Wheal Martyn - Ecology & Enviroment
200 years ago the area around the museum would have been granite moorland with scattered small farms.
China clay extraction here was well underway by the 1840s but pits were much smaller than modern pits.
The extraction of china clay has dramatically altered the landscape in many ways, pits have replaced fields, new villages to house workers were created and mineral waste products from the industry were tipped to form a very different skyline to the pre mining landscape.
|The simple fact that for every 1 tonne of china clay 9 tonnes of mineral waste products has led to the creation of large areas of tips.|
The now disused conical or sky tips, can be seen throughout the area even today although they are now green as plants have colonised their slopes.
The 26 acres of country park around the museum is a haven to wildlife and the nature trail is a good example of how nature is colonising the historic landscape.
When tips come to the end of their tipping lives, plants and animals soon begin to colonise the slopes in a process called ecological succession. The first plants to establish are grasses and heathers.
Shrubs of gorse and rhododendron follow along with oaks and sallows which gradually improve the soil quality. Other types of trees and woodland plants such as ferns, mosses and liverworts begin to take root helping to create a woodland such as on our nature trail.
The park contains a number of old buildings such as the Gomm engine house on the nature trail, provide habitats for animals and birds. Birds such as house martins, insects and even bats can be spotted in and around some of the museum buildings.
Old flooded settling pits provide homes to all sorts of aquatic life ranging from newts to dragonflies, frogs and small voles.
Buzzards, kestrels and even barn owls are frequently seen inside the grounds as are the small mammals they hunt.
Even the rugged approaches to pit view provides valuable habitats for wildlife such as rabits and even snakes can seen basking in the summer proving how versatile nature can be when adapting to a man made landscape. As you drive around the china clay country, have a look at the road verges and in the hedges, you may be surprised what you can see.