Some ancient woodland, the old, remote church of Llangelynnin and Maen Penddu standing stone, all connected by a rather old path.
An area of woods to the west of Henryd, at SH757737, Parc Mawr is owned and managed by the Woodland Trust who welcome considerate visitors. There's a small car park/layby near the entrance, which is handy as there are few places to park hereabouts unless you start from Henryd. This is a mixed deciduous woods, on a very steep east facing site above the Conwy valley. But the first thing we encountered was an adit...
Into the woods!
After having a nosey around the ungated trial adit, (more about this here) we set off up the main path which takes a route along the middle of the woods. The path climbs steeply for almost a mile, (a vertical climb of 110 metres in height), to a viewpoint with a handy bench. There are many fine trees to admire; beeches, sweet chestnuts, Douglas firs, and some fine old oaks. Conifers have been felled and left on the ground.
We sat for a few minutes and gazed at the view across to Conwy, starting in on the snacks already, despite it being early in the day. Feeling slightly full, we walked on a little way until we encountered a trackway crossing from below. This is an old route which has been re-branded as the "Pilgrim's Path". We turned right and walked steeply up. It's surfaced with round stones and would probably be very slippery in the wet- even on the glorious day we had, it resembled a stream bed in places.
It's interesting that on the way up the path, the walls vary in age and repair condition. Near the top, there is some ancient walling on display, parts of it originating from the middle ages. We went through another gate, with the Iron Age fort of Cerrig y Dinas looming on our right. The old church came into view now.
Looking at the walls as they strode up the hill, I realised that they were enclosure walls- perticularly noticeable in the higher land above the Conwy valley. I don't like the thinking behind them, the idea that a few people could divvy up land that folk had been living and farming on for thousands of years. Share it out between themselves and chuck everybody else off. But I had to admire the craftsmanship that went into building the walls. I have tried to build dry stone walls a good few times and I know how much thought goes into it- and how much frustration!
St Celynnin's church
I shan't say much about the church, since churches and religion are not my thing. But if it's your thing, then it is well worth a look. The site was dedicated to St Celynnin in the sixth century, although this ultra-modern imposter dates from the twelfth century. You can pick up a very good, free informative leaflet inside the church. Petra went in and took some photos- I will put them on here when her workload allows her to process them.
Once past the church, the moor opens out and horizons become wider. We walked past a very fine sheepfold. I'm glad to see there is renewed interest in these wonderful old structures that always fascinate me when I find them in the hills. Sadly, they don't photograph very well without a drone, or a tame pilot to do them justice!
We headed upwards as the landscape became more remote, despite being only a few miles from Conwy. That is one of the attractive features of this area, as locals can come up and get some fresh air while it is relatively unknown to the majority of tourists, who tend to congregate on the Bwlch y Ddeufaen to the south. I don't think my readership is big enough to endanger the secret.
The ruined medieval farm of Friddlys
We were now on the lower slopes of Tal y Fan, and could see the eponymous slate quarry ahead. See post here. We were intrigued by some stands of trees below in the otherwise bare hillside. I wondered if the trees masked a ruined farm, so we went down to have a look. We found something rather magical in the shade of some old sycamore trees. According to Coflein, this was a medieval farmstead, which they call Ffriddlys, although it is marked on the 1st edition OS maps as Llwyn Penduu. Modern maps ignore it.
The first thing that I saw was a pig sty, almost completely ruined, but still recogniseable. Then a cart shed. To the right, or south, there was a range of buildings- at the end was the dwelling house with a range still in position (just). I wished it wasn't so sunny (never satisfied) as the light was so harsh, but perhaps that added to the magic as well.
A little bit further up the hill, there was another, smaller set of more ruinous structures- I think they were a part of Ffridllys farm. I failed to photograph anything here, sadly, the differences between the light and the shade defeated me. There was a mysterious metal wheel leaning in a gate opening, perhaps from a machine like a hay rake.
We made our way uphill to an area which contained a number of old beudy structures, and the peat hut shown in a previous blog post here. These were all close to a very impressive standing stone, Maen Penddu.
