Travel Notes | The Great Flat Lode, Cornwall

When people think about visiting Cornwall they tend to have tunnel vision of the "surf vibes" culture of Newquay and the north coast, Padstow (AKA Padstein due to Rick Stein's gangster ruling of the town) and it's harbour, Falmouth and it's monied yachty folk, St Ives and its restaurants and second-home luvvies and Land's End with its history of pirates and smuggling and general coastal and harbour areas.


Looe - Stunning but we're avoiding these cliches today!

What people rarely consider is the less fashionable in-land areas, the mining trails and the history of where Cornwall's 17th, 18th & 19th century copper tin mining industry. Oh I forgot another cliche - Poldark and how it made St Agnes and Charlestown boom!


The Great Flat Lode is located in an area which is sadly now linked to poverty and is a less desirable place to live and/or visit - Camborne, Pool and Redruth. It was once a thriving region, I believe containing one of the richest square miles in the country. I live here and I don't think it's that bad, I'll take this over suburban city areas in Birmingham and London any day.


One of the stop offs along the way.


We're one year into a pandemic now and that has severely restricted travel movements for us in the UK and we've had multiple lockdowns in this time. That has led a lot of us to start exploring our local areas, and one area I've seen a huge rise in footfall is the Great Flat Lode.


Now, I moved house part way into this lockdown but where I moved from was a beautiful little spot on one of the many entry points into the trail and I began running so exploring this was easy for me. Best explain what The Great Flat Lode is I guess. Named due to the fact of the unusual nature that the mineral vein is not as vertical as most other Cornish lodes; it could be worked much easier before it became too steep to mine. This is where tin ore was mined, moved and processed. It is now a circular trail with remnants of a number of the old buildings that were used for this. The trail can be walked or ran but the most popular mode of transport here is bicycle, the Cycle Network Route 3 runs in and out of "the lode" but once on wheels you can't go off-piste which is why I prefer using my feet.


Carn Brea Castle looking over to St Agnes & Truro

Carn Brea Castle, now a restaurant, sits at the top of the Brea in the middle of this circular route and was once an ancient fortified settlement and later a hunting lodge for the Bassets. On a clear day it offers stunning panoramic views of Cornwall. You can see both the north and south coast on a clear day.


Carn Brea Monument

Atop the same Brea is the 90-foot tall Carn Brea Monument, raised in honour of Francis Basset, 1st Baron De Dunstanville. A nobleman and politician in the 18th and19th century, he was a member of the Basset family - one of the largest landowners in the county at the time.


There are monuments and buildings all over Cornwall bearing the Basset family name. There's even a Wetherspoon's name dropping the Bassets - what bigger nod could an 18th century nobleman aspire to achieve two centuries down the line?

South Wheal Frances

South Wheal Frances is one of the busier areas, with a big car park, a number of old buildings and a large grassy area. It's a popular start off point for walkers and cyclists and features a number of buildings including pump & engine houses as well as Pascoe's shaft (ahem). It's as good a place as any to start and finish your circular route.


The distance of the route in total is just shy of seven miles which is perfect for a decent run. Along the way you'll see South Wheal Frances, Wheal Basset, Wheal Uny, Uny Church and a number of other old mines, workhouses and chimneys. There are no pubs directly on the route but a slight veer off in Piece, Four Lanes will take you to The Countryman where you can enjoy a proper pint in a proper pub. There's also a few benches and decent places to stop and picnic. You also pass by the King Edward Mine which has a museum and The Croust Hut - a cafe that do a great coffee and cake.


A view of South Wheal Frances and beyond to the edges of the trail

It's an excellent way to experience a part of Cornwall's rich mining history and spotting remnants of Cornwall's Celtic roots. Everyone loves vikings so why not get a little closer to the history of this county and ditch the cliches of Rick Stein, Poldark, surfing, harbours and boating and get involved in the real side of Cornwall.