Long suffering readers of this blog know that we have a special place in our affections for Cwt-y-Bugail, that mine peppered and punched over the rolling land between Manod Mawr and the headwaters of the Machno. We've been there so often, I kid myself that the resident pair of Ravens have begun to recognise us. But with that familiarity comes a little complacency, in me at least. I had begun to think that I'd discovered all there was to know about the place.
|The old magazine, with the mill in the background and the A-B incline to the left.|
|Graffitti: carved in 1900, eight years before the big fall in the North Twll which held up production for two years.|
How wrong I was. We hadn't been at the mill for more than a few minutes when Petra found several passages of graffiti that we hadn't noticed before. One was finely carved in a door lintel, marked 1888 and it's corresponding inscription in roman numerals. Then, we climbed up to the A-B incline head to look at the old Magazine there and found some water collection ponds, probably for the manager's office, that were new to us. At this point, Petra spotted a walker making a bee-line towards us, so we headed quickly for the B floor adit and the safety of the underworld. On seeing this, our pursuer lost interest. Yes, we are a couple of miserable curmudgeons. The very cheek of it, though. Someone intruding on our mine!
|Descending the remains of B-D incline. The wal and adit can be seen near the top middle of the photo.|
|Looking down on level D.|
We picked our way extremely carefully down the steep defile, with an even larger drop looming on our right. I realised that it was really stupid to do this without ropes, and I didn't want to trust the hand line put in by AditNow colleagues, with this exposure. From the lower section of the pitch, the chamber looked enormous. There's no safe way to access this part of the mine but at least this was one mystery solved. We climbed back up, resolving to return very soon, better equipped.
|Sheer legs crane (fallen) in chamber C4. Note the marks of a channelling machine on the wall, something else I didn't know had been used here.|
On to the North Twll, where we pottered about happily underground, photographing the remains. The two big chambers here yawn like pharaoh's tombs, mouths open to the sky. I stood for a while, savouring the atmosphere as our two Raven friends flew over, their cries and woofing wingbeats amplified strangely in the workings, as if they were flying through the adits..
Last time we were here the water was ridiculously cold. This time I was wearing wellies (I couldn't be bothered to take the wet gear, unlike Petra) and my toes had gone numb, but Petra had wetsocks and even she was beginning to get cold...what is it about this place? I sploshed about at the end of Chamber 2, noting the rather worrying ochre filled shaft. As I stood there contemplating this feature, I became aware of a low opening in the rock further in the gloom at the back of the chamber. Of course...C adit north! Why had I never seen it before? I crawled in and then immediately found myself almost over critical welly depth. I could see rails underneath, and prodding with the trusty camera tripod, made sure it was safe. I went back for my partner in crime.
|Level C North/West|
|Level C West|
Pretty satisfied with our exploring, we climbed up to the old engine winder at the top of the incline out of the pit and did a round of the North Twll, enjoying the stunning views to Snowdon. As usual, the ravens accompanied us away from the mine, their burbling croaks setting the seal on a pluperfect day. I realised that no matter how many times I return, or study the books and the old maps, I'll always find something to delight me up on the badlands. So watch this space for the next instalment, when hopefully, we will reveal the secrets of the elusive level D chambers.