Lamenting the loss of Bottle Hill

Mining has long been part of the history of Dartmoor, predating the roman conquest of Britain. Evolving from simple beginnings, 20th century mining activity saw the implementation of total destruction of large swathes of moorland to make way for open cast mines. Those familiar with Dartmoor will be aware of the blight of the china clay quarries near Lee Moor.

Part of the Lee Moor china clay quarry, Dartmoor.

Now, I understand that the industries of the world require minerals, that local people need work, that moorland is generally of little economic use except for mining, and that landowners are free to sell their land. But I just can’t help lamenting the loss of some of the most accessible moorland bordering Plympton.

Bottle Hill, near to Drakelands and Newnham Park, is the latest casualty of the high price of minerals. In this case, the aptly named Wolf Minerals has been busy digging up Bottle Hill, restarting the open cast exploitation of one the world’s largest known tungsten and tin deposits.

Illustration of the area to be exploited by Wolf Minerals as part of their Drakelands mine (from

Although it’s nice to know that one of my favourite areas of Dartmoor now has such importance for the global economy, and that its exploitation will directly provide for around 200 local jobs (and will help to indirectly support numerous other local jobs), the loss of this beauty spot is difficult to stomach.

This was where, in 1994, I did my first proper mountain biking with a small group of friends (one of whom is now sadly deceased) and my younger brother. It’s where I went to think or to get a bit of fresh air after school, or just to have an enjoyable mountain bike ride on those (all too common) days when poor weather made the higher moorland areas too risky. I recall seeing many other cyclists up there, as well as walkers and families enjoying a picnic on a sunny afternoon.

Bottle Hill, I bid thee farewell…

The processing plant site with the open pit in the background (from

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