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Report - Maenofferen Slate Mine, Blaenau Ffestiniog - November 2017

Discussion in 'Mines and Quarries' started by EOA, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. EOA

    EOA cOnFuSeDoNkEy
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    An amazing day exploring the overground and underground workings of Maenofferen Quarry with @albino-jay, @monk and monk's daughter.

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    Ze History

    This place is absolutely massive. The men of nearby Diphwys and later the Maenofferen Slate Quarry Company did not fuck about. As with many of the Welsh slate mines quarrying started long ago. For this mine, life began in the 1800’s. By 1897, at its height, this mine employed 429 people. If you compare that with Penarth, which is a decent sized mine; Penarth had 150 people working for them at their peak in 1868. Foel Grochan, another chunky diggings, had 169 at their largest in 1879. Of the mines I’ve been in now, many of them seemed to decline after the second world war. I’ve never been able to put my finger on why - other than economics and stuff - but seemingly the fate of Maenofferen was very much intertwined with the Ffestiniog Railway. Unfortunately for Maenofferen they had higher than average shipping costs, because they had no direct connection with the railway and had to send it via the Rhiwbach Tramway. In 1946 the Ffestiniog Railway closed down, with the Maenofferen Slate quarry buying a part of the tracks to continue its operations. From 1962, the slate was shipped by road, although the quarries internal tramways continued in operation until 1962. Underground production finally ceased at Maenofferen in 1999, but they continue to produce crushed slate (the sort of stuff you buy from B&Q in 20 kilo bags when you realise you fucking hate gardening and just want to cover the whole messy lot in something quick to put down and simple to maintain) under the Llechwedd Company.

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    You know those posh films that air at Cannes where there are various different life stories that all converge at one moment. Well, that’s kind of how this adventure happened. On Friday evening none of us were intending to go into Maenofferen the next day, but Albino-Jay and I found ourselves at a loose end. I was time constrained, but willing to head of early as so was Albino-Jay. This mine had been on my radar for a little while, but jumped to the top of my list when Monk’s report appeared a couple of weeks ago. And as luck would have it, Monk was able to wangle the trip up and into the mountain with his daughter too. The only pre-planning I had done earlier in the day was buy some mine beers. The rest fell into place quite quickly and so the day's shenanigans began.

    I also owe @elhomer12 a shout out for helping me put some pieces together at very short notice.

    Overground

    It was just AlbinoJay and I for the above ground shenanigans. The hill to reach them was that steep, we broke with tradition and didn't crack open a mine beer until we reached the cutting sheds. But the cuttings sheds were worth the walk alone. Even if it did take me two mine beers to fully recover enough to start exploring.

    This is part of a conveyor system behind the individual cutting sheds.

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    These ran the length of the sheds and connected to central engine room. I'm assuming they powered the machinery in the individual cutting sheds.

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    Inside one of the individual cutting sheds.

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    I don't know which dude operated this piece of machinery, but I bet the dudes in the little sheds didn't like him very much. He probably got to cut all the big slate and that is going to get you all the pretty girls.

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    Into one of the other buildings, there was a hook on a chain and everyone likes hooks on chain shots.

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    Window shot looking out on the shedz.

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    This was my favorite overground thing.

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    So much so I even took an arty shot of it with blurry focus and stuff.

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    The next couple of buildings had some really cracking stuff in too. These are my favorite snaps from those.

    A frisby.

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    The dude who operated this got even more girls than the dude no one liked in the cutting shed.

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    I have many more photos I could have shared, but I am trying to keep my report to one post. So those are some of my favorites. A couple of people had mentioned either the possibility of security on site or at least workers from the live part telling you to, "Get Out English". Which is what the sign says as you make your way up the hill. So when we heard something drive past we went into stealth mode. Then we heard it again so AlbinoJay went to check it out. It turns out what we heard was an army vehicle, which to be fair seemed a little extreme considering we were just two chaps heading down an old slate mine. So we reckoned it was to drop workers off to the live part. Then we heard voices, so we thought it was better to avoid detection and that's what we did. Turns out the voices belonged to two old boys who were heading down the mine as well. And then Monk appeared with his daughter. And we noticed the great big army vehicle was a fucking tour bus, no less! The drivers of the tour bus gave no fucks that we were pottering about and so we deactivated stealth mode. My stealth mode is defective though, because it turns out monk saw me, but I did not see monk. So there you go. I'm not a out of shape ninja. I'm just fat. I blame the mine beers.

    Underground

    The underground workings are huge, massive, extensive and gigantic. So we were lucky to have Monk to show us around, otherwise we might not have seen as much of the cool stuff in just one trip.

    Heading towards the hole...

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    Looking back up the tracks out the hole...

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    And further into the depths we went...

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    We followed this down to it's lowest extremity, where there was an owl. Thw owl, upon seeing our torches, decided it was fucking off sharpish. At first I thought it was a massive bat. I'm happier it was an owl. A bat that size probably belongs in caving horror stories.

    Anyway, rather than head straight down you can branch off right, which takes you down a winding path to some lower works. This is a massive chamber, but massive chambers are not at all unusual in this mine.

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    Since we did not go right, halfway down the main adit, we approached this from the bottom. There was an adit off to the left, but it was slightly flooded and we did not take it.

    This is the large tank you can see at the back in the photo above. Reflections.

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    There is an adit off from the chamber. To the right if you came from above. To the left if you came from below. That takes you into a winching room. The ceiling looks like it's made out of diamonds from mineral desposits and water.

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    That winch was for this massive adit, which goes down another level. There is also an adit behind it which meanders off on the same leverls. Neither of those were explored this time, but here is a snap of the adit that needs a winch.

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    The route we took, which was through an adit facing the steps to the winch, took us through a series of massive mined chambers. It was starting to feel a lot like we were heading into Mordor...

