Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Burrowing under the Manod



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...
Our day off dawned wet and dismal, but no matter; from the satellite view it looked like a modest yomp over the boulder field to the skirts of the Manod. We made it to an area below the causeway, which now, close up, looked like an impressive feature. The satellite view of course, tends to flatten things. Petra spotted the first adit, a modest trial that went in just a few yards. There were some jwmpr marked rocks outside and the ruins of some ramshackle structures. One looked like it could have been a wal; the other one, a circular relic, might have been a powder store, or equally, judging by the lichen growth, the remains of a prehistoric hut. There are many such remains in this area. There was also a larger ruin a little further down the hill towards the road, but I think that must be an old Hafod, or shepherd's hut.


The trial level
After taking photos and speculating, pretending that we knew what we were looking at, we made for the causeway. Trying not to damage anything (the stones were unsteady and would easily fall) we made it to the level, at which point I heard Petra shout out in delight. By the time I staggered up the side of the causeway, she was busy putting on wet socks and mining gear ready for an underground explore. So it was open! The Manod frowned at us from above as the cloud fretted over the cliffs...and a few hundred yards further up the cwm, we could see the tip and lone pine of the Llew Twrog level through the mist. There was an awful lot of rock above us...


The real adit, cleverly concealing the depth of water inside...
The adit looked inviting in a miney sort of way, but the water was deep and very cold. I gasped as it immediately reached the parts other mines rarely trouble. On with the lights. Deep mud on one side of the adit, but slate on the other. I became aware of a distant roaring like an aeroplane. It took a few seconds before I realised that it was coming from inside the mine.  Distracted, I tripped, grabbing the wall of the adit. A big chunk immediately came away in my hand. Somehow I managed to keep my precious camera dry, at the expense of soaking most of everything else. Oh well, wet now, nothing ventured etc.  The wall and roof looked a little sketchy, with slate de-laminating everywhere. I sternly reminded myself to be a bit more careful.


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
The further in to the mine we ventured, the louder the noise became. The passage did a turn to the left, past a shaky, delaminated roof section. Then, our torches picked out the water, blasting in from either side of a breach in the walls. We stopped to take photos, trying to keep calm in the now deafening, water laden atmosphere. My poor camera, I thought, as I adjusted the settings with wet, muddy fingers. Without thinking much about it, we moved on past the waterfalls into the next couple of hundred yards as the mine drove into the bowels of Manod Mawr. It looked like a side chamber had been filled with more deads...paradoxically, the mine seemed safer this side of the water incursion- precious comfort, as if the roof collapsed back at the waterfall, the way out was going to be blocked.  Finally, we came to the forehead, a rather sad blank wall where the decision must have been taken to down tools and go elsewhere. I could almost sense the gravitational forces as millions of tons of Manod Mawr pressed down on us- we both decided to carefully retrace our steps.
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
Outside, it was almost dark. The mist had set in. I realised that it had seemed warmer back in the mine. I was glad we'd done it, of course, pleased that we were still alive and that my camera seemed OK. We smiled at each other foolishly. Job done.


The causeway
Further research doesn't pull up anything new about the mine. It appears on the Ordnance Survey XXIX of 1901 but not before. Rails are indicated emerging from the level. I think the causeway must be made from waste, perhaps due to some restriction on the sett, as the boundary wall is hard up against the causeway. Tipping above would have been impossible.  That must be why deads were stacked up inside as well.  This part of the cwm is pock-marked by trials, you begin to see them everywhere once you start looking, but this had been a special one, on a par with Llew Twrog just up the cwm. It was probably opened in conjunction with that mine, as the method of working is similar.
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

12 comments:

Paul B. said...

Lovely photos as usual, and an interesting day by the sounds of it.
Whilst your wanderings could inspire me to follow in your footsteps I'd quite happily give this place a miss...
As for feeling foolish, to be honest the most dangerous thing that we all do is drive or cross the road!

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you very much, Paul. Yes, I am always telling people who are shocked/horrified when they hear what we get up to that crossing the road or driving is much more dangerous! Thank you for bringing that up. I'm really pleased you enjoyed the photographs...and I think you are wise to give this one a miss :-)

Geoff said...

What a fascinating account of your days exploration Iain, the pair of you are far braver than me!

I remember going down White Scar near Ingleton, the water was pouring in from all directions, but thanks to proper walkways we managed to keep our feet dry. Our party was the last that day, the management deciding it was too risky to continue, due to the rising water levels.

Your photos are marvellous as always, just hope the camera has suffered no long term damage!

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Geoff! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
Ah, yes, I know White Scar, I remember looking at that many years ago...and it was pretty dry, so you saw it at it's most spectacular :-)
Thanks for the kind words about my photos. The camera has dried out and seems OK now thanks!

fifteenflatout said...

When I saw the title 'Burrowing Under Manod' I thought we were going to get a description of a trip into the place above - the one where the art treasures were stored in WW2.

But I like this expedition to a little hole in the hillside. It is now several decades since I have explored old mines but this brings all those feelings of trepidation, fear, and exhilaration when we found somewhere special. Also those times of frustration when after a difficult walk in the adit was blocked or only went a few yards.

Geoff

geotopoi said...

Great stuff, Iain. Very relieved to hear that you both (and the camera!) effected a safe retreat.

Iain Robinson said...

Geoff, thank you...it looks like the chambers where the paintings were kept are pretty much all gone now, the untopping has proceeded a bit more than the last time we were up there. Yes, this was a tiny little mine, Richards does mention it, but concludes that there is nothing there...wrong!

I am glad the post brought back memories for you, and I too know that feeling when the adit is run in :-) I do like these little mines that nobody visits. We have another one tee'd up for our next day off :-)

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham! Yes, I was relieved to see the camera is OK, normally I take my Samsung which is a point and shoot with a long exposure facility, but this time for some reason it was the Nikon. Sighs of relief all round! As usual, Petra hardly got wet :-)

korschtal said...

Thanks for sharing the story Iain. I can assure you I have no desire to go there myself.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Andy! I am glad you enjoyed the story and thank you for reading :-) If you feel you have no desire to visit, then my work is done :0)

adcochrane said...

A little perilous for me but very glad to see such excellent photos on the back of your nerve! The adrenalin emust be have been kicking in all the way home.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Alex, it was a lot of fun...I think :-) Apologies for only posting this now, I have been having problems with Blogger :-(

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