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Mines and Methodism at Redruth

A walk through Cornwall's mining heartland, visiting Methodism's famous outdoor 'cathedral' of Gwennap Pit along the way.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 442ft (135m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field paths, rough tracks and surfaced lanes. Can be muddy after rain, 6 stiles

Landscape Small fields and open heathland with quarry and mine remains

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 104 Redruth & St Agnes

Start/finish SW 699421

Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas

Parking Several car parks in Redruth

Public toilets Redruth car parks. Gwennap Pit Visitor Centre, when open

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1 From any of the car parks, make your way to Fore Street, the main street of Redruth. Walk up to a three-way junction (the railway station is down to the right) and take the middle branch, to the left of Redruth Methodist Church, signposted 'To Victoria Park'. This is Wesley Street. In just a few paces turn right on Sea View Terrace; the chimney stack of the Pednandrea Mine is up to the left a few paces along the road. Pass Basset Street on the right and, where the streets cross, go left up Raymond Road to a T-junction with Sandy Lane.

2 Cross the road with care, then follow the track opposite, signposted 'Public Bridleway' and 'Grambler Farm'. Go through a gate by the farm and continue to an open area. Bear left here and follow a much narrower track between hedges. When you reach a junction with another track turn left, signposted 'Gwennap Pit'.

3 Go right, following the signposts for Gwennap Pit, and cross a stile by a gate, then go through a small wooden gate. Keep ahead (there may be free-ranging pigs in the area so dogs should be kept under strict control). Go over a stile at the next gate and then follow the edge of the field ahead. Cross a final field towards a house and then walk down a lane past the house to a junction of surfaced roads at Busveal. Cross over and follow the road opposite for 100yds (91m) to Gwennap Pit.

4 Follow the road away from Gwennap Pit. In about 300yds (274m) turn off to the right along a broad track, signposted 'Public Bridleway'. Keep ahead at two crossings, then, at a final crossing beside a ruined building, turn right and follow a stony track up the hill to the prominent summit of Carn Marth.

5 Pass a flooded quarry (there's a viewpoint on the far side), then just beyond a trig point, bear round right on a path alongside the fenced-in rim of a deep quarry. On reaching a surfaced lane, turn left. Turn left at the next junction. Follow the lane to a T-junction with a road at Calhill Farm. Turn right and walk along Sandy Road, keeping a careful watch for traffic, for 275yds (251m).

6 Go left at a junction, signposted as a cycle route, and follow a lane round right, then left into a broad avenue of houses. At a crossroads turn right along Trefusis Road. At the next junction turn left into Raymond Road and then turn right into Sea View Terrace. Turn left down Wesley Street and on into Fore Street.

The old Cornish town of Redruth gained its name from mineral mining. In medieval times, the process of separating tin and copper from waste materials turned a local river blood-red with washed out iron oxide. The Cornish name for a nearby ford was Rhyd Druth, the 'ford of the red' and the village that grew around it became Redruth. The innovative engineering that developed in tandem with mining, turned Redruth and its adjoining town of Camborne into centres of Cornish industry.

Into the often bleak world of 18th-century mineral mining came the brothers John and Charles Wesley, their religious zeal as hot as a Redruth furnace. It's very appropriate that one of the most revered locations in Methodism is Gwennap Pit, near Redruth. Here the grassy hollow of a caved-in mine shaft was first used for secular gatherings and events, which included cock-fighting. But it wasn't long before the pit was commandeered as a sheltered venue for preaching. John Wesley preached here on 18 occasions between 1762 and 1789 and, in 1806, Gwennap Pit was transformed into the neat hollow of concentric turfed seating that you see today. Despite this 200 year legacy its freehold was not secured by the Methodist Church until 1978.

The first part of this walk leads from the heart of Redruth past such significant mining relics as the great chimney stack of the Pednandrea Mine, just off Sea View Terrace. Once the stack towered eight storeys high; it's now reduced to four, but is still impressive. From here you soon climb to the high ground of Gwennap and Carn Marth. The field path that takes you to Gwennap Pit was once a 'highway' of people heading for this 'Cathedral of the moor'. Today there is a Visitor Centre at the Pit, alongside the peaceful little Busveal Chapel of 1836.

From Gwennap Pit the walk leads onto the summit of Carn Marth and to one of the finest viewpoints in Cornwall; unexpectedly so because of the hill's modest profile. From above the flooded quarry on the summit you look north to the sea and to the hill of St Agnes Beacon. North east lies the St Austell clay country, south west is the rocky summit of Carn Brea with its distinctive granite cross; south east you can even see the cranes on Falmouth dockside. From the top of Carn Marth, the return route is all downhill along rough tracks and quiet country lanes that lead back to the heart of Redruth.

Where to eat and drink

There is a small tea room at the Gwennap Pit Visitor Centre, which is open May-September, Monday-Friday 10-12:30 and 2-4:30; Saturday 10-12:30. You can picnic in Gwennap Pit itself, but please don't leave any litter. Redruth has several pleasant restaurants, cafés and pubs to choose from. Sample the wonderful local Cornish pasties from WC Rowe's in Fore Street. The Red Lion pub is also in Fore Street, and there is a fish and chip shop in Green Lane.

What to look for

The field hedgerows throughout the walk are bright with wild flowers in spring and summer. Butterflies brighten the scene even more. Look for the handsome peacock butterfly (Nymphalidae), that feeds on the nectar of bramble flowers and also on the juice of berries. The brownish-red peacock is easily identified by the 'peacock-eye' markings on its hind wings.

While you're there

A visit to Gwennap Pit and its visitor centre is irresistible, but Redruth itself rewards exploration. Many buildings in Fore Street are Victorian Gothic and have some unusual features such as decorative brickwork. These, and the Italianate Clock Tower of 1828, reflect the boom period of Redruth's growth. The Pednandrea Mine Chimney Stack, passed early in the walk, was part of a mine that operated from about 1710 to 1891 producing copper, tin, lead and arsenic. The original height of the stack was between 126 and 140ft (38-43m).

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