Saturday, 18 April 2015

Trefor Quarry, part 2

We return to the Trefor Granite Quarry to take a look at the amazing crusher house and hoppers which dominate the landscape near Llanaelhaearn.

It was another rain-free but hazy day, so we started at the old granite loading quay in Trefor, hoping that by the time we made it to the quarry, the light and haze would have improved. The harbour area is interesting, although much of the archaeology was lost in the 1980's due to a misguided landscaping scheme where the massive stone hoppers which stood in the stockyard by the harbour were demolished.

The timber pier, with Gyrn Goch and Gyrn Ddu in the background.
 Today, the quay consists of two features, the original stone pier, built by the Welsh Granite Co.Ltd in 1869 and a later timber one, added at right angles to the seaward end of the stone quay. This was built  by the Penmaenmawr & Welsh Granite Co Ltd , who took over the quarries in 1911. It was a big improvement because steam ships could dock on both sides, whereas the original quay had only one loading face on the lee side. Also, a small dock (‘Cei Bach’) was constructed within the landward shadow of the stone quay.
It's not clear when the timber pier was added, but production at the quarry went over to bulk aggregates in the 1920's and sett production stopped completely in the 1930's, so some time in-between is a good guess. The big stone hoppers were also put in at this time, so that ships could be loaded with crushed stone more efficiently. This was top-fed by means of a conveyor belt ‘elevator’ that was itself fed from material tipped from railway wagons into a ground-level hopper. The silo was made up of individual hopper ‘cells’, presumably for different grades of crushed stone, and it is said that "each hopper discharged via chutes directly into the ships berthed alongside".  I'm not sure how that would have worked, perhaps involving extensive conveyors or chutes, perhaps. Something similar can still be seen at Porthgain in Pembrokeshire.

The iron mine is in the foreground. The tramway to the quarry goes off right, just a little bit below the caravan on the right hand edge of the photo. There are quarries on those distant hills, this space!

Once we had mooched around the harbour and the arid wastes of the hopper site and stockyard, it was time to explore the remains of an old iron mine on Trwyn Morfa. This is on the Coastal path and on land owned by the NT -as usual, is very well stewarded by them. The site is interesting because an unconfirmed account has the mine operating at Trwyn-y-tal  between 1860 and 1880. There is reference to "an undersea mine". The land was rented from Lord Newborough of Glynllifon, the annual rent being £5 plus a royalty payment of 3d per ton of ore produced. The mine is listed as "disused" on the 1888 ordnance survey and the amount of spoil seems to suggest that not a great deal of activity went on here although GPJ* suggests that the mines might have been re-worked in WW1; there are concrete footings and a revetted trackway from the headland, where a concrete pier has been made, to the lower adit.
Petra photographs the iron mine adit, with the quarry on Garn For in the hazy distance.
The mine site is well worth exploring; there are a number of opencuts, a filled in shaft and the lower adit is open for a very short way, although waterlogged and very uninviting. Seabirds nest on the cliffs below on Ynys Bach and Ynys Fawr, two stacks cut off from the cliffs. Gannets and Greater Black-backed gulls were noted on our visit.

We kept to the coastal path, which took us along a majestically picturesque route. As it is wont to do, the path did a sudden detour and headed inland so as to avoid the precipitous cliffs along the coast south east from here, but not before taking us past a row of ridiculously photogenic cottages. Called "West End", these look to be holiday lets.

By now, the quarry was beginning to loom above in the haze, reminding me of the fortifications of Minas Tirith, or perhaps some undocumented Welsh warlord's stronghold.

The coastal path was leading us towards the incline from the quarry as it swoops down towards the quay, and my plan was to join the now metalled road and access the quarry from there.  A bridge soon came into view, taking the incline over the minor road that we were now walking on.

 The coastal path takes a hike across some fields after this, although my plan to gain the incline was thwarted, as we were warned off. Undeterred, we followed the coastal path up the hill in the general direction of the quarry until the map marked a footpath going off towards the incline, just below the crusher houses. We hadn't been walking long before once again, we were told to get off the land. Many footpaths like this are lost each year because of lack of use, neglect or sheer bloody mindedness by the land owner. I do feel some sympathy because the landowners aren't to know that we are the least likely people to cause any damage. We regrouped and sought the cover of the coastal path, now following a lovely sunken ancient lane, until we made a break for the quarry across some fields. Again, a right-of way looked to have been here at one point, with stone gate stumps and an iron gate, secured with a bike lock. Here there were some delightful fence repairs with old iron bedsteads, Pen-y-Bryn style.

Our struggles forgotten, the quarry buildings presented a formidable aspect in the late afternoon light. I felt under considerable pressure to do them justice photographically, aware of other (superior) photographers having covered the ground before me.  For the moment, I will leave you with some  photo highlights, as I have been researching the quarry in greater depth and will publish the findings here soon.

That cottage in the distance is the "West End" row that I mentioned earlier.

Evening at the crusher house. The incline goes down on the left and the quay can be made out beyond. The village of Trefor sprawls to the right of the incline.


We did make two new friends on the day's explore, a couple of lovely horses who tolerated us wandering over their field and then stood with great dignity as we photographed them.

*Gwynfor Pierce Jones, "Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd- Trefor" a report produced in 2007.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful stuff, Iain. I especially like the shot of 'the citadel'!

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham :-)

Anonymous said...

Iain, thanks for the write up Trefor Quarry. It seems that your "git orf of moi land" incident was just outside the right to roam area.

See and



Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Geoff. Glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, you are right. The problem was that while the coastal path does actually enter the quarry at the top, to get to the citadel requires negotiation of three levels of extremely steep, loose gravel roadways. So I was trying to save my knees :-)

Paul B. said...

Another fine couple of posts Iain, and more lovely photos! Those who worked in the Citadel must have had a tough daily commute, and no time or energy to appreciate the view.

As for being 'warned off', CRoW never went far enough. Its a shame that we who live south of the border can't follow Scotland when it comes to rights of way.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Paul- I am very pleased that you enjoyed the post. I've managed to uncover some information about working practices and wages at the quarry which are real eye-openers, and will write about that soon.

I agree about CRoW. I'm very grateful for access land and the NT, and some farmers and landowners can be perfectly reasonable about access to mines etc...but others not so!

Anonymous said...

Minas Tirith is a good comparison.

It is a shame -and confusing to us in Germany- that farmers seem to be so grumpy in the UK. Here you can walk along any farm track and even across fallow fields if the fancy takes you. There are problems- I noticed motorycyle tracks across a crop field recently, and there is some littering- but overall it works.

It iespecially disturbing to hear of rights of way being lost due to bullying landowners: Feudalism seems to be alive and well for some people.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks very much, Andy.

Anonymous said...

Very striking site - I love the grey brutalism of the quarry buildings and the colours and sweep of the landscape. Very impressive views and photos.

Is there any political appetite for land reform in Wales on the same scale as that in Scotland at the moment?

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Alex. It is a most impressive site, somewhere I have been wanting to visit for a few years. Difficulty accessing it just made us more determined!

I don't get the feeling that there is much appetite for land reform, perhaps because a huge amount of land belongs to the crown. Every quarry I research seems to be leased from Lord Newborough. There are many footpaths of course, but they are sometimes fenced off as in the post. We often tend to trespass on our explores and I have to say most farmers are OK when you explain what you are trying to do although there have been some notable exceptions!

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