Thus far this week the weather has been damp and grey with only intermittent bursts of sunshine, so I opted for a couple of days of not going out walking and instead spending some time sorting through a backlog of photographs. It’s been interesting, not least because some of them are from this time last year and guess what? The weather was damp and grey with only intermittent bursts of sunshine.
My family were visiting at the time and were keen to try out the then newly-opened giant underground trampoline that is located within the Llechwedd Slate Caverns at Blaenau Ffestiniog. The idea of the bouncing didn’t much appeal to me, but it’s been a few years since I visited the site and as an extra car + driver was needed I was happy to oblige and to wander around while they all sought underground thrills.
Llechwedd Slate Mines
The former Llechwedd Slate Caverns underground slate workings extend deep below the ground and most consist of huge caverns. Several of those near to the surface have been adapted to create one of the most popular visitor attractions in Wales.
In late Victorian times the slate mining industry was largely confined to a few slate mines in North Wales. J.W.Greaves began extracting slate from the Llechwedd mines in 1836. Since that time the high quality blue-grey slate is still in demand in many corners of the world. The company still produce a range of slate products sold in the on-site shop and a range of architectural products sold throughout the country and within the European market place.
The evidence of slate quarrying and mining dominates the landscape of this whole area; it rains a lot here and when grey skies and blue-grey slate merge together it can create a somewhat depressing atmosphere. But it has great drama and when the sun does shine through the clouds it adds highlights and brings forth textures that change constantly.
Buildings and boundary walls are constructed from slate and seem to have grown organically from the mountain and those no longer in use are simply being slowly re-absorbed.
I liked the contrast of the graceful trees in front of the hard background of the hard slatey mountainside.
When left undisturbed mosses and lichens establish themselves on old slate piles.
Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. It is the finest grained foliated metamorphic rock.
Foliation may not correspond to the original sedimentary layering, but instead is in planes perpendicular to the direction of metamorphic compression.
Slate occurs in a variety of colors even from a single locality; slate from North Wales can be found in many shades of grey, from pale to dark, and may also be purple, green or cyan.
Buildings on the site are deteriorating.
A poignant reminder that this was once the workplace of a large number of men and boys who spent long hours underground.
Evidence of a further modern attraction of the site appears in some of the photographs – zip lines stretching over 8km on which riders can reach speeds up to 70mph over moor, mountain and mine.
Now that looks exhilarating!