Sunday, 6 November 2011

Stumbling Around Aberangell...again!

Through a wooden eye: the Nant Maes-y-Gamfa, seen through a crook of fallen timber.
  It was no hardship to revisit the Nant Meas-y-Gamfa, near the village of Aberangell. Last time, we'd failed to find the Talymierin slate mine (aka Tal-y-Mieryn or Talmeuryn) which is supposed to lie in this beautiful valley at GR SH825119, the reference given in Richards'  "Slate Gazetteer ".  I must confess that I'd also rather badly wanted to try and photograph the ginger dog from Google Street View that we'd seen last time. In any case, the landscape round these parts is hauntingly beautiful; and there was the Hendre Ddu tramway to explore as well.

As we drove up through Aberangell, the dog was sitting in a shaft of sunlight at the side of a barn, surrounded by a sociable flock of  hens. It was early, so we decided to photo him on our return. As we parked near Bowley's Mill, a sign stated on the forestry road that the route was to be used for a motor sport rally and was closed. No problem, we were taking the tramway, marked as a footpath. It winds along beside the Nant Maes-y-Gamfa on a revetted shelf. Over the river, the giant waste blocks from Bowley's mill can be seen where they have been tipped. Many have saw marks on the ends. Unfortunately, the tramway had recently been used by a herd of cows, and resembled a quagmire. It reminded me of an above-ground version of the Cwm Prysor mine. I'm sorry, I whinge a lot about stuff on this blog. We do encounter various unpleasantries on our adventures, but are buoyed along nevertheless by the anticipation of the chase, of what we might just find.

The aftermath of Cow-Rallying
We left the trackbed and headed for higher ground, where the grid reference in Richards' book lay. A ruined building nestled under the trees, hidden from the unblinking eye of the satellite by foliage. It didn't look or feel like a quarry building, although it had been rebuilt at some point with low-grade slate offcuts. Inside, there was a chaff cutter, similar to the one we found at Catherine and Jane Consols, although of a different make. These type date from around the 1840's to the 1860's although obviously that meant nothing; it could have been dragged here much later. We were a little mystified, as there was nothing to suggest mining at the grid reference supplied. There was some lovely plant and tree growth here that Petra managed to photograph for her wildlife blog, so all was not lost. The sound of powerful engines being strained beyond normal limits occasionally filled the valley- the rally people practicing for their race no doubt. I have to confess that I love muscle cars and would own a very powerful one if I had the money (not PC, I know) but I do like them on roads, not tracks in peaceful valleys. My views on the people who go green laning in landrovers are of a similar nature. I can at least (sort of) understand the attraction of motor rallying.

The lower buildings

We headed up the hill. Another building was hiding under more trees, encouragingly this time. Below, a very much overgrown tip was issuing from what looked like a feint suggestion of a run-in adit. So overgrown that it could be almost anything, but my mine senses were tingling. The buildings produced no further clues; no waste, no recognisable features, nothing. A well built track went off north west, revetted along the side of a steep defile with slate waste...but it disappeared once it reached the field below. There was absolutely no sign. Under the revetment there seemed, with a little imagination, to have been a couple of run-in adits, but Petra and I couldn't understand why nature would have taken back the remains with such enthusiasm when up the valley at Maes-y-Gamfa, there was so much left.
Chimney breast at the upper buildings.
View from the upper buildings

We quartered the ground in an area radiating from the grid reference- not easy, as much of it is at a prevailing 1 in 3 slope and also boggy. We were still keen, and the surroundings were so beautiful. A wistfully lovely bird song, emanating from a Wren, Petra says, accompanied us here.  After a couple of hours, our enthusiasm slightly alloyed, we gave up and retreated to Bowley's mill. There we had a look at the tips and struggled with much cursing and laughter through the undergrowth,  to find a brick-built building deep in the birch woods. Nature has taken it, and didn't want to let us see it, but after some determined bramble-hacking and pratfalling, we won.

On the way back, Petra noted that there are several brick-built structures in the village made from the same smooth red brick as the one in the undergrowth. Strange, since there is so much slate available for building. Later, we found that there had been a brickworks, served by a branch of the Hendre Ddu tramway, near the village- so that was a mystery solved.

What, you might ask, about the dog? Oh, yes, he was there, waiting in the road as we drove through. Petra had a word, then took a couple of shots; he seemed totally at ease and used to this sort of thing. A passer-by smiled and waved as we moved off...amused at our interest in the hound.

Back home,  I made a horrible discovery. I'd found a large scale map of the woods around Talymierin, and a quarry hole was marked, deep in the ravine at GR SH8240811922.  Impossible to see on the satellite view, but it was very near to where we'd searched.  We had decided that it couldn't possibly be in that particular neck of the woods as the ground was too steep, so we hadn't searched the area thoroughly. The gazetteer description is of  "an open quarry with adit below"...this could be it. Darn! My thoughts on the accuracy of grid references in said Gazetteer are unprintable.

Oh well, an excuse to go back again. I'll take a biscuit for the dog next time.


Mark A said...

Never mind what you have previously described as archaeological angst, the dog has it! Never ever underestimate the 'ah' factor. Some great landscape shots too...

Iain Robinson said...

Ha ha! Thanks, Mark. I thought you'd like the dog. Glad you liked the photos.

Anonymous said...

Your top shot is magical! Wonderful organically textured framing drawing the observing into the idyllic scene with its lovely autumnal palette.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. I took several, it was an old ash tree that had succumbed to the weather and slope of the hill here. I was still in David Nash mode, I think!

Alan said...

Iain, I've missed you from flickr! A great read as ever, and that first shot is fabulous, perfectly framed by the tree.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks very much, Alan - great to hear from you and thanks for looking at the blog!

weston said...

lovely area that is,you are getting closer to dylife ! one of my earlier videos is there when I did a solo trip to look at the quarry there,later on Ian and my self went up to the slate mines up there (Hendre ddu)...hidden away in the trees.I had walked from the start of the old railway that run through from Meirion mill.One of the slate mines is just behind the old finishing house on the forest track,the building is on the os map....take care both and keep snapping :-)

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Wez. Yes, we're getting closer to Dylife! Soon...I will let you know when we get there. Petra and I were watching that video of yours, which was why we went looking for Bowley's mill...thanks, as always, for the tip-off!

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