Tuesday, 28 February 2017
I'm migrating away from Blogger. It's been a good spell, seven years on this platform, but nothing stays the same for long on the internet and I feel I've outstayed my welcome. Google appear to be wondering what to do with Blogger and to be honest, it has become more unwieldy and difficult to use for a while now. Comments not working was the last straw.
But "Treasure Maps" is not dead, I will be on my own, new platform and will be re-posting everything worth re-posting from here...eventually! So stories of my stumbling about and being kept right by Petra will continue, you don't get away that easily!
The new site is here Treasure Maps
I will keep the mothballed Blogger site up indefinitely as a resource, if I can be so pompous to call it that :-)
The new site will be more in-depth and feature more photos and albums, in pale imitation of the two best I.A. sites out there, Dave Sallery's Penmorfa and JAW.
So...thanks for viewing, for all your support and comments, your letters, and suggestions, all hugely appreciated. I hope to see you over at "son of" Treasure Maps soon!
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
|Capel Rhosydd, seen from the Rhosydd tip.|
The first needs no introduction and is almost, in the current parlance, an "iconic" feature. Capel Rhosydd (also known as Capel y Gorlan and Capel Conglog), is a gaunt shape sited by the track where the tramway diverts across the fields, behind a slate slab fence. It hasn't always looked so neglected. Many local folk remember the chapel with a roof (some even profess to know who stole the slates).
|Photograph of Capel Rhosydd in June 1995 by kind courtesy of Dave Linton.|
Given that the quarrymen at Cwmorthin were for the most part a civilised, educated and god-fearing band of workers, it isn't surprising that a chapel was built for the families and children as well as the men themselves. The building was paid for, not by the quarry company (of course not, why would they do that?) but by subscription from the men themselves, costing between two and three hundred pounds.
A school for the children of the quarrymen in the valley was founded in 1855 by Thomas Jones and Griffith Evans, based in Cwmorthin Uchaf farmhouse, although the accomodation was less than satisfactory. It found a permanent home at the chapel in 1867.
I won't plagiarise the excellent research done by Cofio Cwmorthin, but refer the interested reader to their site for much more detail on the chapel. Suffice to say that the chapel has appeared on book covers, calendars, numerous web sites and albums and is a much-loved landmark.
It's something of a milestone for me, as I usually have a cup of coffee from my flask, sitting in the shelter of the walls, when returning from an expedition in the cwm. On my most recent visit, I had intended to go up the flanks of Foel Ddu, and had followed a track marked on the map, going up the slopes to the north of the chapel. This was obviously a right of way remembered by the OS, but in 1890- before Rhosydd had started tipping so energetically. By now, it had become more of a scramble/severe climb near the top. At this point the wind was so fierce that I could hardly stand! I ended up wandering around the relative shelter of Rhosydd that day.
But back in the chapel on my return, I sat and savoured my flask of "Grumpy Mule", listening to the wind howling round the walls. It was hard to imagine the bank of pews, or the minister giving a sermon amid the ruins and yet, there was something of an atmosphere. I've mentioned Jan Fortune's poems about the cwm before now, and her lines about the wind singing hymns in the walls was never more true. I felt somehow as if I had been granted asylum for a small time, out of the wind which was now becoming very strong indeed. A party of walkers passed outside, bent like soft alloy against the forces of nature, yet there I was, sipping coffee like a gent. Luckily, no stones fell off on me, and I walked out into the gale, the elements harrying me down the cwm and out to the car park for the short drive home.
The second chapel is an interesting one. It predates Capel Rhosydd by a year and was built to hold a hundred devout souls. It must have been a tight squeeze, because that seems an optimistic estimate to me. Capel Tiberias, as it was known, was an independent congregational chapel, built at the same time as the cottages of Tai Llyn, the barracks at the threshold of the cwm. There are no records as to how it was funded, but it was used by Cwmorthin and Wrysgan men and their families as far as I can ascertain. There is still a reasonably defined track leading to it and it holds a good position in a sheltered lee of the hillside. These days it is little more than a pile of stones and no photographs have yet been discovered showing how it might have looked during it's use.
Some Further reading:
Cofio Cwmorthin Remembered
Some interesting photographs on my learned colleague Alen Mcfadzean's blog, "Because they're there"
Slate Voices: Islands of Netherlorn and Cwmorthin by Jan Fortune and Mavis Gulliver, Cinnamon Press, ISBN 978-1-909077-24-9
|A final shot from 1995, courtesy of Dave Linton|
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
I am lucky to live less than five minutes away from the car park, yet in the last ten years I have only visited Cwmorthin a handful of times.
Couple of years ago, the message boards of AditNow had been afire for five minutes because a new group had sprung up: Cofio Cwmorthin Remembered. They were an informal bunch of like-minded folk who wished to conserve and study the cwm. People as far away as Birmingham got very opinionated. Footpaths were mooted, and interpretation boards.
