Friday, 6 July 2012

Evening in the hills above Blaenau Ffestiniog

Moel Penamnen, with Snowdon in the distance from Llyn Bowydd.

This morning, the river that runs by our house is swollen brown with floodwater, it's roar making conversation difficult. Last night's deluge is making it's way down from Cwm Teigl and letting everybody know about it. Yet, yesterday evening could not have been calmer when we decided to take a hike up the Cwm and on to the badlands. The gloomy weather forecast hinted that if we didn't move our idle bones, we wouldn't get out for a few days otherwise.

We parked up at the Slate quarry and made our way along the tramway, over the ancient cattle grid which gets ever more fragile, and on past the precipitous old workings of Fridd, where the tramway is crumbling daily towards the darkness of the pit below.  Petra and I both love this area, wide, wild, yet pocked with old mines and quarries, echoing to the sound of ravens, curlews and skylarks.

To our astonishment, we heard an engine labouring up behind us. Possibly old Bob, the farmer, and his champion sheepdog. I don't have a problem with the farmer coming up with his quad. He's more right than we have to be here and besides, he's a lovely old chap and has told us much about the quarries and the wildlife of the area. It's just that, living so near and wandering up here so much, we feel very protective of the place and it's fragile remains.

It wasn't Bob, though, but a "green laner" in his tricked out Land Rover, up to get a few mud splashes on his rig. He'd have to be quite a driver to get far on the tramway today, I reckoned as he passed us, forcing us up onto the banking. He did give us a cheery thumbs up, but I'm sorry, all I could do was stare angrily at him. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he came back up from the Rhiwbach junction having found the going a little on the serious side.He did have the grace to look embarrassed- I guess I should lighten up and allow other folk their pleasures too.

Cwt-y-Bugail from Rhiwbach Junction
 We walked to the Drumhouse overlooking Blaenau as the sunset began to paint the clouds in golden colours. The aforementioned weather front was coming, though...making it's way over the Cwt-y-Bugail tips like a creeping darkness. The untopping at the David Jones quarry is getting further into the hill. It's fascinating seeing the old chambers uncovered to daylight...there were even some old climbing chains on the rock face, exposed for the first time. There are stories of this adit making it's way to the mills level and into the main Maenofferen workings, but I don't suppose it will ever be safe enough to see whether it does now.
David Jones quarry in the middle, the Maenofferen back-vein incline to the right, while above are the Diffwys Drum Boeth workings and the Hen Gwaith adits on the skyline. Above them top left, the tips of Manod Quarry.

The David Jones quarry, showing part of an untopped chamber. Adits lead off further in to the workings. Further up the quarry face is an old trial adit, marooned by the untopping.

Yomping quickly back towards Cwm Teigl, there were some wonderful skies. I took countless photos, all of which were rather disappointing.  Coming round the shoulder of the Manod, the atmosphere was completely different. It was dark and misty, a feeling of impending trouble settling on the moor. A pair of ravens burbled quietly above us- I expect they knew what was coming and weren't that happy about it.

We crossed over the cattle grid, noting that our Land Rover friend had experienced a little difficulty- one of the rusty pipes had given way and his tyres had scrubbed, breaking the brick edges of the grid in the process. I'm glad he hadn't dropped an axle in the pit, anyway.  Back at the car park, they were still working at the Manod Quarry, a fork lift moving big slabs of slate in the misty gloom, while on the road down to Llan Ffestiniog, sheep moved reluctantly off the tarmac as we passed ... now we were the ones who weren't welcome.

Snowdon under cloud in the distance, from the Cwt-y-Bugail tips.

The Blaen-y-Cwm sheave pillar, looking towards Penmachno.


Anonymous said...

I tend to get stroppy with people who go on field tracks. But then I would.

Thise pictures of the broken mine are fascinating. I didn't realise there was such a market for slate again.

The storm images are great too, thanks for sharing.

Iain Robinson said...

Hi Andy, I'm very glad you liked the pics. The track is part of an old tramway, and there are still very fragile wood sleepers on the ground in's also crumbling.

The mines here, two of them, are still a very half-arsed way really, although Manod is a bit more serious. Llechwedd is more interested at the moment is building bike trails for downhillers on it's tips. Better than ripping up the landscape, anyway!

Anonymous said...

Well, you could argue that making routes for downhilers is a better idea environmentally than digging the hill away, and it does mean the downhillers are churning up an old quarry rather than fragile hillsides.

Iain Robinson said...

Yes, agreed!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Iain. My especial favourite is Slate+Fence+(1500x2000).jpg - wonderful composition and textures!

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham! Really pleased that you liked the pics. Yes, that was my favourite, too.

Sabella East said...

amazing pictures!

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Sabella!

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