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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