There was a modest grant awarded to the group and some people had definite ideas on how that should be spent. The like-minded folk of Cofio Cwmorthin just got on with doing good things like conserving crumbling structures, making proper archaeological studies- and publishing what they had found on the web.
I still didn't visit. The last time, it was a Sunday and I remembered that the place was crawling with folk in co-ordinated walking gear, camo-clad mine explorers and off-road trail bikers. There was no peace, as the two strokers tore up the silence like an unacceptable ransom offer. There were children, too, with their parents- enjoying the paths and exploring the old miner's houses, eating sandwiches and drinking pop. That last bit made me smile. Perhaps this old curmudgeon wasn't entirely turned to stone after all.
There's some good literature out there about the place. Jan Fortune, John Davies and the late Gwyn Thomas have all written poems about the cwm, evoking various interpretations and feelings. Every one of them left me with a particular image that resonated. There's Graham Isherwood's masterwork about the quarry and Lewis and Denton's magnum opus about Rhosydd, both as rare as hen's teeth, but worth selling the family silver for. Celia Hancock and M.J.T. Lewis have written a small but powerful history of Conglog Slate Quarry, at the end of the cwm. There's the excellent Cofio Cwmorthin website.
So for the next year or so, interspersed with normal transmissions (and there are a lot of those, if I can just get round to finishing them) there will be articles and photos about various features of Cwmorthin. A modest attempt, for better (or more likely worse), to document the place.
Cwmorthin sits like a drop of sunlit dew in a morning spider's web , a magical hanging valley above Tan y Grisiau; deserted of human habitation but not of memories. Two-strokers run out of fuel eventually, or get bored and go home. Everyone else has every right to enjoy the place and find whatever it means to them.
I might find out what it means to me.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
|The Manod Powder Store with the tips of the modern quarry behind.|
Sometimes the magazine is an obvious feature, but more often than not, it has to be searched for among undergrowth and there is always a feeling of achievement when it has been identified!
|The ruined powder house at Hafod y Porth, near Beddgelert.|
|The classic round powder store, here at Hendre Ddu, Cwm Pennant|
|The "new" magazine at Cwt-y-Bugail. This replaced an older one which was set in a defile next to the level A-B drumhouse.|
|The original magazine at Cwt-y-Bugail, which probably served the upper quarry before the mills at level B were built.|
|Repurposed powder house at the New Pandora Mine, Gwydir|
|The very interesting structure at Penmaenmawr with outer protecting blast walls.|
|Moel y Gwartheg|
|The Cwm Teigl store...Chwarel Llew Twrog is just out of shot at top right.|
|The store at Nant Gefail y Meinars, sited well above the mine and buttressed against collapse (!)|
|Partly buried magazine at Brynglas, again well above the workings.|
|Classic opportunistic design- a magazine with a freestone boulder as one of the walls! At Cwm Dwyfor copper mine.|
|Classic square magazine at Cefn Coch.|
|Square example at Cwm Cipwrth, with porch. This probably also served the nearby Gilfach copper mine.|
|Buried deep in the undergrowth - Gallt y Fedw, Dorothea.|
|Lastly, a rather primitive magazine partly buried at Bwlch y Ddeufaen West quarry.|
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
I fought with my conscience over this mine...whether or not to write about it. It was small, insignificant, perhaps completely uninteresting compared to the nearby thrills of Cwmorthin or Rhosydd. Yet it was a rather uneasy explore, because of the extreme fragility of the adit and the amount of water coming in. I don't want to be responsible for folk putting themselves in peril, but it's a shame not to share the photos and experiences. (Hopefully so that you don't have to!) I'll just let you make your own minds up about how foolish we were .
I blame Harold Morris, the venerable local mine explorer for drawing my attention to it. Harold has explored just about every excavation in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area and is a walking treasure trove of knowledge. He paid me a visit one Sunday and we roamed far and wide in discussions about lost mines, particularly on the Manod, which is practically our back yard. I mentioned a favourite of mine, Chwarel Llew Twrog...Harold countered with the suggestion that there were more open adits than I had realised, and he'd been in them. Afterwards, I mentioned this to Petra who opened Google Earth with unseemly haste. Sure enough, there was what looked to be a level beneath the cliffs known as Clogwyn y Garw, with what looked like a causeway, and a trial digging. The game was on! It couldn't be open, surely? And how had we missed this?
