Cornwall Through the Eyes of a Novice
By Ann Allen
Cornwall March 2008

Having just been told, that I had found a really nice mineral, by Bob in the shed, and had also had a taste of the Sloe Gin, plus feeling quite happy, I agreed to write about the NMLS trip to Newquay.

I wasn’t ever asked to go on this trip to stay with Sheila and Steve, but 12 months ago, I was told I was going.

Thursday 6th March

Lesley and I arrived at Dicks and loaded the luggage, and we were off. First to pick up Martin, who took over the driving, and then on to Fakenham for Bob.

Having been so many times before, the Sat Nav was not needed. It was however tried out, just to see if it agreed with the driver. With a stop for lunch and a few complaints about the lorries, we made very good time, and just outside Gloucester, Richard  Bell and Jeanette caught up with us, having started from Formby in Lancashire.

We were visiting Richard Fry of Meiji Tecno, at Axbridge, near Cheddar. By about 4.00pm we were in his show room, catching up on news and a chat about microscopes, having a nice cup of tea and a beautiful view over a reservoir and countryside towards Glastonbury Tor.

After this it was on to Cheddar, and with a difficult turn into the car park with the trailer, we were welcomed at the B&B, Richard had booked for us all by pricking a pin into a list. He had done very well as all the rooms were very comfortable, and as we found out at breakfast the next morning; the landlady was interested in Minerals and Archaeology.

After resting and another cup of tea, we were back to Axbridge to join Richard Fry and his friends and we were also joined by Mike & Jenny Jackson for a meal, and very nice it was.

After our first night both Lesley and I were pleased to find out that neither of us snored. Anyway in the morning by 9.00am we took the ‘pretty’ way to Glastonbury. In the fields and meadows nearly every tree was covered in Mistletoe, something we don’t see much of in Norfolk.

We stopped in Glastonbury to visit Mike Jackson in his shop, and after having a cup of tea and a good look at his stock and display. Some of us were tempted to buy and Mike was tempted to meet us later on the beach at Sidmouth.

The Beach at Sidmouth
This is me, an Action Shot
The sun and tide were both out, but the expected cliff falls were not there. After a good long walk up the beach, one or two heaps were left. Lesley and I found some nice pieces of calcite, that we were happy with, though it needed a strong man to break some of them.

By the time we had carried the specimens back to the car, we rather wished we had not found quite so much.

Sitting on the wall talking to Mike, waiting for everyone else to catch up, his large lump of calcite fell from his backpack onto the rocks below. Luckily all it did was break into two halves and was not damaged. It was also good for me as he gave me a piece.

Bob had waited at the car and had kept himself amused by watching men painting a hotel and making a really bad job of it

Mike Jackson sometimes likes to collects Micromounts
It was then a straight drive down to Newquay, where we were welcomed at the Chichester at about 5.00pm, and I immediately felt at home. Dinner was shop cooked Fish and Chips and lots of pots of tea, our holiday had started.
Saturday 8th March 2008

After breakfast and under a dull sky, we had a nice ride to our first collecting site, Holmbush Mine near Callington. Not much was found on either the spoil heaps around the mine, or over the road in the woods. We were though kept amused till lunchtime, when it started to rain. After a quick lunch we left for the short drive to Liskeard, for a meeting of the Southwest branch of the BMS. Richard, Martin and the rest of the BMS members of our group were soon catching up with all the local news.

Back at Sheila’s, the other members started to arrive Alan and Sue Edwards from Norfolk, Simon came in from Essex and John Fisher arrived home from a days shell collecting. Our party was now complete; the only snag was the weather forecast was dreadful. Storms, rain and galeforce winds were on the menu for the Southwest coast.

Holmbush Engine House
Sunday 9th March 2008

The wind was quite strong but there was no rain, so off we went to the cliff top site of Wheal Cock near St. Just. It was very cold but the sun was shining on the beautiful views over the sea. Rocks were broken and holes scrapped out until it was time for lunch of sandwiches, fruit and plenty of tea.

