Wheal Coates: Is Wheal Coates used in Poldark?
Wheal Coates – 3rd day in Cornwall
Wheal Coates. If any of you love watching the latest BBC TV incarnation of Poldark, you’ve made a friend. But as much as I love watching the programme, when I go to Cornwall this isn’t usually the first place that springs to mind for me. In fact it’s not even the last place I’d contemplate going to. It wasn’t even in my mind. Until now.
After the the previous day’s walking enjoyment, we’d thought we’d take a well deserved chillout day. The thing about a chillout day is that you mean to start out well – chilling. But for me, you can only do that for so long. Four hours of it. And then you start to get itchy feet, despite the lovely view you get of Falmouth.
That was when we decided to go out and do something. Nothing too taxing, mind!
A bit of Cyder?
Not really what I was expecting.
You can have a choice of a guided tour or self-guided tour. Being cheap, we thought we could do our own tour of the Cyder production facility. After paying our fees, we were led to the entrance of what looked like a some sort of oversized barrel. We then proceeded to climb up some stairs inside which eventually led to the start of the production facility. It all went downhill from there. The disadvantage of doing a self-guided tour is that you don’t really get an insight or an appreciation of how Healeys produce their cider as you would with a tour guide talking through each stage of the cider production process. The good part? The disappointment is temporary as you make your way down to the cider shop for some tasting!
However, I’m starting to deviate here.
As much as we like Cornish Rattler, The Cyder Farm was somewhat underwhelming overall, and not a place we’d come back to. We’ll stick to the pub next time. But the day wasn’t a waste. Driving around the area, we noticed the familiar-looking National Trust signs pointing the way to Wheal Coates.
Now Wheal Coates did come up in some of the tourist literature I’d seen online and in the National Trust booklet. Even Ash mentioned it in passing, but it never seemed to peak my interest. But then I remembered the old adage ‘carpe diem‘. Never miss an opportunity! And it was an opportunity I didn’t regret taking.
Initially I didn’t expect much, and the drive to the place only compounded this – it felt like driving on a never-ending country road. Parking up at Wheal Coates did not give any sense of the experience I was about to embark on – it was just a car park surrounded by overgrowth. Looking at the tourist information board nearby indicated Ash’s worst nightmare – walking. And a good several miles of it.
Fortunately for her, I wasn’t very well prepared for a good walk – I decided to wear flip flops for the day. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to explore. Making our way from the car park, we followed a gravel path which seemed to lead through the carpet of heather and gorse moorland….to somewhere……over a cliff and into the sea for all I know. It wasn’t until we walked another 100 yards or so that we caught a glimpse of the barren beauty and history that was to come.
The walk down
It was a struggle for myself walking through this landscape. I guess if you only have a couple of centimetres of foam separating your foot from the mine-strewn ground (not to mention the sole being loosely supported by a Y-strap), anyone would struggle. I guess that’s Ash’s payback for me dragging her out on all these walks. But if there’s history and walking involved, that won’t stop me!
A gentle slope
The walk initially was a very gentle slope down the the first glimpses of the mine. Walking down, I couldn’t help but stay fixated by this against the backdrop of the Atlantic. As we came up against the first lot of ruins, it was plain to see that these structures were built to last, with the intention that mining was here for the long-term. The walls of these structures are at least 1-2 feet thick, and the threatening weather along with the features of the landscape that day gave good reason why. This area is exposed to the elements all year round. Anyone that is used to living on the coast (you may be one of them), especially back then, knows a stable and sturdy structure is needed to protect from the worst.
Once we made our way through the initial dwellings, we made our ways down a particularly rocky path. This took on a much steeper gradient and at this point I was wishing I’d be wearing my Merrells.
However it is very much worth the extra effort and risk. I’d reached the point of no return for me and I pushed on down to lower ground taking a break in between. It was during this break, I managed to catch one of the most beautiful views amongst the layers of heather and gorse carpets and Atlantic waves…
Eventually we made our way down the engine house at the bottom, and it is just as majestic from looking up at it as it was looking down.
