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As the UK’s first cultural playground, set in the heart of Cornwall’s mining landscape, opens its doors to the public for the first time, Thomas Mitchell visits the £35 million attraction which is expecting to attract 200,000 visitors in the next 12 months.
Nestled just off the A30 and set in 19 acres of stunning landscaped parks and gardens, Heartlands is home to a variety of leisure facilities for all ages. Transformed from the former derelict mine land at Robinson’s Shaft in the village of Pool, the free visitor attraction and World Heritage Site hosts a number of purpose-built art studios, botanical gardens, and 19 one and two-bed roomed sustainable homes. Heartlands also boast the South West’s largest outdoor adventure playground, suitable for ages 1-13, which sits in the heart of the lush green parklands on the site.
Malcolm Moyle, Chairman of the Heartlands Trust Charity said: “Heartlands needs the community as much as the community needs Heartlands, and the last six years since this project was conceived have been spent working with local schools, businesses and residents to make sure we give everyone something to be proud of.”
Part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, Heartlands is a gateway for the surrounding mining areas of Camborne and Redruth, which are recognised as having cultural importance on a global level. With local attractions East Pool and King Edward Mine, as well as Geevor, Poldark and Wheal Martyn further afield, these Cornish mining landmarks are iconic to the county. If you think of Venice, the Statue of Liberty and Sydney Opera House, you get a sense of its standing.
A spokesman for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said: “The mining landscape of Cornwall and West Devon, and particularly its characteristic engine houses, reflect the substantial contribution the area made to the Industrial Revolution and formative changes in mining practices around the world.”
Partly funded by the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), this latest development hopes to reinvigorate the surrounding areas of Pool, Camborne and Redruth, by supporting the community and its local residents, where child poverty levels have reached over double the national average since the closure of the Cornish mining industry in 1998.
“We want to put this area back on the map, raise aspirations and make people smile and I have no doubt that Heartlands will do just that,” Moyle’s adds.
Initial plans for the Heartlands scheme began in 2007, when Cornwall Council, formally Kerrier District Council, lodged an application to the BLF. From the 300 applicants received, the scheme was one of four to get the nod, and the only scheme in England granted funding. In mid 2007, Heartlands received more than £22 million from the fund’s Living Landmark’s Scheme, with Cornwall Council, Home and Communities Agency and the European Union adding extra funds to reach the £35 million needed to transform the derelict mine land into the Heritage Site and parkland.
Anna Southall, Vice Chair at the Big Lottery Fund, said: “It’s amazing to see the transformation of this derelict mining site, and how this project has come to life from the original plans. It looks set to be the jewel in the crown of the wider regeneration of this important and historically significant part of Cornwall, and marks a new chapter for this community. We are very proud to be supporting it.”
Evidence of mining activity in the village of Pool dates back to the early 1950’s, which saw full-scale mining begin in the mid-17th Century. The Robinson’s shaft is one of the most important mining sites in Cornwall, where it remained in use until 1996. Retaining most of its historic buildings and features compared to sites which ceased earlier, the site is home to a preserved 1854 engine house, one of the last to stay running before the mine went into serious decline after 1985, before eventually closing in 1998.