Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Stormy Skies over Moel Mochowgryn


 This adventure started in the usual way, with Petra looking at Google Earth and noticing something that looked like a mine, high up on the Migneint between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Bala. Only thing was, there were no tips of any consequence. Well, I mumbled, they could be grassed over if it's an old mine; or perhaps it's a manganese mine... deads were often stacked inside. I punched the grid reference that Petra gave me into the excellent Hendre Coed online mine gazetteer and, as so often is the case, it returned a result. A manganese mine.

Manganese was big business in the Victorian world; it was an important constituent of steel due to it's alloying and hardening properties. Steel helmets worn by the poor "Tommies" in the great war were made from 12% Manganese steel. It had many other uses, such as in bleach production, used in the dark satanic mills of Lancashire for brightening and dyeing cotton. It was also used during the production of Manganese blue artists' oil paint. Certainly used by the "Arenig Group" of painters, who had a revolutionary style of painting for the time (1911), producing almost hallucinatory images of landscape.


 Thankfully, this mine was not a mirage or a hallucination- just a short but boggy hike over the moor from the Bala road. The afternoon we chose was a dramatic one, certainly worthy of a landscape painting- although the dark clouds were constantly threatening us with a soaking. We arrived soggily at the mine and with the aid of a printout from Google Earth, fixed the main features in our minds. The fine wheelpit was at the bottom of the site, although there were no signs of leats or fixing bolts, so it may never have been used. The tips were grassed over, hinting at a fair time since abandonment. Inside, the adit was wet to just below critical welly depth and immediately, a cross cut went off to the north, ending quickly after a few feet. Here there looked to be no evidence of jwmpr marks...at this point it must have been hewn out with crowbars. The adit snaked on, with evidence of sparkly minerals on the walls and thin, purply veins of Psilomelane (manganese ore). Here and there, iron had leached through the walls, but despite the length of time since closure, there were no formations or calcite deposits worth noting.

Lots of lovely sparklies!
 The adit carried on, snaking slightly for 69 metres, ending in a blind forehead. A shaft seems to have been filled in near the forehead; the remains of a bridge were lying about under the water here, which became deep, up to belly height at this point.

The Deep bit...
 Further up the hill there is another adit, sadly run-in, and a whole series of shafts and open workings. There appear to be two working floors where cobbed waste is steadily being grassed over. It must have been a busy site in it's day and it's quite a thought to imagine those old miners carting the ore to Arenig Station, about two miles down the hill. As we walked back down, we came across a lovely old pack horse bridge which, no doubt, had been used by laden animals, taking the ore down towards the railway.



One of the open workings
 It's an intriguing and beautifully sited mine, although fragile. The views across to Arenig Fawr, the mountain that inspired Augustus John to stay in the area and paint, were majestic. I wondered if he'd seen the mine, but then remembered that he'd stood with his friend  James Innes on the Cwmorthin quarry road and turned his back on that mighty place, preferring to paint the pretty view down the Vale of Ffestiniog. Pah! Philistine...

For detailed information on the Mochowgryn Mine, Dave Linton's "Merioneth Manganese" site is invaluable.

Here's a few notes on Augustus John in the Arenigs

SH806403

Petra near the entrance, at one of the crosscuts.





One of the crosscuts, looking from the main adit.
The adit entrance





2 comments:

geotopoi said...

Some nice photos there, Iain. I like the one of Petra at the crosscut. Lovely inky blackness of the water in the foreground and a striking starburst from her head torch to the bargain!

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham Yes, I think the one of Petra is my favourite, as well. Gives a good idea of how soggy the mine is, too!

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