Walk - Geevor Mine & Chûn Quoit
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the car park at Pendeen, opposite the Boscaswell Stores, turn left on the main road and cross the road to go through the Geevor Tin Mine entrance. Follow the drive and then the path beyond to the South West Coast Path.
In the early days of industrial mining, the area around Geevor was known as ‘Stennack an Gever’ ('The Goat Tin Stream'). When the tin concentrate was sent to Humberside to be processed, it was returned in ceremonial tin ingots, stamped with a fish-tailed goat to show that they came from Geevor.
Copper and tin were produced in the area even in the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago, and the early tin streaming methods were used until the end of the medieval period. When the surface ore ran out, tunnels and then shafts had to be dug. At first the rocks were broken manually, and then gunpowder was packed into holes in the walls to blast out the tunnels.
As the mines got deeper, so the miner's job became more difficult and more dangerous. Flooding of the tunnels became a problem, too, and increasingly sophisticated methods were needed to pump it out (see the Levant, Botallack & The Crowns Walk). At first the pumps were powered by waterwheels alongside a stream, as at nearby Kenidjack. The shafts had to follow the veins of ore, however, and if there was no stream a channel had to be dug to provide the water power.
Cornish engineers soon became world leaders in industrial development. By the 1820s Cornwall's annual production of both copper and tin was more than double that of the previous century.
- Turn right on the Coast Path, towards the lighthouse at Pendeen Watch. Crossing the footbridge a little further on, carry on over the hill and the valley beyond it to come out on the road at the coastguard cottages.
- Turn left on the road and walk past the front of the lighthouse, towards Portheras Cove. Follow the Coast Path acorn waymarkers along the cliff above the beach.
Until 1891 maritime safety off Pendeen depended more on activity after a wreck rather than effective prevention. The high cliffs along this sector of coastline prevented passing vessels from catching sight of either Trevose Head to the East or the Longships to the West. Therefore, unable to ascertain their position, too many ships were lost, particularly on the groups of sunken and exposed rocks near Pendeen Watch.
Trinity House decided to erect a lighthouse and fog signal at Pendeen. Designs for the building were prepared by the Trinity House Engineer, their construction being undertaken by Arthur Carkeek, of Redruth, with Messrs. Chance, of Birmingham supplying the lantern.
The buildings occupy a large area and before work could begin the cap of the Point had to be removed and the whole headland flattened, which necessitated the building of a huge retaining wall on the seaward side. By the beginning of 1900, Carkeek’s men had only reached the half-way mark although the lantern makers were ready to go ahead. Work thereafter progressed more rapidly and the light was commissioned on September 26th 1900.
The original lamp was replaced by an electric one in 1926. Around the lamp revolves an apparatus containing the lenses. This optic is very heavy, weighing 2½ tons, but as it floats in a trough containing ¾ of a ton of mercury it can be set in motion by the merest touch. Pendeen Lighthouse was automated in 1995 with the keepers leaving the station on 3rd May. The original optic has been retained but a new lamp plinth with two position lamp changer has been installed along with an emergency light and a new fog signal with fog detector.
The lighthouse tower is 17 metres high, 59 metres above the sea at high water. Its white light flashes 4 times every 15 seconds and can be seen for 16 nautical miles. Its fog signal sounds once every 20 seconds.
- After 100 yards of climbing you see a sign indicating the Coast Path to the left and ahead for Morvah. Leave the Coast Path here and continue uphill and inland to the small farm at Chypraze. There is a beach car park here (£1 in the box.)
- Go through the gate at the farm and follow the lane up to the coast road (B3306) and turn right here. Be aware of traffic on this stretch of road and make sure that children and dogs are under control.
- After 500 yards you see a sign for Yew Tree Gallery (worth a visit if it is open). Turn sharp left immediately afterwards and walk along a farm lane past the two Keigwin farms.
- After 500 yards turn right up a clear track. Stay on the track as it turns right again. Keep climbing, passing a track on the right, then when a house comes into view ahead at a broad T-junction of tracks turn right. Keep on this clear track, climbing steadily to pass between granite gate posts. At the fork immediately afterwards bear left, heading for Chun Quoit on the skyline ahead.
Chûn Castle dates from the Iron Age, sometime before the Romans arrived in Britain, and it was built facing west and directly aligned with Chûn Quoit. Originally the castle enclosed a number of circular and rectangular huts, but most of the stone from these was removed when the streets of Penzance were being paved.
'Chûn' comes from the Cornish ‘chy-an-woon’, meaning ‘house on the downs’.
The chambered tomb at Chûn Quoit dates from Neolithic (Late Stone Age), times, about 3000–2000 BC, and it is one of three in the district. It consists of four large upright granite slabs, three of which support a massive horizontal capstone, which is almost circular. At one time the quoit was surrounded by a stone cairn with an outer kerb of upright stones, but all that remains of these today are some cobbles in the grass.
Quoits were used for communal burials. No bones remain here, but it is thought that their main purpose was to provide a final place of rest for the dead and a sense of belonging for their living descendants. They were sited in high places with extensive views over rivers and estuaries in order to establish territorial ownership over the surrounding land. Archaeologists believe that ritual ceremonies once took place in the quoits, in which the bones were removed and replaced, to consolidate the territorial claims and strengthen the tribe's bonds with the landscape.
- From Chun Quoit the onward route takes a path on the right of the path up from the coast, immediately after the Quoit, a narrow path through the heather on a bearing of 240 degrees. Aim towards the monument on the hill ahead at Carn Kenidjack. Walk straight across the field and follow the track from Woon Gumpus Common to the car park.
- Coming out of the car park, carry straight on ahead along the road at Trewellard Hill due west Be aware of traffic on this stretch of road and ensure that dogs and children are under control.
- After half a mile at Wheal Bal take the bridleway along the track to the right to cross Trewellard Common, bearing left to head towards the church. Ignore two turns to the right and one to the left, bearing left again to walk past the church and houses to the road (B3306). Note that Pendeen village is just a short way along the road to the right, with shop, café, toilets and pubs. Return to the car park.
There is a café (Heather’s) in Pendeen village, popular with walkers.