|"Blanche" passes by on her way to Summit Cutting, with Moel Ystradau and the "Syenite Setts" quarry in the background.|
I thought at first that it might be the famous Moelwyn slate mine, whose inclines descend to the Ffestiniog railway in a series of majestic pitches. But this was lower, following a big quartz rib on the mountain. I didn't suppose it would be very interesting- the Moelwyn is so thoroughly tramped by ramblers, I reckoned that any adits would be gated up. Very sadly, someone was killed in the seventies in one of the Moelwyn slate mine adits, falling down a shaft. Another lamentable result of this horrible tragedy was that all those lovely chambers were sealed off by grids.
A root around on the internet and in my book collection unearthed some facts. The mine was Moelwyn No2 , variously a manganese, lead and zinc mine. Also known as Gwaith Mango (great name!) and Gwaith Mein. It had a siding to the Ffestiniog Railway and was opened around 1892 for manganese; later it was worked for zinc and closed just after the great war.
|Remains of the adit at the mill site|
|Down, down, deeper and down...|
The next adit, following the vein uphill, was ring-fenced. A form of protection which I heartily approve of. It keeps the sheep out, as they tend to be over-enthusiastic mine explorers. Plus, we have a handy bit of kit, made out of an old exercise mat, which enables us to circumnavigate this kind of fence. There were some impressive baulks of wood in the stope which were rigged to contain deads, although they didn't seem to have been used. Inside, a bridge ran over a very deep, flooded stope.Very dangerous.
Back outside, a superb revetted tramway ran along the contour line towards a further worked area. It was a little disappointing, although the stoping was quite spectacular. There was a great deal of an unusual moss inside which, try as she might, Petra couldn't manage to photograph. All the way up the hill, we'd been trying not to tread on small, furry caterpillars, hundeds of them, munching away at the heather. Fox moths, Petra tells me. I wondered how they would survive the coming winter.
On our way down the hill, we could see a ruined drumhouse and more tips. Above the drumhouse, a superb adit led through a stoped area to a collapse. There was a good deal of roofing upwards....above us, a small square of light hinted at a dangerous, open shaft somewhere above. To the right in the gloom, a winze dropped away at least a hundred feet below, as far as our lamps would shine. There was a ledge to walk on, past a small collapse. Here, the rock was fascinating, with the remains of the lode to be seen in the walls. It goes without saying, but it's not the sort of place to explore without very good lamps and some form of rope protection, as an investigation in the darkness here would end in tragedy.
Further down again and an extensive work area and tips lay in front of a walled-up adit. No doubt this would have intersected the various stopes and would have been a perilous place to explore, but it is still frustrating to see it walled up. The drumhouse gave impressive, if gloomy views down to the Llyn and across to mighty Cwmorthin as the incline swooped below...but with darkness falling, we reluctantly headed for home.
*chimping- a nerdy photo term for looking mindlessly through your photos on the camera.
Link to Fox Moths on Petra's site "In the Green"