Kit Hill and Its Habitats with Chrissie Le Marchant
This month we stayed very much at home with a talk about Callington’s dominant feature Kit
Hill which at a height of 334m (1.096ft), stands proudly above the town. It can be seen from all
directions and I always look for it when returning to Callington to know a cup of tea is not far away.
Chrissie is very well qualified to talk about Kit Hill having until recently managed the Country Park.
She is qualified as a geologist and worked for many years in prospecting, gold mining and civil
engineering, including working on the Saltash Tunnel. She now works and volunteers as a Blue
Badge leader, walks leader and ranger and she has a real passion for the area of natural beauty.
She spoke with enthusiasm and knowledge, illustrating her talk with plenty of photos and diagrams.
To start, Chrissie gave us a quick rundown of the history of Kit Hill, starting with its beginning 290 million years ago, by the intrusion of magma creating a granite hill with mineral deposits, including copper, arsenic, wolfram and silver.
Earliest inhabitants were the Beaker Folk (4,000 years ago) who created fields and buried their dead in barrows (18 have been found).
800 years ago, masons started taking stone to build local churches, including Callington Church. 500 years ago, tinners started extracting tin from the streams which led on to mining that continued up until 1921 leaving some 37 mine shafts or adits in the area (now secured by gratings).
At this time the land belonged to the Duchy of Cornwall (created in 1337) but in 1985 to celebrate the birth of Prince William, Prince Charles gifted it to the people of Cornwall.
In 1995 it was given AONB status and in 2005 became a World Heritage Site with Green Heritage status from 2011-2016.
Since the 400 acre low heathland site was gifted, most of it is managed to prevent it reverting to
scrubland, although some is left as benign neglect. This also helps to protect the many plant and
bird species. The architectural features, barrows, folly mock bastion and mine buildings are also
looked after; only this year a dig exposed more remains. The heathland is managed with grazing
animals cattle, ponies and roe deer. Controlled burning (swaling) is carried out to provide protective fire breaks and to reinvigorate the heath as species regenerate rapidly after burning. We were assured that the animals run out, only a few hot cross buns!
There is much to attract the visitor to Kit Hill Country Park besides the obvious long reaching
views; on a fine day you can see both north and south coasts as well as Dartmoor and Bodmin
Many plants thrive on the heathland including 3 types of heather, 2 types gorse, bilberry,
purple moor grass, heath bedstraw, milkwort and many others, including the rare Cornish ladder seed. All these provide a habitat for a wide variety of insects, caterpillars and spiders.
The quarry provides a home for 12 species of dragonfly as well as climbing and kayaking for visitors. There are many footpaths and bridleways across the park which, thanks to a grant (given as a result of the devastating foot and mouth outbreak of 2001) are well equipped with information boards about the architectural and industrial features along the paths.
The Midsummer Eve’s celebration takes place on 23rd June. This is a ceremony revived by the Old Cornwall Society in 1920 and is a Christian and Pagan celebration for everyone to enjoy. Why not be part of it next year?
Although everyone sees Kit Hill and has probably been to the top, I’m sure that Chrissie’s
knowledge and enthusiasm will encourage you to explore further in our own Kit Hill Country Park.