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The Story of Place

What follows is the telling of one story of this place. We also invite new stories, alternative stories and challenging stories of place:

The story of Ro Dama begins 350 million years ago when volcanic activity blasted through the Mylor Slate bedrock and created an area of high ground called the Carnmenellis Intrusion to the south. Over millions of years, the rain that falls on this high ground around what is now West Camborne, Praze-an-Beeble and Troon, has carved a valley as it tries to reach the sea at Godrevy, the valley we call home. Just North of Ro Dama, it teams up with the Red River, its sister river from the same high ground around East Camborne, Pool and Four Lanes, in its quest to get to Godrevy.

Our ancestors called the river that runs through our valley “Dowr Konnor” which would be translated as the Connor River. And the same name was used for what is now the Red River (named for the discolouration from mine works). Curiously, rivers in Cornish were named from the river mouth back, meaning all tributaries were included by one name, while English convention has different names for each tributary. Therefore in English, the river that runs through Ro Dama is known as the “Roseworthy Stream” or the “Praze Stream”.

Recorded history gives us few clues as to what happened in this valley in the intervening time.

Around 500 BC, an Irish missionary named Finegar (or St Winierus or St Gwinear) landed at Hayle, which was an established Cornish trading post with Ireland with a fort located at Carnsew. Finegar established his chapel at the site of holy well in Roseworthy, a small hamlet in this valley.  Just around the corner is Menadarva (Cornish: Mertherderwa – Grave of St Derwa), the site of another chapel dedicated to St Derwa and the larger village of Gwithian (Cornish: Godhyan – St Gothian) also has an old chapel in its nature reserve. Clearly this valley was imbued with the spirit of the Celtic Christian church for some time, with our placenames still carrying those meanings even today.

Other placenames give us a clue as to the role this valley played in the wider watershed. The hamlet closest to us is called “Nancemellin” (or “Nansmelin” in the original Cornish), meaning “Mill Valley”, the site of an old water mill. There are also sites very nearby on maps indicating a Corn Mill, and a New Mill. Cornhill Farm, which is still our neighbour, has also long been indicated on historical maps. There are also various small mine workings near the river and around the area, mining copper and silver, though the works in Camborne and Redruth were by far the principal areas for mining. At Roseworthy was a forge that was also driven by the river that produced the “Cornish Shovel”.  Just this side of Roseworthy was also an Arsenic Works where this waste mineral from mining processes was extracted from the river. We can see how the Dowr Konnor river has been central to life and livelihoods in this valley, driving the Corn Mill, Arsenic Works, Forges and Mine Workings, as well as giving life to the plants and animals.

The area in this valley appears to have been unenclosed for a long period of history. At some point before the mid-19th Century, it was enclosed and evidently deforested, which started the process of erosion and degeneration of the valley side at Ro Dama. It is likely that this watershed supported the town of Camborne agriculturally as it grew to become one of the important centres of the industrial revolution and of world mining. Corn would have at least been grown nearby if not at Ro Dama, though it may have been too steep, and it’s likely it would have been milled at Nancemellin and then perhaps transported to Camborne.

Camborne not only played a significant role in providing the resources necessary for the industrial revolution to occur, but some of the key inventions and ideas of the era emerged from its works, principally the first steam-powered locomotive which took its maiden journey up Camborne Hill on Christmas Eve, 1801. This invention enabled the development of railways and eventually cars. Holman’s, a company that employed most of the town, also produced the technology for industrial projects the world over.

We can therefore image how this watershed has played its unique role in Cornwall, Britain and the world based on its unique features: the close proximity of the minerals and precious metals not just to the sea, but the natural harbour and estuary at Hayle; the proximity of West Cornwall to maritime sea trade; the co-location of mining, fishing and farming expertise. The role of the rural land of the Dowr Konnor watershed has supported Camborne in expressing its essence and gifts to the world. At Ro Dama, we continue to play this role to this day.

In the late 20th Century, Camborne was caught in a crunch between increasing costs of mining (as the metals closer to the surface were exhausted, deeper and more expensive digging was needed) and a global reduction in the price of the metals, and the last mine closed in 1998. Having lost its purpose, the Camborne eco-system entered a phase of degeneration. Deprivation and it’s associated features became commonplace, with the Camborne, Pool & Redruth area being labelled as one of the poorest areas in Europe – having only a hundred years previous included the “richest square mile in the Old World” at Gwennap. This status attracted much EU funding, but these top-down approaches did little for the area but make some nice-looking but useless buildings. The area around Camborne also began to degenerate, and the land at Ro Dama began to be used as a motorcycle track, quarry and a ‘dump’. Many discarded plastic and metal motorbike pieces were left here as well as a contaminated quarry and slag heap.

We believe that, just as Camborne resourced the global transition into the Industrial Revolution, so too does it have the potential to resource the global transition into the Regenerative Revolution. Lithium is now starting to be mined locally, a key resource in the shift away from carbon-based vehicles (though we don’t pretend electric vehicles are our saviour, they are a useful transitionary step).

Therefore, we at Ro Dama are playing our role in resourcing this watershed and Camborne in expressing this potential for regeneration. Visit the following pages about the Land, the Community and Cornish Culture to see how we are playing this role.