Friday, 24 June 2011

Keeping an Eye on Cwt-y-Bugail

 We've been studying this Ffestiniog quarry for several years now, trying to make sense of what still remains on and under the ground.  It's not far from home, and makes a nice walk on a summer's evening. But every time we visit, something new turns up that we haven't noticed.  Shortly afterwards, as we mentally process what we've found,  some part of the place begins to make more sense than it did before. 
Like most slate quarries, Cwt-y-Bugail was worked over many years, successive generations building and tipping over previous work, making a mysterious picture with several layers of meaning.

Chamber C3, North Twll

I struck lucky and managed to get hold of a copy of the definitive book on the quarry.  “Blaen-y-Cwm and Cwt-y-Bugail Slate Quarries” . I refer to it all the time.  It's heartening in a perverse way,  to note that even the author of this work (the noted historian M.J.T. Lewis) is baffled on occasions here by the intricate brushwork of time.

An old rubbish waggon in the crosscut adit, level C North Twll.
We spent a few hours up on the badlands at Cwt this week, on the only fine day for a while.  The plan is to make a film of the place this year and to explore every possible nook and cranny.  On the day we were there, I found a couple of places that tested my resolve.  A low, water-filled chamber leading from a crawl in the North Twll, into adits, both blocked by falls. A submerged shaft lurked under the orange water, betrayed by a looming darkness and an old air pipe going straight down into the water.  Not nice.

Elsewhere we found an old powder house that had somehow been overlooked from our countless visits before...and other features began to make sense, like the unusually massive blocks on one tip which were from a fall in 1919, so different from all the other rubbish tips.

How did those rocks get there? Apparently, an excavator is buried somewhere under these blocks. Petra is circled for scale.
And so it goes on. With every visit, my affection for the place grows, despite the fact that it has a very dark side to it's personality. To know is to understand, though...and maybe we will, one day!


Anonymous said...

Great post, as always, Iain. And nice photographs, too. The tones and textures of the monochrome shot are lovely. The colours and reflections of the shot in the tunnel are wonderful. Very interesting to see rails still there.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. Glad you liked the photos and the tunnel shot. Some excellent fellows from AditNow had cleared the mill entrance, so was able to get in for the first time. This end is overlaid with about 1000tons of loose slate and as you can see, the roof is about to go, so I'd never been brave enough to venture in from this end!

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