Family Outing: Geevor tin mine, Cornwall
Tour the undersea tunnels of Penwith and pan for 'gold'
Sunday 24 October 2004
The largest preserved mining site in the UK. In the far west of Cornwall, on the Penwith peninsula, Geevor is perched on rugged cliffs with workings far out beneath the Atlantic. Geevor was mined until 1990 when a worldwide collapse in the price of tin forced its closure. The gaunt remains of its engine houses make for one of the most spectacular sights in Britain. For nearly a century Geevor played an important role in the communities of Pendeen and St Just: before it closed, the mine was the largest employer in Cornwall. With the help of a grant from the Lottery Fund, the heritage of the mine has been preserved to provide much more than an extensive geology lesson. As much as illustrating the uses of tin and other minerals through the ages, the Heritage Centre shows how local people were shaped by the environment and keeps alive knowledge of the area's strong mining tradition.
Something for children
The underground tour of old mine tunnels will captivate children. They might be a little taken aback at the idea of how, not so long ago, fathers and sons would together work the "lodes" (narrow veins in the rock) for tin, but they will emerge into the daylight with pockets full of rubble that they will swear is gold. There are shaking tables in the mill for them to pan tin, and they can sit at the driver's cabin above the Victory Shaft pulling levers. Penwith itself is packed with activities for children - from pony-trekking and beaches to ice-creams in St Ives and, of course, Land's End, just a few miles from Geevor.
Something for adults
Only the most jaded soul would fail to be moved by the array of old photographs of the miners, working to a depth of 650m and almost a mile out to sea. These were a hardy bunch, paid by the amount of tin they brought up, and they live on in modern-day Geevor. The landscape of granite rock and cliffs against the Atlantic is mesmerising, and the mine is of international significance for its undersea mining techniques. It is easy to see why Penwith has, over the years, inspired so many artists, whose work can be seen in St Ives, Penzance and, on the doorstep of Pendeen, the highly regarded Yew Tree Gallery.
There's a café on the site with a good range of food, not to mention some superb Cornish pasties and one of the best views in the UK. The neighbouring community of Pendeen has two pubs - The North Inn and The Radjel - which are child (and dog) friendly and which serve curries, pizzas and traditional pub fare.
Geevor has a shop selling all things Cornish with the emphasis on tin and pewter gifts. Anyone celebrating 10 years of marriage might find it useful - tin is the marker for the 10th anniversary. There are plenty of books on the history of Cornish tin mining and a host of knick-knacks for children (including some pyrite - better known as fool's gold).
Admission and access
Geevor can get busy in the summer. There are special guided tours for visitors with disabilities, although some areas are not accessible. Guide dogs admitted.
Opening times: 9am-4pm daily, except Saturdays, year-round. Admission prices: adults £6.50, children £4, family ticket (two adults and three children) £17.50.
How to get there
Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 7EW (01736 788662; www.geevor.com).
By car: From Penzance take the main road to St Just (A3071). Follow the brown signs indicating "historic mining area". Continue along the A3071 and fork right on the B3318 to Pendeen. Turn left at the crossroads to drive through Pendeen and turn right at the Geevor main entrance. From St Ives, follow the beautiful coast road (the B3306) through Zennor and Morvah to Pendeen. By public transport: from Penzance, take the No 17 and ask for Geevor Tin Mine, and in summer from St Ives take the No 300 open-top bus. Call 0870-608 2 608 for bus information. The mine offers a 10 per cent discount to visitors arriving by bus.
Penzance is the south-western terminus for mainline trains in Cornwall, which means that it is accessible from all other parts of the country. There is a branch line running from Penzance to St Ives, via St Erth.
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