As the wind had dropped, some of us walked with Steve along the cliff path to Wheal Drea.  Steve explained about the tunnels that took the arsenic away from the mine, these had been repaired. He also pointed out other things including flowers that we would have missed or not known about. The view towards Cape Cornwall meant more photographs before a walk along the valley, with again lots of flowers and lichens we came to the others at Wheal Drea.

They were all digging and hammering. It was pleasant and warm on the spoil heap and even I found some ‘nice rocks’, and later found that one of them was a lovely specimen of Siderite. Just before it was time to leave, Alan took to the air like a glider and flew into the bracken below. He was very lucky to miss all the rocks, and no one laughed of course!!!!!

After dinner, Lesley and I spent some time in the shed with John and Bob, breaking up the finds. John and Simon had spent the day collecting plenty of shells, but seemed to be happy to help us to look at our minerals.

Crown Houses, Botallock Mine, St Just
Monday 10th March 2008

We awoke to the promised gales and rain, so after much discussion over breakfast and listening to the local radio which was saying that roads were blocked and flooded, trees were down, we abandoned the planned collecting trip and five of us headed for the safety of the Eden Project.

John and Simon thought the gales might throw up some good shells if they could get near to a beach, so they went their separate ways to us. Bob stayed at home in the warm and dry.

The Eden Project
Green Lizard
The day had brightened and by mid afternoon we left the Eden Project for a trip to the north coast, which was suggested as the route back to Newquay. It was quite a drive over a new area and we managed to park at the buildings at Bedruthen Steps. It was very cold and the wind was so strong you could hardly stand up to watch the amazing waves breaking over the cliffs below.

We carried on to Watergate Bay where the cars in the Carpark looked as if they were covered in snow, with the creamy white foam that was blowing up from the beach. It looked like a blizzard, but a few hardy folk went down to the beach. If you were lightweight like me, you were just blown back by the wind. One time when a bag of rocks would have been useful. No minerals, but a very good day.

The main roads were quite clear and every now and then a patch of blue sky showed up. We were able to park very close to the domes. These were fascinating places, hot and airless in the tropical part with plenty of opportunities for photographs of Cocoa, Bananas and even some green Lizards. These caused a bit of competition as to who could spot them. Martin found the first one, but Richard Bell found the ones that stayed still the longest.

Watergate Bay
Tuesday 11th March 2008

The ‘Ladies’, who were always up and about first (cup of tea at 6.00am), had a walk to the sea before breakfast.

It was still very rough and we were a bit later leaving, but after a short drive, we spent an hour or two at Poldice Mine. Nothing much was found but there was a board explaining about the mines, paths and history of the area.

We then went to meet Sheila and lunch at Ting Tang Mine, another nice sheltered site with views, lots of finds although it had been well turned over. There were some nice coloured bits, which make it much easier for me to know what to look for. Another advantage was that parking was very much closer.

Porthoustock Quarry
Wednesday 12th March 2008

Today we were finally able to go to Porthoustock Quarry, which had been put back because of the weather on Monday.

This was a lovely drive, past many chimneys and engine houses. Richard and Martin, knowing all the names and pointing out all the various points of interest as we passed. The quarry is right by the sea, which was by now so calm and beautiful with different shades or green and blue, and gannets diving for food.

It was quite a long slope down to the quarry from the car park, to the first collecting area, and after lunch we moved up to a second location, wading through clay and water underfoot. Once again the bags were heavy to carry except for Martin, who was very proud to have only a little bag.

A diversion was now suggested to Kennack Sands, as we were fairly close. The tide was out and lots of lovely serpentine rocks and pebbles shinning in the sun. I had got a few in a bag and Sue was looking for green ones. Lesley was taking photographs and I had also got one nice big chunk that I had hidden in the back of the car. Then Martin sent me back for another lump that that he had found for me. More to hide!!

Mike had been with us again today, and he now had a long drive back to Glastonbury, so we went our separate ways.

Back home to find that a heavy shower had soaked Steve after we had left him waiting for Sheila to say goodbye and thank you to the quarry manager.

