Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Another expedition to the South Pole

The barracks from the upper processing area waliau. Arenig Fawr in the distance.

Not the Antarctic, but Manod, near Blaenau Ffestiniog- although trust me, it can feel just as cold on the South Pole of the Manod in February. This is a very old working which we first explored back in October 2011 here.  I had felt that there were more adits than the entry adit to the pit...every time I drove up to the operational Manod Quarry I was eyeing the ground looking for signs. Yesterday, intending to walk along the Rhiwbach tramway, we detoured to the South Top and had another look at South Pole.

Inside the lower adit. I forgot the attachment for my tripod...again! So this is not well-exposed or steady...

The two adits emerging into the pit.

 Yes, there were indeed two more adits that somehow I hadn't seen the first time. They correspond to levels further down the pit. The lowest is run-in. The next is flooded up to the roof, but can be identified emerging under a crazily unstable shelf in the pit. The third and most obvious one is just accesible, but emerges high up on the pit wall. There are also remains of waliau outside the middle adit, with plenty of fines and splitting waste, while further down on a slight bluff, a barracks. What a bleak spot this must have been, with the winter's snell wind blowing round the cliffs of the Manod.


We climbed around the front of the quarry, a couple of hundred precipitous feet above cwm Teigl, to get in the pit from the tip run. There were a couple of rudimentary shelters here, too, with alcoves for candles. Material was simply chucked down the mountainside from here. Once inside, we spotted some graffiti on the slab face of the pit, which made interesting reading.



The views over to Drum and then towards the Arenigs are stunning from the pit, given a sense of drama on this occasion by the very brooding sky. Down in the cwm, the farmer was driving slowly up the road, checking his sheep. His 4x4 looked like a tiny speck, smaller than a mite from the viewpoint of the ledge outside the pit. How lonely the men who worked here must have felt, especially as it is thought that this operation pre-dated the nearby Bwlch Slaters and Craig Ddu enterprises. It must have seemed a long walk back home to Llan Ffestiniog.

Can you spot the farmer's white 4x4?


The view in winter from the slopes of Carreg y Fran.


7 comments:

geotopoi said...

Wonderful to see the marks left by R H R and E Owen!

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. There was more unexpected graffiti, dating from about the same time, the late 1860's.

Chameleon said...

Great post, as always, Iain.

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, David!

workbike said...

Thanks for sharing that, especially the Graffiti. Somepne left their mark there, no matter how small. I wonder where they ended up.

I sometimes wonder as we build models of these 'quaint' scenes in their 'heyday' how much we realise that behind the nostalga life was hard, cold, and dangerous for the many working for the profits of the few.

My politics are showing a bit there...

workbike said...

Thanks for sharing that, especially the Graffiti. Somepne left their mark there, no matter how small. I wonder where they ended up.

I sometimes wonder as we build models of these 'quaint' scenes in their 'heyday' how much we realise that behind the nostalga life was hard, cold, and dangerous for the many working for the profits of the few.

My politics are showing a bit there...

Iain Robinson said...

I couldn't agree more, Andy ...I suspect that you and I have very similar political views!

There are one or two descendants of the quarrymen locally, and by all accounts life was indeed very hard. Someone I was speaking with this week was telling me how unpleasant quarry working conditions were in the nineteen seventies (!) and yes, most of the land and the quarries (so therefore most of the profits) round here either belonged to that fat cat with a crown or else filthy rich despots like Lord Penrhyn. Now my politics are showing...lol

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