Friday, 7 January 2011

Beguiling Bryn Glas

This modest, often overlooked little gem of a site, sitting in a commanding location above the head of Cwm Teigl,  is well worth a careful look. We've been twice, the first time becoming bogged down by following the wrong route. It's nothing to write home about for the seasoned mine explorer, but for us there's something special about it.
The small waste tips from the mine can be seen when driving over the B4391 Migneint road from Llan Ffestiniog, just before the Ceunant Cynfal  lay-by/viewpoint. This is as good a place as any to park, as a short walk will take you to a morass-free, Welsh Water road leading up to the Llyn Morwynion reservoir. From this road, you can cut across to the tips. On the way, there are one or two depressions in the ground scattered about on the hillside which look like early investigative trials or older small workings.

Once you reach the tips, there's not much waste, although the construction is interesting because they are still pretty much at the bastion stage. I know I'm sad, but I find slate tips fascinating. Local poet Gwyn Thomas talks about the tips "rattling like old miner's bones" (my dodgy translation there, sorry Gwyn...) but they never really settle and always seem to have a life of their own.
There's the remains of a tramway leading from a nice, but waterlogged adit here. Walking upwards beside the tips, a fairly deep pit comes into view. It's not fenced off, so great care is needed. There are two adits in the pit. The lower one, which is rather wet, is a short trial with a small, soggy chamber. Above is a tunnel which seems to drive downwards, quite a frightening prospect, seeing  it from the lip of the pit. This area seems to have been a later attempt to exploit the slate veins here, probably in the early years of the 20th century.

From the pit, it's a good idea to trace your steps down beside the tips to the tramway which heads to Cwm Teigl. In a few moments, a shattered incline drumhouse appears. The views from here on a fine day are quite spectacular, the Moelwyns looked enchanting on one of our visits, when you could actually see them under the mist.

The Moelwyns and the drumhouse. The Cwmorthin quarry above Tan-y-Grisiau is illuminated by a gap in the cloud.

Take a cautious walk down the incline and you're facing some interesting-looking ruins.  This was the site of a steam mill. A small boiler, possibly even a stationary engine, would have worked overhead line shafting, powering a saw and slate cutting machinery. There are the much rusted remains of a car lying here, a c1959 Standard Vanguard. Bits of it are scattered over a wide area, as if the Ravens have been robbing it for spares. Goodness knows how it got here, although there was once a short tramway leading to the road- perhaps that was more navigable in the sixties.
On the way to the mill, there's a small adit on the right. The mine first appears on records as being operated in 1901 by William Barr, closing in the1920's. This seems to be the original adit, which leads into a chamber which has been worked out to daylight next to the mill. Inside the chamber there's a level which is probably just a stage in the process of the miners opening out the chamber, and the remains of winching tackle probably from the 50's/60's.

A tunnel leads from this chamber into another, slightly smaller one, with evidence of brown slate and iron staining. Further on, a junction is encountered. The left branch leads to a small chamber after 50 yards or so. The right branch carries on for 70 yards becoming damper as different rock is encountered. It ends in a rise which curves steeply up and out of sight; possibly an attempt to link with the shaft in the pit above. The tunnel seemed to have a different shape, more squat than elsewhere in the mine. There was also a vague smell of after-shave right at the end- peculiar since neither of us wears anything "pongy". Maybe the old miners were "Old Spice" fans...

Back in the daylight it's possible to note several buildings and on the hillside above, a ruined magazine.
Despite lying out of use from the twenties, the mine was opened in the fifties again. It finally closed around 1966/67 when worked by William Edwards (Wil Band) and Ifor lloyd Jones & partners. Then, the mill had one sawing table and one dressing machine powered by a Petter 2 stroke oil engine. This subsequently went to Dwr Oer quarry. The engine survives and is now owned by a local engine enthusiast.

We were trying out some new lighting for the first time here. It's amazing how far lighting and LED technology has come recently and my new Fenix hand torch in particular was so bright that it gave the mine a completely different character to our first visit, when we had been using older equipment including Maglite torches, supposedly so good a little while back!

The safety stuff: As with all disused mines and old industrial sites, great care must be taken at all times. The site should not be explored underground without the appropriate headgear and illumination. On our last visit, several large slabs weighing at least a ton had become dislodged from the roof of one of the chambers due to de-lamination in the freezing weather.

All that aside, it's a beautiful spot to stand and stare at the landscape, while the poignant ruins of the mill add another layer to the charm of the place.

Grateful thanks to Hymac580C for the 1960's info.

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