The ‘Shell men’ had also had a good day, and some of us had a look at their finds in the shed after dinner, with Bob complaining about the smell, although he was enjoying all the shell fish they cooked for him

Thursday 13th March 2008

It was wet and misty so no walk before breakfast. Today we were off to Wheal Mary Ann except for Richard and Jeanette, who decided to do some sight seeing. Bob fancied his crosswords in the dry, but John and Simon thought they would brave the weather with us.

Tony met us at the site and we saw the deep trench where he had had his accident last year. Seeing the place it was amazing he was not hurt much more. I wonder, are all mineral collectors mad? Alan and Martin went off to a higher grassier area looking for green Pyromorphite and wulfenite. The rest of us took to the wet muddy heaps. It was quite sheltered and not at all cold and you were so busy hunting and hammering you did not notice the rain, until we stopped for lunch and saw the state we were in. Some, more than others, covered in wet ginger mud, but we had got some nice pieces. After lunch we went back for another hour, which really was a mistake as it meant another heap that every time I left had other folk adding to it knowing that I can’t leave good and shiny rocks behind?

Tony then invited us to follow him to his house, easier said than done, as he shot off so quick that we got lost. We eventually found him and his garden with ducks and a crane (bird not machine). He was handsome, but not very friendly (bird not Tony).

Not many people have a mine in their garden, some including me, would not want one, but we were taken to the one that Tony has. Electric lights all the way. It’s about 200yards long and still going. Sorry can’t give more information as my eyes were shut (Ann does not like dark holes in the ground- MRS).

Back to the house and a very welcome cup of tea and a look at Tony’s collection. Lots of beautiful galena, and a plaster cast of a big cats footprint. So there are big cats wondering around Cornwall!!!!

We all had lots of things to break up in the shed tonight after looking at photographs on the Lap Top, taken earlier in the week

West Wheal Mary Ann Mine
West Wheal Mary Ann Mine
Friday 14th March 2008

Today, Hingston Down Quarry. It was very foggy so we had no views. Bob came with us today and Martin went off snake hunting with Robbie. We met Tony at the quarry and he had kindly brought me a Hessian sack in case I collected a few more rocks. Bob and Alan got a lift into the quarry, where there was some very noisy machinery working. What a shame it was too misty to see much of it.

More mud today, but at least it is grey, we do get variety. Rocks big and hard, not so good for us ladies. Jeanette found a lovely one and with Steve’s help got it to Bob for him to break up. She gave us all pieces, including Toffee Opal.

The men spent most of the time on a few big rocks and before leaving, Lesley, Sue and I paddled through slimy grey water up to the top of our wellies, according to Richard, like ‘scavenging vultures’ to collect lovely bits especially the coloured Bornite they had left.

It was a long walk back to the cars with our heavy bags and I was glad of my sack from Tony. After a welcome cup of tea from Sheila and a tidy up, muddy again, there was a suggestion that we call into Trago Mills shopping warehouse centre on the way home. Sue and Alan had been before and found it interesting. It is a big place with grounds with streams and chickens running around, and as we tried to find the entrance, Sue and I caught sight of a couple at the doorway watching us in amazement. We then glanced at the eight of us wandering along in all our glory and could see why. We were not the smartest or most elegant advert for Norfolk. It was a huge place selling everything you could think of.

Sadly this was our last evening together as Sue, Alan and John were leaving early Saturday.

Then it was off to the Tresavean mine. The owner had given us permission to go in and Robbie led the way, offering lots of encouragement to me and Simon, who also turned out not to like dark holes in the ground. Being a bloke he did not get it and one by one we put on our underground equipment and started to descend the first ladder way through a little hole in the ground.

When we reached the first staging, Robbie said to me look up, to see a colourful stripe of rock. My safety hat then fell of and went bumping down and down for what seemed forever. He then disappeared after it to try and retrieve what was left, and to my surprise the only thing missing was the rim of the lamp.

