Despite current circumstances I managed to get out with a couple of friends on a circumnavigation of Cwm Ystradllyn to look at Chwarel Gorseddau and the associated deserted and ruined village of Treforys.
Whilst North Wales isn’t exactly the Yukon, Service’s sentiments about the Yukon have stood the test of time, especially when applied in a large(ish) quarry that produced very little product and an awful lot of waste. The valleys are indeed unpeopled (and have been since 1867) but this currently has more to do with Dwr Cymru protecting the water supply.
There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will.
Coflein (the online database for the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW)) provides the information that “its main period of working was between 1854 and 1857 when it was developed by the Bavarian mining engineer Henry Tobias Tschudy von Ulster. The quarry was a complete commercial failure. Despite massive capitalisation and investment in milling, water courses and reservoir, workers’ housing and railway to Porthmadog, returns were derisory.” It would be interesting to see the accounts for the period as there is a lot of investment still apparent.
The journey to Cwm Ystradllyn was eased by Dave driving, which eased the pain and stress as the road is unduly narrow. It also meant a sleep on the way back. Having disregarded the delights of the tea shop at Tyddyn Mawr, we wandered up to the bwlch above Ynys Wen, where we stopped to talk with the farmer who was mourning the loss of a ewe. What was unusual were his two New Zealand Huntaway sheep dogs, one of whom was protesting loudly at being confined to the quad bike.
There are a considerable number of hut platforms and hut circles in the area, many of which are still visible. They served as useful navigation markers to guide our path onto Moel Ddu where Dave engaged in the traditional habit of filling his butties with crisps. That is, until the crisps blew over the cliff. A frantic recovery mission retrieved some of the contents and the bag.
The descent into Cwm Ystradllyn and the mines at Chwarel Gorseddau continued under hot sunshine, and we had the chance to explore the old workings, of which existed many large piles of poor slate, some derelict buildings and some impressive walls. And several fields of bluebells. I’d never sniffed bluebells before and in an artistic ‘get on your face to get the shot’ moment discovered that bluebells smell. As was pointed out, better than I did.
Up the hill into the abandoned village of Treforys, where it was evident that a ‘tyddyn’ pattern of housing had been intended, but there was very little left. The final visit were to the impressive buildings of Ynys-y-Pandy.
All in all a productive day