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.

 

Grenofen Bridge

Grenofen Bridge

The photograph above shows the scene looking out of the car park, over the bridge.

 

Disused quarry

Disused quarry

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.

 

Sett maker's banker in the quarry

Sett maker’s banker in the quarry

There are three sett makers’ bankers in the quarry, located right above the high revetment wall that supports the track into the quarry.

 

River Walkham

River Walkham

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.

 

Westdown Mine

Westdown Mine

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!

 

Westdown Mine engine house ruins

Westdown Mine engine house ruins

Another view showing the ruins of the engine house.

 

One of two slits in the chimney base

One of two slits in the chimney base

This photograph is taken looking straight through the chimney …..

 

Looking up inside the chimney - flash photograph

Looking up inside the chimney – flash photograph

 

The chimney seems not to be smoke-blackened, so its function seems a little mysterious.

 

Another view with the spoil heap behind

Another view with the spoil heap behind

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.

 

 

Chute behind the smelting building

Chute behind the smelting building

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 …..

 

 

Slit in the building below the external chute

Slit in the building below the external chute

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.

 

 

Walkham Waterfall

Walkham Waterfall

At one  point, there is a small waterfall in the river, coursing through another dike.

 

Exposed beech tree roots

Exposed beech tree roots

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.

 

Walkers after coffee break, exiting the River Walkham valley

Walkers after coffee break, exiting the River Walkham valley

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!

 

Slope of the wood down the hill

Slope of the wood down the hill

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.

 

Tree fallen by the footpath signpost

Tree fallen by the footpath signpost

 

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.

Google Satellite map + GPS track of the walk

More photographs on Dartmoor CAM web site