I quote Coflein NPRN 303070 which says: "The stone stands 6ft high and measures 3ft 6 ins x 2ft 6 ins at base. It has been incorporated in the line of an old enclosure bank on the S of a well-used track." Maen Penddu means "black headed stone".
The side that faces the track coming uphill has sadly been defaced with some deeply carved names. The south elevation has a cross carved into it. Honestly, I can't find the words.
At this point, we headed off up the hill to spend a couple of hours at the slate quarry.
Our next adventure will be to take the lower track from here all the way down to the Bwlch y Ddeufaen-and it's many neolithic treasures. Coming soon :-)
A few more images from the walk:
The first time we encountered one of these was while stravaiging west of Tal y Fan on the moors between there and the Penmaen hills. We'd seen a couple of old steadings and sheepfolods, but this structure mystified us. I wondered if it might be a shepherd's shelter, but a glance inside showed that there wasn't space, nor was there a chimney. It wasn't until we returned home and I consulted "An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Caernarfonshire" (RCAHMW) that the fog of mystery lifted.
Apparently, these are peat huts...for the storage of peat. Accustomed to peat being stored outside in heaps to dry, this came as something of a surprise to me. But the guide says that they are called "Hafodtai Mawn" - and that they are not very common.
Peat seems to have been more commonly kept in a heap that was thatched, resting on a peat stool ("Ystol Mawn") which is a platform of large stones intended to keep the peat off the ground. The guide says that these are very common and can be mistaken for burial mounds. Below are two shots from inside, showing the cramped nature of the accomodation.
The grid reference for this one is SH 73347537. The day we explored, we were accompanied by some lovely Carneddau wild ponies, who seemed fairly relaxed about us being on their...er, turf.
A few days later, we found another peat house. We were looking for a powder hut near the slate quarry at Tal y Fan and encountered something that looked as if it might be a powder magazine, but the more we examined it, the more it looked like a peat house. (Unfortunately, we didn't find the magazine)
The remains aren't as well preserved as the one further north, although these are in company with a couple of old beudeau and an impressive, if vandalised standing stone, Maen Penddu. The grid reference is SH73917346.
It's amazing to think that these moors, which look completely uninhabited, have actually known human habitation for a very long time. These peat house remains are just one facet of a timescale going back four thousand years to the neolithic.
The moors between Penmaenmawr in the north and Rowen in the south are a fabulous hunting ground if you like ancient remains, strange ruins and wild scenery. I can't say the moors are trackless, as there are a multitude of paths- the place is popular due to its proximity to Conwy and Llandudno- but there is still a wild, remote feel about the area.
The first time we spotted the quarry, we were on a hunt for standing stones near the Cefn Coch part of the Coastal Path. You might know, there are enough antiquities in this area to last you for months of exploring, but Petra spotted what she thought was a slate tip in the distance. We found ourselves mysteriously quartering miles of gorse and moor as we drew ever closer ...
There's a very well-engineered road that leads to the quarry from the east. I will produce a map of the area with all the access points in the near future. The first time we approached, it was from the Jubilee Path car park outside Penmaenmawr. There's space for only three cars and it's a very narrow road. The second approach (yes, there were things we missed the first time!) was from Parc Mawr, east of Henryd. Both are tiring walks with an uphill trend, but the area has so many interesting things to offer that you forget the tired legs in the haste to get to the next shiny bauble.
It's really a very small quarry, but it appears to have been worked intermittently from at least 1555 to 1913, for very little quality of rock. Our two visits were in very sunny weather, and the place had a very benign atmosphere. The first structure encountered as you arrive up the access road is the strangely constructed caban. It seems to be a near relative of the peat cutter's shelter/stores on the moors- at first I thought it was a blast hut, but the entrance is like a keyhole, opening out into a small area with a bench and a fireplace. Looking at older photos, it would appear that a small window at the right hand end has now fallen in. Perhaps the quarry was worked on an ad-hoc basis by local farmers, and the earliest ones built the strange caban in the only way they knew. They must have been small folk.
