Friday, 9 September 2011

The Blue Pool

 The young woman paddled in the shallow water, nearer to the line where it became dark... where it became impossible to see anything below the deep cerulean blue layers of the first few feet. Below this, a gloomy murk, an abyss of unknown depth lay beneath her. I watched her anxiously as Petra continued  photographing, unconcerned. The woman was wearing one of those wet suits that surfers use and had tentatively tip-toed into the water while her husband and small child watched. We've some experience of quarry pits, and know that they are always incredibly cold, deep and treacherous. I hoped she wasn't going to dive in.

She gasped with the cold as she gently let herself slide into the water. Her husband seemed unconcerned too, as if he'd seen this a million times. She swam towards the side that we were standing on. I'd been taking photos of the quarry face, but I now stood, watching her with a quickening of terror in my heart.
She spluttered and moaned with the cold, she seemed to be swimming more stiffly now. Then I saw with a feeling of relief that she was going to make it. She tried to heave herself out near us, but the side of the pit was too steep. I made a feint of going to help her, not knowing whether this was welcome or not; she redoubled her efforts and managed to get herself on to the edge in an undignified scrabble of limbs. She smiled broadly at me, then shouted to her husband on the other side:  "Have you got that on Facebook yet?"

Petra stands at the entrance to the pit at Golwen Quarry, near Fairbourne. Opened in 1865, it developed into a fairly extensive working This tunnel is an upper one, the lower one being closed off when the pit was flooded  to provide Hydro power for Fairbourne. The quarry closed in 1915, but the site is a popular destination for locals and holidaymakers who sunbathe and swim in the pit. They are braver than me. Despite the busy nature of the site, there are still remains to be found, including some Amos and Francis patent trimming tables and an impressive incline wheel...also a partly buried underground sheave. The lower adit is possibly 100 feet below the tunnel pictured above, giving a clue as to the depth of the pit. It's nice to think that after all the blood, sweat and tears that were shed to make this quarry, people are now enjoying it as if it's some kind of magical leisure park for sunbathers and swimmers, watched over occasionally by anxious old mine explorers, worried for their safety.



Anonymous said...

Looks like an interesting place, Iain. Just noticed that the flooded pit is marked on the OS map as 'Blue Lake'. It certainly looks like it lives up to its name.

My favourite photo this time has to be the one of Petra framed in the light of the tunnel entrance.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks Graham. It is a fascinating spot, there are several other slate mines very close, although unlike Golwen they are not on public access land, so are awaiting permission from the landowner to explore.

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