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.