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One of the Proles favourite things in the world is to play in an Arsenic Calciner.

We visit the one at Botallack quite regularly.
It sits on front of the Count House and up above the Crowns.
It must qualify for one of the most awe inspiring parts of the cornish coastline.
The Proles use the word ‘Awesome’ a lot but the cliffs of Botallack really are.

Once the faintly sombre part of our visits is over the boys just go wild for about half an hour.

At Botallack the remains of a huge Calciner are laid out on the cliff top.

The one at Botallack has been cleaned out and all the poisonous chemicals are gone now.
At one point the whole place must have been covered in a mildly lethal dust.

The process was to fire the ore and different chemicals would be vaporised with the heat.
The gasses would pass along tunnels, slowly cooling until they condensed on the walls of the tunnel.
Different chemicals would condense at different heats and so would cover the walls of the tunnel at different points.
The chemicals could be scraped off the sides of the tunnels and collected.

It was once a place of heavy, dangerous, deadly industry.
It is now greened in turf and furze over the red brick and granite.

The Calciner in Botallack is big enough to walk through in single file.
Not the open air dressing floor where the workers stood, women mostly, handling the toxic ash.
Actually inside the furnace and tunnels themselves.

The roof is missing for most of it so I am able to walk the length of it and only bend down to get through some of the smaller tunnels.
It takes around five minutes to walk from the furnace end to the chimney.

The tunnels are laid out in a rough ‘U’ shape, beginning with the furnace at the top of the ‘U’ and ending at the chimney at the other side.

The furnace door arch is still there so we walk through the door into the open square furnace shell and along a narrow bridge into the tunnel.
We are guided up a slight hill by the walls on either side for a while and then the tunnel snakes backwards and forwards in tight bends.
This is where most of the chemicals would have been gathered and each ‘end’ is framed by a doorway where it turns back on itself into the hillside again for about fifteen feet where it turns back on itself again and comes back to the next doorway.
There are a number of these parallel tunnels in and out of the hillside.
This zig zag series wiggles on and on until the tunnel travels up and over an arch at the base of the U shape.

This arch is easily big enough to walk under and then the tunnel continues on it’s wriggly way back up the other side of the U to the chimney.

The chimney is red brick and intact and reaches high into the air.

The whole walk is oddly mesmerising, like walking a maze.

The Proles call the Calciner ‘the Dragon’.

They rush in through the furnace’s open mouth and run as fast as they can through the tunnel to the tail, or ‘Dragon’s Bottom’ at Prole2 calls it.

Prole2 loves the word ‘bottom’ and it makes him giggle uncontrollably.
Prole1 hates the word ‘bottom’ and it can reduce him to tears if it is used a lot in conversation.
I am not sure which is the better way to be.

This is a chase of course.
I run behind making scary Dad noises.
The Proles squeak and shreak and run as fast as they can to get away.
In the past it was easy to keep up but they are getting rangy and slippery these days so it is more of an effort.
Also I am in occasional danger of knocking myself senseless on an occasional low lintel.
And I am in my forties, the odds are slowly moving in their favour.

The Proles love running from door to door, from tunnel to tunnel.
They climb all over it and scramble through it.
We play games of ‘catch’ and ‘tag’ across the dressing floor between the tunnel door ways.
They could and would do this for hours.

Often I can just stand waiting for them to return and hear nothing but echoey distant laughter from the tunnels.
The sound spins around and it is hard to know where abouts it is coming from.

Botallack is where Loz and I got married and the setting is where our wedding photos were taken.

All my very favourite photographs of that day are in and around that landscape.
I have a black and white image that our friend the New York Dancer took of us and I see it every morning.
I love Botallack and I cannot go there without thinking of her.

We also carried out a small ceremony there a few years ago for her.
She is there for me in amongst the ruins.
She is there in the cliffs and the blue of the sea, in the birds and the wind.
She is in the wild and the plants and the air.
If I want to know where Laura’s smile is then I go there.
She is in everything.

So when we go, we arrive quietly and stand for a moment.

Then the Proles go loopy and crash around the place like idiots.

I love it.

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