The day after that breezy visit to Land’s End, I drove across the Penwith moors to the Lelant mine. But first an excellent lunch of fish soup en-route at the pub in Pendeen This turned out to be a proper Cornish pub, unspoilt by touristic pretensions and all the better for it, where the efficiently charming girl behind the bar turned out to be a photography student from the University at Falmouth. If I remember rightly, she’s experimenting with ‘old-fashioned’ pre-digital picture making. At some point a couple with a dog arrived and reported they’d been walking on the upland moors when they realised a thick mist was coming down fast and the only thing to do was to leave immediately.
It was fine and sunny when I arrived on the cliffs above the mine. It seemed a perfect sort of afternoon for exploring the cliff paths high above the deep blue-green sea below. Relics of the old mining industry are everywhere in these parts and there are some astoundingly deep, and well-guarded, holes connecting to the mine workings which themselves reach out far under the sea bed. A shame, really, to go indoors, but standing close enough to the working beam engine to be able to touch it – which would have been extremely stupid – was well worth it. Lovingly restored and maintained by a devoted team of volunteers, ‘the Greasy Gang’, the engine is the treasure of this modest National Trust site which holds the remains of the once-famous Levant Mine, one of the richest in the area when mining was in its heyday.
They show you a video of the mine underground, a bit of history and geology and a fair taste of what it’s like below ground. I learned here what a zawn is: a deep inlet in the cliffs formed by centuries of pounding by the ocean. One such is Hell’s Mouth, up the coast near Hayle where just the other day a vast chunk of cliff fell into the sea. You’ve probably seen the clip on U-tube.
Coming out of the old mine buildings, I realised the weather was changing, the Pendeen Watch on the far cliffs had disappeared and by the time the car was making its way up the narrow lane inland it was the hills were vanishing and fog was really closing in. There was a surprising amount of traffic on the road to St Just, headlights were needed and where you expected to see the sea on one side and the hills on the other there was a blankness of white. Nothing else to do but make for home carefully, put on the kettle and settle in for the night.