We decided to take the kid to see a big hole, so this week we took ourselves off to Carnglaze Caverns. As far as big holes go, it did not disappoint. Set in a beautiful and peaceful old quarry and dug far under the surrounding woodlands and fields, Carnglaze (Cornish for “blue rock pile”) is a stunning slate mine.
Early 18th century – 1903, slate was mined but tin production continued through to 1911. The mine in it’s latter years was purchased by it’s manager, subsequently the work sheds and coal store were turned into a family home by his son and grandson. Carnglaze was opened to the public as a visitor attraction in 1973.
It’s Fun to Stay at the C.A.V.ERN…
We checked in at the ticket office and were issued our regulation map board and hard hats (the smallest of which, re-named Hattie, spent a large proportion of it’s time falling from it’s intended use to the floor) and started our structured, self tour (some may say obviously) at #1 the owners house. We felt a little uncomfortable staring in through the window of the still inhabited house. Whilst reading the first information sheet, we wondered if they were looking back at us and regretting the decision to open to the public all those years back. Donning our safety head gear and looking a bit like the village people, we moved on, into the cavern, picking up my daughters “one size fits all” hat for the first time and placing it back on her tiny head.
A Good Old Fashioned Cornish Rock Concert…
As we passed through the entrance, we were immediately met by a staggering concert hall ahead. The rum store, once completely backfilled and created from mining the slate this hillside had to offer, is now an unbelievably unique space for performers, revered for it’s incredible acoustics. Today we found it a hive of activity, preparing the space for an elaborate Alice in Wonderland themed wedding. It looked amazing. I found myself secretly resenting the fact I hadn’t thought of that for our wedding all the while I was supposed to be learning about the various forms of rocks and minerals they had on display. You may or may not be pleased to read that this is exactly why I have not written about this part of the tour.
Honey, There are Bats in the Rum Store…
I was snapped out of my preoccupation by my daughters hat hitting the ground and by a large notice about bats. I do like bats, some don’t but I think they are quite sweet. The notice read, that at one stage, bats filled these caverns but with the arrival of the rum during WWII they all disappeared, apparently not liking the smell (this made me laugh), the rum was eventually removed and they returned to their former home. Hiding in the deepest darkest corners, you’ll be lucky if you see one and for us with a very noisy threenager who insisted on whispering so very loudly, it was a lost cause (*if you visit they do ask you not shine any light into the dark corners of the caverns so as not to disturb the wildlife). For all you keen wildlife spotters, the batty inhabitants known to be residing here are as follows: Lesser Horseshoe, Greater Horseshoe, Brown Long-eared, Pipistrelle and Noctule.
We replaced the hat, patting it down firmly and walked on.
“What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor?”…
Slightly disappointed by the lack of libation it’s name would suggest to be on offer, we moved out of the rum store to the Cathedral Chamber Landing. Again met by another incredibly grand and I’m going to say, beautiful (in an odd way) chamber. Not unlike some alien landscape we looked down into the cavern and I felt like I was in a episode of Star Trek (original of course). Descending now to the lower level, we not so much swept elegantly down the grand stair case as slipped and clambered hanging on to the cold railings as we went.
Fortunately, still in one piece, we found ourselves standing on the lower level and at the first of two pools.
Secret Underground Day Spa…
“Baby Pool” is a hollowed out chamber that is slowly filled by rainfall on the fields above, trickling through cracks and fissures in the slate before seeping back out again and into the valley. There’s a clear vision here of the men and boys aged 14 – 35 working this slate mine. The younger, charged with holding the drill bar against the rock whilst their elders would hit the steel shaft hard with sledge hammers – I am left to wondering how many times the swing was miscalculated at the drill workers expense. At the end of the day when the holes were sufficiently drilled the charge would be laid and and the blasting would begin. Until steam haulage was installed in it’s later years, the slate slabs would have to be dragged or carried up and out. We muse out loud on this ‘hard work’ and compare it to today’s tough working conditions. For my husband, sitting at his desk working on websites and photography, occasionally interrupted by the odd game on the virtual reality rig the slog is real. As I bend down to pick up “Hattie”, my girl brain wanders to the wedding prep going on upstairs, I am still jealous.
Does My Bum Look Big in These Stalactites?…
We make our way over to the “Mother Pool” picking up the hat a further 3 times before arriving not 10 yards on and hopeful of stumbling upon a lost sledge hammer. The third mining chamber, houses the bluest pool, so beautiful you want to jump in and totally reminiscent of the boat scene in Phantom of the Opera. Amazingly this water is the only supply to the owners house and the entire property. Above you can see baby stalactites and at 150 years of age they have reached a grand length of about 10cm long, reaching their full majesty in about 30,000 years. I feel young and inconsequential acknowledging this, it’s not a bad feeling.
Photo credit: http://www.carnglaze.com
“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
With everything to be seen – squinted at and eventually seen, we voted on a walk through the enchanted glen and made for the blinding light piercing through the entrance. Blinky eyed, we returned our hats and with a tearful good bye to ‘Hattie’ we ascended not so ethereally into the glen. There are many different routes to take and secret parts to explore as you make your way through the forest, I am therefore not going to spoil the surprises and delights that this short walk has to offer. All I will say is it helps if you believe in faeries and if not, well it’s still pretty idyllic.
For us, believing in the wee forest folk is mandatory and we finished the day on a elaborate faerie hunt – we heard many and saw few plus 1 x dragon.
I’d imagine in the height of the holiday season, it gets pretty busy here, although I wouldn’t necessarily be put off. The price is reasonable and there are a few well stocked vending machines (no cafe) incase hunger strikes, along with a small gift shop. You can easily loose as few hours here but if you have youngsters that get bored easily, it needn’t be a lengthy attraction to visit.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl 1916 – 1990.