Caroline Wheal Prosper

Leader: S. Holley

In ideal weather, warm air from the south, a dozen DTRG members gathered at the meeting place on time and having perused Stephen’s informative notes (illustrated with Phil Newman’s survey drawings) we set off down a tree-lined track to the Dean Burn. We crossed it via a clapper bridge consisting of two large granite stones, on each a chiselled date: 1703 and 1972. Robert told us that there was just one stone here when he was a youngster. We took the well made trackway up hill. Through a gate we continued passing the abandoned remains of Lambsdown Farm on our right. We noted its unusually long and narrow field. The track finished at a dip into a small valley with a stream. On the higher side, to the right, were mounds and heaps of rocks, tell-tale signs of mining activity.

Here Stephen lead us onto a linear embankment, stating that this was probably an inclined tramway. We followed its course uphill reaching the distinctive volcano-shaped crater of a filled in shaft, William’s Shaft – dug in 1856 to a depth of, “18 fathoms, unable to obtain a hoped for 100 fathoms”. The mine closed the following year. A few yards down hill Stephen pointed out the entrance to “short adit”. It is dry.

We continued down back to the trackway and having permission we clambered over the fence onto private land to continue following the inclined tramway. Here, in the little valley, there’s a second adit, “middle adit” and from its mouth a stream flowed. This wouldn’t have drained “William’s shaft” as it hadn’t been built long enough to reach it. We entered a wood still walking down the inclined way. After awhile it came to an abrupt end. A modern forestry track had bulldozed it out of existence. We crossed to the other side of the little valley and took a different track.

On the opposite side we could see the linear cut of the line we’d been following. We were soon at the confluence of the stream and Dean Burn, where some just discernible remains, notably a raised platform, made an appearance. Deep in the woods the light was gloomy. Clambering onto this and then and above it on to a terraced area it was like we’d found a lost village in a jungle. Under the ivy, amongst the many trees, thick moss, ferns and lush vegetation lay a series of rectangular and shaped settling pits or buddles.

A huge building loomed over the site, this turned out to be the wheel house. Peering inside, it’s enormous like a Medieval castle hall. At floor level a magnificent archway is set halfway along one side – the outlet tunnel for the tailrace. Documents suggest this powered a second water wheel but there are no obvious remains of the wheel pit now. At the hillside end, hidden under a rock fall, is the large entrance of “Deep Adit”, because of the rockfall it’s difficult to see.

(N.B. Afterwards, studying the LiDAR data, I found the course of a leat – this would have powered the wheel house water-wheel.)

Having explored the terraced areas we leapt across the Dean Burn to inspect the moss covered ruins of a row of three building remains, of mortared shale slate stone, a powder house sited a little distance away and the pier of a bridge. From this vantage point it became apparent that the settling pits and wheel house were built on the top of a large area of levelled and terraced spoil heaps.

In the 1850’s, when men were building the wheel house, a gold coin of Henry VI (1422-61, 1470-71) was found. It seems likely there was an earlier mine here. The gold coin however may have been dropped by an abbot lost in the mist and slightly off course, the course of the Abbot’s Way being near by.

Somehow we found the energy to scramble up the scrubby wood hillside. Stephen led us into a field, which we crossed and then left by a gate. Our vehicles were just down the road.

The sun was still warm and we’d had a good time especially having exercised muscles ordinary walks don’t reach!

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