At the first level, there is a fine entrance to the pit, where there have been a few collapses. It's a pleasant change to be able to access the pit of a quarry, normally they are flooded or blocked up. While we were in there, I thought I heard Choughs, but Petra informed me that they sounded like Ring Ouzels. Later, I found that they nest in here- if I had known that, I wouldn't have gone in- I hope we didn't disturb them too much. Just now (May) the place is full of slugs, which I guess would be rich pickings for birds.
There are a few ruins on the first level, a working hut and something like a shelter, built into the side of the tip. This is small enough to be a powder store, but seems too near the quarry. It's hard to tell from the evidence on the ground, but it doesn't look like there was any mechanisation here. I didn't spot any saw marks on the waste blocks.
There seemed to be a higher level, so we climbed up to have a look- it was a little treat, a tunnel with a ledge in the pit, obviously an earlier working before extraction had opened up the bottom pit.
On this upper level, there was a ruined hut- at first I thought it might be a weigh hut, but then that wouldn't apply to such a small operation, so I guess that it is a worker's shed where the slates were trimmed.
Richards, in his "Slate Gazetteer, mentions a powder hut and a smithy. So we went up higher to see if there was anything more. There is a ruined structure which might have been a smithy at a pinch- it was too big for a powder store at any rate. There might have been a chimney at one end. Interestingly, it was very difficult to see this structure from below.
We sat up at the top, enjoying the views and listening to skylarks. Neither of us had any inclination to climb any further towards the top of Tal y Fan, even though it is apparently the northernmost peak of the Carneddau, and Wales's second lowest mountain.
The grid reference for the quarry is SH73807330.
Coflein entry for the quarry
During our search for the axe factory sites, we had plenty of opportunity to look at the disused workings of Graiglwyd quarry. For a long time, from 1834-1911, this was a separate entity from the quarry on Penmaen head, seen in the distance in the photo above. That quarry is still being worked, albeit sporadically, with a handful of workers. But with modern equipment, that's all you need.
Walking over from the moorland side, I was excited to see what the quarry looked like from a new angle. Unexpectedly, I had a strong sense of the hubris of the quarry company, back in the early C20th. That these people could think nothing of making this gigantic scar, destroying the signs of ancient landscapes in a rapacious desire for money. Taking 500 feet of the top of a mountain (and destroying a prehistoric fort) just because they "needed" to. It would probably still happen today, I don't think it's any use saying "times have changed".
The archaeological significance of the site was acknowledged even in 1900, but according to Alwyn S Evans, author of "Populating the Past: Penmaenmawr's Mysterious Beginnings",
"...economic interests came first...the quarry people had said, 'Maybe we can keep a lookout for old remains'. This was ridiculous. It would be a non-starter because of the conditions under which the men were working, although the working men might have wanted to look"
Yes, I know, the jobs. But everything can be justified if you think that way, can't it? Don't get me wrong, the place fascinates me. I love trying to interpret the processes, the machinery and the buildings that remain. I am fascinated by the stories of the old quarrymen and their struggles to survive- paid a pittance, risking their lives to line the pockets of the owners. Perhaps in the early C20th, this place was a monument to the workers...less so now, as more efficient, less labour intensive extraction and bigger machinery overlays the marks left by the old men. It's more an advertisement for the removal capacity of modern excavators.
I've gone a bit Kier Hardie haven't I? But within me, and within many amateur industrial archaeologists I suspect, there is a dichotomy- a fascination with historical industry, then a feeling of shock when, with the scale of 21st century processes, this gets out of hand. The need, always, for growth. Sometimes it feels as if mankind is a parasite, leading to the destruction of anything that gets in the way. Certainly, looking over the ravaged mess that is the quarry today I felt that it had benefitted nobody but a few rich capitalists. Anything of industrial archaeological interest had been taken away to yield scrap money. Signs of historic industrial useage were removed by "landscaping", making even the telltale signs of the old levels into strange, alien shapes that are meaningless, owing nothing to geophysical processes or what came before the quarry..
To give an idea of what might have been lost, I have included an extract from Sir John Wynn of Gwydir's "An Ancient Survey of Penmaenmawr " at the end of the post along with Coflein's information.
OK, I've had my ten pence worth. Normal industrial archeology will resume...
