Thursday, 10 June 2010
The Stillness of Maenofferen
It's hard to imagine that this ravaged landscape was once grazing country, scattered with sheep and the occasional steading. However, the original name, "Maen-y-fferam" refers probably to a farmstead, and means "Boulder of the Farm" ...this is how it appears on old maps of the area. The Victorians, whether in the shape of a wistful Ordnance surveyor or someone under the influence of Byron and Ruskin (both enthusiasts for the local landscape), mutated it to the present spelling, which means "The boulder of the offering (or mass)". Interesting that local folk still pronounce the name the old way.
I don't suppose it was so very romantic in victorian times, as nearby Diffwys had been blasting away since the 1820's, followed by the Votty and Bowydd concerns. However, to the eye trained to appreciate a fine industrial landscape, there is something wondrous about the place.
New untopping activity by Llechwedd, the owners of the quarry, has created more visual chaos on the site of the David Jones quarry, above Maenofferen. Below, the centrepiece is the mill, abandoned in 1998, surrounded by rock and tipped slate waste. Further down, towards Blaenau, ugly scars show the brutal nature of modern slate reclamation as the roofs are lifted off the Votty Quarry's Tuxford inclines, exposing old workings in a ragged, jumble of rock. Elsewhere, tips are being reclaimed, while in the distance the Moelwyns look impassively on.