Kennall Vale Nature Reserve has an explosive history that’s well worth exploring…When I think nature reserve, I normally think of a beautiful, untouched wilderness, saved for centuries from industrial destruction, and left for nature to do its bidding.
In Cornwall, they seem to do things slightly differently. And while most people have heard of the Eden project – a site where a china clay quarry was transformed into a lush, well-gardened eco-center – but few know of its predecessor.
Kennall Vale started out life as a gunpowder factory in the early 1800s, providing gunpowder to the rich and active Cornish mining industry. However, times changed, and so did technology. Eventually, crude gunpowder charges were replaced with safer gelignite based explosives, and production waned. The factory struggled on for another thirty years or so, and closed not long before the First World War broke out.
The intervening years largely saw the factories go to rack and ruin. The trees that were planted to keep the area humid (to lessen the chance of accidental explosion) and the river which powered the waterwheels completely took over the site, and it became little more than a wilderness as nature reclaimed the area.
In the 1985, however, the site was leased by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust for development as a nature reserve. Ever since then, it’s become a haven for walkers, explorers and photographers alike; the sturdy construction of the buildings has left them in remarkably good condition (the stones used, I believe, were blasted from a quarry on site; the deep lake can be seen in the background of the first photo).
And while it’s tucked away – you need to go wandering through a couple of rural back alleys from the main road to find it – it’s easily accessible. A number 41 bus from the nearby town of Falmouth will drop you off just around the corner, or, if you’re driving, keep an eye out for the Pub on the main road (I think it’s called the Stag Hunt). The path that leads towards Kennall Vale is right by there.
Just be sure to either wait until Autumn, or pack a tripod and/or some faster film – the thick canopy overhead will block out the all the sun in Summer, but is sure to lead to some wonderfully moody images!
Lubitel 2, Ilford XP2, August 2010
Yashica Mat 124G, Fuji Provia 400X, April 2010
Diana Mini, Fuji Superia 200, April 2010