Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Dragon's Lair.. Penarth Slate Mine

"Enter the Dragon"...  graffiti at the entrance adit proclaimed. Actually, it was less of an adit, more like an accidental opening out to bank. Above, the friable rock looked as if it were about to fall, some time soon. The worrying thing is that as far as we could find, this is the only way in or out. All the bona fide adits have been filled in.

We'd been eyeing the mine up for some time, after watching one of Henllan's videos. It seemed like a good place to explore on a rainy day, as the mine is safe in wet weather. Most of the mine, at any rate. An advantage, and, as it turned out,  a disadvantage. Being dry and easily accessible, the first thing we encountered inside were the remains of a big camp fire, with broken vodka bottles and an (empty) gallon tub of Paraffin. That must have been quite a blaze.  Further in and more booze littered the chambers, along with graffiti celebrating the union of  the flower of Carrog's youth. I didn't  mind the graffiti, or the exuberance... but the vodka bottles and cans...and tea anyone needs to drink hooch underground escapes me. It's obvious that the non-mine explorers who come in with their tea lights are also excited by the place, which is good, but booze + mine is definitely a frightening combination.

But I'm racing ahead. The mine sits above the main road between Carrog and Llidiart-y-Parc. On the map, there is a right of way that goes up through a farm, Penarth Farm.We walked up through this, to be greeted by a chorus of furious dog barks from at least eight collies, variously chained and roped up. It's a beautiful walk up to the mine, even on a very wet day like the one we'd chosen and we followed an old mule track, probably made to move the slate before the railway came to the valley. As we reached the quarry and joined the main incline the dogs were still barking. The incline is a faded presence now on the landscape, but impressive. The haulage cable is still there under the grass. At one time the incline passed under the road to meet with the GWR, now marked by a culvert. There is a plan for the Llangollen Railway to once again run along here towards Carrog- I hope they manage that. 

Petra's breath caught in the beam of her torch.

We made our way up to the quarry pit, passing some levels with buildings. It was too wet and windy to concentrate on these; so we decided to head straight underground, but not before Petra noticed a couple of hawks circling above us.  Peregrine Falcons, she reckoned.  Once underground, the mine is slightly chaotic in layout, chambers opening out in a kind of giant merry-go-round, with a lower level always present in the centre. The chambers are often high,  being worked up to an almost horizontal layer of sedimentary rock. There is a curious wavy surface to the roofs which we thought at first must be due to the use of a channelling machine, but in retrospect is probably just the way the rock was laid on top of the slate. Occasionally, the adit connecting the chambers hits more friable sedimentary rock and has to be shored with rail or props...these are now looking fragile.

A sealed off pasage, supported by bridge rail. Some parts of the mine were dammed to provide a head of water for machinery further down beside the incline; this could be associated with the blocked adits lower down the hill.

One of the most impressive things about the mine is the internal incline leading to an upper level. At the foot is an interesting mine truck. The mine is supposed to have closed in the early thirties, yet I would say the truck dates from the seventies. A mystery there, and we wondered how it had been brought in. Needless to say, as well as it's cargo of pickaxe and shovel, there were several empty lager cans and other items resting on the truck.

As usual, having spent a few hours underground, we were running out of time. Petra had been taking sample video shots, so we will be back to explore properly another time. This visit simply confirmed that Penarth is a super mine, well worth exploring. A note of caution, though. The mine seems to exploit two veins, the East and West vein, mined by it's big brother Moel Fferna nearby. The East vein passages are prone to bad air, something that won't be helped by lighting fires in the mine. So perhaps, in one way, there is a dragon (with bad breath) lurking in there.

Thanks to Ian for the video and the description on UCET here

Much of the sedimentary spoil is stacked inside, Cumberland style. A nice calcite flow on the entrance to another chamber in the centre.

One of the low-roofed chambers, with the sedimentary rock above.

Remains of a working platform above Petra.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting, as usual, Iain. I very much like the mood of photo #3 with the torchbeam in the chamber - it has a certain cinematographic feel.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks Graham! That was my favourite too, I'm glad you like it. Unfortunately, having just come back from Aberdeen, I'd forgotten to fully charge the lights - so the photos aren't so well illuminated this time.

weston said...

the picture with the light beam beam brilliant!!.
Give you some prospective of the size...and it just brill

Mark A said...

Personally, I find the lack of illumination more atmospheric and suggestive of how the mine might appear to an explorer. It is sometimes possible to include too much information in a photograph.

The chamber roofs are intriguing. My rusty 35 year old geology suggests some form of water or wind rippling on the sediment surface, before deposition of the next bed of sediment. I'm fairly certain I've seen a similar pattern on estuary mud, but I can't remember where or when.

Iain Robinson said...

Cheers, Wez...thanks very much!

Thanks, Mark. There was something similar on my post about Craig-y-Fron
So I think you are right.

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