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Report - Moel Tryfan Quarry Adits - Fron - October 2014

Discussion in 'Mines and Quarries' started by The Lone Ranger, Oct 28, 2014.

  1. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Feb 25, 2010
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    Moel Tryfan Quarry Adits – Fron



    There’s some nice history on the cluster quarries that make up Moel Tryfen, but nothing really on the adits and passages.

    Moel Tryfan (1400' / 427m) is a small mountain near the villages of Rhosgadfan, Y Fron and Betws Garmon, in northern Gwynedd. The higher and more famous peak of Tryfan above Dyffryn Ogwen has also sometimes been referred to as "Moel Tryfan" in the past.
    Moel Tryfan could be regarded as the westerly outlier of the larger Mynydd Mawr. The southern and eastern flanks of the mountain were heavily quarried in the past, particularly at Moel Tryfran Quarry.


    Scooped out of the side of the pocket mountain that gives the quarry its name, Moel Tryfan (or Cloddfa'r Foel) is an impressive place. The tips are monumental as they rise five layers up, while the pit is spectacular enough to have been featured in several movies. It does have that "lost world" feel, although it must have been infinitely more spectacular when it went down to the full depth of the sinc.

    As with most quarries, it has suffered a chequered history, not without drama. Unlike many in the area, it was successful, although plagued constantly by problems with falling rock and lack of investment.

    The earliest mention of the quarry is back in 1745 when a lease was taken from the Crown estates although nothing significant seems to have been done until 1824, when a consortium of Caernarfon artisans took a lease on the sett. These men, two Jones Brothers and another unrelated Jones dug a small quarry near to the office building that still stands (just!) at mill level. They also started to dig further up the hill, which was later to become the twll mawr.

    The quarry changed hands a few times, with problems due to the Crown's lax handling of the lease, incompetent management, thieving employees and of course, rockfalls. Several men were killed in a major rockfall in the main pit in the early 1840's. Five different lessees tried their hand at the quarry before 1876, all of whom invested heavily and came up against the same problems. While good rock was certainly to be had, sometimes the slate beds were elusive, sometimes they were gritty, had lacy veining (gwniadiau) or had "wild split", cleavage which shattered when split.

    Eventually, the leasehold was sold in 1876 to local slate merchant Griff Williams, bankrolled by a band of adventurers who included ship owners, drapers and bankers. Williams built a new long incline and tramway to the Bryngwyn Drumhead of the NWNGR. In one move, the quarry was to become profitable; it was, in fact, one of the largest customers of the line, which closed shortly after Moel Tryfan's output went over to motor lorry. Immediately that the railhead became operational, the quarry's sales increased- £7,400 in 1886, then in 1903, £22,413. But this came at a cost. Rock fell regularly in to the pit and had to be manhandled out. In November 1909, 421,000 tons of rock slipped from the North face of the quarry, completely filling the pit.

    Rail fans will know that the quarry was home to two curious "Quarry Hunslets", similar in specification to the Dinorwig "Alice" class, but with cut-down chimneys and cabs so that they could run through the very narrow tunnels connecting the mill to the pit.


    Later production was never again to reach those pre-fall levels, although somehow various quarry lessees managed to keep things going, often profitably, despite the constant worry of rockfalls and the expense of pulling rubbish out of the pit. Foolishly, to save money short-term, waste rock was often tipped into the pit, making it difficult to access new slate. In 1918, the quarry immediately next door to Moel Tryfan, Alexandra, was merged in a move which also included Cilgwyn. Machinery was re-used and some of the Alexandra pit was used to tip rubbish.

    Incredibly, worthwhile extraction of slate took place up to the late nineteen sixties- in 1962 there was a workforce of 35 men, but more serious rock falls in 1968 and in 1970 made things ever more difficult. Finally, in 1972, the Safety Inspectorate condemned the work face, and the end was signalled. Since then, there has been tip reclamation and extraction of hardcore by various concerns- the latest being a Caernarfon based road contractor.

    My Visit

    I’d stood at the entrance the day before with my eldest daughter, we had visited a few places before but decided not to venture in here due to the water and was getting late in the day. I was up early the next day so headed back up with my wellies to see where this lead. Getting use to the sheep bones at the entrances and floors of all the quarries and mines in this area.


    What was good to see was the lack of footprints in the silt deposits at the entrance, the passages around the Fron area seem to be off the beaten track, unless you’re a dead sheep.


    It could also be that although they are interesting once inside; they aren’t that extensive, this was anout 100 meters long with a 10 meter side passage, still great to pop down just for the fact it was not frequented that often.


    Looking back at the entrance, the short side passage is visible on the left.


    At this point I had no idea how long it was, but was good to see the railway sleepers still in-situ.


    And a nice gas cylinder as well.


    All too soon the end was reached, this wasn’t a collapse, more an infill of rubbish from wherever it went? There was another hole in the ground visible from above where this would have terminated.


    Looking back along the remains of the rails.


    And back to the entrance again.


    With time at hand I started looking at other holes in the ground, many were just dead ends, but this one was worth a look.


    After an interesting down climb to have a better view of the boat and the 2 visible entrances.


    After looking at the entrances it was soon apparent I didn’t have to do the interesting down climb as they exited the hill further down.



    Well that was Moel Tryfan, the quarries themselves look well worth a stroll, my visit barely scrapped the surface as to what these quarries may contain. I could have spent days here, as it was it was just a few hours.



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  2. Boomstick84

    Boomstick84 28DL Regular User
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    Mar 21, 2014
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    Nice :thumb

    Really like those first two tunnel shots in particular!
  3. Will Knot

    Will Knot 28DL Regular User
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    May 29, 2013
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    Great shots...well lit....stunning.....thanks for sharin' :thumb
  4. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Feb 25, 2010
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    Cheers, I did enjoy this one.

    Sometimes a lack of info on an area makes things more interesting as you don't dismiss things before trying :)
  5. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
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    Nov 24, 2008
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  6. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
    Regular User

    Jul 10, 2014
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    Ah nice boat snaps there. Like that a lot :thumb

    Got some nice light in your shots mate, thanks for sharing!
  7. WildBoyz

    WildBoyz Is this the future?
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    Mar 16, 2014
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    Nice set of photos there. Always enjoy a good mine or quarry.
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