Saturday, 30 March 2013

In praise of Kit HIll

Another glorious day and I took myself off to Kit Hill this afternoon for some fresh air.  My IWC was otherwise engaged so I had to settle for my second best walking companion - me!  The route I took (our 'normal' route) numbers amongst the ones I like best.  It's only 3 miles long but it's got a bit of everything: panoramic views, wildlife, industrial archaeology, social history, seclusion, exercise and all within just a couple of minutes from home. It was owned (ie taken off the people) by the Duchy of Cornwall from the early 1300s and donated to Cornwall Council (ie given back to the people) in 1985-ish to commemorate the birth of Prince William.  It really is a gem of a place and offers something different every time we walk it.  Today was no exception.  Everyone should have a Kit Hill close by!  

The walk starts with a half mile slog up the track of a disused mineral tramway that used to bring granite from the quarry at the top down to a railway line. Thence to Calstock and the River Tamar (formerly) and the steam line to the docks at Plymouth (latterly).  The knack to negotiating the incline is to get the correct pace to go up without stopping to draw breath.  Today was not one of those days - but I only stopped once. And that was because I heard a skylark (well, that's my story). 

The view from the top of the incline.  I reckon it has a 45 degree angle for most of its length and it always feels an achievement to get to the top in reasonably good shape without any sinister chest pains!  It's my cardiovascular benchmark.

The granite quarry at the top.  It was worked from the early 1800s to the mid-1950s.  It is highly probable that our house was built from stone quarried here.  It's flooded now (obviously) and, to me, always has a tranquil atmosphere.  In total contrast to the hustle and bustle when it was in its prime.

Man has been visiting Kit Hill for at least the last 8000 years and has left a landscape littered with holes, humps and bumps.  Most of which are associated with the mining of various minerals (mainly tin, copper, lead, arsenic, tungsten and silver) or the quarrying of granite. The photograph shows just one of the many inspection pits that were dug when miners were prospecting for productive lodes.  They'd dig a series of these before deciding where to put in the major effort needed for a larger shaft.  The spoil from the excavation forms the hump on the right.

The view roughly north west from where I stood.  The mountains in the distance are some of the tors of Dartmoor and are about 20 miles away. The maximum visibility I've seen from Kit Hill is around 30 miles from the other side looking towards the sea.  Under the best of conditions the lighthouse on the Eddystone Rock 10 miles offshore can be made out

After a little, probably ill-advised, scrambling I climbed down to the entrance to an old adit.  These are horizontal shafts dug into the side of the hill, either following a mineral seam or for drainage of a working area.  Typical of most, this one always has a stream running from it and, as the modern blue pipes show, the the water is being used today.  It has a strong mineral taste which, given its origins, isn't too surprising.

This is the stream which emerges from the adit.  In medieval times, its course was diverted many times as early miners collected tin directly from its bed.  As mining techniques improved, they followed the stream into the hill forming the horizontal adit and accessed the mineral-bearing seams that way.  Further improvements in technology, such as the invention of the steam engine, were necessary before vertical shafts could be used.

How sad.  The kissing gate at the end of the walk and nobody to pucker up for!

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