Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cwm Prysor Mine: a tale of stinking mud and soggy feet.

A sylvan moment in Cwm Prysor, before we ventured into the underworld.

We're all familiar with the beginning of some programmes on the telly, where it says “warning, contains strong language from the start”. Yes, this mine did, too. But there was also a lot of mud. Stinky, sticky yellow stuff, sulphurous and gloopy. The water, as expected after the heavy rain we've had, was well over welly depth, but the mud underneath was the deepest and most enthusiastic that we've encountered so far in our mine explorations. It liked you so much that it didn't want to let go, and if you stood still to take a photo, it would set like custard round your legs, requiring some strange contortions while holding on to the adit walls to free yourself.

But I've raced on here, let me go back to the start. I'd seen an interesting write-up about the mine on the excellent United Cavers Exploration Team web site, by Ian Adams, and it is entirely his fault that we came back to Cwm Prysor looking for the mine. As it turned out, the visit was well worth the soggy legs.

We mooched around underneath the viaduct first- for information about that and how to find it, see my earlier post, here. This was where we discovered what I first thought were some structures left over from the bridge construction. After a bit of beard stroking I realised that the ruined stone foundations were the remains of stampers, for crushing ore. There was a truncated brick chimney nearby, too, and what looked like a track up into the birch woodland. We crashed about in here for a while, but didn't find the upper adit that Ian mentioned- although my mine senses tell me it's in there somewhere. There's quite a lot of mine spoil lying just under the grass here, too, showing plenty of iron pyrites and quartz.
The majestic legs of the Cwm Prysor viaduct above the mine.
 After a while we decided we'd had enough of stumbling about in the woods, and headed for the lower adit. It's not very promising-looking, choked with weeds and knee deep in sphagnum-covered cold water. But once inside and with feet acclimatised to chilly water coming in to the wellies, it was interesting. There were several abortive drives and a winding main drive with a fair bit of chasing evident on the walls, which exhibited some interesting variations of strata and rock. Petra saw a poor little water vole, probably poisoned by the deadly water in the adit. Halfway along, there was a waterfall coming from the roof. Excellent! Now the rest of me could be as wet as my feet and legs. We arrived at a junction. One way went ahead to what seemed like a fall. The other joined an upper level. We had a look in, but decided not to risk scrambling up to the hole as the rock looked very slippery. I notice from his photos that Ian did, though. Respect to that man! We'd seen enough, and after a struggle with even more determined mud, finally extricated ourselves from the adit. 

The way in!

The waterfall
 We sat in the sunshine and drank blackcurrant juice, that well-known mining beverage, whilst washing and drying our legs and feet. It had been fun, but any longer underground in that mud would have been miserable. We walked a couple of miles down the old railway track towards Traws, before returning to the car. I'm still convinced there's an adit in those woods. Of course, Nant Gefail-y-Meinars is just over the hill, too. We'll be back before long.

The remains of the chimney
A mine jelly fish?
The view down towards Traws

Post script: In my enthusiasm, I forgot to mention the the mine is a gold mine, probably a very old one. If it's of similar date to nearby Nant Gefail-y-Meinars then it will be from the late 1700's. Certainly the way the mine has been worked is nothing like other, later gold mines.

United Cavers Exploration Team web site


Anonymous said...

Another interesting report! I like your mention of "enthusiastic" mud. And that is a rather splendid view in your final photograph.

By the way, what is that 'jelly fish' all about then?

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. Yes, I couldn't resist the view of the Rhinogs and that railway hugging the mountain.
The "Jelly Fish" was, I think, the result of calcite laden drips from the's a quiet drive off the main tunnel and doesn't get disturbed...but it did look creepy!!

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