While pottering about at the axe factory site, we noticed what looked to be a drum house on the level below- we decided to go and have a look at this. But first, we took a close look at a blast shelter on the edge of the quarry above.
You could be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of prehistoric structure- and it does bear similarities to a very old peat cutter's building on the moors behind Penmaenmawr. But it is also very similar to a blast shelter at Tal-y-Fan slate quarry, a couple of miles to the south on the moors, built when that operation was active in the 1840s.
In fact, the building was a small concrete box, overlaid with several thicknesses of stones to protect the workers as they sheltered. I wonder if they added stones every now and then, when they could!
By now, the drum house on the lower level was calling to us. The first of a few that we encountered, left alone, no doubt because it would be too expensive to demolish. I could see that it was going to be a struggle to access, but it would be worth it.
After a conference, we decided that the best way to reach the drumhouse was to go down and round the perimeter wall, to the base of the incline. It was a steep walk, but a delightful one as the Hawthorn trees were in bloom and underfoot there was a profusion of wild flower growth. To our right was the great Orme and nearer, the bare slopes of the Sychnant Pass.
Eventually, we found the old path used by prisoners of war in the 1914-18 conflict. They were brought here to stay at Graiglwyd Hall and marched up by armed guards daily to work. Most of the men at that time had gone to the forces, but the quarry needed more production for the "war effort"- and to make more money, of course.
The Galloping Colonel
A battalion of quarrymen was formed by the quarry owner, C. H. Darbishire. Tragically, 72 of the men didn't come back, killed in the unneccessary slaughter. Darbishire himself, give him his due, was as keen as mustard to get over and fight the enemy. But his age was against him and he was refused- in 1915, he would have been 70. He'd already funded the building of a drill hall for the men in 1901 and had made himself Colonel of the volunteer regiment.
What do you think he did next? He had a uniform made for himself (that of a private soldier) bought tickets to Egypt, where his troops were fighting, and tried to join them. But he was apprehended and sent back with a stern warning to behave himself. You have to admire his spirit!
Meanwhile, we had reached the lower level and began to walk up to reach the drum house. The incline became overgrown with gorse and we had to detour off it onto the spoil, never a good idea. It was a tense fifty yards of uphill scrabbling, trying not to dislodge pieces of rock, but we managed it.
Walking up, we had been aware of a strung-out line of rusty equipment which I realised must have been a conveyor, something that replaced the incline in the forties.
It seemed to be constructed from very heavy duty tram rail, but perhaps someone more knowledgeable could advise there. It was a rare gem at any rate.
Its interesting that this drum house, and the twll behind it, does not appear on the early OS maps. It only makes an appearance after 1912. Thus the structure is of relatively modern construction. The roof is fascinating, seeming to be laid with massive rough-hewn timbers which are felted over, or perhaps cemented- it was difficult to tell. There's an arch between the crimp and the brakesman's cabin, which has been filled in.
After a while, we wondered how we were going to proceed. Neither of us fancied going back down the incline. After some thought, we set off along a narrow sheep/goat path on the tip, going west. It required a great deal of care.
After some tricky moments, we made it over a fence to a landscaped area where the levels had been turned into something resembling a golf course on a 45 degree slant. Very strange. The main haul road was now above it, but we took advantage of a gap in the fence and crossed on to yet another landscaped level which led to Nant Dwyll, meaning "the dark hollow"... according to Dennis Robert's excellent booklet about the quarry.
It felt a strange place, neither one world nor the other.
At last, we found a way to get out from the landscaped tedium of the middle twlls, up via the formation of a 1943 tramway branch which had once run from Penmarian to Fox Bank. There was another formation immediately above it which we thought might have been a leat, but according to John M Lloyd's map in Boyd's "Narrow Gauge Railways in North Caerns" this would have been a branch laid in 1888.
There were several things of interest along the formation: a remarkable view across to Fox Bank and Penmaen East quarry, and a sight of the remains of Braich Lwyd Mill.
A very much degraded incline was spotted crossing the formation. This must be the one on the map that is marked 1924, but there was hardly any sign of it. The presence of a bright yellow stile indicated that we had now finished trespassing, and were on a right of way. This would be the path that we had spotted several years ago and wondered where it went. It eventually reached a drum house on what seemed like the highest level...
