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The essentially E–W-trending structural grain of the Devonian and Carboniferous Variscan orogen of mainland SW England (see Chapter 10) is punctuated by five large granite plutons (Fig. 11.1), which are now known to have been emplaced during very latest Carboniferous–Early Permian times. This chronological frame is after the final compressional stage of the Variscan orogeny, and it is now considered that the Cornubian granites were associated with crustal extension and orogenic collapse – this is discussed more fully later. From east to west the plutons are: Dartmoor (650 km2), Bodmin Moor (220 km2), St Austell (85 km2), Carnmenellis (135 km2) and Land’s End (190 km2). Offshore, to the west of Land’s End, the Isles of Scilly pluton has a seabed crop of about 120 km2 . Onshore, there are a number of smaller granite bodies, including Hemerdon Ball (south of Dartmoor), Hingston Down, Kit Hill and Gunnislake (between Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor), Belowda and Castle-an-Dinas (to the north of St Austell), Carn Brea, Carn Marth, St Agnes and Cligga Head (to the north of Carnmenellis), St Michael’s Mount and Tregonning–Godolphin (between Carnmenellis and Land’s End).

The higher parts of the granite outcrops are characterized by moorland, with thin peaty soils from which arise sporadic tors and their associated boulder screes, ‘clitter’ in the local dialect.

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