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Report - Cwmorthin Slate Mine, Blaenau Ffestiniog - April '12

Discussion in 'Mines and Quarries' started by Xan_Asmodi, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. Xan_Asmodi

    Xan_Asmodi Cave Monster
    Regular User

    Feb 18, 2011
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    Visited with The Kwan, Cunningcorgi, Walsh and Sim2lew

    What to say about Cwmorthin... it's fucking HUGE! We spent 6 hours down there and didn't even see a third of it. But we got to see bits of Oakley mine though :D

    Taken from the Friends of Cwmorthen website:

    It was run by several different companies as a venture in its own right during the 1800's. The earlier underground workings started at "Lake Level", so called due to the entrance being just above the surface of the nearby Llyn Cwmorthin, and ascended upwards in the mountain ultimately for 8 floors in both the Old and Back Vein. Poor working practices and reckless engineering decisions ultimately led to a substantial collapse and the end of that company.

    A new company took the mine on afterwards and reused Lake Level but sealed off the shattered and dangerous upper floors. Instead, they developed new workings below, going down into the mountain. Ultimately this company sunk five floors on both veins, before itself being being forcibly closed in 1901 due to a legal dispute.

    The now abandoned lower floors flooded up to Lake Level, containing an immense amount of water hundreds of feet deep, which remained until the early 1930's. The neighbouring mine (Oakeley Quarries) were at this time driving underneath the old Cwmorthin workings and were uneasy about having such a huge volume of water above them, so decided to drain it out. Special diamond-drilled bore holes were driven through into the deepest parts of Cwmorthin from Oakeley and the water drained out under controlled conditions.

    When the water level reached the bottom, the mines were connected in several places by full-size tunnels and Oakeley (who'd taken over the ownership of Cwmorthin) actually re-opened some of Cwmorthin and put men to work in it. The Back Vein Incline was re-equipped and even a new incline was driven down another 90 vertical feet to open some more chambers.

    Cwmorthin then operated essentially as just another part of Oakeley right up until 1970 when Oakeley itself closed. This marked the end of the mine's working life as a major concern, however, throughout the 1980's and early 1990's the mine was working on a limited scale by a small team of local men. Extraction occurred in a few chambers on Lake Level and Level 1, with the underground transport being provided by a Series 2 Land Rover 88".​

    That about sums up the history, and as I said, it's immense!

    On with the pics...

    We got in the mine and headed straight down the Back Vein incline to West 1 on floor E, wading through balls deep water!

    There are some interesting carts and parts on this level



    We headed back east and continued along floor E, eventually heading - unbeknown to us - in to the Oakley section of the mine.




    We somehow - I don't really know how - found the top of the Oakley 34 incline. A lovely winding drum and cabin where on top. Walsh and I headed down the incline to check out what was down there, but we didn't take our cameras and decided to head back to wait for The Kwan and Cunningcorgi to arrive.

    The 34 incline

    The winding house
    7074958957_4bb768dc81.jpg 6928881888_7bc56d0dcb.jpg

    Next on the list was the air compressor on the Oakley main traffic level

    We also found the water wheel that powers the lights in the air compressor room :D

    Next stop. The surface! A long and arduous journey considering we had already been underground for 5 hours. I'd almost given up hope when I scrambled over a pile of rubble and spotted the gate! Imagine my horror when I saw the padlock! :eek: We went over hoping it would be a combi lock; hoping not to have to either head back down and through, or climb the chimney above our heads.

    Thank god it was a combi lock! We headed back out into the lovely breeze and intermittent day light.


    7074960343_ae709c639c.jpg 6928882998_69cd4ec990.jpg

    We headed back to the car park, discussing the next mine trip. Watch this space!

    Thanks for looking! :thumb

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  2. Landsker

    Landsker The Rock Man
    28DL Full Member

    Nov 3, 2008
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    Another superb day under Wales....











    and finally, cunningcorgi went back in to grab one last shot only to find Xan had locked him in.... only to forget the code!

  3. Xan_Asmodi

    Xan_Asmodi Cave Monster
    Regular User

    Feb 18, 2011
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    Just as a bit more evidence...

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