Sunday, 10 March 2013

A walk towards the New Pandora Mine


The area around Llyn Geirionydd is famous for it's beauty. It's also an area of great fascination for mine explorers, as you can't really walk very far without encountering evidence of some interesting mine activity.

For our exploration, we parked at the Llyn Geirionydd car park, after negotiating the crazy road from Trefriw. I would recommend approaching from Betws, a slightly less hair-raising route, although caution is still required as the locals tend to drive at only slightly sub-warp speeds.

the tramway running below the road
 Back at the Llyn car park, we strolled off along the narrow lane leading uphill and back to Betws. Almost immediately, a tramway formation becomes visible at the left hand side of the road, crossing it as a bend is reached. This is the tramway from the New Pandora mine to the Klondyke mill. It is approximately two miles in length and traverses a sylvan course up towards the New Pandora processing floor. It is surprisingly well engineered, with a substantial bridge at one point.

The processing area
The waterwheel pit
 Climbing again, we came to the processing area, resembling an apocalyptic scene of devastation where very little vegetation grows. It's not particularly safe, the toxic waste, remains of shafts and ground liable to subsidence mean that the "Keep Out" notices are probably wisely heeded. Frustrating, all the same, as there are the remaining walls of a huge wheelpit, once housing a thirty foot wheel to power the crushers and jiggers here.
The Powder House
Some of the remains at the Eagle Mine, with Clogwyn-y-Fuwch in the background.
Eagle mine spoil heap, with dead tractor in evidence.
 We turned up a lane towards the farm and found ourselves on the sett variously known as The Willoughby Mine, the Welsh Foxdale Mine, or more famously, the New Pandora Mine. A fine powder house sits away  from the workings in the gorse above the tramway. There are extensive stopes and tips still showing blende and evidence of lead ore. At the top of the sett are the remains of the Eagle Mine, the pillars and broken down walls of it's Flotation Mill still vaguely discernable, although re-purposed as a sheep pen. The truncated remains of structures and the cap of Pyne's shaft can also be seen.

Looking into the workings from one of the stopes.
 Underground here, there is a honeycomb of workings, descending to 55 fathoms, although flooded to 33 fathom level. Much of the workings are impossible to explore without SRT, and as we found out at first hand, the land owner is not desperately keen for people to explore underground, for understandable reasons. The situation with access is currently under discussion with the Gwydir Mines Access Group, a joint forum with the Forestry Commission and interested landowners as well as exploring groups. Having read the labyrinthine discussions from the first meeting last year, I am not holding out much hope.

There are no fish in Llyn Geiryonydd, mainly because of the highly toxic outflow from the gated Pontifex adit, which discharges just behind the toilet block at the car park. The gate isn't locked, but the waist level orange water tends to put most people off. It's quite a thought to follow the course of the adit above ground to the New Pandora and imagine that the miners hewed the tunnel out of the rock for that distance. It's nothing compared to some mines, I know, but impressive nonetheless. At one time, water was gathered from reservoirs above ground along a mile-long leat and piped down a shaft at the mine to drive a generator, 200feet underground. There's little to show nowadays except some crumbling concrete remains and depressions in the ground, seen best in the evening when the course of the leat can be traced to the Spion Kop shaft, sunk during the Boer War.

Looking down into the stopes


Blende in the tips
 We were lucky to meet an expert on the mine while exploring, a local, someone who had first explored the place underground when he was fourteen. Like most people who really do know what they are talking about, he was an unassuming gent who answered our many questions with cheerful enthusiasm and didn't assume that we knew nothing, even though we, er, knew nothing much. Although neither of us like meeting folk when we are exploring, this was an exception, and we thought how marvellous it would be if there was someone on hand like that to interpret all the mines we visit.

We eventually made our way back along the tramway. Further to the north west, at the other end of the tramway, there are the remains of a ropeway down to the Klondyke Mill- a place famous for all the wrong reasons. I'll come to that another time.

For anyone interested in the history of the Llyn Geirionydd mines, I recommend "Mines of the Gwydir Forest, part 6 by John Bennett and Robert W Vernon, ISBN 0 9514798 5 7

More photos of the Eagle Mine by Geotopoi here

Remains of an old ladder

On the road back to the lake.

2 comments:

geotopoi said...

Very interesting, as usual, Iain. Looking forward to seeing more on Klondyke...

And thanks for the link :-)

Iain Robinson said...

Klondike will be coming once we've been back to take more photos...didn't feel I did it justice. Your photos were super and got me thinking about exploring this mine, so thanks are due to you!

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