Thursday, January 23, 2020

Wheal Maid Tailings lagoons

The area around Wheal Maid Tailings lagoons, taking in the complex of Poldice mine, active since the 17th century, and the Poldice valley, is a great place for walking and cycling. Situated about three miles east of Redruth, it's a fascinating area full of the remains of mine workings and steep paths littered with quartz and other minerals.

The lagoons themselves revealed themselves to us completely by chance one day, when we'd accidentally walked a different route to our usual Poldice mine walk. It was as if we'd entered a parallel universe; we couldn't figure out how we'd never spotted the lagoons, and several engine houses nearby, before. We spotted the lagoons from the top of the hill, looking down at them at the bottom of the valley. It was an alien landscape of greys, yellows and reds. The amazing colours of the lagoons occur due to the water evaporating, leaving the waste remains of the various mined minerals including copper, tin, pyrite, zinc and arsenic. Needless to say, though the area is safe for walking around, the earth and water is toxic.

Wheal Maid was used as recently as the 1970s and 80s to dispose of waste from two nearby mines, Mount Wellington and Wheal Jane. It was sold to Gwennap Parish Council in 2002 for £1 (presumably so the owners, Carnon Enterprises, wouldn't have to clean up their mess).

The area forms part of the Minerals Tramways Coast to Coast cycle route from Portreath to Devoran, a 14 mile ride mostly along tracks and paths, so hardly any traffic is encountered. There are cafes along the way, including several places for hiring bikes too. At Twelveheads (a 15 minute walk from the lagoons) there is a fine, and brilliantly placed (all the hundreds of times we've said at the end of a tiring walk: 'If only there was a cafe here!' Well here there actually is) outdoors cafe called Bon Appetit.

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