A mile or so from St Austell, at the nearest point on the coast, lies the bijou port of Charlestown. This Georgian harbour village was created by Sir Charles Rashleigh to allow the transport of the valuable China Clay to the potteries in the north and across to Europe.
Before the harbour was constructed ships would be drawn up on the beach to be loaded. Boats arriving empty would contain 'ballast' to maintain a seaworthy condition. Generally, the ballast would be stones from the last port that they'd visited. This ballast would then be thrown out on to the beach at Charlestown, in preparation for loading up with China Clay. As a result, the beaches at Charlestown are kaleidoscopic view of the world's geology, with pebbles from a mulititude of locations.
China Clay was exported in barrels so the services of a Cooper, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Chandler, Rope-maker etc were all required within the village. Today, you can discover the heritage of the village in the Shipwreck & Heritage Centre or, during the summer months, enjoy a guided walk and learn more of the China Clay industry - its history and today's industry.
Today, the harbour is the home port for a fleet of Square-Rigged sailing ships. Much in demand for film-work, at times they also offer a range of trips along the coast or 'smuggling trips' across the Channel. Often, the harbourside at Charlestown is taken over by film companies and magically transformed into '18th Century Dover' or a London quayside. Check the Square Sail website