This started out as a straightforward explore of the Arenig Stone Quarry, but like many of our adventures, soon became something else. On our first visit we could only manage a couple of hours, hampered by the lack of light- but we optimistically started in the rain from a lay-by at SH82264 39271.
We followed the fascinating remains of the old quarry tramway that goes south from the main Arenig excavation to a smaller, earlier digging. This tramway is above the line of the old Bala to Blaenau Ffestiniog branch- this too can be followed, as it is a (soggy) permissive right of way. There are the remains of slab bridges, huts and the way is revetted impressively every now and then. As we ambled soggily along, I remembered that I had seen a ruined farm nearby on the map and mentioned this to Petra. Instantly, a new mission was formed- to find the ruins!
The quarry had been fun, but not that interesting, so like magpies that have spotted a shiny set of keys, we headed all-out along a farm track that is marked on the map as a right of way. The track leaves the railway at SH81651 38984. This soon gained some height as it headed south, but then morphed first into a very rough, boggy path, then a dark stain, finally just a rumour in the reeds.
Undeterred, we carried on until Petra spotted an interesting shape on the skyline. We made for it through a field, as the path by now was beyond the reach of boots although it would be OK with wellies, I guess. I didn't say anything to Petra, but a friend had told me that one of the farmers around here is a little bit territorial, and is in the habit of rushing folk on a quad bike. I kept a keen lookout, but thankfully, the horizon stayed clear of any raiding parties.
The ruin was the first of four interesting structures. At first, it looked like it had been some sort of mill or processing works...
Afterwards, courtesy of Coflein, I discovered that the building was an extensive barn, probably for keeping cows in. The large pillar was for supporting the roof. This landscape looks like slim pickings for the sheep today, but perhaps back in the C19th the pasture was improved, as this looks like a prosperous operation. This barn seems to have superceded an earlier one on the same site. Further up the hill to the north east is another steading complex with a farm track running through it. This, too, seems to have belonged to the same farm, Amnodd Wen.
As we left the ruin, heading south, we spotted the farm, Amnodd Wen about a quarter of a mile ahead. There was just enough light to have a look.
I'm glad we did, as it is a fascinating site, and a poignant one. The ruined farm house sits on a sheltered, yet elevated position beside a line of fine Ash trees. Alas, this time, it was too dark to make any decent photos, so we vowed to return on the next fine day. A week later, we had found a slightly faster route to the farm...via another ruined farm! We parked at SH81651 38513, rather cheekily beside the farmer's driveway. We strode boldly down the drive until it met the footpath sign, taking us over the railway and on through the forest. A much easier and dryer route, although despite the fine weather forecast, it had begun to rain...
Undeterred, we soon arrived at our first objective for the day, a ruin called Amnodd Bwch. This still has a roof, although most of the windows have gone. Coflein thinks that it is one of a pair with Amnodd Wen. Perhaps it was built by the landowner originally, although confusingly, while it appears on the Tithe maps of 1838, the present remains correspond more to those marked on the 1901 Ordnance map.
Whatever the origins of the place, it is a fascinating sight. Inside, the big kitchen range was still intact. There is some fine ornamentation in the bargeboarding of the porch, and the windows are a very superior sort that must have cost quite a bit to install, before the days of Everest.
We took a well-earned lunch here and sheltered from a sudden shower in the remains of the barn. Apart from the barn, the steadings were extensive, with pig-sties and sheep pens. In the barn, Petra noticed an inscription above the first storey door. "T & J, 1901". I wondered who they were- estate workers, or family? They built the barn to a vernacular, traditional style that wouldn't have needed much in the way of plans. The steps to the granary were particularly fine and the stone was similar to that used in the farmhouse, perhaps a little less worked.
We carried on along a forestry road towards the other farm, Amnodd Wen. While in a more ruinous state, the place is fascinating and had a rather spooky air on the gloomy day that we visited. The buildings ramble about...it seems that as well as a farmhouse, there were other buildings housing workers, and one structure had been converted to some kind of mill. According to the tithe survey of 1838, there were 36 acres of land under arable cultivation- at the end of one structure there are the remains of a waterwheel in a 3 metre pit and a leat which runs from the stream above the house.
Inside the buildings there are the remains of fireplaces and what looked like a bread oven. There is a curious set of shallow steps leading to an entrance between the buildings- one occasion when I wished for an old photo of the place.
The weather and the light began to get to me, not helped by the old Ash trees beside the farm, which gave off an air of dead men walking, as they are surely doomed. Such a pity, as they are beautiful trees.
I think the feeling of sadness that we always feel when exploring ruined houses had begun to weigh on me. I thought about the families that had lived here, hoping that their lives weren't too hard. I wondered where the children went to school, and how tough the winters were. It seemed like an inhospitable place to live and farm.
It was sad, too, that the signs of endeavour were still around...the axle and bearing from the waterwheel...the remains of ornamentation on the vestiges of woodwork; and a pile of slates stacked against the front wall, as if put there recently, with hopes that they might be used again. We took one last look at the trees and then headed back in the failing light for the road. It was only three o'clock, there would be a coffee shop open somewhere, ready to prop up our sagging spirits with caffeine. And...winter won't last forever, even in Wales!
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