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    There were a few adits heading off from the adit with tracks, but following Monks lead we stuck to the tracks.

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    AlbinoJay and I stopped for a mine beer along the way and when you stop for a mine beer it's customary to do selfies, so we did a little bit of that. I don't always name my images, but I have given this one a name, "Exploring abandoned mines with AlbinoJay".

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    We carried on from there, because, well, that's what we were there for. And we were walking. So, I guess you could say we were Walking Exploring Urbex. Maybe.

    So anyway...

    Moar winches, because this place is full of them and massive adits that keep tunneling deeper into the depths of the mountain.

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    I like winches.

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    And the winches presumably dragged the carts up and down the tracks...

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    Just off this area, through what looked like a cabin of sorts, the mine opened up into another adit with a whopping fan (had to use whopping there, because I've used massive, gigantic, and huge loads and I'm saving fucking big for later). Not sure what the fan would have been used for, since I wouldn't have thought air quality would have been an issue? This led into a corrugated bit I did not snap, sadly. Monk has explored this further though and it leads to a dead end.

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    From here we retraced our steps. Monk and his daughter had gone ahead and we communicated with slate written notes to group up again, which was kinda cool.

    Back at the massive chamber above, we followed an adit to the left of the tracks. The immediate left again and there was a fucking big chamber (told you I was saving it) with a twisting, winding path down to the lower levels. I thought this construction was incredible. The snap doesn't do it justice.

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    We did some exploring around the lower levels, which seemed to connect to the upper levels through a series of fucking big chambers mined out of the mountain. But, as we were walking along one of the adits, bumbling about because it was getting toward the point AlbinoJay and I needed to get back to the car, someone spotted a hole in the floor. A hole that opened up into my favorite discovery in any mine so far. An awesome sets of slippery stairs carved from slate and made less likely to kill you with thick steel wire you could winch a cart up a steep incline with.

    I said, quite excitedly, "These are fucking beautiful".

    AlbinoJay said I was weird.

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    We had a quick mooch around down here. There is still so much to see. Even just around here. Through this supported a slighlty collapsed section needs further investigation... ...and there are some flooded adits that need looking at, which could probbaly do with wellies. And some fucking big chambers, which need people in them to do them justice (so you can really appreciate the scale, but also because people shots are cool).

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    Down here were a number of pools. This one even had a zip wire, but no ladders to get on it. So I just stood infront of it with my very best explroing mines pose.

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    And then we headed back to the surface, leaving Monk and his daughter to explore some more of the levels higher up.

    And that was more or less the day's adventure. It really was a pleasure to meet AlbinoJay, Monk and Monk's daughter. I always think it's incredible how a group of people who don't really know each other can decide to meet up because they like to explore stuff, to head off for epic adventures and have epic adventures.

    Cheers folks - hope you enjoy the report :thumb

    EOA
     

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  2. Xan_Asmodi

    Xan_Asmodi Cave Monster
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    This is beautiful! Get in touch next time you head there, I have an urge to get back there!
     
    albino-jay and EOA like this.
  3. monk

    monk mature
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    Been looking Forward to your report & it hasn't disappointed, top notch & a pleasure to meet you both.
     
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  4. tarkovsky

    tarkovsky 28DL Full Member
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    :thumb This looks and sounds like a great place. Awesome photos.
     
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  5. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Very nice that @EOA some cracking photos and interesting write up :thumb
     
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  6. The Kwan

    The Kwan Easily Led
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    Gorgeous photography mate, just lovely :thumb
     
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  7. Lenston

    Lenston Bajo Tierra
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    Its a great day out for sure, nice pictures :)
     
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  8. EOA

    EOA cOnFuSeDoNkEy
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    Thanks for the feedback on my report everyone!

    There will definitely be a return visit, possibly over a couple of days to make sure we cover all of it. I will let you know, chap :thumb

    Cheers, dude! It was a cracking day - we'll have to organise some more exploring shenanigans!

    Thank you and it is. If you get a chance, it is well worth checking out.
     
    tarkovsky likes this.
  9. wellingtonian

    wellingtonian Subterráneo
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    Proper good report that.
    Walking back up those inclines though :oops:
     
    EOA likes this.
  10. monk

    monk mature
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    Yeah definitley mate, give me a shout if you head back over as well
     
  11. Dragon's Lair

    Dragon's Lair 28DL Full Member
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    Cracking report that!
    I love a welsh slate mine me.
     
    EOA likes this.
  12. albino-jay

    albino-jay 28DL Regular User
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    Great write up that fella. Proper made me piss in parts LOL

    It was an epic day and you have took some epic shots!

    I am deffo up for a return visit over a couple of days with more mine beers.
     
  13. EOA

    EOA cOnFuSeDoNkEy
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    Yeah, they weren't fun at all. Still, it's well worth the effort :D

    I will do. I am bound to be popping over soon. I want to check out Moel Fferna soon, so if you've not done that it will be a good one to get down!

    I can honestly say the same.

    Cheers dude - yeah we will most certainly have to get that sorted. If only so I can disappear for a couple of hours and light up the blue lagoon and the slate staircase with some t-lights :rolleyes:

    Well, and to get pissed in a mine too. Haha!
     
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  14. monk

    monk mature
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    Yeah cool, I want to see that as well.
     
  15. Baggy trousers

    Baggy trousers 28DL Full Member
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    This report makes me wonder why I haven't been down any of them yet. Every ime I see something like this I say to myself I'm missing out.
    Dude well that was probably one of the best written up reports I've seen in a while, you have definatley given me a shit tonne of inspiration to pull my finger out and get some done.
    Cheers for posting that up, it' the bees knees man.
     
    EOA likes this.
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