A Car Free Day Out around St Austell CL09
Although the valley itself is not served by public transport you can get to it from St Austell as follows:
- Take a bus to the village of Luxulyan and walk one mile to the valley.
- Take a bus to Tywardreath Highway Level Crossing and walk along the footpath to Ponts Mill – 1/2 mile.
- Take the train from St Austell to Luxulyan, changing at Par to view the valley.
The Luxulyan Valley is approximately 140 acres in size and is situated 6 kilometres northeast of St Austell. It extends for over 2 kilometres and consists of a 100m deep wooded valley at the bottom of which runs the River Par and the Par to Newquay Railway line.
Gifted by English China Clays (now Imerys) to Cornwall County Council in 1992, the Luxulyan Valley is managed by them in conjunction with other interested parties. In recognition of the Luxulyan Valley’s historic importance to ‘Cornish Mining’ it was given World Heritage status in July 2006.
The ‘management’, and exploitation, of the Luxulyan Valley has been evident in one form or another for many 100’s if not 1000’s of years. 50 years ago it was an industrial corridor for the drying of China Clay on its way to Par Harbour, 150 years ago as a source for high quality granite, and as a transportation corridor with the construction of the tramway, and 300 years ago for tin streaming. Prior to this there is evidence of timber management, coppicing and charcoal burning taking place 500 years ago, and with Prideaux Hill Fort close by it would seem that habitation and use of the valley for hunting, fishing, timber, etc would have probably taken place over 1000 years ago. Today the Luxulyan Valley still holds an incredible concentration of early 19th century industrial remains highlighted by the magnificent Treffry Viaduct, now a Scheduled Monument.
There are many other manmade features still evident in the valley. The 3 mile Fowey Consols Leat was built in the 1820’s by Treffry to supply water from Gatty’s Bridge to his copper mine the other side of Penpillick Hill. His cleverly engineered viaduct completed in 1842 served two purposes, one to carry a horse drawn tramway that linked Treffry’s granite and clay quarries to his new harbour at Par, and secondly to include an aqueduct that supplied water to drive a 30 feet diameter water wheel, which it turn supplied the power to haul wagons up the 1 in 7 incline plane that is today referred to as Carmears Incline. When the tramway was replaced by the Cornwall Minerals Railway the water wheel was changed to a 40 foot
diameter one and used to power a China Stone Mill. The coal-fired Trevanney China Clay Kiln, built in the 1920’s processed the piped clay from Hensbarrow Moor until the 1960’s. At Ponts Mill (originally the lowest crossing point of the Par Estuary) there are still many signs of it being an important focal point of the Valley’s entire tramway system, as well as its links to Par Harbour. Today, close to the old China Stone Dry, there is a small insignificant building that holds a Hydro-Electric turbine. Abandoned by Imerys some years ago it is once again working as a Community project, supplying electricity into the National Grid it brings much needed funds to the Valley and surrounding communities. Once again there is industry back in the Valley, but this time in a very ‘Green’ way thanks to the pioneering work by Joseph Austen Treffry.
The biodiversity within the Luxulyan Valley today is immense. The various habitats found in the valley – dense woodland, wetland, running water, steep cliffs, scrubland, meadow, as well as mans involvement in quarrying and construction, has created home to many species, some rare, of flora and fauna. The bluebells, Red Campian, ferns and other wild flowers have to be seen to be believed. Huge varieties of fungi, insects, fish and amphibians provide an ideal environment for bats, birds, foxes, badgers, otters, and roe deer to thrive.
For more information about the Luxulyan Valley click here
The History of Luxulyan Village
Luxulyan parish has been the birthplace of several people who have become well known in Cornwall and other parts of the country. William O’Bryan, founder of the Bible Christian movement, was born at Gunwen in 1778; Joseph Polsue, writer of the Parochial History of Cornwall, was born here in 1813 and became an overseer for the Parish Poor and the village schoolmaster; Walter Hicks, founder of St Austell Brewery, was born at Menedue in 1829, and Silvanus Trevail, the Cornish architect, was born at Carne in 1851.
