Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas down under(ground)

Your scribe, caught by the wonders of photographic science -dashing about during a long exposure...
 I reckon we're all familiar with the feeling that sets in, mid afternoon on Christmas Day. It doesn't feel right, sitting about doing nothing and we certainly didn't want to be watching the Very Rich Woman with a Crown give us her patronising observations.  I find one handy antidote to yuletide ennui is to get oneself underground as soon as possible. The weather wasn't exactly seasonal here in Ffestiniog but, despite the pouring rain, we headed out for the nearest mine with the least walk-in, which we reckoned would be Bryn Glas.

The first Chamber
 The route to the mine was even boggier than usual due to the mighty quantities of rainfall tipped on us over the last couple of weeks, but we made it to the adit with only moderately soggy boots. This mine isn't a popular mine with explorers as it doesn't have any opportunities for abseiling, traversing zip lines or rowing about in rapidly deflating rubber boats, nor does it possess any massive rusty relics like capstan winches, waterwheels and the like. What it does have is charm and character. It's easy to interpret and explore and is relatively safe, although I do wonder about that roof in Chamber 2. I certainly wouldn't have attached a pulley just there, given the span of rock above.  However, I'm not a miner. I'm not nearly brave or knowledgeable enough.

Since we've been here many times, we concentrated on just mooching about with the cameras, trying out different was great fun. I found a shelf at the back of the first chamber where the rockmen (rockman in the latter days of the mine) had started to open out further to get to better slate. Petra managed to find some interesting mineral flows and we both had a go at photographing the gour pools. These are tricky to photograph; they are white and very reflective. The solution was to use a long exposure and flash the pool, then fill-in the background with the hand-held torch. Petra managed better than me (no change there).

We spent a couple of hours underground and of course, when we came out, it was dark. The huge rock bastion north of the adit loomed out of the mist, looking like an enormous minotaur. We've christened it Carreg y tarw llwyd, the rock of the grey bull. The lights of Llan Ffestiniog shone below, while the Moelwyns were invisible beyond, waiting in the mist and gloom.

We took the road back to the car, as there were far too many gopher holes to risk walking back the way we'd come in the dark. Things were bad enough negotiating the old tramway to the gate. We shone our torches, the light reflecting back off the mist. Any car coming towards us would surely spot us, especially since Petra had installed an extra two cree units on her hard hat, making her look like something terrifying from Dr Who as she approaches in an adit. Not that Dr Who is terrifying, although perhaps I would think differently upon encountering a weeping angel in the darkness underground..

Driving back I was concerned that the car's headlights seemed rather dim, but then so did the lights of the one or two other cars that came towards us. It was a shock to realise that our mine lights are brighter and we had become accustomed to them. Perhaps it's time to go back to those big chambers at Penarth...

Petra's photos of Bryn Glas are here.

Not an image from this visit, but I've included it to show the view from the adit towards Porthmadog and Yr Eifl in the distance.


Anonymous said...

Love the moody sense of foreboding in the top shot, Iain.

More importantly, though, I was somewhat aghast at the shocking revelation that unfolded upon reading the text. I was so sure that you would have been first in the queue after rushing out to purchase a new 3D television set especially for the afternoon broadcast.

Iain Robinson said...

Glad you liked the photo!

It was the expense of the Svarovaski crystal bejewelled mining hat that I had for Christmas...we couldn't afford 3D TV to watch the tax dodger!

Anonymous said...


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