|Walking back towards the quarry on the old tramway. |
The tips are all on the left, while the working faces can be seen on the right.
We’d tried to reach the quarry a while ago from Cwm Pennant. I’m not sure what it is about the Cwm, but I find the upper reaches to be rather opressive, even though the scenery ticks all the boxes for attractiveness. The mountains start to crowd in on each side and, on the early spring day we chose, massive dark clouds glowered at us from their craggy fastnesses. Not a good sign. When we made it to the end of the Cwm, it seemed that the heavens were about to open but we sloshed through knee deep bog towards the Prince of Wales mill, trying to find the course of the tramway that would lead us to the dryer ground. After half an hour, the clouds came down for a much closer look at us. Retreat seemed the best, indeed, the only option, given that we hadn’t packed scuba gear. Very frustrating, as there are several interesting sites nearby. The incline of the Dolgarth, or Dol-ifan-Gethin quarry beckoned in the mist across from where we had parked the car but it was too wet and slippy to try and explore even this minor enterprise at the head of the Cwm.
A year later, I was idly tracing the route of the Gorseddau tramway on Google Earth, back to the Pont-y-Pandy mill and on, via Braich-y-Bib, to Cwm Pennant. As my mouse reached the end of Cwm Pennant I had a twinge in my poor old knees, remembering the soaking we’d had, and speculated about a new assault on the quarry in it’s mountain fastness. At this, Petra fired up Google maps on her computer and very quickly announced a new plan.
|The Fabulous view of Snowdon from the bwlch between Nant Colwyn and Cwm Pennant.|
It was a good plan. The first couple of miles up to the bwlch are easy ones on forest roads. Much as I hate the forestry people and their habit of obliterating surface archaeology of all kinds, I have to admit that it was pleasant walking along, listening to the few birds that can survive in the dense, unnaturally planted conifer woods. I know, these days things are done more sensitively, but I still havent forgiven them for what they did to Catherine and Jane Consols, or Bryn Eglwys. Pretty soon, we reached a point where the satellite printout suggested that a track went up through dense trees towards a pass on the ridge above. It didn’t look promising, but I soon became excited when we encountered a pile of slate waste and the beloved “Danger, Deep Mine, keep out!” sign which always lifts my spirits. Not the Prince, of course, but one of the small trial quarries associated with the abortive Bwlch-y-Delior enterprise in the 1860’s. The quarry looked interesting with a deepish twll and I earmarked it for future study. Much of the slate waste had been used to surface the paths hereabouts, indicating that the route we were on might be the correct one.
After five minutes of uphill walking, we emerged from the trees and were able to see views again. The path sloped steeply upwards through recently felled timber, opening up a spectacular vista towards Snowdon. Down below, a deep toned whistle echoed off the hills as a train rolled towards Caernarfon, seeming like a tiny dark line under a cloud of steam from this height. The weather was magnificent and as we climbed higher, a fabulous vista stretched out, from the Moelwyns in the south east to Cefn Ddu in the north. Despite the temptation to keep looking back, we forged on until the ground became level and the first signs of Cwm Pennant were seen.
|Petra walking along the tip tramway above Cwm Pennant.|
Of course, the Prince of Wales quarry was no exception to the rule in these parts, being a colossal failure and a triumph of “geology over optimism”. It was promoted by the eccentric Huddart’s of Bryncir, of whom it was said that “They poured money into holes in the ground and called it mining.” It was a stylish failure if nothing else; the quarry had obviously been run on a very organised basis. There was no evidence of the chaos on the surface that one so often sees in mines elsewhere.The quarry was abandoned in 1886, after only 13 years of operation, although there were sporadic attempts later at re-opening-perhaps it's something in the water round here that causes wild optimism.
|The level one twll, with the blind adit driven into the rock face. |
A spruce tree grows amusingly out of the grating covering a shaft to the lower level.
|The central incline, with large slabs lying uselessly about.|
|The chamber, with the shaft dropping down.|
|Looking down from level 2 towards the incline leading to the mill in Cwm Trysgl. |
Cwm Pennant runs further below, towards the sea.
It was a fascinating and spectacular day’s outing, all the more so for having good weather and marvellous views. Although it might be easier, given a pair of wellingtons, to approach the quarry from Cwm Pennant, I would approach it again from the Snowdon side. The added time spent walking up and down was worth it for the views and the sense of contrast as we left Nant Colwyn and descended into Cwm Pennant.
|While we were exploring the quarry, this Raven kept an eye on us, |
occasionally talking to his or her mate in the valley below.
The late Ben Fisher's site about the Gorseddau Tramway, with a section on the Prince of Wales Quarry here.
Dave Sallery's superb description of the quarry on his site here