The village itself grew up round the granite church, dedicated to St Cyriac and St Julitta, that was rebuilt in the 15th century and like most churches in Cornwall, it was renovated in the mid-1800s. In 1902 it was fortunate enough to have its tower strengthened and a new peal of six bells donated by Silvanus Trevail. The Norman font has been dated to about 1150AD and immediately behind it, the tower screen was presented in 1912 as a memorial to the son of Walter Hicks of St Austell Brewery. One of the oldest memorials in the church is dated 1636.
Just inside the lych gate on the right hand side used to be the position of the parish poor house. In later years it became a school and was in use until about 1874, when the pupils transferred to the new Parochial school.
On the wall outside the church is one of three wayside crosses remaining in the parish. This one spent many years in the vicarage garden and was moved to its present position about 1890. A lantern cross that was also in the vicarage garden is now in the churchyard at St Neot being used as a war memorial. Another cross is on the main A391 behind a bus shelter at Lockengate, and the other rests on a Cornish hedge on the Saints Way footpath near Tregonning.
Luxulyan used to be a hive of activity with tin streaming on the moors, granite quarrying and mixed farming, although dairy & beef, together with sheep, farming is now the main occupation within the parish. The last quarry to close, at the end of the 20th century, is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Many of the other quarries have now become wildlife sanctuaries, and the remains of the tin streaming can be seen in many places.
The first official school to be built in Luxulyan was in 1871 and remains as a private house behind the post office. It was financed by the villagers fund-raising and did not become a Board School until 1874. The current school building was erected in the 1960s along the main village road. Not far from here is the Luxulyan Institute, erected by the villagers as a memorial to Captain Tommy Agar-Robartes of Lanhydrock who died during WW1. A little further along, the house now known as Butts Park was rebuilt about 1913, but the previous building there was an inn by 1809. It later became a Temperance hotel and then a butchers shop. On the opposite corner of the lane is the village post office; the first recorded grocer in the area was in 1861, although possibly not on this site until 1873.
The next cottage down the hill from the post office dates to about 1840 and used to house one of the parish dame schools. The granite ramp leading to a 1st floor doorway shows the entrance to this school. This also seems to have been in use until about 1874.
The old well just down the hill from these buildings is dedicated to St Cyor, an early Celtic Saint. The well house was built about the time of the re-dedication of the church in 1412, but by the late 1800s Thomas Quiller Couch said it was ‘struggling against undeserved neglect and unavoidable destruction’. The water dried up when the railway cutting behind Churchtown was cut in 1871, although a tank was installed and filled from another source with a pump that supplied the village water until the 1950s. Fortunately the well building survived and was restored by a lady living in the adjoining St Cyors house.
The pair of cottages opposite is thought to date to about 1840 and has Listed Building status. Several other buildings in Churchtown also date back to at least this date, whilst others are shown on Gascoigne’s atlas of 1696.
There were five chapels in the parish for many years, the only one still in use is at Gunwen in sight of Helman Tor, although Bridges chapel did not close until 2006. This building can be seen at the top of the hill coming from the area known as Bridges.
It was at Bridges that the railway station for Luxulyan was built in 1876 when the line opened for passenger traffic. Not far away is the King’s Arms, the only public house or inn remaining in the area. The first mention of an inn in this part of the parish was not until 1851, but the name does not appear until 1861, when the innkeeper was John Lanxon.
Currently, within the parish there are many activities for locals and visitors alike. Apart from a warm welcome at the church & chapel, shop & pub, there is a dramatic society, a dance group, exercise class, snooker club, youth club, Old Cornwall Society, a friends group for Luxulyan Valley, history group, a bowling club, the Friday Knights and a toddler group, most of these meeting in the village hall, the newest of the public buildings in Luxulyan.