by Thomas Newcomen, but it was fairly inefficient and used a lot of fuel. Scottish engineer James Watt refined and patented the design, and the engine was considerably enlarged to drain these very deep mines. Cornish beam engines remain the most massive beam engines ever constructed.
The Geevor mine was operational until 1985 and producing about 50,000 tons of black tin. Originally a small enterprise known as Wheal an Giver, 'a piece of ground occupied by goats', the mine closed in 1891. The Second Boer War forced the return of a group of St Just miners who had emigrated to South Africa. They set up the Levant North (Wheal Geevor) in 1901. By the 1970s Geevor's sett covered an area of about three square miles and included Boscaswell Downs mine, Pendeen Consols and Levant mine. In 1985 there was a dramatic fall in the price of tin and Geevor closed.
- From Trewellard Bottoms either turn right up the footpath that leads to Lower Boscaswell and along Boscaswell Road into Pendeen.
- The bus stop is by Church Road. From here buses go to St Just. The First in Devon and Cornwall 10A bus and the Western Greyhound 507 bus goes to St Just. From St Just walk past the library away from the town centre along Market Street and turn left following Bosorne Terrace past a chapel and recreation ground. Turn right down the narrow lane passing cottages and an old well. Where the lane ends turn right down footpath following signs for YHA.