… other-worldly Cornwall’s clay pits …

Some call it a lunar landscape. Wrongly. For lack of atmosphere, as mentioned in my recent post, the moon has no blue dome with cloud beings.

Years ago, my friend, Rahima (aka Elspeth Spottiswood/Milburn,) enticed me to visit the clay pits near St Austell.

While living in Cornwall as a young mother, she often marvelled at the white phenomenon seen from the road. Glowing on the horizon, the then white hills left a deep impression, bringing to her mind a city of temples, namely Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of a New Jerusalem.

This in stark contrast to the black slag heaps of coalmines, which, as a painter, and having grown up in Scotland, visually fascinated Rahima just the same.

In uniquely attuned spiritual warriors mode we conducted many seminars and workshops together, on dreams and archetypes and the imagination.

One day, off to visit the St Austell Clay Pits, we were searching for an entry to the site. During an adventurous process of getting lost among dusty criss-crossing tracks, circling on forever, we finally found ourselves in the heart of and atop the excavation site.

Luck was with us in another sense, the dramatic Cornish light on that day inspired the series of photographs I am sharing here.

I love clouds in any form and shade, regally resting, floating or racing on the breath of the wind, seen from a valley, mountain or plane. Clouds story our skies with magical creatures. Here one of my posts celebrating clouds. 

Human industry values the hidden treasures under the earth, black stuff, white stuff and golden stuff … Cornwall supplies white gold, the clay prized for porcelain, paper, paint and rubber.

Traditionally, china clay was extracted from the kaolinised granite by “wet mining”. High pressure jets of water were used to erode the working faces and wash out the kaolin. The slurry produced would flow down to the base of the pit from where it was pumped to the surface for processing.

In St Austell this process has moved on to dry-mining. In recent years, locals have taken to re-greening the scars of industrial excavations around mining sites, and, in a way, are making the scars less spectacular.

The China Clay Museum, Wheal-Martyn, provides information about Kaolin history and research.

The museum is planning a celebratory exhibition this summer …

There exist more dramatic images of the day, but I leave it as is for now.

Be aware that it may be illegal to enter the Clay Pit site without prior arrangement. We were naive and plain lucky, guided by my friend’s love for the place.

Later that day, Rahima and I travelled along narrow, sun-speckled  Cornish lanes towards Lamorna Bay at the coast.

That’s another story, for another day . I wrote about missing my friend in 2017.


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17 responses to “… other-worldly Cornwall’s clay pits …

  1. These are stunning pictures. You had quite an adventure exploring that area and I’m glad you didn’t get lost and successfully found your way out. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth is the name of one of the characters in Caleb Crain’s novel “Overthrow” (2019)… The Cornish lane looks interesting and cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jo.
      Elspeth is a Scottish name and means ‘Chosen by God.’
      The book you mention – I read a New Yorker review, not sure. Did you like it?.
      The narrow lanes one finds in Cornwall feel like magical tunnels when the sunlight patterns them silvery.


      • Overthrow was interesting and I enjoyed the writing, but it might already seem quaint now. It’s set in the Occupy movement time. I wrote about it here: https://joelinker.com/2019/10/19/notes-on-caleb-crains-overthrow/

        Liked by 1 person

        • Gosh, a little demanding for my morning here, though I got the gist. Since you turned off comments on that review, here just a few of my thoughts, sparked by this image …
          … “The media” performs the role of Keystone Cops, as do the real cops, chasing the story controlled by puppeteers, whose rods and strings get crossed. …
          A bleak knotted self-image – puppets controlled by drunken puppeteers unable to disentangle the strings. As individuals we may cut strings that control our moves, but then fall out of a narrative. The reach of our voice is also narrowed, maybe to a cave which only throws our echo back. Since we need relationships, we’re bound to search for another play, drawn by new symbols, instigating a plot or joining one that resonates.
          But we can imagine different realms, like one where communication operates via invisible strings, beyond time and space. My spiritual friend, Fazal, once said: If Einstein had never written down and shared his equation; his insight would still have spread and changed our perception of reality. The idea gives me comfort at times, that what we cohere and create in our mind has some meaning.


  3. Striking pictures of your adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rob

    Hi Ashen
    Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and something of your experience with Rahima in this geographical area.
    You know I have great regard for your photography and these pictures only add to it.
    Rob x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just remember, the image of the sentinels near Lamorna Cove was taken during a coastal walk with you, when you raced ahead and I gave up on catching up, contemplating instead this amazing rock formation:)


  5. What an eerie landscape! Great photographs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lovely post, Ashen. It must be at least ten years since I visited the China clay museum, your post brought the memories back. Though we failed to find such spectacular views, it was a magical place to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The desolation of the clay pits look like they can be used for a Sci Fi or Dystopian movie setting!

    Liked by 1 person

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