After a little bit of exploration of the area, we decided to head back up. I wasn’t wearing the right footwear (sharp debris was already piercing my sole). I’d already slipped three or four times on the loose mining waste on the way down, so I wasn’t prepared to walk any further. The way-marked path, if we took that route would have been 30 mins. I’m not sure my flip flops would have survived the ordeal – they’re only cheap ones.
The walk up
We took a different route. Coming up from the opposite side of upper ground engine house the terrain was even more challenging. The climb was steep and the terrain was even more sharp and rocky. With several obstacles to navigate through.
The saving grace was the beautiful views of heather carpets laid in front of the ruins.
By the time we got back to the car, my feet were cut into shreds, and I had to dip them in warm water as soon as we came back to the apartment.
Moral of the story? Make sure you have hiking shoes in the back of the car at all times. Just in case.
Wheal Coates is a disused tin mine which first opened in 1802, although records indicate a mine of sorts at the site since 1692. However, the mine in its current form continuously worked until its closure in 1889 – a time when the price of tin pretty much crashed. Despite the mine entrance’s elevated location, the main operations extended quite a way below the sea. Because of this, flooding and bringing the tin ore to the surface were the main problems, and continued to be until the introduction of steam powered equipment.
The surviving buildings you can see here date from the 1870’s and some would have housed the steam engine equipment. These are the three engine houses. The Towanroath engine house was used to pump water out of the adjacent 600ft mining shaft. The other two engine houses (Whims) were used to crush any tin ore for processing.
Despite the mine closing in 1889, it transferred to a new owner in 1906 and production started again in 1911, but closed for good two years later. In its heyday 140 people were employed at the mine, but throughout its time, overall Wheal Coates was not a very profitable venture.
Is Wheal Coates used in Poldark?
I guess I really should answer the question. In the strict sense, no. But then cast your mind to the many scenes where Ross Poldark can be seen galloping along the clifftops. Remember? These would have been filmed in nearby Chapel Porth. For a keen eye you would notice some scenes pan out to the cliffs right in front of Wheal Coates. Possibly some shots of the engine houses in the area too. So in the looser sense, you could say yes.
How to get to Wheal Coates
On the South West Coast Path you can get there from St Agnes village. This takes around 30 minutes.
From A30, at Chiverton Cross roundabout, take the B3277 for St Agnes. At roundabout, at the entrance to St Agnes village, turn left and follow brown tourist signs for Wheal Coates. The SatNav postcode we used was
If you’re travelling by bus, I’d suggest go to Traveline South West for up-to-date timetables and to plan your journey. From what I know, most bus services are run by First
The great thing about Wheal Coates is that there’s no admission fee. If you’re coming by car there will be a charge for using the car park. but for just a few quid, you can park all day. If you’re a National Trust member, scan your card at the ticket machine – it’s free. I can’t sing the praises of the National Trust enough. They’re a great organisation and they help preserve the varied heritage of the UK for future generations. Why not join now – membership can cost as little as £5.75 a month!
Although this is not a difficult walk, the area is steep and covered in old, loose mining waste which can be sharp. I found that out the hard way. If you’re planning to walk here, make sure you’re wearing a good pair of shoes at least (walking shoes preferably). And watch your footing!
Although I was ill-equipped that day, Wheal Coates offers a great place for a relatively easy to walk. At the same time it offers a beautiful and dramatic landscape against the backdrop of the Atlantic.
For Poldark fans, you could be disappointed. Although you see it in view on the TV, Wheal Coates isn’t strictly a filming location for the famous TV series. But you shouldn’t discount that from your itinerary.
The old mine is a treasure trove of history, particularly the history of tin mining in this area. And the history of tin mining is synonymous with Cornwall as much as it is linked with the rise and decline of fortunes in this part of England. The mining activity is long gone, and all that is left are empty shells of what was once here. But what has always remained is the landscape and the beauty of the area and that will always last longer than a now-popular TV series.