On Monday 25th September, eighteen of us set out from Grenofen Bridge under a broken-cloud sky that turned later to full sunshine. I mustn’t say a word about the righteous! It had rained the previous day and for some days before that so there was some mud on the path and track to contend with. We left the car park and walked around the rear of Lower Grenofen into the wood. The first thing we saw were signs of a leat down beside the river where it originated and eventually ran almost the entire length of the valley, being used initially perhaps to supply water for very old (possibly medieval?) stream-working to extract tin. It was almost certainly used in the mid-1800s in tin and copper mining operations because when they eventually finished a 30-foot water-wheel was sold.
The photograph above shows the scene looking out of the car park, over the bridge.
Inside the elvan quarry. There also seems to be a very dense black mineral here as well, in chunks below the dark-coloured rock face.
There are three sett makers’ bankers in the quarry, located right above the high revetment wall that supports the track into the quarry.
The photograph above is looking back up-river and shows a number of dikes of the harder elvan running across the river as low “dams”. They persist whereas the softer surrounding rock, a form of slate, has eroded away with water action.
First view of Westdown Mine. There are ruins of an engine house to the right, with a spoil heap and filled-in shaft just outside the photograph. I have not ascertained how the system worked – there are two small slots in the walls of the chimney, in direct line with the engine house. In a “proper” i.e. Cornish engine house, the chimney stack was almost next to the engine, not at a distance from it. Further investigation is needed!
Another view showing the ruins of the engine house.
This photograph is taken looking straight through the chimney …..
The chimney seems not to be smoke-blackened, so its function seems a little mysterious.
The mine was set up by the West Downs Consolidated Mining Company in 1847, to work a 2 x 1 mile sett, with a shaft that suffered from water seepage. In 1850, a new shaft was dug down to 60 fathoms (120 feet). This shaft also suffered from water and a small steam engine was installed in the building. It is recorded that a burning house was damaged when equipment was removed in compensation for unpaid mineral dues in 1850. The venture failed and closed down by early-1852. Source: Stephen Holley, Dartmoor Tinworking Research Group Newsletter No. 52, May 2017, page 8.
Further down the valley is a large ore-processing complex, where it seems that red tin slimes are still present, colouring the water and mud on the track that runs past the buildings. The photograph above shows the opening of a chute at the rear of the building …..
Inside the building, below the chute outside, there is a slot in the wqall where crushed ore, from the nearby stamping floor(?) could be fed in for further processing.
A new company, the East Wheal Bedford Mining Company, started in Feb. 1853 with a shaft that was up on West Down but it closed down in Feb. 1854. This was followed in Oct. in the same year by the Sortridge & Bedford Mine whose shaft reached 300 feet in depth, only to close again in 1857/1858. This series of operations seems to have used a lot of money from investors for little or no return. Source: Dartmoor Tinworking Research Group Newsletter No. 52, May 2017, page 9.
At one point, there is a small waterfall in the river, coursing through another dike.
In this region, the bedrock (slate) is exposed and where it has a thin covering of soil, as pictured above, trees hang on grimly for their survival.
The photograph above was taken just after a short break, about halfway around the 2-hour walk. As we set off again, it was noted that we had 30-minutes remaining – someone had been doing too much talking along the way!
Once back in the wood, we were reminded again of the slope that we had walked up in order to see West Down, with its sea of bracken.
Right at the end of the walk, we encountered a fairly recently fallen tree, right beside the signpost where we had to turn right to get back down to the river and then back to the car park.