Tregargus Trust launch plea to help protect historic valley

the image is a photograph of someone walking along the woodland path toward Trevear Mill.
CHAOS Radio - Trevear Mill and historic surrounding valley

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The clay country community is being encouraged to support the protection and restoration of a local industrial heritage site and an area of immense natural beauty, writes Tom Howe.

Once a very active clay working area, Tregargus Valley was predominantly used for grinding china stone and featured up to eight mills that operated for the 85 years between 1880 and 1965. 

As demand fell away, the infrastructure was abandoned and fell into disrepair, with two of the eight mills being completely buried by waste from other sites and another being partially concealed. 

A Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Tregargus Trust, works to maintain and promote the space, and hosts regular fundraising events, including donation based guided walks and bingo, to help facilitate their plans for preservation.

Trustee Marie Allen explained more during an interview with CHAOS Radio, saying: “Within the valley, we have got a site of special scientific interest as there is a special sort of metamorphosis that is different from anywhere else in the country. That has not been maintained as well as it should have but we are currently looking to clear the quarry face.

“We can’t restore all of the buildings, we just do not have the money but what we can do is try to stop them going into further decay. As we are a not-for-profit charity, we have to fundraise or apply for grants. We managed to get a stunning grant from Historic England to keep one built-in mill, Trevear Mill, in a good state so that people can walk around and see what it used to be like.

“Apart from the industrial heritage, it is just a beautiful valley. Wherever you are, you can hear the water running and that stream, which is actually called the Barn River, powered all eight water wheels. The way they did the architecture, how the water went from one mill to another and then how the excess water went back into the river, just think they did all that without cranes and electricity so it is quite amazing.

“For the last ten years, we have had a grant of £1,200 a year from Natural England to maintain paths and do what work we could but if we look at flailing certain areas that get overgrown or getting someone in to spray particular bad weeds and things we don’t want, that [money] really doesn’t go very far.”

Sat within 27 acres of breathtaking land between St Stephen and Nanpean, the valley is regularly visited by classes from two local schools as well as by members of Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s volunteering group.

Now however, the small but determined Tregargus Trust are on a mission to entice a new generation of support and visitors, while dealing with some ongoing headaches and securing the area for years to come.

“We all give up our time but any money we can raise obviously helps to maintain what we have,” continued Allen. “Every time I go there, I see something different. It is just the beauty and the tranquillity of being there. There is a track running from the first mill down through the valley which, eventually, we want to clear so that we have a nice circular walk. We want to encourage people to use it and maybe buy some raffle tickets to help us carry on doing what we are doing.

“If people are into What3Words, they can find it at Elbow Ready Messaging but if you drive from Nanpean to St Stephen, you go past Dennis May’s block works and at the bottom of the dip on the left is a lay-by with the top entrance to the valley. There is huge sign saying to take care, to keep your dog on a lead, to look after your children and to enjoy the valley. 

“We are trying to preserve it and keep it open for everyone to enjoy but it [has become] a haven for some local youth who want to go and have a little party and a drink. That is an area we need to tackle. We need to get them on board, maybe into a group that can start looking after the heritage because it is their heritage. Their grandfathers might have worked there and they don’t really know that.

“Another of the big issues we have is that we have a kissing gate which is mainly used to keep out motorbikes and other vehicles but it also keeps out mobility scooters and wheelchairs. The reason for that is a steep incline in part of the valley which is just too dangerous. One of the things we are looking towards in the future is to allow disabled access. That is going to take a bit of work but is one of our end goals.”

The valley is open 365 days a year and is visited by a range of people, including families, dog walkers and historians.

If you have been inspired to get involved or to find out more information on both the cause and the Tregargus Trust, visit Tregargus Valley on Facebook.