In a little known corner of North West Wales lies a beautiful disused quarry, full of ruins and artefacts from a lost industrial age. For years, folk have come from far and wide, to enjoy the atmospheric vestiges of mill and plas under the shadow of the Nantlle Ridge. Imagining the ghosts that inhabit the cuttings and pits, the old inclines and pyramids, still holding against the weather and against progress. A bastion and a refuge, a place haunted by the memories of those who worked there. A monument. Locals, of course, know what they have got and are passionate about the place. They walk their dogs there every day and will tell you proudly about their connections.
Connections, such as within the ruined houses of the lost village, Talysarn Uchaf, each with it's own fascinating story. The chapel at the Plas, like a handshake from the past. The old mill, with the ghosts of the quarrymen flitting through the birches. So many stories and resonances to people still alive whose grandads and great granddads worked there. The lovely stories of Prince and Corwen, quarry horses who pulled trains of slate from the quarry to Talysarn. The late Gwynfor Pierce Jones, celebrated local historian, gave guided talks to parties of fascinated folk, talking about his own connection with the place and it's stories.
It's a little piece of post industrial paradise, full of bird song and wildlife.
But we who love the quarry have always been uneasy, knowing that this fragile state of affairs can't continue forever. Recently, press coverage of some teenagers, indulging in the craze of "Tombstoning" (free diving into water filled quarry pits) has finally nudged the sleeping bear of Dorothea Lakes, the company that "own" the quarry, into life. Fences are being erected, huge gates are to be placed across the road, signs are going up and access is to be restricted. In one stroke, Dorothea Lakes have diminished the place.
The quarry pit is also used by divers, some of whom have lost their lives in the black, unfathomable depths of the main sinc. At the moment it is not clear whether these folk are also to be excluded.
It is my understanding that the only structure at the quarry that excites the interest of Cadw and the Council is the 17th century farmhouse at Pen y Bryn. There has been a silence over the priceless and historically important Holman Pumping House, a landmark structure and one that is significantly, miraculously, intact. The pyramids, vast monolithic structures with tunnels through them are either to be made safe after getting a red card from the H&S -or demolished. I wonder if the latter is more cost-effective for Dorothea Lakes.
There have been folk seen wandering around Dorothea with hi-vis vests on for a few months now, and the owners have been conspicuous in the company of a well-known Industrial Archaeologist, supposedly putting together a plan for the "World Heritage Site" bid. There are rumours of as-yet undisclosed plans to redevelop the site.
A site that, really, should be in the hands of the public. A site that should be cared for and conserved, so that future generations can enjoy it and appreciate the beauty of a post industrial landscape that nature has reclaimed. A site that would be hugely admired and could, I suspect, be made a jewel within this slightly depressed area of North West Wales.
Instead, perhaps we will get a bulk landfill site, Or I wonder, a pumped storage Water Power Project, where everyone profits except the tax payer -of course. A few jobs for locals, probably- and a feeding frenzy for construction companies- but at what real cost? A historic site, lost forever under featureless grass landscaping and concrete.
Another nail in the coffin for North Wales.
The Nantlle ridge may well look on in horror at what is to be done. Gwynfor Pierce Jones would certainly be very disappointed.
There has been a new company inaugurated, on the 17th May 2017 - Dorothea Pumped Hydro Ltd, registered in St Asaph. So now we know what may be in store.
Here are some images from a friend of recent, preparatory works; fencing and notices, the vanguard of the bulldozers.
Many thanks to Kerry, aka "GizzieFleury" on Flickr for the photographs of recent developments.
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