The China Clay industry in Cornwall has a long and illustrious history, with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of the unique material being excavated and taken down to Par harbour. A walk around the China Clay trails gives a wonderful view of this grand industry.
In 2005 the Clay Trails were opened to the public and encompass miles of lands reclaimed from the China Clay industry. This unique landscape is dotted with chimneys, historical buildings, massive clay tips and tranquil turquoise water filled quarries. Great effort has been put into repopulating the landscape with trees, bushes and flowers with the hope of making this an inviting place for both people and animals.
There are nine ‘official’ routes stretching from north St Austell to Par, but these are only guides and there are more stretches of public footpaths than you can shake a stick at.
My walk started off at Wheal Martyn, a centre for China Clay history and a really amazing museum. From here I took the footpath off the carpark south towards St Austell. This passes one of the areas former railway sidings where China Clay would have been loaded onto trains and taken on to Par harbour.
The route follows the white river, named this after because of its white staining from China Clay, across the William Cookworthy bridge and up the hill. This passes another former China Clay quarry, Ruddle Pit which worked for nearly a hundred years before being flooded.
Past the pit, continue on up the hill and at the top take a left to visit the Sky Spur, which offers wonderful 360 views of the Clays area.
Heading back to the Sky Spur turning point, head straight on this time following the path towards the Eden Project.
The route goes on a little longer before crossing the A391 so that on your right is the St Austell Enterprise Park and on the left is the flooded pit of Great Carclaze China Clay Works (Baal Pit). This is private land, but there’s plenty to see from the path all around the site and on the other end there’s a small hill overlooking the old and new ventures in the area, complete with a small stone circle. There are a large number of stone circles in Cornwall, but this one is a new addition.
This is the end of my walk, though this particular trail carries on all the way to the Eden Project.