Walk - Levant, Botallack and the Crowns
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 the village car park at Pendeen, sited opposite the Boscaswell Stores, turn left to walk through the Geevor Tin Mine entrance. Follow the drive towards Levant, turning left just beyond the buildings. Bear right on the unsurfaced track and turn left at the boulder, aiming for the tall chimney.
An important area of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, the St Just Mining District is particularly noted for the dramatic locations of some of its mines. The geological boundary here between the granite of Land's End and the slate ('killas') north of Cape Cornwall resulted in vertical seams of tin and copper being formed at right angles to the cliffs. The mines' shafts had to be very deep to reach the ore, and in the Crowns section of Botallack mine the Engine and Boscawen's Shafts were located some distance down the cliff. This meant a reduction in the energy, time and money needed to sink the shafts. Tunnels were also dug many fathoms below the sea, radiating from these shafts, so that the ore could be retrieved from the lodes extending deep beneath the seabed.
- Arriving at Levant Mine, follow the bottom edge of its car park to pick up the South West Coast Path. Turn left here and follow the Coast Path, climbing gently to the Botallack Count House.
In the engine house perched on the edge of the cliffs, the famous Levant Cornish Beam Engine is the only one of its kind anywhere in the world still powered by steam and on its original site. After 60 years of disuse, it was restored by a group of volunteers known as 'The Greasy Gang' and is maintained by the National Trust.
The National Trust's restored steam winding engine at Levant Mine was also used as the setting of Poldark's Tressider's Rolling Mill. West Wheal Owles mine was the setting for the fictional Wheal Leisure tin mine which Ross Poldark finds in ruins on his return to Cornwall.
The Cornish Beam Engine was used to pump out floodwater from these very deep shafts. It was originally developed in 1712 as an atmospheric steam engine by Dartmouth ironmonger and engineer Thomas Newcomen (see the Dartmouth Town Trail). A pivoted overhead beam applied the force from a vertical piston to a vertical connecting rod, and this was used to drive a pump. The design was improved on by Scottish engineer James Watt, who patented an engine using less than a third of the fuel, and yet still doubling the output. In partnership with engineer Matthew Boulton he provided many of the engines that powered the mines in the second half of the eighteenth century.
In 1771 the design was improved upon still further by Richard Trevithick of Illogan, who was engineer at Ding Dong Mine near Land’s End (see the Hayle & the Towans Trail Walk). Trevithick's pump was powered by a high-pressure steam engine that was more efficient again, and Boulton & Watt tried to persuade Parliament to make high-pressure steam engines illegal, on safety grounds. Their attempt was in vain, and in 1800 their patent expired, and Trevithick’s engine was widely adopted instead.
- At the Count House turn left off the Coast Path, heading inland past the mine chimney and the disused tips to Manor Farm.
Built around 1861, the Count House provided accommodation and office space for the captain of the Botallack Mine and his staff. Miners assembled here to be paid, and when shareholders gathered periodically to view the accounts they would be treated to lavish dinner parties here.
- Turn left on the lane beyond the farm, carrying straight on ahead along the footpath at the end of the lane, crossing the tiny fields at Carnyorth Moor. Ignore the footpaths crossing yours to walk to a T-junction on a lane.
- Turn right on the lane, following it around to the left to walk to Levant Road.
- Turn briefly right on Levant Road, taking the first turn on the left and then bearing right to carry on ahead to the last of the buildings. Take the footpath on the right immediately beyond, carrying straight on ahead through three fields.
- Turn right as you reach Geevor Mine to retrace your steps back up the drive to Pendeen and crossing the road to return to the car park.