Above- three shots of the incline house at the top coming from Kimberley Bank. It had a long wall, presumably to shelter waggons from the wind at this location, above the 1000 foot contour.
Now we were on the top level of Graiglwyd, looking across at some sett sheds. To the left of the sheds was what looked like another drum house, which was confusing. I couldn't see any sign of an incline, nor was there one on the map. But there were some wild horses here, who seemed unconcerned by our presence- it was so nice to see them. They had watched us as we walked along the level below; now I stood and listened to them crunching away at the grass contentedly.
From the sheds here, it was a short walk up to the quarry haul road. Our way took us above and past the offices and out onto the older quarry road that descends down to Plas Heulog, above Nant-y-Pandy in Llanfairfechan. Although this was a weekday, we hadn't seen any activity at the quarry; all semed to be in a dormant state. Obviously, we wouldn't have considered exploring if there had been any chance of blasting.
While researching the subject of the prehistoric remains on Penmaen Mountain, I came across a few choice nuggets. One was this illustration from from Sir John Wynn of Gwydir's "An Ancient Survey of Penmaenmawr ". It's an early view of Braich y Dinas hillfort, formerly on the summit of Penmaenmawr, which appeared in "The Sphere" for November 19th 1910, during the controversy surrounding the hillfort’s imminent destruction due to the expansion of quarrying at Penmaenmawr .
Here is a link to the text of "An Ancient Survey of Penmaenmawr " which makes for fascinating reading; pages 11 and 12 refer to the fort.
Coflein have a very interesting collection of photographs and documents about Braich y Dinas and its destruction.
Wikipedia Page for Braich-y-Dinas.
Dennis Robert's excellent booklet about the quarry.
"Penmaenmawr, Rails of Granite" by Mike Hitches, Irwell Press,
"Narrow Gauge Railways in North Caernarfonshire, Volume 3" by James I. C. Boyd, the Oakwood Press.
Part One- the Neolithic quarries.
A few years ago, Petra and I made a fairly extensive study of the Penmaenmawr quarry complex in all it's fascinating, ransacked glory. But we didn't really touch on the adjacent Graiglwyd workings, something I always felt that we should remedy.
This year, we've developed a side-interest in the prehistoric remains of Wales, and I had noted some interesting mentions about a neolithic axe factory on the slopes of Graiglwyd. I had the idea of contrasting ancient and "modern" in one swoop, but as always happens, it took a good few visits to fully quarter the place and attempt to do it justice.
Graiglwyd is a large hill a little north east of Penmaen head. Hard to believe today, but at one time (about 300 million years ago) it was an active volcano. Because of the way the volcanic magma cooled here, it left a plug of diorite. (Microdiorite or augite granophyre) This is a hard rock, but within this deposit there were even tougher veins of what the geologists call chilled rock, with special breaking properties. Simply put, when it breaks it is with a very sharp, durable edge. One of the reasons Victorian quarrying got into difficulties here was that the rock was too durable for cobbles/setts- in the pre-motor car era, horses would slip and carts skid on the smooth surface. Four thousand years earlier, this was the very reason the rock from Graiglwyd's slopes was prized.
I should say from the start that nothing should be taken from this area (it is highly unlikely that you would find any axes or roughouts in any case). As always, we were concerned to find evidence of activity, not artefacts. If we had found anything, it would have been left in situ and a report lodged with the Penmaenmawr museum, accompanied by a precise GPS location of the find. Take nothing but photos, leave only footprints :-)
I don't know how those early men knew to dig here- we do know that they had a complex civilisation based on trade, rather than the territorial aggression that was assumed when I was at school. We know that the site soon became very important to them, so much so that a complex of settlements, cairns and stone circles were built almost within axe throwing distance. An ancient trackway was just a couple of hundred yards away- a co-incidence, or deliberate? We'll never know. Excavations of the (later) Druid's circle nearby* and other sites have revealed unused tools from Graiglwyd; whether these were prior to the circles or not, they were deposited in those locations, which is significant.
A red herring?