By this time Martin had gone down to below the bottom ladders, where he was waiting for us to descend. He said to hurry up as he was standing in a waterfall

After lots of ladders and a long tunnel, we came to a most beautiful sight. Amazing green, blue colours and shapes covering the walls floor and ceilings, some with tiny drops of moisture that shone like stars. We went into this part in twos and threes to try and keep the condensation down. This meant waiting for a time in a small area where Robbie demonstrated what is was like for the miners by lighting one candle as we turned our lights out.

Then began the return journey up and out to daylight and fresh air, which to me was a great relief. Even now as I am handwriting this note, my hands are shaking, but it was worth every minute.

Main Ladderway into Tresavean Mine
Just a Few of the Wonderfull Scenes from the Underground Level

Saturday 15th March 2008

No three course breakfast for me today, as we were going to go down Tresavean Mine. Not such an early start either. First we drove to meet Robbie at his flat, passing more engine houses. After a nice cup of tea, we set off once more to Tresavean, stopping on the way to look at the remains of the South Wheal Francis mining area. Lots of it is in good repair, but bigger than I had expected. With the help of Robbie’s explanations we could see a little of how it all worked. What had looked like a garden pond was infact where the miners had bathed when coming off shift.

Simon found some tiny pointed snails and Lesley took photos of the blue and green copper coating on the walls. The site is in a lovely setting, with fields of daffodils around.

After saying our goodbyes to Robbie, it was time for our last collecting trip of the holiday. We discovered that the sandwiches Sheila had prepared were still back at the Chichester, what a disaster! After a bit of as rummage we found a few bits and pieces in bags, which kept the hungry ones going.

We reached the National Trust car park at Crantock Beach and walked inland to look for slag from the remains of Gannel Smelter site. It was sunny and the sand was firm. The sea was blue and it was lovely to be out. Buzzards were flying overhead and lots of little bags were filled, come of which turned out later, to have some very nice things in.

A quick trip to the supermarket to get some goodies for the return journey, and it was back to Sheila’s for our last evening meal, and to pack everything into the trailer.

The Gannel Estuary near Newquay
Sunday 16th March 2008

Everyone was about early today for our last breakfast. Goodbyes to Steve, Sheila and Simon, and we were off to Bromsgrove. It was a good journey, dull and cloudy, but lots to see. Ponies on the moors, the Severn Bridge, and a tall statue on a hill in Somerset. The meadows around the Tewksbury area were all flooded, and there was not much traffic on the motorway.

We arrived at Roy Starkey’s at 12.00 noon, just 5 minutes later than the Sat Nav. had told us. After admiring his mineral collection, we had a delicious lunch.

The members of the Midlands branch of the BMS started to arrive for their meeting and we saw an interesting film of Roy’s trip to the Tucson Show in America. Pictures of huge minerals put our little specimens to shame, but we had had the pleasure of getting wet and muddy, collecting them.

We left at 5.00pm; saying our goodbyes to Richard and Jeanette, and had an easy drive back to Fakenham, with one last laugh. Dick had been asleep in the rear seat most of the way back, but was awakened in a hurry as we pulled in for diesel. He proceeded to fall out head first with Martin and Lesley catching his head. I got his feet and Bob was in the front doubled up with laughter.

A quick cup of tea at Bobs, and we dropped Martin off in Lyng. We were back at Dicks transferring Lesley’s treasures and mine into our cars, which took some time. Travelling home, my lights were shining into the branches of the trees, should have put some rock in the front perhaps!!!!

That was that. A really great holiday. It had been a special time for me with lots of new experiences, and with the help of the eleven friends at the Chichester and including Mike, Tony and Robbie on some of the trips it exceeded all my expectations.
My list of finds includes: Calcite, Quartz, Serpentine, Pyrite, Galena, Siderite, Goethite, Green and Blue bits, sea shells and Granite and the list from the true collectors.

My companions on the trip were: Lesley Haines, Dick Belson, Martin Stolworthy, Bob Snowball, Richard Bell, Jeanette Inkin, Alan & Sue Edwards, John Fisher and Simon Taylor and at various times Robbie Selley, Tony Aldworth and of course Steve Hebdige and Sheila Harper

Martin Stolworthy copied this note from original handwritten one and hopes he got all the words in the right places.

July 08