In the third programme in this consistently good series on BBC 4, Julia Bradbury headed to Cornwall to explore a another disused railway route. However, unlike the first two programmes, the closure of the pioneering tramways around Redruth owes nothing to the good Doctor Beeching because they closed a century before his notorious report.
The two tramways that formed the route from the North Cornwall coast to the English Channel taken by Julia in this programme were originally built for the products of the mining industry. I found it fascinating to be reminded how the rural, tourist idyll that is 21st Century Cornwall was, in living memory, a scarred industrial landscape dominated by mining and chemical works.
Part of the route travelled during this programme was across a lunar-looking landscape that had been poisoned by arsenic that had been a valuable product from the mining industry. Throughout the journey, Julia seemed to constantly be close to derelict winding houses with evocative names, many including the name “Wheal”.
I have to confess that, unlike the areas featured in the first two programmes of Railway Walks, I had never heard of the route in this programme and Cornwall is not an area that I know well. Therefore I was rather shocked when I compared the regeneration that has taken place in the former coal mining areas that I know from the Midlands, where I live, with the images of industrial dereliction portrayed on this programme. Even with the reclamation of so much former Cornish mining landscape by nature, there has obviously been far more money spent on regenerating former colliery sites than has been spent on this former tin mining area.
As for the former tramways, it is great to see that lines that fell into disuse 140 years ago have found a new lease of life as cycle and walking routes.
A trip to Cornwall must be added to my ever increasing list of “must do” activities.