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
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