Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Baker's Pit

I gave F warning that when he got home this morning, he could expect to be dragged off somewhere with Little Dog and I. And we did...

We went to Baker's Pit, a Cornwall Wildlife Trust site that lies between St Michael's Mount and St Ives on the old pilgrim's way. The back bone of Cornwall is made of granite and these hills are home to heathland and acid peat bogs. In between the hills lie heavily wooded valleys often with willow carr (a habitat featuring water and willow trees mixed together) and little rivers.

In some places water got into the granite and weathered it. In these places the clay has been weathered into clay deposits. St Austell is famous for it's clay pits and clay tips with the Eden project built in an old pit. I didn't know that other parts of Cornwall had been mined for clay, until today.

Baker's Pit is an old clay pit that sits between granite hills. The water has that orange colour that tells of water draining off from peat. trees grew round the edge of the lake. We sat on a concrete jetty and ate our sandwiches. Little Dog galivanted happily, in and out of the water.

It was a beautiful spot our camera couldn't do justice. The pit would be lovely to explore in a canoe but apart from this small area by the jetty it was inaccessible without causing damage and disruption and possible injury.

We made our way back to the main path and followed a fork that lead through some small fields around the top of the pit. Gates and stiles lead between fields and then into boggier land. The path came here, where it lead through a tiny ruin (on the left). Little Dog was turning into a Bog Dog with black paws and ran through the bog in the picture and back through the ruin several times.

The trees began to clear and we found ourselves on open heath as we neared the top of the hill. Behind us we could see the sea around St Ives. As we reached the top we could see the sea at Mount's Bay. The photo below actually shows Mounts Bay and Penzance....Paths zig zagged all over the area and once we reached the top we started to circle round. We passed fields of cows, mine ruins and a lone chimney. Our sense of direction was good enough that we ended up back at the car. Looking at the map I still can't see exactly where we went. I don't think all the paths and tracks are marked. Looking at the reserve map however we appear to have done the full circuit of the reserve....

It was lovely and Little Dog and F seem rather tired now...

The pits were started, in the main, in the early 1800s but one pit in the area was working in 1758. In 1868 the pits changed owners and pumping began. Sand was separated first and taken away and slurry was placed in settling tanks to separate the clay. The best quality mica rich clay was dried in a kiln. Some of the waste was sent to be made into bricks.

Work stopped for the Great War and never really got going again. It passed into the hands of English China Clays which later became Imerys. Work stopped in 1942. Imerys gifted the site to Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2000.

Within the reserve there are also Early Bronze Age Barrows, low stony banks from a prehistoric field system and an iron age banjo enclosure (the only one in Cornwall). Banjo enclosures were funnel shaped and probably used for livestock but theories include farming settlements or seasonal ritual centres where feasting occured. I think this counts as an ancient site where people lived....

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