Saturday, 1 June 2013

A Return to Cae'r Defaid

After a gap of a couple of years, we retraced our steps towards the lower slopes of Rhobell Fawr and Cae'r Defaid slate mine. Petra had not been happy with her photos from the first visit and, this time, both of us had better cameras. Another thing that had changed was that the access road was in much better condition. In 2011, the forestry trucks had reduced it to an axle-deep quagmire which would be a major obstacle course for anything less than a Land Rover. Ordinary vehicles are, in any case, strongly discouraged along here; we parked near the farm and walked the two miles up to the mine.

I examined the firm, slate road surface and foolishly wondered where they could have obtained the hardcore, not thinking, of course, that it would be from the slate tips of the mine. I had a shock when I saw that half of the spoil was gone, a gaping hole left, revealing strata of waste. The lower parts of the tip were seeing daylight for the first time since 1860. It's a good use for the slate waste, as there are a lot more trees up the hill which will be ready for harvesting in the next few years - and at least it saves bringing raw materials in from somewhere else.

A few more animals had sadly met their fate by falling into the roofing shaft; this time a fox's skull was among the sheep carcasses. Otherwise, the mine looked as if it hadn't been disturbed since our last visit. Water still cascaded ceaselessly down from flooded and run-in upper workings, disappearing in turn down to the lower drainage adit by some invisible channel under the water. The mine is flooded for a good distance until the first crosscut chambers - this time it was only knee-deep. We were able to have a closer look at the lower adit, which was also a little less flooded, although still up to chest height and full of slimy mud.

This time, our cameras survived and the sun smiled upon us as we returned wearily to the car, although we were observed closely by a magnificent Welsh Black bull with the most enormous horns.I wasn't sure if I could flee in the event of his becoming annoyed by us - I was too tired from all the wandering, but I needn't have worried.

Link to the original post on Cae'r Defaid

The Grotto, looking inbye. The stacked deads on the right close the entrance to a chamber.

Stacked deads at the entrance to one of the crosscut chambers.
Inside the chamber


Anonymous said...

Looking at 'Inside the chamber' I was struck by the thought that some people worked there, all day, every day.

The thought that others profited from this, wasn't far behind.

By the way, can you remind me what 'deads' are? I'm not sure what to look for.

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Andy. It couldn't have been much fun, working in there. The slate chambers were almost devoid of any colour, save the feint purply blue of the rock. The miners used to say that it was like being reborn, coming to the surface again after 8 or 9 hours underground.

Sorry for not being clear. "Deads" are smallish cobs of rock,light enough to be handled by one man, which are actually broken-up waste from the chambers. On the photo in question, the deads are on the left, tilting precariously! It was cheaper to stack them drystone dyke style, inside, than to tram them out, but it wasn't done much in Ffestiniog for some reason, although tipping in chambers was.

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