Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Get Carter!

Wandering around the Gamallt Isaf looking for Carter's Quarry -while keeping out of the way of Warrior Monks...

No, not this one! This is the Sarn Helen mine, a very wet adit leading to a small chamber, on the route of Sarn Helen as it teeters between Cwm Teigl and the Gamallt.

Petra has been organising a big map of all the mines that we have explored and all the ones we want to explore on Google earth. This has led to the discovery that there are some mines almost in our back garden that we haven't explored yet, because we didn't know about them.

So, I  interrogated the Slate Gazeteer for information on Carters' quarry, one of the places we had somehow missed, to which it responded by noting that it is a "very small excavation", for slate, giving the grid reference of SH729432. Never mind, we are completists, so we set off the short distance to the waterworks turning above Llan Ffestiniog and the tramway to Drum. I've covered Drum and the wondrous Roman Fort, Bryn-y-Castell, elsewhere on this blog if you want further information, although for once, I did take a closer look at the smelting hearths at SH728429. There are ancient hearths either side of the lower Drum quarry tramway, well worth perusal. It looks as if they were used only a few years ago...incredible. Petra has written an interesting account of the fort at Bryn-y-castell on her photo site here.

Iron Smelting slag in the hearth.

The Roman Iron hearth, looking north. Trackless, oozing bog in the middle of the photo.
Resisting the temptation to follow one of the three tramways to Drum, we headed north west towards the ford where Sarn Helen crosses the Afon Gamallt.  After a scramble over wire(and noting a length of tramway rail used as a barrier for sheep), we were at the grid reference given in the gazeteer. Petra reached the spot first and gave a shout. There was an adit, tucked into an alcove in the rock beside a rather picturesque waterfall.

The adit, with deads stacked to the left of the portal.
Inside the rather short adit
 The adit was disappointingly short, but very unexpected. Following the Gamallt down, more workings and levels appeared, nothing too definite, but with the miner's eye of faith they could be picked out. A very sturdy ruined building sat in the gorge, possibly a powder house.

The tramway rail - one the scrap man missed!
We carried on down the gorge, noting further evidence of trial workings. Eventually, we came to the ancient house of Hafod Ysbyty, the site of which was, centuries ago, owned by the warrior monks of the order of St John of Jerusalem, the Knights Hospitaller. Thus, I glean from the web, the house in those times, or the structure that stood before the present one, became a stopping-off point for bandits traversing the roman road, as these knightly monk fellows had the custom of allowing brigands and bandits shelter. It all seems rather strange; warrior monks and bandits - luckily, we didn't meet any while we were wandering about although a photograph of one might have been interesting. The house itself is a very fine example of a Welsh Hall and tree-ringdating has revealed that the present structure dates from the early 15th century.

We did encounter another run-in mine as we made our way back to the Drum road. A glance at Jeremy Wilkinson's gazeteer will show that this area is covered with old mines, as if all the locals did was dig holes in the ground looking for minerals, when they weren't sheltering bandits, of course.

Hafod Ysbyty in the trees, with the Manods cloaked in mist behind.

Looking towards Drum from Bryn-y-Castell, with the various tramways to each level winding round the contoiurs. The ruins of  Drum lower mill can be just made out in the extreme left middle . The walls of the fort are in the foreground.

 Previous post about Bryn-y-Castell and Drum Quarry

RCAHMW site (Coflein) concerning Hafod Ysbyty


Anonymous said...

Another interesting one!

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham!

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