Saturday, 19 February 2011

Nature of Cwmorthin

When wind and rain beats down on the mountains a good alternative is to explore a mine - my guide took me deep underground into Cwmorthin. A massive complex of levels, inclines and chambers crossing through two principal veins of slate. ‘The Slaughterhouse’, its nickname for obvious reasons, is just above Tanygrisiau and connects through the mountain into the Oakeley quarry formerly owned by the occupants of Plas Tan y Bwlch.

The map looked impossible to my ordnance survey mind, the extra dimension of multiple levels was difficult to absorb. As for ‘finding north’, not by compass, GPS, moss or star but by angle of the vein – ours travelled downwards in a northerly direction.

This underground world is massive and full of industrial and cultural heritage .... railway tracks, trucks, wagons, catwalks, winding gear, generators etc. and every now and again a ‘caban’. Single room, stone-built canteens in which to take a break and discuss world affairs. The inside walls of one caban were papered with newspaper sheets from as long ago as the Titanic.

We had our picnic outside one of these cabans in a large chamber and as we munched we talked about the wildlife and nature within. Fungus was eating rotten timbers and a bat had been seen flying out on a summer’s eve, but what else can prosper in this energy starved world? I kept a wary eye out for Trolls.  

This is what it’s like deep down ....

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