Mining landscape is a world gem
By Laura Joint
West Devon's mining landscape has been named a World Heritage Site - the second area in Devon which has been awarded the prestigious status.
Devon has its second World Heritage Site, after Unesco awarded the status to the mining landscape in the Tamar Valley and West Devon.
The status has been granted to the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, which includes West Devon and nine areas in Cornwall.
It means the Tamar Valley and West Devon are rated alongside places such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon.
The area has a unique mining landscape
The decision was announced in July 2006, and follows the designation in 2001 of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and East Devon as a World Heritage Site.
And in North Devon, the sand dunes at Braunton Burrows and Northam Burrows was earlier declared Britain's first Unesco biosphere reserve.
Unesco - the cultural arm of the UN - awarded the World Heritage status to Cornwall and West Devon in recognition of the cultural importance of the area's mining landscape.
The World Heritage Site includes the mines themselves, the remains of early infrastructure, and the surviving evidence of its social and economic consequences, such as the distinctive settlement patterns.
Mining in the region represents one of the longest histories of industrial heritage conservation in the world.
There are mining remnants in the Tamar Valley
It is also unique in being the first of its kind concerned with the mining and ore processing of tin, arsenic, copper and other metals.
For centuries, tin, silver, lead, granite and copper were all mined in West Devon - and you can still see remnants of the industry to this day.
For example, Morwellham Quay became a thriving port and minerals were shipped out from there for 1,000 years.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the landscape was altered forever as a result of deep hard-rock mining. The major technological developments made here helped to transform mining both locally and worldwide.
The long awaited decision by Unesco came after a bid put forward by the UK Government. The bid was put together by several authorities, including local councils in Cornwall and Devon, the National Trust, English Nature and the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Minerals were transported down the Tamar Valley
It's hoped the designation will lead to grants and investment.
Councillor Margaret Rogers, Devon County Council's Executive Member for Environment, said: "World Heritage status brings opportunities to build on the environmental, economic and social well-being of the area and its wider hinterland, particularly through sustainable tourism with its all year round attractions.
"The status puts us on the world map as a place of international significance. Along with bringing a sense of pride to the community, the economic benefits will be huge.
"Evidence from other World Heritage Sites proves that the status brings in more visitors and more money which in turn will lead to more jobs as well as protecting existing jobs too.
"It's already been estimated that the new status will bring in an extra 60,000 visitors to Cornwall and West Devon every year.
"We now look to the future of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape as a unique area to be protected and conserved for generations to come."
£6m programme of work under way
Work on the £6 million Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project started in August 2006 as part of a three year programme to celebrate and conserve the area.
A network of paths and trails is being created, to open up part of the Tamar Valley which had previously been inaccessible to the public.
The first stage of the of the programme will create a network of paths and trails on the Devon side of the valley and will cost around £2 million.
The trails from Morwellham will run through woods and drop down by the historical lime kilns, creating access to the docks at Newquay. They will run for 1.3km and the work will take six weeks to complete.
Later in the Autumn, the old mineral tramway between Morwellham and Forest Gate car park (next to the sawmills, near Gunnislake Bridge), will be transformed as a multi-use trail for cyclists, horse riders and walkers to enjoy.
Further work concentrating on Morwellham begins before Christmas 2006 and will include restoration of part of the railway track bed that connected the quay to mines further up the valley.
The restoration will encompass a viewing area, where visitors can look over the Great Dock and the rest of the village, complete with new, state-of-the-art interpretation.
Devon Great Consols Mine – once the largest copper mine in Europe in the 1800s – will also benefit with circular trails being created through Blanchdown Wood, near Gulworthy.
West Devon Borough Council and the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are jointly managing the project.
last updated: 19/05/2008 at 17:03