Walk – Kennall Vale Gunpowder Works
Are you looking for a great walk away from the coast and full of history? Would you like to find hobbits, fairies, ghosts, gunpowder mills and nature? Ok, so perhaps the hobbit’s, fairies and ghosts are largely dependent on your imagination, but we can promise you will find the intriguing remains of the Kennall Gunpowder Company works.
At the peak of productivity in the mid nineteenth century Kennall Vale gunpowder works were producing 4-5 thousand barrels of quality gunpowder a year. Employing 50 men and supplying both the local and international mining industry meant the huge wheels and cogs in the mills rarely stopped turning.
Gunpowder, heavy machinery housed in mills that look precariously built into the hillside and next to no concrete, ‘Health & Safety’, guidelines create the ideal recipe for disaster.
The first ever fatalities recorded at the works were in February 1826 when Elizabeth Rutter delivered some roast potatoes to the workers at The Mixing House. The hot potatoes combined with the igniting dough this house produced caused an explosion that killed Elizabeth and one of the workers.
Probably the most cited and most terrific explosion to happen at the works occurred a little after 8am one May Monday in 1838. William Dunstan was preparing for work in the presshouse when a spark triggered an explosion that could be heard for miles. As a result 5 mills blew up in quick succession, the roof of one was said to have landed a mile away. Sadly William Dunstan lost his life and co-worker James Paddy who was delivering to the presshouse at the time was seriously injured.
As gelignite and dynamite grew in preference the demand for gunpowder declined until the factory was forced to close in 1910.
For a time a granite quarry was in operation in the woods with the granite being used as memorials during the first world war and in the creation of viaducts across Cornwall.
Today the 20 acre site is managed by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and is home to several species of wildlife including the interesting Dipper that nests along the river bank. Several mills, cogs, steps and leet’s remain giving the explorer huge amounts to stimulate the imagination.
The perfect time to visit this fascinating trail through time and nature is during the winter months. The river is at it’s most dramatic and the sun peeps through the trees just enough to cast a magical twinkle on the damp mosses and ferns.
Where To Find Kennall Vale
Check Bus Time Table Here – Falmouth – Ponsanooth – Timetable
A more detailed account of the vale and it’s history can be downloaded at the Cornish Mining Heritage website.