Friday, 19 April 2013

A Wild Afternoon at Aberdunant Slate Mine

A wild moment at the top of the unfinished incline. Machine holding-down bolt to the bottom right.

Aberdunant, near Tremadog, is probably more well known for it's extensive caravan site, or "Holiday Village" as the proprietors so euphemistically call it. Actually, as caravan sites go, it's pretty well disguised and looks as respectable as any vast collection of multi-coloured aluminium boxes could do under the circumstances.  I have to confess, I stayed there once, as a callow 11 year old and loved exploring the woodland. If only I had known that there were several mines in the vicinity.

Aberdunant slate mine sits just above the woodland where the caravan park is sited. There might not be many trees but there are an awful lot of brambles, lying in wait to scratch and trip the unwary. There's a footpath goes down from the road straight through the site, although I recommend that you consider taking a machete or a petrol driven bushwhacker. The site isn't an easy one to interpret, or photograph. There's a very nice adit which bisects a chamber from a lower level that has roofed up to daylight. It's possible to descend into the chamber with some rope work...of course, we hadn't one with us. Apparently, the upper level is the early one. Later work drove into the hill from the bottom of the sett, but the adit was so near to the boundary that material had to be uphauled to the mill level. Nature has very enthusiastically taken back the remains, and in a few years it will all be unrecognisable. I wondered what the site must have looked like when I was last there in 1968.

The smithy, besieged by brambles.

The mine was started in the late 19th century, closed within a couple of years and then re-opened in the early 20th century with a handful of workers. Interestingly, the mill was powered by an underfloor line shaft, driven by a waterwheel. The shafting also powered the up incline from the later adit on the boundary. Another incline was started, but possibly never completed, terminating at a cut in the rock as at the top photo in this post. Perhaps it was an attempt to reach the road.  The incline runs up past an interesting range of structures; a smithy and possibly a barrack or office. We didn't find the powder store, but the undergrowth was so thick (even in spring) that it could well have been hiding. I was rather hoping to get into the lower adit, but when we climbed down it was choked almost to the roof with mud...very uninviting. There's also a rather nice revetted tramway from the upper adit to the mill which can still clearly be made out, at least in the spring.

Despite being a small quarry it was nevertheless a charming one, having the feel of the remains of a lost civilisation about it, although the mournful wails from the WHR trains below were reminders that this was C21st Snowdonia.We climbed back up to the road as the rain began to pour down. It had been threatening all afternoon. There are a couple of old manganese mines on the plateau and a metal mine below, but these would have to wait...we didn't fancy getting soaking wet for a gated adit and two run-in mines!

Petra nearing the top of the upper incline.

The choked lower adit, with about three inches headroom!
The upper adit where it breaks out to bank.
Lower level chamber

The upper incline from the mill. The revetted tramway runs across the lower middle and the incline runs up beside the smithy.

The waterwheel pit at the mill.


Anonymous said...

That does look very overgrown. I'm guessing you'd neglected to pack the machete this time ;-)

Iain Robinson said...

Lol! The only clever thing we did was not visit in summer...I can only imagine the herbage!

Anonymous said...

I'm always inpressed by the lack of information we have about there workings: once the entre of people's lives and work, even dreams, and now just so many overgrown rock piles. It's amazing how insignificant we really are in the grander scheme of things...

I wonder if there are any similar sites around here?

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Andy. I agree...the hopes and dreams of mankind, reduced to insignificance by the march of brambles. There's very little about these "ghost mines", mainly because they never made any significant tonnage and so they didn't appear on the mines register and didn't have to post abandonment plans etc.

If you have metamorphic and igneous rock in your vicinity, particularly granites and dolerites, you might well have mineral mines. I must look up some maps...

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