Michael Portillo goes underground

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South Crofty’s Chief Operations Officer John Webster is filmed showing Michael Portillo a rock sample
South Crofty’s Chief Operations Officer John Webster is filmed showing Michael Portillo a rock sample
South Crofty’s Chief Operations Officer John Webster is filmed showing Michael Portillo a rock sample

Cornwall’s South Crofty mine will feature in a new BBC2 TV series to be presented by former Tory Cabinet Minister, Michael Portillo.

During the series, Portillo will follow in the footsteps of George Bradshaw, who wrote the first national railway timetable and travel guides in the 1840s.

Stopping off at specific locations he will visit local landmarks and chat to residents about how life has changed in 150 years.

As Europe’s only working poly-metallic mine, South Crofty proved a perfect example of extreme change and progress for Portillo’s new series.

It will feature as Portillo travels, by train, from Swindon to Penzance. Other Cornish landmarks visited in the same episode will be Perran Sands and the oyster farms of the Helston River.

During his trip underground at South Crofty, Portillo walked through the mine’s narrow, low-ceilinged old workings, some of which date back to Tudor times, before being taken into the new workings to witness 21st century mining with tunnels measuring around four metres high and five metres wide – large enough for large trucks to drive through.

He was taken to the rock face and shown sample rock cores, huge drilling rigs and the mine’s newest piece of equipment, a handheld XRF (x-ray fluorescence) machine, which gives the metal content for a rock sample at the touch of a trigger.

Fascinated by the high-tech machinery so different from the picks and shovels used during Bradshaw’s era, Portillo said he was extremely impressed and would be following the mine’s progress with great interest.

The programme has the working title of Travels with Bradshaw and is due for transmission in January every weeknight – Monday to Friday – on BBC2 for four weeks.

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