I was put off the scent initially, since the map reference on Coflein is for an area to the north east of the hill top, quite a bit lower down than I would have expected. But that was due to my ignorance, no fault of Coflein. We quartered the area and saw nothing suspicious, even by the standards of neolithic sites, which usually require rather a liberal gaze from the "eye of faith". Other sources said that the neolithic quarry had itself been quarried away by modern working. We came away a little depressed, although we had seen a couple of great victorian powder magazines, an amazing blast shelter and an interesting drum house for the next visit. Ah, yes, recent industrial archaeology- remains you can actually see without excavating. (gives a wry smile)
Meanwhile, I read an account on Megalithic portal. It sounded from what they were saying that the axe factory might have been on some outcrops on the southern top of the ridge above the modern-ish quarry. This seemed to be a sensible theory.
Then I made a breakthrough, managing to get sight of an excavation report written by Samuel Hazzledine-Warren in 1921. He was an eminent archaeologist of his time- an expert on Middle Pleistocene sites (c.400,000 years old) of the Clacton area.
He'd been on holiday in Wales, looking at the Druid's cairn a few hundred yards away from Graiglwyd, when he found a stone axe lying on the ground. He continued to find axes, tools, broken tools and countless flakes all over the area, but most were concentrated in an area where Coflein have their grid references. This was the early 1920's, remember.
Needless to say, Petra and I scrambled back up there as soon as work and family commitments would allow.
Of course, as always, we managed to find a slate mine! A small trial working into an opencut, showing some very oxidised slate in the tip, with plenty of iron evident. Sedimentary mudstone in the close vicinity of a volcano- the wonders of geology. But, above the mine, with it's cute little magazine, were the neolithic workings...along the line of Clip yr Orsedd.
It's worth quoting Coflein: about the site:
"At Graig Lwyd blocks of raw material were selected from the natural scree and crags and firstly roughly flaked into manageable form before being worked to roughly the correct shape and size. At this point the `roughouts' as they are termed, appear to have moved from the site and were ground and polished to their finished form elsewhere...
...in addition to the large quantity of flakes and roughouts noted across the hillside, five working floors were discovered."
I wonder what these working floors were like? At any rate, here are a couple of photos carefully taken at an outcrop near the present top of the hill, at Clip yr Orsedd. I can't imagine what the holes left by material extracted four thousand years ago must look like, but it seemed that there had been a fair bit of extraction here, with plenty of tipping.
An investigation by John Llywelyn Williams in 1992 revealed percussive marks in stone that could possibly have been made in order to dislodge rocks here. In other sites, notably those excavated by Hazzledine-Warren, there was evidence of fire-setting ( dislodging or inducing rock to split by means of heat and then rapid cooling) and large hearths were uncovered, which H-W thought might be for calcining the roughouts to make them easier to work- although this must have taken a great deal of skill to judge the amount of heat required.
It seems that the greater quantities of stones used for axe making were taken from the scree which fell off the rock faces. Before the quarry, there must have been a huge selection to choose from. Using a hammer stone, chunks or flakes were then broken off, shaping the workpiece to the desired form. I guess this technique was achieved empirically over many years of working. The "roughout" was then removed elsewhere for final shaping and the much longer task of polishing. Ultimately, the stone would be fixed to a wooden handle.
Flakes, hammerstones, and axe heads have been noted in various stages of manufacture at Graiglwyd- in fact they have been found in a wide area radiating as far away as Dinas, at the gateway to the Bwlch y Ddeufaen. Finished axe heads from Graiglwyd have been found all over Wales and further abroad.
Bangor and Shrewsbury Museums have exhibits of axes and tools from Graiglwyd, Cardiff and Manchester also have examples. There are also some axe heads and tools in the museum in Penmaenmawr.
Hazzledine Warren's account of his work is a thorough, learned treatise, but it is also a charming one. He writes that work was continually interrupted by the blasting operations from the quarry-
"The actual amount of the danger is not great, but it is always present, and sheep are occasionally killed by flying splinters of rock... stones of considerable weight come across with very formidable velocity, and our working party had one very narrow escape. I advise... to avoid the shelter of the stone walls as these are breached by the heavier projectiles and only make additional missiles..."
