Monday, 29 May 2017

North Wales Mines Weekend. Anglesey. 13-14 May

Team: Bill Buxton, Graham Christian, Brian Clipstone, Howard Dare, Peter Dennis, Kevin Diffey, Andy Dobson, Dave Dobson, Spencer Drew, Andy Freem, Antonia Freem, Mark Hampson, Barbara Lane, Fred Levett, Malcolm Lloyd, Harvey Lomas, Dave Mullin, Angie Peacock, Allan Richardson, Claire Vivian.

First of all, thanks to Allan for organising this! We stayed at the Anglesey Outdoor Centre, the weather was amazing and it was Brian's 70th birthday. All this provided the perfect backdrop for a weekend filled with mine exploration and good company. 

Anglesey Outdoor Centre

Saturday we all arrived bright and early at the Parys Mountain carpark. Three members of the Parys Underground Group (PUG) had kindly agreed to take us all in to the mine - no mean feat with almost 20 people wating to go underground! We divided in to 3 groups, one group would do Parys-Mona, the second would do Mona-Parys and the third would explore the upper levels of Parys. I did the Mona to Parys trip and it was a goond one. This was a pretty active trip with a couple of ladders, hand-lined climbs, crawls and wading through water. And plenty to see in the form of Copper Sulphate crystals, snotites, snotite curtains and Bronze Age workings.

The team muster at the entrance to Parys mine
For modern day Parys Mountain, it all began on 2nd March 1768 when a large vein of copper ore was discovered there. Copper was mined at Parys Mountain and then taken down to Amlwch Port where it was processed further before being shipped to Swansea and also around the world. Indeed, the mine later developed into one of the largest copper mines in the world, the largest, some might argue. Apparently, so influential was Amlwch and Anglesey copper that the British navy under Lord Nelson used the metal for sheathing its ships and for use in manufacturing cannons. Incredibly, it seems as far back as 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age, local people had discovered traces of copper here and on the trip we were shown evidence of Bronze Age workings (dug out using pebbles).

The through-trip was mainly dry, but there were some sections of water that were waist deep and the connection itself, which was the drainage level between Mona and Parys mines, was constricted and the water was slightly higher here. I was bending at the waist to walk through the passage and the water was a couple of inches below my face. We were told that the water level varied here and at times it was necessary to remove your helmet as there would be only a few inches of air space. The water in the mine was also incredibly acidic (pH of 2 in places; tap water would be around 7) and there were regular wash stations to clean eyes if any happened to splash in your face. I know this doesn't sound good, but it didn't cause us any problems in there. 
Above ground is a surreal, alien, landscape with red, yellow and brown hues of ochre. When the light catches it, it is radiant and almost pretty really.

The Great Opencast

Angie crawling through some workings
Fred wading through the lower levels

Bill, Howard, Malcolm and Harvey near a very acidic pool (Photo: Barbara Lane)

Interesting formations. (Photo: Barbara Lane)
Copper Sulphate crystals
Some of the team in Parys Mountain (Photo: Barbara Lane)

Spencer on the summit of Parys Mountain
Trip time: 4 hours.

The afternoon saw us head off to the coast for some exploration. Several of us went to South Stack to look at the lighthouse. It was then time to help Brian celebrate his birthday! How many people can see they had their birthday meal in a yurt with 20 of their friends!

Angie and Claire near South Stack lighthouse (photo: Barbara Lane)
Happy Birthday Brian! (Photo: Angie Peacock)
Road trip to Llandudno and the Great Orme! The morning saw us head in to Ty Gwyn mine, which was right on the seafront. We had some very strange looks from people as we were standing there in caving kit and then disappeared down a manhole in the middle of the promenade! Members of the Great Orme Exploration Society were generous with their time and helped us out by leading trips, or providing advice and a survey. This was a nice short trip, around 1 1/2 hours. Plenty of artifacts to look at and mud to stomp about in.

Getting ready to enter the mine.
Ty Gwyn was first opened in 1835 and during its working life produced over £100,000 worth of copper. It finally closed in 1853 after many years of continuous flooding. Copper still lies below sea level there and is perhaps awating a future mining enterprise.
Cleaning up in the sea after Ty Gwyn (Photo: Angie Peacock)
Following this trip, the groups split in two. Some of us headed home and others went on to visit the Roman Shaft on top of the Great Orme and enjoy ice cream in the sun.
Getting ready to go! (Photo: Angie Peacock)
Angie getting comfortable before the abseil.

Fred on his way underground.

Thanks to members of the Parys Underground Group and the Great Orme Exploration Society for giving up their time and arranging trips for us.

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