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Drakelands - A ghost town

Updated: Mar 21


If you venture up through Hemerdon, Plympton, towards the Tungsten Mine, you'll stumble across signposts for Drakelands. Drakelands was once a small, friendly Hamlet on the edge of Dartmoor. Inhabited with 11 houses, some quite large and beautiful, Drakelands was a quite a serene place to live and grow a family with all the locals knowing each other.



Image source: Michelle Walsh



History

Tungsten was first identified in the area as far back as 1867 with the main deposits being found in 1915. This led to a mining plant being constructed and production began in 1917. In 1918, production was put on hold due to Tungsten prices. Hemerdon Wolfram LTD once again began production in the 1930s thanks to a resurgence in Tungsten prices. In 1944, the site was placed under care and maintenance and mining ceased. In 1960, much of it was sold for scrap. In 1976 Hemerdon Mining and Smelting Limited took part in a drilling programme and mining commenced. With thanks to the collapse of the International Tin Council in 1985, this made the project uneconomical, and the project was abandoned in the early 2000s. An Australian company Wolf Minerals, gained rights to the project in December 2007 and began drilling along with conducting metallurgical studies and also re-established the necessary environmental and regulatory permissions for the project, before beginning site construction in 2014. Even though Wolf Minerals completed construction on time and within their allotted budget, when production commenced as the newly formed ‘Hemerdon Mine’ in August 2015, the operation was scuppered by a series of operational issues and Wolf Minerals were placed into administration in October 2018.  




From the competent persons report I have read along with geographical studies, the mine never had the amount of Tungsten reported hence the failings when drilling. The initial investigations and results were over-inflated to gain momentum in re-opening the mine. The expected price for the material was also a lot lower than previously estimated and the land not entirely suitable for such an operation.



2023

According to reports by Plymouth Live, Tungsten West Plc is at risk of again taking the mine into administration due to making a loss of £9.1million in the space of just 6 months.


2024

"Plymouth’s tungsten mine has secured a vital permit which could allow it to raise crucial finance - but it will need approval from the public. Tungsten West Plc has received a draft permit from the Environment Agency for the operation of a Mineral Processing Facility (MPF) at the Hemerdon mine, near Plympton" (Plymouth Live, 2024)



So, what is this ghost town I speak of?

As a family, we love Urban Exploring. You know, taking off into the night with torches and cameras after being given a tip of a derelict building or after hours of scouring Google Maps and Street View. We love the history, the decay, the what if's? We enjoy imagining what was and if there have been belongings left, treasure! We follow rules; You NEVER break in, you take only photos and leave only footprints. A lesson in architecture and history.


After a rainy Saturday afternoon of Google Map searching miles from home, I decided to look closer. And this is how I found Drakelands.


Drakelands?

In approx 2010, Hemerdon Mine issued a compulsory purchase order for the following addresses. The occupants were given no choice but to sell their beloved homes to the mine and vacate. The mine had submitted planning permission to expand and would be needing this land. Some of these homes have been in the same family for years. The houses were purchased, the residents forcibly moved out and here were are, in 2024 and these beautiful buildings have been left to decay with no sign of development. These homes were lost for nothing. The ex-residents are understandably angry.


Claymoor House, Drakelands, Plymouth, PL7 5BS  

Middle Drakelands House, Drakelands, Plymouth, PL7 5BS  

High Post, Drakelands, Plymouth, PL7 5BS  

Count House, Plympton, Plymouth, PL7 5BP  

Higher Drakelands, Hemerdon, Plymouth, PL7 5BS  

Little Drakelands, Hemerdon, Plymouth, PL7 5BS  

Land at Little Drakelands, Hemerdon, Plympton, Plymouth  

Higher Drakelands Farm, Drakelands, Plymouth, PL7 5BS  

Drakelands House, Drakelands, Plymouth, PL7 5BS  

Mine Cottage, Plymouth  

1 & 2 Bottle Hill Cottages, Plymouth.  




Image source: Michelle Walsh, Google Maps


I 'pinned' all the apparent derelict buildings and began some internet research. In doing so, I came across this blog:



A fascinating walk-through of Drakelands. This REALLY peaked my interest.

The following weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to take a drive and have an explore.

As you drive up the hill through Hemerdon, you pass some large houses, one even has a chimney stack remaining in the garden. You reach the top of the hill at a fork in the road. And a signpost for Drakelands, pictured above. The left road heads down a steep hill, the right is straight ahead but with a boulder blocking it. Directly to your right are are large gates, very overgrown and a hidden driveway entrance.


Image Source: Michelle Walsh


We park here and get out. Beyond the boulder is Galva Road. We take a slow walk and start noticing things, such as an old postbox, now painted black to signify it's demise. Behind the postbox is a garden, conservatory and then the house, called High Post. This was the first one we had spotted and it was big, beautiful and most likely held a lot of memories. I have been told (by the wife of someone who sealed the houses) that the houses were sealed up with possessions still inside, including cars in the garage. How much of this is true I do not know.


Image source: Michelle Walsh



As we continued walking, there were two more houses to our left, again, large with stunning views. I have spoken to the son of the ex-resident here and he tells me what a wonderful place it was to grow up.


Image source: Michelle Walsh


Image source: Michelle Walsh


Continuing along the lane to the right of the signpost, past the two houses on the left, you come to some huge metal fencing and gates covered in warning signs. Beyond here was a farm, some more houses and a fishery. If you look on Google Street View, it's all still there.


We headed down the hill to the left and was met by a decent size house on the left. Little Drakelands. We hopped over the gates and into what would have been a very scenic garden. All the houses are bricked up but there is an old Morris Minor Traveller sadly disintegrating in the rear garden. Here we set off an alarm. Ooops. We quickly vacated and carried on up the hill. Soon a security guard drove past in his 4x4 while glaring at us but didn't stop to chat.


Image source: Michelle Walsh



Up the hill towards Newnham car spares are Bottle Hill Cottages. We couldn't get close to the houses themselves but explored the derelict garden and yard/stables.


Image source: Michelle Walsh



We knew there were two more houses hidden away in the trees up by Bottle Hill Mine so we followed the road and up a lane, spotting the roofs as we went. What was know as The Count House has sadly been a victim of arson. Still beautiful all the same. The old swing in the garden adds to the eerie atmosphere there.


Image source: Michelle Walsh



The final house is a miners cottage, right next to what was Bottle Hill Mine. You can still explore the area to an extent and see where the mine was, plus the chimney stack is still very present.


Image Source: Michelle Walsh



Our explore was an exciting, interesting yet sad one. Thinking of the poor people who had no choice but to up and leave. And for what? Their houses still stand derelict to this day.



Will Hemerdon Mine ever run again? Personally I can't see it, not from the reports I have read. I know Hemerdon residents are hoping and praying it never does as are those who live in surrounding areas. The traffic in and out was a nightmare for them.


IF exploring Drakelands tickles your fancy then please do, but do it with caution. Be sensible and do not go breaking any laws! You can find quite a few videos on YouTube if you search. Worth a look before embarking on your own adventure.


This area has become one of my favourites. It's incredibly peaceful and quiet. Lots of wildlife to be seen, especially birds.



Image source: Michelle Walsh



It's nice to sit and contemplate and wonder what was, what could have been and what the future holds.





Michelle Walsh

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