|The fun begins, over yonder boulders...|
|The trial level|
|The real adit, cleverly concealing the depth of water inside...|
Walking further in, the water became shallower, as is the way with most mine adits. They are built to drain the mine, but inevitably get blocked near the mouth with debris, silt, dead sheep and general degradation, as had happened here. I could now see the sleepers on the floor, very fragile and almost rotted away. Deads were stacked up at the sides of the adit very tidily. Elsewhere, large coffin shaped slabs were leant against the walls, something I noticed at Llew Twrog as well. To my inexpert eye, these looked worth saving...I wonder why they were left?
|The sheet of corrugated iron on the floor was covered in mine shells|
I still found time to marvel at the craftsmanship and accuracy of the adit and the lovely, untouched sleepers on the floor. Everything was tidy and workmanlike. We arrived back at the fall and I decided to take a couple more photos, as we certainly wouldn't be back this way again in a hurry. It was then I noticed the roof above where the water was coming in. A few rails held in a mass of rubble and rock, just waiting for an ill-starred moment to collapse and entomb the mine forever. We have been in dodgy adits before, of course, especially in the old Holland's Cesail quarry at Oakeley. But there, the adits were quiet and you could hear when the rock spoke to you (it always says "get out!") but here, all you could sense was the water roaring, eroding your judgement. No warnings. We retreated, a sense of exhilaration gradually replaced by a feeling of foolishness.
|Processing buildings, or an office...outside the adit entrance|
I don't know how they thought they were going to take product to market from here...perhaps they were waiting until things became productive as at Fridd a bit further up the hill, where a road was cut into Carreg y Fran. Whatever they found both here and at Llew twrog must have been moved over the boulder field by mule- and it is bad enough negotiating that on foot.
In conclusion, a very interesting, if rather perilous explore. Afterwards, I realised that not all the water was draining out of the adit. It was being channeled down a fissure in the floor by the fall, through yet more unstable rock...
|The boulder field|
Wednesday, 2 November 2016
|Penrhydd Bach combined shed and caban- shed on the right. Last home of "Holy War" from 1961. Before that, "Wild Aster" from the mid forties.|
|Pen Garret shed- a tandem example with the usual pillars for block and tackle. Home of "Rough Pup" and "Bernstien", the latter for 30 years.|
|Australia shed, 1600 feet up a mountain! Here it was that "Alice" lay for many years. She was in company with "Irish Mail" for a while, and before that, between 1930 and 1945, "Maid Marian".|
I haven't uncovered all the sheds yet, and this doesn't purport to be an exhaustive account, rather some of the highlights which give a flavour. Unlike in other quarries, there are some first-hand records from the drivers and other quarrymen concerning the working and stabling of the locos, and these can be discovered in the books listed at the end of the post.
|A view of Snowdon from Lernion shed.|
|Inside Pen Garret Shed|
In the early days, the drivers were encouraged to take a pride in the locos by a system of bonuses and a sort of league table. Those that failed in this endeavour were generally ill-regarded and could be turfed off the job if they didn't mend their ways and buy some Brasso. Even in the fifties, photographs of the locos show them to be well cared for and clean in most examples.
Finally, I noted something special at the last shed I visited, at Pen Garret on the Braich tip runs. The shed was approached by a cinder path, something that will chime with railway enthusiasts of a certain age who remember bunking BR loco sheds. That the cinders were without doubt from steam locomotive fireboxes was almost too nostalgic to contemplate, especially as soon afterward I made the discovery of some old firebars, lying in a pile where they had been discarded probably sixty years ago. In conclusion, if you have a sympathy for small, impudent steam locomotives and a love of quarries, visit Dinorwig . Go quietly and please don't throw or displace anything. Just stand and feel the little iron ghosts around you as they chuff fussily about the galleries.
|Penrhydd Bach, with the later 1960's haul road a little too close for comfort.|
|A loco shelter on Egypt, with fairly typical quarry pointwork. Actually, I don't have any record of steam locomotives on this level...perhaps it was another kind of shed, but it does look suspiciously like a loco shed...|
|Diffwys loco blast shelter|
|A different type of loco blast shelter in one of the "A" inclines...subsidence has moved the walls nearer together over the years...Petra is quite slim!|
Some further reading:
"Quarry Hunslets of North Wales - The Great `Little` Survivors"
1st Edition - August 2001
by Cliff Thomas
Book Hardback 256 Pages 200 B&W Photographs
Publisher: Oakwood Press
"Delving in Dinorwig" by Douglas Carrington,
ISBN: 9780863812859 (0863812856)
Publication Date January 2004
Publisher: Llygad Gwalch Cyf, Llanrwst
Format: Paperback, 92 pages
"Dinorwic: The Llanberis Slate Quarry, 1780-1969"
Reg Chambers Jones
"Slates to Velinheli"
The Railways of Tramways of Dinorwic Slate Quarries Llanberis
Published by Maid Marian Locomotive Fund
Written by D. C. Carrington and T. F. Rushworth
|Maid Marian, on the Bala Lake Railway in 2016.|