We spent some time quartering the ground beside the grid references given on Coflein, without seeing anything significant- but then most remains would be below the earth, even as recently as the 1921 excavations. I was hoping for a little sign of some ground disturbance, but never mind, I could imagine the activity that must have gone on here.
So we switched our attentions to the shoulder of the hill where the quarry breaks the skyline. Along here, there were the opencut sites, which we examined carefully and thought we might be seeing some evidence of stone shaping.
The OS map marks some hut circles here and these were evident- Hazzledine Warren mentions them, but considers them to be of a later date than the axe workings. He excavated them and found 200 flakes and more than a dozen axes in various stages of manufacture. But axes were also found built into the walls of the hut- these were deeply patinated and thought to signify the later date of the huts.
The settlement is easier to pick out from Google Earth than it is on the ground, but I was saddened to see that the quarry had ransacked the place, due to ignorance, I am sure, followed by the farmer who had left the inevitable plastic concentrates container.
Who was Samuel Hazzledine-Warren?
Warren was born and brought up in Essex, the son of a wholesale merchant. He entered the family business but was able to retire to concentrate on geology and archaeology in 1903. Most of his fieldwork was carried out in Essex notably at the Middle Pleistocene sites (c.400,000 years old) of the Clacton area where he identified the Clactonian industry and found the tip of one of the oldest known wooden spears. He also researched late Glacial deposits in the Lee Valley. He was a prominent member of the Essex Field Club, the Geologists' Association where he recieved the Stopes Medal and the Geological Society. He published many papers about his fieldwork and made significant contributions to early 20th century debate on a chronological framework for the Quaternary period. In 1936 he gave part of his collection to The Natural History Museum and bequeathed the remainder to the British Museum.
(Extract from the Bibliography- Oakley, K.P. 1959. The Life and Work of Samuel Hazzledine Warren, FGS. Essex Naturalist 30, 143-161)
If you were wondering what an axe from Penmaenmawr looked like, here's a link to Coflein: Digitised images of axe finds at Penmaenmawr
Here's a film from English Heritage, showing how one goes about making axes from flint, but the principle is, I guess, pretty similar:
Some useful links for further information:
GAT/Cadw document- Group VII Axe-working Sites and Stone Sources, Llanfairfechan, Conwy- a fascinating account of the sites shown here and a report about a local historian and recorder of axe finds, David Jones.
The Waun Llanfair Project- excavations and investigations carried out in 2004, 2006/7 by George Smith of GAT and John Griffith Roberts of Cambridge University.
You might remember that in my last post about Aberglaslyn (here) I noted some trial levels in Cwm Cyd, on the moors high above the pass. Once Easter was finished with, we returned for a look-see and to have a bit of a clamber about on the ridge.
Starting in the pass again, we parked in the same spot as before. Only this time, we took the left hand path uphill. This was a great move, as we found ourselves walking on an ancient trackway between two moss covered walls, climbing inexorably upwards. There wasn't a path, exactly, and in some places the trackway was in use as an impromptu stream bed, but it was magical nonetheless.
The light was perfect for photography and we both spent some time here, trying not to get into each other's photos. Eventually we emerged from the woods alongside the Afon Goch, a little bit below Oerddwr Uchaf farmhouse. Just before we came out of the woods, we encountered a strange shed made of logs that appeared to have been used as a bunkhouse for the Outdoor Education centre that used to be at Aberglaslyn Hall. What fun it must have been for the teenagers sleeping out here...a little spooky, too.
Soon we were out into the open and striding out towards Cwm Cyd. The name means 'common valley'- yes, this was once common land. It was not unusual for locals to quarry slate on the common- in fact, the biggest quarries in North Wales began as ad hoc commons diggings before "the man" carved the land up like a priviledged pie. Very quickly, we made our first discovery- not a mine, but the remains of an ancient settlement. (Albeit next to a mine building which probably robbed the stone from the redundant round hut.)
I am beginning to get a feeling for how these things present themselves in the landscape, but the surprise and wonder at finding something from far distant times doesn't easily wear off. Coflein have it down as bronze age or iron age- on the Ordnance maps it is just "hut circle".
