A typical day's adventure for us comprises stumbling about, getting lost, falling into a mire or two, then eventually finding what we came to look at.
But sometimes, what's on the ground doesn't fit the information we have. Until afterwards, when I generally can't believe how I could have missed what now seems so obvious. Thankfully, Petra is very good at finding things. She usually rescues the day by discovering something that I hadn't even been aware of.
This is how things went on our expedition to find Talmeirin slate quarry, still lurking mysteriously in the woods near Aberangell. Only, I didn't mind too much. The valley where the mine hides is very close to my idea of paradise. A beautiful cwm, bounded with low, rounded hills just high enough to shield it from the rest of the world. Add a deserted and picturesque farm. File under " forgotten valley"; one that we'll certainly not forget in a long while.
|The only building in the valley, the deserted Maes-y-Gamfa farm, from the forestry road.|
Petra had noted on street view that we would drive through Aberangell and take a winding little unclassified road out towards Hendre Ddu. Past a lovely house where, on the Google street view, an old ginger dog sat in the road. "We'll have to be careful of the dog", I joked. I do joke occasionally, you know. It's not all archaeological angst. As Petra steered the car through the village and up the road, there was the dog! Next time I will take a proper photo.
|The Google street view image. The dog is saying: "Must I move?".|
The roads in the woods here are strange. There are far too many of them, all going the same way in a profligate waste of tarmac. This culminates in a wierd junction of about five ways, hunched round a bridge like something out of "The Looking Glass". I reckon that one of the roads must be a tarmac-covered incarnation of the Hendre Ddu tramway.
|View from the entrance adit|
|The pit from the earlier adit entrance, high above the floor.|
|A Crab Apple tree on the Maes-y-Gamfa branch of the Hendre Ddu quarry tramway|
Back on the track and we could find no sign of Talmeirin. It didn't seem to be at the grid reference we had. So we carried on along a forestry road to Maes y Gamfa, at the head of the cwm. An interesting quarry with a fine pit, thankfully not so infested with birch and conifers. There were some remains of the mill, but it seemed that most of the stone had gone into building the nearby farm's outbuildings. Elswhere, walls had fallen down. There was no sign of the ornamental slate said to be still here, although there was a strange totem pole sticking out of a slate tip.
|Looking down from the tips|
The valley here at the end of the cwm was beautiful. We followed a tramway from the quarry to the farm, where a sheave incline house stood above what must have been a branch of the Hendre ddu tramway. There was plenty of bridge rail and slate slab in the wall here.
|Top of the incline, with the sheave winder house and obvious remains of tramway above the farm.|
|View from the mule track. Talmeirin somewhere in the woods below.|
Fridd Gartheiniog, ( aka Bowley's, or Hendre Coed Y Fridd) SH822117 was opened in 1850. The product was mostly slab from the Corris Narrow slate vein. There were two tunnels into the pit; we found the upper, earlier one. An enamelling oven was added to the mill in the 1920's to produce slate for mantelpieces and other architectural items. The mill was initially water-driven by a leat from the Afon Angell. We didn't find any trace of this. Later, a diesel engine supplied power for 6 saws and 3 planers. It closed in 1950.
Maes-y-Gamfa, SH818127 was opened in 1889 and was a slab quarry, working the Corris Broad vein. Closed in 1914, the mill on site was powered by a waterwheel.
"Gazeteer of Slate Quarrying in Wales", Alun John Richards, Llygad Gwalch 2007.
Jeremy Wilkinson’s "Gazetteer and Bibliography of the Mines and Quarries of North Wales" (here)
|After kicking aside some undergrowth with her mighty size 6 boots, Petra found this remnant of a forestry tramway near Bowley's mill. The sleepers were metal, and the rail 20lb flat bottom, clipped to the sleepers.|
|Mill remains at Maes-y-Gamfa. From a satellite view (Google Earth) it's possible to see that the mill's footprint was much larger, showing how much slate was "borrowed" by the farm!|
|Slate at Maes-y-Gamfa|
|The farmhouse, with tramway running above and to the rear.|
|The Gartheiniog adit|
|Sylvan delight at Maes-y-Gamfa. Mill buildings in the middle distance. Left is a stream issuing from the pit.|