Hidden in the lonely woods below Foel y Ffridd, a couple of miles west of Aberangell, lies the mysterious and elusive Talmierin mine. Petra and I have made a few forays here and failed to find the adit, or even the site of the mine. It was rumoured to be connected to a tramway that came down from Maes y Gamfa slate quarry, but despite searching we couldn't find it. I made enquiries online, and one sage told me that he had been in the adit with a mate and it was flooded almost to the roof- they had to use an inflatable to make progress. So we gradually consigned the place to that dusty corner marked "too much bother".
Fast forward five years, and Petra and I decided just to have a walk around the woods and see what had changed. Short answer: nothing. It was still as magical and fascinating as ever. We poked around a bit, went up to Maes y Gamfa, then on the way back I suggested to Petra that we had another quick look for the fabled adit, not really expecting to find anything. I must say that we did have a good idea where the adit was by this time, but it was just an untried theory.
Well, we stumbled about for an hour, then quartered an area of the woods where I suspected the mine might be. As if by magic, a tip appeared, like a grey mist in the trees! Despite being weary from a day's aimless stravaiging, we ran up the slope like a pair of Jack Russells scenting pedigree chum. And there it was! A beautiful location, the kind I like best, a black adit mouth breathing out chill air to the balmy woods. Of course, we'd only come equipped for a walk, we didn't have torches or helmets. Typical! We had to come back ASAP.
A month later, we returned, with my daughter Sam, a keen mine explorer, and our good friend Dave Linton, the curator of the Merioneth Manganese and Hendrecoed Mining History sites. Equipped with lashings of ginger beer and rucksacks groaning with provisions in true Enid Blyton style, we made our way up beside the tramway past Bowley's mill. The mill looks much the same, except there are notices up to tell the unwary that it is unsafe. I'd read that it was to be converted into holiday cottages. Obviously, it hasn't, not yet anyway.
Walking past the Coed Mawr twll (also known as Gartheiniog or Hendre Meredydd) which was the working that Bowley's mill once served, we just had to go in and have a look. It's very deep and difficult to photograph. Gazing down into the depths, I absent-mindedly pondered about whether there might be a drainage adit. As soon as we were back on the road Petra and Dave had decided where it was most likely to be. Dave was off down hill, leaving the rest of us to stagger about in his wake. On our previous visits, we hadn't thought about a lower entrance to the pit, yet a little thought, (and a close reading of Richards) would have shown that it was obvious.
It was even more of a jungle below the road; steep and bramble infested, but somehow we all scrambled down. Petra found the opencut, which was choked with mud almost up to the roof, but an inspection with torches revealed that it was indeed a drainage tunnel. Luckily, the end of the opencut debouched into the river, the Nant Maesygamfa and we decided that it might be a good idea to cross the river and proceed to the mine via the tramway.
I guess at this point, the tramway is called the Maesygamfa tramway...the woods hereabouts are infested with the mysterious remains of tramways and make a fascinating study, branches going off to Hendre Coed and other quarries. The lines were also used to transport timber and until fairly recently, some rail and trolleys were lying by Bowley's mill. There is, I hope, soon to be a book about the tramways...hurry up, Dan!
We made our way up through the woods and eventually came to the adit, where we changed into underground gear. It wasn't a long adit, and it had been filled near the end of the drive with deads. Dave crawled over the obstruction anyway. We called to ask if there was anything to see, but then decided we didn't want to be left out, so over we went. It wasn't easy and, in fact, there was little to see except a few mineral flows. But we'd made it to the forehead, and we were pretty chuffed.
It was definitely a slate mine, there were some big slabs awaiting transport out. Halfway down the adit was an attempt to roof up and start a chamber, but there was no sign of the two chambers that Richards mentions. Nor was there any sign of flooding, no tide marks that you can sometimes see in other places. Above is an open quarry which seems to have been an early digging. I've been studying the maps again and note that on the OS map the mine is pretty much where "Old Quarry" is marked, although it's impossible to make out on Google Earth. I can only offer the excuse that the woods are quite thick and that you don't really see the adit and tips until you almost stumble on them.
Sad to say, there was no sign on these recent visits of the red dog at the turning, immortalised by google streetview. (Here's a link to the original post with the dog). Unlike in the Famous Five books, we didn't encounter any scoundrels or visit Kirrin Island, but we did eat well and find some secret(ish) tunnels. I still reckon it was a brilliant day. Thanks to my daughter Sam, to Petra and to Dave for their excellent company and knowledge.
Fridd Gartheiniog, ( aka Bowley's, or Hendre Coed Y Fridd) SH822117 was opened in 1850. The product was mostly slab from the Corris Narrow slate vein. There were two tunnels into the pit. An enamelling oven was added to the mill in the 1920's to produce slate for mantelpieces and other architectural items. The mill was initially water-driven by a leat from the Afon Angell. We didn't find any trace of this. Later, a diesel engine supplied power for 6 saws and 3 planers. It closed in 1950.
Gazetteer of Slate Quarrying in Wales by Alun John Richards
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