Audio Trails: Bringing Cornish mining stories to life

Without any doubt, Cornwall is special. It possesses distinctive landscapes and cultures forged by elemental forces and the passage of time, which have left a beautiful, rugged coastline and an interior comprising a magnificent patchwork of moors, hidden valleys and fertile pastures.

But Cornwall is not just a beautiful place. In 2006 the Cornish mining landscapes were awarded World Heritage Site status, giving international recognition of Cornwall and west Devon’s significance, and placing these on a par with historical treasures such as the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

The ‘Discover the Extraordinary’ Project, the RDPE-funded Project responsible for promoting the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, has been looking at ways to provide inspirational and accessible interpretation to ensure that the visitor experience is satisfying and enjoyable. So much of the value of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site lies in its storytelling. The focus of all the interpretation has work has been very much on the human story, and helping re-create in the mind’s eye how the surviving remains would have been used and by whom.

Part of the Project’s interpretation plan was to commission a suite of free audio trails; the first four produced by Gamble & Fearon Partners, followed by an additional 7 produced by Audio Trails Ltd. It was important that the audio trails captured the hearts and minds of the audiences and gave an appreciation of the many aspects of the World Heritage Site, including the lives of the people who shaped it.

As the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site is a ‘serial’ World Heritage Site, it includes ten specific areas within Cornwall and west Devon, so part of the remit of the trails was to focus on these diverse and unique areas, each rich in mining heritage.

All of the audio trails are now hosted on the Cornish Mining website and are easily downloadable to all MP3 players. Each trail lasts for about 20 to 25 minutes, with approximately 7 to 12 audio locations on each trail. All of the trails have a narrator and include oral history recordings, interview based recordings, and a small number of recordings of dressing floor noises (tin stamps, buddles, ore crushing etc.) and the noise of pumping engines discharging water etc. They also included recordings of community actors playing different roles such as Mine Captains, mine investors, miner, Bal Maiden etc.

A supporting route map has also been produced to work alongside each trail which the user can download as a PDF and then print and take with them. The locations to listen to the audio tour are all clearly marked on the route map with no possibility of confusion.

All of the audio trails are listed on the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site website and cover the following areas:

  • Geevor to Levant: The Mines Under the Sea
  • Botallack: Count House & Coast
  • The Great Flat Lode: The Basset Mines at South Wheal Frances
  • Tavistock Town: The Duke of Bedford’s Grand Plan
  • Charlestown: Perfect Port for travelling back in time
  • Hayle: Feuding firms forge engineering genius
  • Kennall Vale: Peaceful valley with an explosive secret
  • Poldice: Riches and poison in the old Copper Kingdom
  • Portreath: Once the most important industrial port in Cornwall
  • St Agnes: A diamond in Cornwall’s mining crown
  • Wendron: Ghosts of mining amidst peaceful pastures

Four of these have also been incorporated into the consumer App, ‘Cousin Jacks: The Cornish Mining App’. This means that once the users have downloaded the free App, they can listen to the audio trails while exploring the Cornish mining landscape, without relying on an internet connection.

Producing the audio trails has given us the opportunity to take the visitors into the heart and soul of the Cornish mining industry and allow them to truly experience what it was like back in the heyday of hard rock mining.