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From wasteland to world heritage gateway

30 August 2012

Cornwall’s Heartlands project received more than £22 million from the Big Lottery Fund in 2007 to breathe new life into the Pool area of West Cornwall which was left largely untouched following the demise of the tin mining industry and final closure of the mines in 1998.

In this guest blog, Malcolm Moyle, Chair of the Heartlands Trust, reflects on the success of the ambitious project which has already welcomed close to 150,000 visitors.

Malcolm Moyle, Chair of the Heartlands Trust

Malcolm Moyle, Chair of the Heartlands Trust

I was born in Pool, I live in Pool and I’ll spend the rest of my life in Pool. I have always been convinced that the local community should be closely involved with all local developments and Heartlands was the inspiration and was driven by the local community.

It all started with a small group of us – local residents and business people, who had a vision that the wasteland of the former Robinson’s Shaft tin mine, could be brought back into use for the benefit of the local community.

15 years on, Heartlands in Pool has transformed the quality of life for local people. It is a hive of activity stretching over 19 acres and we have welcomed almost 150,000 visitors in our first four months of opening, exceeding all our expectations.

The idea took root 15 years ago when I was chair of Carn Brea Regeneration Advisory Committee, but the real catalyst for turning our dreams into reality came nine years later. In 2006, the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This placed Cornish Mining on a par with international treasures such as Macchu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

Robinsons Shaft together with other select mining assets and landscapes form part of the “Outstanding Universal Value” of the World Heritage Site and were instrumental to one of the greatest periods of economic, technological and social development that Britain has ever known.  There is no doubt that the international recognition of the importance of this landscape strengthened this community-led project’s funding applications and enabled us to really kick start the Heartlands project.

Heartlands has welcomed close to 150,000 visitors

Heartlands has welcomed close to 150,000 visitors

From 2006 to 2011, I worked very closely with Kerrier District Council and then Cornwall Council to ensure that there was a truly inclusive design process, with the local community involved at every stage. It has been an amazing journey and I will never forget the day when we sat by the telephone for six hours before we got the call to tell us Heartlands was awarded £22.3 million in funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks scheme. Suddenly the long held ambitions of our community were within reach. The funding pot soon swelled to an enormous £35 million with additional support from Cornwall Council, HCA and EU Convergence. 

Heartlands has been developed as one of three gateway attractions to the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. It has been a monumental journey from wasteland to World Heritage gateway and the opportunities that have and will become available to Heartlands with having this status are invaluable.

The links and relationships that have been strengthened and created with other Cornish Mining attractions in Cornwall have been incredibly important, especially as we are now a visitor attraction open to the public.

In 2011, I became the Chair of Heartlands Trust, a social enterprise set up to run the site for the benefit of the local community. My position of Chair of the Governors at Pool Academy has proven to be a great link with Heartlands and a strong partnership has been established with the school to ensure there is involvement from the young people and ownership of the attraction. When Heartlands opened to the local community, 1,000 children from local schools paraded through the site to mark the occasion. 

So if you find yourself at Heartlands walking through the peaceful Diaspora Gardens, or watching the kids shouting with glee after escaping the Giant’s Trap in the Adventure Playground, or being taken back to another time through an immersion-scape in the World Heritage Exhibition area, dare to dream for your vision and yours may also come true.

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