Saturday, 12 July 2014

A glimpse into Bryneglwys

After a gap of a couple of years, we returned to Abergynolwyn to have another look at the Bryneglwys slate quarry. It was a beautiful, bright day and the landscape was beyond any adjectives I could think up. I will have to settle, for now, on idyllic which still falls slightly short.
Since our last visit, some of the millions of conifers covering the site have been harvested, while other areas have been replanted with ever more of the pesky things. Meanwhile, in other parts of the quarry, birch scrub is taking over, making the place very difficult to understand or navigate around. Never mind, at least it is relatively untouched since the forestry commission took over, and attitudes from that body are infinitely more enlightened these days. Not that the quarry itself was blameless, apart from covering a beautiful valley in waste tips, the allure of which is a moot point for some folk, an ancient prehistoric stone circle was destroyed while sinking a shaft within what later became the mill.

This time, we knew what we were looking for and managed to quickly find the location of the daylight adit, leading into the large open pits on the South, or Narrow vein. Despite the dry spell, the adit was flooded to over critical welly level and the entrance choked with clinging mud. The adit is a wide one, reminiscent of Rhosydd 9 adit...not surprising since they were both major transport arteries for the quarries they served. The roof of the adit looks fragile in places and there have been minor falls recently. Once out into the twll, the scene is an impressive one, with a huge arch opening into the eastern twll. Below, a vertiginous drop into darkness betrayed the incline down into the bowels of the quarry, now only accessible by abseiling down.

Petra brushed accidentally against the rock wall outside the adit, moving some moss and revealing graffiti and jwmpah holes. Some of the graffiti appeared to be from the 1940's, other marks could have been older.

We ventured into the mine at what was known as the adit level. The quarry had a curious way of describing the floors. The daylight adit was datum level at floor 20, and each floor below, usually at a nominal 75 feet, was numbered 25, 50 and 75. Above adit level (floor 20) there were three floors, almost impossible to enter or locate now because of very dense tree cover or collapses.

At floor 50, there was the "Lefel Fawr", a 1935 foot long tunnel built to drain the workings. This was still accessible until recently, but is now blocked by falls at both ends. Below floor 50 was the notorious floor 75, or "Sinc Ddu". This had to be pumped out constantly and, lacking in proper ventilation or drainage it is said to have given the quarry a bad name throughout the industry. But the slate here was good, so men toiled in the darkness and hot, unhealthy conditions. No wonder that another name for it was the "Sinc Dial", or Devil's Sinc.

Dangerous roof - and to the left, the blocked entrance to a chamber.

We were only able to explore a fraction of the adit level, but what we found was a dangerous and unstable place. There's no denying the fascination of it though, it certainly has the atmosphere of a mine that has been closed for sixty four years or so, with chambers jammed full of fallen rock and tunnels deteriorating to the point where they will undoubtedly collapse in the next few years. It's frustrating that access to other levels is only possible by SRT, but those with the necessary skills (and cojones) are due some rewards for their efforts!

So we left Bryneglwys to slumber on in it's beautiful valley, overlooked by the timber clad domes of the Tarrens and quartered by ravens and buzzards. There's still much to explore here on the surface and I don't doubt that we'll be back before long.

Stacked deads and shaft to lower workings to the left.

The way back, towards Nant Gwernol.


Anonymous said...

Some lovely shots there, Iain. Looks like you had an interesting explore.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. It's a lovely place with a few special treasures...and the railway at the bottom of the valley is a bonus!

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for the images, as I'd hesitate to go more than a metre into those tunnels I'd never see these places otherwise.

I thought that conifers were going out of fashion in forestry: certainly local policy is to let the forests look after themselves and harvest as and when trees mature. On the other hand the conifers may ne 'nursery trees' put there to cut the light so other species grow straight to make 'better' (premium) timber.

Iain Robinson said...

You are right, there is more planting of native species and less obtrusive trees in our area. There is a great deal of harvesting going on and the views round here change daily, which is nice...but the apocalyptic mess left behind will take a decade to recover without replanting.
I'm glad you liked the images...we did chicken out further in the mine as it just became increasingly perilous.

felix said...

Iain - I missed your defunct flickr stream, but just found this. Reminded me that a Bedford SB Duple coach from Abergynolwyn once turned up in the lorry park at Chelmsford swimming baths - a short name something like Mott. More than 40 years ago now.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks for dropping by, Felix. Glad you found this quiet little corner of the web. Lloyd's are the name these days around Talyllyn, although they are based in Machynlleth. Go a bit farther towards the lake and the road resounds to the rumble of Mansel Davies milk tankers on their way to Anglesey.

Anonymous said...

Your deciphering of the function of the remains of the quarry really brings it out to someone who knows nothing about these things. And it would take a lot of nerve to explore some of those tunnels. It's funny to think that what was once a hive of labour and activity is slowly hiding and sinking beyond accessibility.

Those landscape pictures were beautiful as well.

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Alex. I'm glad it was interesting to non-mine enthusiasts! There is always a sense of danger and exhilaration about exploring underground, but here after a while, a quiet sense of foolishness overcame us and we carefully removed ourselves :-)
Glad you liked the landscape photos too.

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