What’s Bill been up to?

spig-stopeWho’s Bill? find out more

Walk off the excesses of Christmas and the New Year – enjoy the natural surroundings of Geevor, revel in the rich industrial heritage and check out 4,000 years of archaeology beneath your feet . . . – well, this was what we told the peopl e who were bold enough to come on the first of 2009’s events.

The first of these guided walks took place on Sunday 18th January. We had a lot of publicity – stories in local newspapers and even a live interview on Radio Pasty – but the weather had not been  listening and was awful.  Only three hardy souls turned up to taken for a stroll on the 18th Janauary by Nick Thomas and I.

The weather looked to be bad and worsening so we took them on a walk to the Slimes Plant first. They were the first visitors to go in here for many years as the restoration work was only finished last year.  I suppose that the techniques for recovering very fine grains of tin that otherwise would have been washed out to sea is at best a minority interest, but the visitors were enthusiastic about the building and the weird and wonderful machinery in it – or may be just polite.

As it was almost not raining we set off across the site onto the National Trust land on the east side of Geevor.  Here we looked at the 4,000 year old fire pit discovered in 2006. The people of the Beaker  ulture had some sort of temporary campsite here and used the pit for cooking.  The area had no permanent population then. When they left, they deliberately left pieces of their characteristic pottery – possibly so they could be sure the archaeologists  of the future could identify them accurately.  During the Beaker period in Britain the first bronze objects were made – it would be nice if there was some evidence that they visited Geevor to collect tin and that this marked the start of 4,000 years of tin production here

We walked on in wind and rain to Boscaswell Fogou, one of the enigmatic Iron Age underground structures found in Cornwall and few other places. Recent work by the National Trust has found evidence of previously unknown settlements in the fields below the fogou.  We had copies of some of the geophysical evidence for hut circles in the fields, but the heavy rain and wind meant that we did not examine the site in detail.

We returned to mining history as we crossed onto the area of the old Boscaswell Downs Mine.  Passing on of the blocked adit entrances next to the path, we noted the large amount of water emerging and those of us who had not worn wellies wished we had. We walked west along the Coast Path and Nick pointed out to us one of the exciting features of walking round here – an open mineshaft concealed in the grass within feet of the path.

At the bottom of the Geevor site we saw the famous ‘Blue Cliff’ caused by staining from the copper recovery process used at the nearby Levant Mine. The ruins of the calciner there – used to drive off the arsenic and other impurities from the ore – provided a bit of shelter for a moment before passing on to Levant. We looked at the winding and pumping engine houses and admired the impressive zawn beside them.  No visit to Levant is complete without looking at the Miner’s Dry and the Man Engine Shaft and hearing the story of the disaster of 1919 when 31 miners were lost.

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