There was nothing but the moor. It stretched in every direction, as far as the eye could see. We were sitting on a low wall in the ruins of Serw slate quarry, eating home-made flapjacks, exulting in the peace and quiet. Except that somewhere, hundreds of feet up, a transatlantic aircraft was making the air rumble with kerosene thunder. No matter how far you go, we grumbled, you can't escape the sounds of the modern world.
Meadow Pipits rose from the heather, their cries piercing the plane's thunder like tiny needles. It was too early in the year for the Curlews, although this was the perfect country for them.
Micro-landscapes of lichen, moss and slate could be found everywhere- on top of a lintel, clinging on across a doorway, inside a candle alcove. Scale here was all relative in this seemingly limitless landscape.
There was a kind of magic about the location of the old quarry. The ruinous, roofless barracks, one wall at a crazy angle, like a frayed, crushed cardboard carton.
There were the usual shipwrecked features of an old extractive site; the tips, some sketchy slate piles that once had a discernable purpose, something that could have been a walliau or a caban.
Petra shouted me over. She had found a tear-shaped, ruined hut. It was sunk into the ground and showed signs of the roof having been cantilevered inwards to form a dome over the structure. I took some photos, aware that they wouldn't really convey what was special about this place. Most of the appeal was to something made in the imagination, conjured from the remains.
The quarry pit behind the berms of waste was a mysterious dark basin of unknown depth, the water brown and murky. There didn't seem to be any aquatic life, yet the grass where the slate had long-ago been hauled out seemed flattened down by some animal. We wandered among the remains, enjoying the sensation of being the only humans to visit for a long time, but eventually, we had to start back for home.
Ravens flew over, casting their runes to fall around us, making rich, burbling noises, or a sudden, metallic "bok!" They were considering our presence in their dominion.
The heather around the quarry gave way to sphagnum underfoot, absorbing strength from our legs. It took an age to stumble and pratfall our way to the top of a slight inclination in the moor. I felt guilty, treading in massive pillows of moss or lichen, almost destroying a grouse nest, preoccupied as I was with the effort of high-stepping over berms of vegetation. We must have looked like a comedy duo, staggering and falling about. Finally, we reached firmer ground, relieved to see the ochre and yellow of the mat-grass and fescue. It might have been the result of chronic overgrazing in the past, but it was slightly easier to walk on.
On our way down the hill, towards the road, we passed an area of completely dead forest- the trees looked to have been about thirty years old before something had happened. Earlier, we had occasionally encountered the top of one of these dead trees sticking out of the bog, blown there by the fury of the wind. Nearer the road, we found a slate slab, sticking up like a milepost, except that it was on the way to nowhere.
We encountered an apologetic group of five ewes and lambs who scurried away from our presence, as if they felt suspicion rest upon them. Soon, the sound of speeding car's tyres was heard, then a convoy of motorcyles, ripping the silence with their selfish noise, like the mewling of spoilt brats. A drinks can bounced away, disturbed by the bikes' passage down the road. We were back from the nineteenth, into the twenty-first century.
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