Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

In which we explore a huge quarry

We had another interesting walk yesterday to somewhere new. Well, the town wasn't new to me, I actually used to work there years ago, but the walk up into a huge disused quarry was something we'd not done before.

Llechwedd slate mine and the neighbouring Maen-offeren quarries were once an immense complex of of tunnels and caverns leading into the mountain. They're only working a tiny part of it now and the rest of Llechwedd is a number of tourist attractions. You can:

*go on tours of some of the underground caverns and learn about the history of the slate industry.
*or you can bounce on trampolines in the caverns
* or you can zoom above the quarry on zip wires
*you can even climb and fly through the caverns on ladders a zip wires
*and finally you can go on the Quarry Explorer, which is a big vehicle with sturdy tyres that takes you on a drive round all the steep and winding dirt roads through the quarry.

We just walked through the gate with the sign saying: "Stay on the footpath" and "Danger: blasting" and, avoiding the tourist bits, carried on up into the Maen-offeren part...

Maen-offeren slate quarry

...and up and up and up, until we reached the top and looked back down.

Maen-offeren quarry

And even higher up there are several derelict buildings. My husband is sure these were still fully functioning when he was here in the late 1970s. This would fit with the information on one of the web sites which said: "Although underground mining operations at Llechwedd ceased in the 1980s, open cast quarrying is still ongoing. Llechwedd Slate Caverns still produces a variety of quality slate products from roof tiles, walling and flooring, to cheese boards and slate signs."

It's frightening how quickly buildings deteriorate once they've been abandoned.

Old slate splitting shed

An old long-abandoned workshop at the top of the Maen-offeren workings.

Old workshop

We then wended our way back down, once again via a track that is not on the map. (This is starting to become a theme of these explorations!) We didn't follow the official line of the footpath because that would have involved climbing down a waste tip (that wasn't on the map) and following the old incline where the tramway used to take the slate down into town. However, that now makes its way through a tangle of rhododendrons and right into the middle of the bit of the quarry where a bulldozer and digger were shifting rocks and hardcore around. We carefully made our way around the heavy equipment and thence back down into town where we bought sandwiches for lunch and ate them in the car park.

We managed to park for free because a sign on the ticket machine announced that "unfortunately" it was out of order. We nobly resisted the temptation to cross out the "un", but from our point of view the breakdown was fortunate rather than the opposite. :)

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