The mines were now in sight. We walked over the sodden pasture and forded the Afon Goch- I was wearing my winter boots, so water was not a problem- and Petra had given up and changed into her wellingtons. It was a wise choice as the ground was very waterlogged. The first mine, a trial, was at SH581465. It had a modest tip outside and was open, but only to a blind heading.
Undeterred, we headed over to the next mine, marked on the old maps as a "level". This is at SH579465. It's sadly just an opencut, so was something of an anti-climax. It was for slate, though, evinced by the contents of the tip, which was pretty grim quality stuff. There were no buildings associated with these trials, apart from the structure near the hut circle.
We knew that there were mines over the ridge to the north, so we climbed uphill over the slopes of Y Dduallt, noting as we did the close proximity to Moel Hebog. It looks so different from this angle; steep, bounded by cliffs- not at all the benign lump that it appears from Cwm Pennant. Surprisingly soon, we were over the top and heading down into Bwlch Goleu, the "pass of light". A mine could be seen to the north west- the Cwm Cloch mine, while below were the Bwlch Goleu quarry levels.
While we had the advantage of height, we sat and had a late lunch, watching a Welsh Highland railway train climb and wind slowly away from Beddgelert towards Cae Gors. The whistle sounded mournfully in the distance, carrying over the wind. I don't think there's any more evocative sound, apart from Curlews, or Choughs in a quarry- but then I am biased. Down in the valley, countless motor bikes snarled and roared, making a nuisance of themselves and clamouring for attention.
Snowdon was in view, and we tried to remember the names of all the peaks we could see. It was fun to look across at the Liwedd ridge and recall our adventures there earlier in the year. (the post is here)
We climbed down to the Bwlch Goleu levels past a couple of tiny run-in trials. The quarry itself consists of a run in lower adit and a pit on the level above. Richards* states that the place was unsuccessful but there is an awful lot of waste and a reasonably sized pit. The waste does look fairly poor quality, and there are no remains of dressing sheds or walliau. An access track winds away east and then south towards Aberglaslyn- it had me wondering if we had come up a route that had taken slate on the backs of mules.
We looked across at Cwm Cloch, but neither of us felt up to retracing our steps and walking across for what Richards described as a "tiny working" with a collapsed adit. We could see the low ruins of a building, but decided against exploring there. So we followed the access track, hoping it would lead where we wanted to go- and it did. It also had a surprise up it's metaphorical sleeve...
After walking back towards Bryn y Felin, what looked like a tip appeared above us, with perhaps an opencut. (SH586468) All fatigue forgotten, we ran up to see. While Jeremy Wilkinson's database of mines has this as a lead trial, the tip is resolutely slate . There is a curious round shelter dug into the side of the tip, reminding me of the one at Serw slate quarry (post here).
It was a wonderful spot, anyway.
It was now a case of returning back down to the valley the way we had come. But before we did that, the opportunity was taken for a further mooch around the wonderful Oerddwr Uchaf farmhouse and the Hill fort. I was peeved that I had forgotten to photograph the waterwheel last time.
The house was still deserted, no second-homers had purloined it for a holiday rental business yet and it was as charming as always. We quartered the place again, then found a couple of garden chairs and had a drink of coffee from the flask while listening to the birds, savouring the peace and quiet. It is an idyllic spot, although not, I suspect if you had to farm it in the winter. On this day, it was the best place in the world. Coffee savoured, we put the chairs away and set off down towards the hill fort again for another nosy about.
While we were stumping about the fort below the farmhouse, Petra made a discovery. There was a way, like a road, which I imagined was to lure attackers around to the south east of the fort. There we noticed a great many stones placed vertically in the ground. Could these be "Chevaux de Frise"? I haven't read much about this place, folk seem to think it isn't anything special, but to us it had a great atmosphere, even if the farmers have robbed the walls.
As always, I am indebted to Alun John Richard's "Gazetteer of Slate Quarrying" for facts, the notes and jottings of Eric Jones, and the late Jeremy Wilkinson's Gazetteer, now curated by Dave Linton- thank you gentlemen!
Below are some shots of the woodland road we walked up...
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