Sunday, 20 November 2011

Two that got away...

I should file these under "nearly". We nearly died of exhaustion and frost bite at Hafod Uchaf.  At Pen-y-Fridd, we had a superb time, but then I nearly wiped my hard drive of all my photos taken that day. I thought the folder was a duplicate, one I'd already backed up. But it wasn't. As it turned out, I wiped all but four shots.

Hafod Uchaf,
on the slopes of Moelwyn Bach at SH643434, is an interesting little mine. We visited it in January 2011, but if you feel tempted, don't try the route that we did. Starting off, for some reason which escapes me now,  from the Tan-y-Bwlch station car park, we walked up the shoulder of the Moelwyn on a switchback forest road. The views all the way up were fabulous, but the road wound on and on for over four conifer kerfuffled miles. Reaching the location, we had to fight through some thick Sitka and climb over a couple of barbed wire fences, finally emerging in the lovely  little hidden valley where the mine lies.

There were adits a-plenty, but back then, we didn't have the equipment we have now. The holes were either mad, bad or dangerous - mostly the sort that were wet and connected to shafts, run-in or full of freezing water. We ended up with a rather frustrating day, although it was fascinating trying to find the various structures.In retrospect, we should have approached from the Croesor road, where we would have made the mine in short order. But it was a wonderful, if freezing walk and the views were top notch, especially of the mighty Manod, as we rounded the curve on to the south west shoulder of the Moelwyn.

There's an adit in there somewhere...
The Forge
 For the record, Hafod Uchaf was mined in the 1870's and there are ruins of a mill and a smithy. We didn't find any sign of a wheelpit, so it's unlikely that any serious processing was carried on- there are sawn ends, but most likely from a hand operated machine.

Remains of the forge at Pen-y-Ffridd
 Pen-y-Fridd was also visited in the depths of winter. It's one of the most enchanting mine locations that I have ever seen. The chambers open out into the woods near Trefriw at SH776612 and feel a little like Clogwyn-y-Fuwch, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. A series of openings follow the vein along a dolerite sill and burrow down.

Perhaps because of the wintry light, the place was reminiscent of something from the Lord of the Rings; outside everything was still and only the Ravens could be heard, their wings "wuffing" over the trees. Inside the  low, wide chambers, there was an eerie feeling, almost as if the place was watching us as we explored. We found an adit at the back of one of the chambers - it descended in a wide spiral and ended in a flooded shaft, the headgear still in place. It was strange to be in such a claustrophobic space when the rest of the mine was so spacious.

 These are the only photos from that day- I will really have to go back and take some more.

Factoid wise, Pen-y-Ffridd or Llanrhychwyn, was operating from 1786. It probably closed around 1865 and must have exported slate to the quay at Trefriw, presumably by cart. There are no traces of a railway ever having been on site, or a mill for that matter. Grass and trees have grown completely over the tips so that, apart from the dark holes of the chambers hiding under the trees, it takes a keen mine exploring eye to spot that there has ever been a mine here.

Like the lost mines of Moria...Pen-y-Ffridd


Anonymous said...

Like the dramatic light of #6!

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. I really need to go back and do the place justice!

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