We first encountered this quarry eleven years ago on a miserable, wet day. We'd had big plans about exploring this and the Prince of Wales quarry, but in the end, the weather proved just too damp. I made a mental note to come back, but somehow didn't. Every time we went to the end of the valley it was a case of "Oh, there's the Dol-Ifan-Gethin, but we have to get to somewhere else...
Finally, in the spring of 2018, we made a dedicated trip. I rather liked the look of the woodland to the side of the quarry, along the Ceunant Dolgarth, itself the motive power for the quarry's machinery. I'd also read in Richards' Gazetteer that there was a hint of copper mining on the site. Petra and I figured that if there had been, we would sniff it out.
As it turned out, we had to make two dedicated trips, because the first time there was a frost which just didn't thaw and I ended up slipping and falling down the incline some twenty feet...(luckily without injury except to my pride).
As usual, I'm racing ahead. The start of the explore was from the car park at the end of Cwm Pennant after Beudy Newydd farm at SH5401849207. You don't cross the stile, but walk on the farm track which leads to the quarry. This is a public right of way, although in winter can be a diabolical mudbath as you near the ruins of the mill. But first, the ruins of the Farmhouse.
The farmhouse is an imposing structure- and looks to be two dwellings side by side. Was one used as a barracks for the quarry? This farm was owned in the mid 1800s by a Maurice(Morus) Davies, who might have leased the land to the quarry, then returned it to agricultural use when the quarry closed down. The farmhouse can't have been abandoned much before the nineteen fifties, as there were still beams in place and remains of cast iron bedsteads.
After puzzling over the farmhouse for a while and soaking up the atmosphere, we walked on to the buildings at the foot of the quarry. These have been taken into agricultural use, and the present farmer seems keen on improving the land. However, so far there has been little impact on the structures. The largest structure seems to have been used as a mill, with a waterwheel pit beside it.
The mill and waterwheel are quite recogniseable as such, but I was a little more doubtful about the structure beyond. Perhaps it had also been a dwelling, but there was no mention of such on the Tithe maps...perhaps it was a storehouse for the quarry, later converted to agricultural use. We had a look at the mill leat, which runs in an impressive slate-lined course above the mill.
Having tried a couple of times to climb the incline, and finding that it was passable until the last pitch, where the amount of loose slate makes it dangerous, we climbed up the left side of the Ceunant Dolgarth. The woods are beautiful, and I've included some shots in the gallery at the end. But first, a shot of the incline looking down...
Back along the stream, we encountered a small dam and holding pond.
The woods became steeper, but eventually we emerged across from the drumhouse. This was of the standard type, with a drum (long since rotted away) sitting on a substantial slate platform. We crossed over the stream, but collapses of the level by the drumhouse meant that we couldn't get near the pit from this side. So instead, we made our way upwards, hoping to find evidence of the copper mine- and also a structure marked as a powder house at the top.
We soon found evidence of an old excavation for copper above the drumhouse. There was a moderately revetted little road, probably a mule track from a run-in adit along the line of the stream, going towards a small tip, which even now exhibited traces of chalcopyrites in the spoil. It couldn't have been profitable, judging by the quantity of spoil.
It had been a steep climb, but an enjoyable one, with a few interesting things to see. We knew that a little bit further up the hill, according to the early OS maps, there might be a powder hut. I hadn't been able to make anything out when we had been walking a few weeks earlier on the other side of the valley, even with field glasses, but somehow I was hopeful. Petra went ahead- it wasn't long before I heard a shout that told me we might have found it- and it was pretty well preserved, given the time it must have stood in that exposed place.
It was getting late in the day, but Petra had a plan to descend through the quarry and have a look at the levels from the north side. I concurred, but needed a coffee and a snack, so we sat for a few minutes and enjoyed the wonderful view. A Buzzard was patrolling below us, harassed occasionally by a pair of Ravens. I wasn't looking forward to the descent as my knees are pretty knackered...it's a steep place, but I reckon a young person with perfect knees would find it easy enough. After the coffee, this old mule was ready to explore again, and we made our way down the steep slope.
By now, the light was getting low. We tried to see into the pit at each of the levels, but on every occasion, the way was blocked by debris, or a fall, turning the level into a narrow ledge, inches wide. A pity, as I'd wanted a shot of the twll. Obviously the effects of weather and time have not been kind to this place. We made our way slowly down, through more ruined walliau and sketchy levels. It was almost dark by the time we reached the car, but at last, we'd been up close to the place. It was a fascinating site, one that is unlikely to be much disturbed as the years pass by. A pity there aren't more details of it in the records, I searched but could find nothing.
Dol-Ithan-Gethin, Dolgarth or Pennant Vale as it was also known, opened in the early 1870s. Alun John Richards in his "Slate Gazetteer" reckons it closed ten years later, but from the evidence of the early maps, it is active on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of 1889, where the quarry is named as Dol-Evan-gethin but disused by the 2nd edition of 1900. Then again, Wilkinson's Gazetteer has this entry: 1911-Henderson, A, (Owner or Operator) from the Home Office List of Quarries 1911. Perhaps the quarry was only nominally "active" by then and had actually been closed since 1900...
The copper mine/trial seems much earlier- and is an inhospitable site, but then the Moel Hebog mine is hardly sheltered! A cursory search of the archives and the Tithe maps revealed little. Another site lost in the mists of history, but a fascinating place nonetheless.
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