Monday, 21 June 2010

Bwlch-y-Plwm Mine- an unexpected gem.

This place is a familiar one for us, as it is on a favourite walk towards The Catherine and Jane Consols mine, hidden in the woods near Rhyd, Llanfrothen. (More about that in another post soon!)  I had always assumed that Bwlch-y-Plwm was a very old lead mine site that had little left to offer, apart from some interesting tips and a strange, gothic arch over the rake, following the line of the lead vein.

How wrong I was! Further exploration revealed a honeycomb of quite dangerous shafts leading in to a stope (a working chamber) and a whinze (vertical shaft from an underground chamber) falling down to a much deeper level. The hillside at this point is quite dangerous, with hidden openings and falls above the tips. The way the rock has been quarried at the mine entrance reminds me of one of those fantastic Victorian engravings of Snowdonia, with the added fascination of the subtle colourings of ore, the occasional tell-tale marks of tools on the rock and some crystalline deposits, sparkling in the gloom.
Once in the working,  a few large baulks of timber remain in the roof. There must have been wooden ladders to access the lower levels, but now there is only a frightening drop into blackness. There is evidence, too, of a rockfall in one of the stopes- a huge boulder lies where it has fallen, looming in the half-light from the shaft above.
Upon our return I combed the internet for anything about the mine and was surprised to find that the Adit Now site had a survey, which shows that it was much more extensive than we had thought.

From what I can glean from the net, the mine was indeed an ancient site, certainly used by the romans, if not earlier. An old survey of 1876 refers to one of the levels as "The Roman Lode". The earliest surviving records of a mining lease on the land are from May 1726. The mine suffered various financial vicissitudes, changing hands several times until 1875, when the Penrhyndeudraeth Mining Company started a deep level adit to drain the mine workings and cross the lode. The last records show that the lease changed again, and a new company continued the adit and built a mill near to the site of the present day farm.

What is surprising is the extent of the underground workings, which continue on five different levels and drive deep into the hillside, linked by deep and dangerous whinzes. Certainly not for the faint hearted, or the inexperienced to explore!

AditNow page on the mine here

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