I live in Truro so I have to hold my hands up and admit being late to the Ponsanooth Party! …a hundred years or so late really as this place would have been awesome back then. It’s very cool now really. A living museum. An insight into an industrial process. A heritage site that hasn’t been made over or Disneyfied in any way. For many it’s just a lovely wood where the trees and rocks carry the weight of millennium spanning mosses and prehistoric ferns. A wood where doggers dog and cottagers cottage. (See Jennifer Saunders sketch for clarification).
It’s taken us an age to get around to a Sunday walk at Kennall Vale and straight away we wondered why we haven’t been before?! We did this walk on a very wet day, it had been raining for days too and this is important to state. The river was roaring! A fantastic torrent tumbling through the mossy valley carving it’s way past winter trees that stretch to the sky like cathedral columns holding up the Farrow & Ball Mole’s Breath No267 ceiling above.
What really makes this place interesting though are the remnants of our forefather’s work in the pursuit of blowing stuff up. There was a time when blowing things to kingdom come made this county the Swiss cheese that it became and the financial success story that we hear about. Where there’s muck there’s brass and in the mud and rocks of Cornwalls depths there was brass and how? Well, certainly the components of bronze! Tin and copper were plentiful and just needed tenacious people to risk life and limb to extract them. …Oh and a shed load of gunpowder!
As you make your way through the valley you encounter a quarry and lots of piles of abandoned stone. There are mysterious buildings that make you wonder who worked here? As you move around the valley you can kind of work out how the river was used and why the industry was located here. The power of the river was a constant source of free energy (who knew we didn’t invent renewables recently) and there are many man made leats taking the water off down channels to feed water wheels. The buildings that used to house the wheels are still there so you can imagine the sort of set up when production was in full swing. For the full fascinating history of the Kennall Vale gunpowder works have a look here.
We had a lovely time exploring and will go back, perhaps on a dry day. Walking around now in what has become a nature reserve it’s hard to imagine what life must have been like here producing gunpowder from saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal. One thing you can’t imagine are the gruesome accidents that went hand in hand with gunpowder production. Again, there are megatons of accounts of this and you can start with the link above if reading about people being blown sky high is your thing!
The quarry is impressive and we wondered what secrets lie at the bottom!! All round a great place for a walk!