Our last walk before lockdown was along the cliffs of Mounts Bay near Rinsey. It was a perfect autumn day with fabulous views all the way to The Lizard to the east and Gwennap Head to the west.
Mounts bay – the largest Bay in Cornwall
This walk is set in the cusp of Mounts bay, is perfect to explore ruined mine engine houses that rival Botallack and take in the views of the largest Bay in Cornwall. It’s a total contrast to our walk last week when we explored the rugged smuggling coves near Prussia and Piskies Cove.
Our walk from Rinsey
We parked in the National trust car park just above Rinsey (Porthcew) Cove. The car park was full of battered and not so battered vans that disgorged excited surfers heading for the sandy cove below.
Our route led up on to the heathland though, to take the broad dry path up towards Wheal Prosper.
This engine house high on the cliff above Porthcew was used as a pumping house from 1860 – 1866. The short working life was brought about by the collapse of mining in this area. If you would like to see a similar working Beam Engine the National trust Site at Levant is well worth a visit. Wheal Prosper was made famous by its appearance the original series of Poldark.
The Poldark connection
Poldark is a wild romantic tale of Cornish mining written by Winston Graham if you have missed it – although as a Cornwall fan you must have been on a desert island. Still the famous book series has enjoyed two revisions as television dramas so far and captured fans from around the world.
Wheal Trewavas mine
This spectacular group of Engine houses perch on cliffs, nearly a nearly a hundred feet above the sea. Copper was mined here from 1860 – 1866 The Old Engine Shaft was in use by 1834 and The New Engine Shaft in 1836. Take great care not to leave the path when exploring this site though. A number of shafts have been identified, there are still others hidden in the undergrowth. Full details of the Grade II Scheduled Monument listing
The last dinner party of Wheal Trewavas
But it isn’t the spectacular melancholy of the abandoned site that has lived long in fact and Chinese whispers but the story of a catastrophic diner party.
Now there are at least two versions of the story! The tributer’s (investors) always held a annual celebration supper at the furthest extent of the mine workings under the sea.
The first version tells of the sea bursting through with the adventurers barely escaping the torrent with their lives.
The second tells of sea water trickling in, as the table is set and the party abandoned to its fate. For either version a table with fine silver still lays beneath the waters of Mounts Bay to this day. Then temper the story of the rich mine that had yielded £100.000 worth of ore (£10 million in today’s money). The workings had been forced dangerously close to the sea bed as the rich seams of ore were exhausted. Hints of a hoax and unpaid dues to the Duchy (who owned the sea bed) combine with the last dividends paid by bank overdraft make for an intriguing story of duplicitous deeds! I’ll leave you to decide!
The minerals that shaped the landscape
Molten granite forced its way through the softer slate to the surface here. These days it provides multiple headlands to admire the view. Views today that are enhanced by the brooding engine houses left from the days when miners explored the tin and copper locked within the rocks.
Wheal Prosper exploited four rich copper deposits and one tin that stretched under the seabed. Look along the cliffs as you walk for clear bands of strata made as the rocks cooled.
Another feature is the rock known as the Bishop or affectionately known by locals the as camel – I suppose it depends on your perspective at the time!
The south west Coastal path stretched onwards and we could spot Porthleven and two intriguing beaches in front of us. But for us it was time to retrace our steps, just in time to steel and hour in the hot sunshine perched above Rinsey cove.
Exploring Mounts Bay – follow the South West coastal path
To explore more of West Cornwall with us why not check out our journals on our “Exploring page” devoted to our local finds?!
The views to the Lizard Peninsular are spectacular throughout this walk. And Mounts Bay is a time capsule of the centuries that shaped Cornwall. From Volcanic eruptions to mining industry; from smuggling to fishing. All have left their mark along this beautiful coastal footpath.
Imagine for a minute, a century or so ago with the smoke rising from the mine chimneys around Mounts Bay. A ring of industry that cumulated in Wherrytown in Penzance.
Directions to Rinsey
- From the A394 Penzance to Helston road turn seaward at Ashton
- Fork right at the small hamlet
- Follow the narrow lane to the National Trust Car Park
- Turn eastwards to follow the coastal footpath towards Wheal Prosper
- Postcode:- TR13 9TS
- OS grid ref. South West 5927 2689