Despite living in Cornwall all my life and a large chunk of it in St Austell, I have only just this week discovered what a gem the Wheal Martyn Clay Works are for a family day out.
You can drive to Wheal Martyn, which is on Bodmin Road just outside St Austell and park in their decent sized car park or you can even go along the Clay trails and walk or cycle there. The views are beautiful before you even get inside Wheal Martyn. This is the view from the back of the car park.
Wheal Martyn is home to the UK’s only china clay mining museum. The museum tells the story of Cornwall’s largest mining industry, an industry still alive today. The museum, set in 26 acres of grounds, incorporating a preserved Victorian clay works gives a fascinating insight into this important industry which shaped the lives, landscape and economy of Cornwall’s Clay Country and beyond.
Wheal Martyn Trust is a charity, incorporating a fully Accredited Museum which cares for an extensive collection of industry artefacts, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Site of Special Scientific Interest. The charity works to provide opportunities for everyone to learn, be inspired and engage with this important aspect of Cornwall’s mining history.
I was really surprised just how much there was for children at Wheal Martyn. I didn’t take the boys when they were younger, as I just didn’t think it would be any fun for them – I was very wrong.
All through the summer there is a special ‘Kettle Kids’ trail at Wheal Martyn, where children can follow a trail around the site finding answers to the questions on a special sheet and finding letters to unscramble at the end. Once unscrambled the letters spell out two words and when the trail and sheet is completed, children get a special Kettle Kids badge.
Whilst doing the trail, children learn lots about Cornish clay history and the life of a Kettle Kid in the pits and there’s also the chance to dress-up as a Kettle Kid.
The whole Kettle Kids trail is a little bit special, as the story and facts you’re discovering are mostly about Arthur one of the Kettle Kids. Not only was Arthur a Kettle Boy from the age of fourteen, but he also still volunteers at Wheal Martyn at the age of 84!
As well as the summer Kettle Kids trail, there are also lots of other things for children. Including a huge sandpit and playhouse with slide right next to a pretty huge picnic area – perfect for you to get a chance to relax whilst the children play.
Then tucked in behind that play area, is a long children’s trail which is full of things like monkey bars to climb, tyres to navigate your feet through army style, swings, things to balance and climb on. The children’s trail is brilliant and suitable for children of all ages – with a bit of help given to the teeny ones obviously.
In another section of the woods at Wheal Martyn, there are some brilliant huge musical instruments made out of recycled/re-purposed items like big metal drums, metal used to make big triangles and more. They were great fun and despite it being the school holidays, this area wasn’t busy at all we had it to ourselves.
In the same area there are lots of old twigs and sticks for den making – some were there all ready for children to play in and there was a fantastic mud kitchen!
The Wheal Martyn site has lots of gorgeous wooded areas and it’s actually a really peaceful place to be – depending on your company of course ha! Si’s Mum was with us and had been before, so she played tour guide for a lot of our walk, which saved me trying to work out what was where, as my sense of direction is notoriously awful.
There were working water wheels there, which were really interesting to watch and lots of pools and clay mining paraphenalia outside and in. The museum areas inside the buildings were really interesting with lots to read and interactive screens to watch, I think inside is more interesting for the adults than the children personally, but I enjoyed it.
After we’d finished outside and before we left, we went in to have a cream tea and I am so glad that we did. It was delicious, there was more than enough jam and cream provided and the scones were big and even better still warm from the oven, which is my favourite way to have them.
Obviously we had them jam first, you know the right way… Also don’t worry I did use a whole lot more cream than in the photo below, but I didn’t want to look greedy ha!
You can actually use the cafe at Wheal Martyn without paying to go into the site and the cafe has a lot of options food wise and I’ve never heard anything but good things from anyone who has eaten there before. This was my second time in their cafe, as I walked there with Flo (Si’s Mum) when I was doing my sponsored walking.
Wheal Martyn Entry Prices
Currently the cost of entry to Wheal Martyn is as follows:
Children (5-15) £5.50
Children (Under 5) FREE
Family Saver – 2 adults and 2 children £28
Family Saver – 2 adults and up to 4 children £34
If you choose to gift aid your entry, you also receive an annual return pass to visit again within 12 months.
Our Verdict of Wheal Martyn Clay Works
We loved Wheal Martyn and we will definitely be visiting again soon. You could easily spend a full day there, as there’s plenty for children to do and play on, lots of history and scenery for the adults to enjoy and lots of room for picnics. Though we like their cafe too much to worry about picnics!
During school holidays they put on various events at Wheal Martyn such as the Kettle Kids trail and I’ll be adding them to my What’s On guide. They include puppet making, clay modelling workshops, pottery painting and more.
If you haven’t been to Wheal Martyn before, I really recommend it for a family day out. If you’re local keep your eyes peeled as well, in case they do another locals’ pass offer. If you’re looking for other things to do and place to go in Cornwall check out my list of over 100 days out in Cornwall and my very popular post of things to do when it’s raining in Cornwall.