Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

Slate quarries, Abergynolwyn

The forecast wasn't good for last Tuesday. It mentioned plummeting temperatures and hail and snow, but G checked the details and it said that the hail wouldn't arrive until 1-2 p.m, so we set off promptly just after 9 a.m. It's not far to Abergynolwyn and there is still a small car park in the centre of the village. There is no longer a village shop, which G remembered as being by the car park, but there is a cafe.

We headed up the lane (marked as "Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles") which led to the quarries. Here's the view looking back.

Track to the slate mine

Eventually we reached a point in track where it turned sharp left and clearly wasn't going in the right direction. In the near distance, we could see a barn and a field with Highland cattle. We then backtracked a little way and found a path we had somehow missed which led in the right direction, down towards the quarries. At this point a couple of minibuses full of outward bounders turned up and parked, so we hurried on so as not to get caught up in a group of kids off to explore mines.

After following the main path for a while, G spotted a narrow path leading off to left up through forest. This turned out to be a lovely but strangely boggy path up through a narrow densely wooded valley. The sun shone and it would be a great place for a picnic in the summer -- as long as you avoided the peaty boggy bits. We scrambled onwards and upwards through the woods, which fortunately didn't ever quite encroach on the stream.

After a while, the path seemed to peter out. Ahead there was just an impassibly sheer bit of valley side and a lot of trees. After a brief discussion, we decided that there was possibly a path on the other side. We therefore forded the stream and struggled up through mossy woods to find ourselves on the top of waste tip.

From there we climbed up through a rough tussocky field, forded another stream and reached a fence by a field containing a Highland cow (or bull? It was lying down so we couldn't tell).

We still hadn't really seen any quarries, which was supposed to be the whole point of the excursion, so we went a little further up hill to see if there were any tracks through the forest leading in the right direction. There were no tracks visible, so we decided that we'd call it a day and head homewards. It was then that we found a stile into the field with Highland cow (or bull?) and a footpath arrow pointing downhill the way we needed to go.

I did not fancy climbing into the field with the Highland cow (or bull?) for not only was there potentially a solitary bull in the field but it was also very boggy, having been churned up by the hooves of said bovine animal. We therefore did the sensible thing and followed the fenceline outside the field. After a long slow descent down a surprisingly boggy slope -- I always wonder how bogs can possibly exist on steep slopes -- we eventually reached a stone wall where we had to climb over the barbed wire fence to reach the stile out onto a much better path with a good view over all the mine workings.

Old slate mines

The path soon brought us to the lane leading back to Abergynolwyn. From there it was just a steady walk downhill, though by this time the wind was bitterly cold and the threatened hail arrived in a brief shower. The total walk was about 4.5 miles, though in terms of energy expended, it felt much more due to the steepness and difficult nature of the terrain. I use a simple app to record time and distance on walks and I had heard pathetic low battery warning beeps from my phone as we were still in the wood. I was sure that it had given up recording our walk long before we finished, but it actually struggled on and only missed the last half mile or so.

We saw three ruined cottages on the walk. This was the final one on the final stage of the walk.

Ruined cottage

The Welsh countryside is dotted with abandoned cottages and farm houses. Small holdings and little farms became uneconomic and were swallowed up by larger farms. Also, fewer people now work on the land, so these homes are no longer needed.

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