The outskirts of St Austell in Cornwall are the setting, context and background for my PhD research project. Locals familiar with the area describe the visible, conical shaped mounds of waste produced by china clay mining as the ‘Cornish Alps’. It is a reformed landscape of industrial waste produce, described by locals as an alpine idyll. Originally white in colour, due to their being made up of ‘mica,’ the profile of the landscape in the area has changed over the 100 years of open cast china clay mining activity. Early paintings of the area depict peaks as distinctly more ‘classically Alpine’ in look than their current state. In recent times, respective owners of the mining areas have landscaped many of the original peaks – ‘sky tips’ as they are technically known – into terraces as part of a programme whose aim was to blend the landscape into its existing surroundings. Today, the connection of the Alps to this region in Cornwall seems a little tenuous. It could therefore be said that language sustains the myth rather than any clear physical resemblance in the landscape.
In Landscape and Memory, Schama states: “It is clear that inherited landscape myths and memories share two common characteristics: their surprising endurance through the centuries and their power to shape institutions that we still live with” (1995: 15). The memories of the Cornish Alps are tied directly to its industrial past and present. The pyramid peaks of the clay area landscape no longer represent work in the clay mines – instead they have become part of its local heritage and a symbol of both change and resistance. As I write, the building of a new ‘eco town’ in the area around Carluddon has attracted protests from local residents who fear their landscape is being endangered. As one protester posted onto the Facebook group ‘No eco town,’ the sky-tip is “more than a pile of sand. [It’s] a part of our history, heritage & national identity” (accessed 1st August 2015). For now, the threatened sky-tip at Carluddon, one of the final few remaining, remains as the logo for the local primary school.
Historically, many of families who were born, educated and lived in the so called ‘clay villages’ would have expected to have worked for or found employment in the local mines companies. Today, many leave the area and even the county to find employment. According to local Government statistics for overall economic deprivation, Cornwall is ranked 122 out of 326 local authorities in England (where 1 is most deprived). St Dennis South, an area within the China clay mining region is ranked having the second highest ‘households at risk of poverty’ in Cornwall. Jobs and employment opportunities are relatively scarce in the entire area. The china clay industry, while still maintaining a relatively small active mining programme, is generally in decline in Britain.
China clay currently represents the largest mining industry in Cornwall, although year on year, the scale of mining has been systematically reduced. In the sense that the area is still industrially active, it cannot therefore be truly defined as a ‘post’ industrial space as my research title suggests. It may therefore better to approach it as a space in transition, moving from an industrial space toward a post-industrial one. It thus becomes less a presence in the present and moves toward becoming the heritage of the past or an object of historical interest.
The ‘Visit Cornwall’ website boasts about a dramatic Cornish coastline and the “wilderness of Bodmin Moor and its panorama of big skies,” alongside sits the old industrial heartland – a landscape, awarded World Heritage Site status that contains the remnants of Cornwall’s mining past. The industrial clay area is often overlooked in the typical representation of Cornwall to tourists. A notable exception to this is the Eden Project, which is sited in one of the abandoned clay pits.
There is a latent social narrative of the Cornish landscape that Willett (2009) noted in her PhD thesis “Why is Cornwall So Poor?” For Willett Cornwall is paradoxical, perceived to be a fantastic place to live while simultaneously also being recognised as one of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom. Cornwall is therefore “described, discussed and imagined” through “a particular set of illusions and narratives” (Ibid). The articulation of described, discussed and imagined narratives form part of this investigation. It is not the narratives themselves that interests this research but how they interlace together and are mediated and understood through the field of representation. I suggest that were we to remove the constraints of understanding the world representationally we would be better positioned to re-consider how the underlying narratives operate and transform our interactions and our agency.
 This data is taken from Cornwall Council Briefing note on Economic Deprivation Indices 1999-2009, dated January 2013. This is the most up to date information available on the Cornwall Council last website accessed May 2015. [https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/media/3629156/EDIBriefingNote.pdf]
 This data was taken from a regional analysis of Experian’s Mosaic data and presented in a Cornwall Council report “Edge of Poverty,” September 2012. Available from the Cornwall Council website last accessed May 2015.
 It should be noted that Cornwall’s mining heritage is generally considered to be its Tin mining and not its china clay mining. The cause of this is usually attributed to the romantic aesthetic beauty of the Tin mine buildings as opposed to the open cast structure of the clay mines. In economic terms the china clay industry, as stated, is still relatively active while Tin mining is largely now only a feature of the tourism industry. The area from which the opinion is being sought usually defines the differing opinion of the importance of either tin or clay mining.