Waun Y Llyn, Hope Mountain

The ‘mountains’ in Wales might not be the highest ones ever but they sure offer spectacular views. And Hope Mountain in Flintshire is no exception.

I started my circular walk in Coed Talon, trying to include some local industrial history along the way. From the Railway Inn, I followed the disused railway line towards Llanfynydd. What is now a quiet and peaceful wildlife corridor including Wood Pit, a wetland nature reserve, was once part of the Mold-Brymbo railway line and a very noisy and bustling place. The area was heavily mined and trucks transporting coal, oil and stone from the nearby works and mines used the tracks. A far cry from the sound of birds chirping away and woodpeckers that greet you now.

hope mountain railway

If it looks manmade, it probably is. The disused railway line.

A far cry from the sound of birds chirping away and woodpeckers that greet you now.

After leaving the old railway line it was uphill to the top and Waun Y Llyn Country Park.

Waun Y Llyn has always drawn people up here. The panoramic views over Snowdonia, Liverpool and far beyond are amazing especially on a sunny day like this.

People used to take a bracing walk up here from the fashionable spa in Caergwrle 100 years ago. Though it would have been less peaceful up here back then.

 

hope mountain stone stile

Love this kind of stile: hole on the left for dogs, steps on right for humans

 

In the 19th and early 20th century, the hard silica sandstone of Waun Y Llyn was quarried and taken down the hillside by tramway to Coed Talon where it was ground into silica powder, used in glass making. Millstone grit was also quarried from the mountain and used for buildings and millstones for mills int the Alyn Valley below.

 

hope mountain winding top

Remains of the stone base of the top winding house.

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Winding house at the bottom

 

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The largest prehistoric mine in the world

By now you’ve probably realised that Wales has three things aplenty: sheep, castles and mines.
Wales was famous for it’s coal mining throughout the 19th and early 20th century and had substantial slate mines but there had been small-scale mining in the country since the British Iron Age. Gold, copper and lead were mined in substantial quantities, zinc and silver not quite as much, until it wasn’t profitable any more.

I finally got to visit the Great Orme Copper Mines properly this year (with my parents in tow). Located half way up the Great Orme in Llandudno, it is the largest Bronze Age mine in the world and was uncovered in 1987 during a scheme to landscape an area of the Great Orme. Since then it has been an ongoing archaeological project of slowly uncovering bit by bit.

On the surface you can tour parts of the opencast mine which is over 4,000 years old and take a look down a deep Victorian mine shaft.


Walking through the 3,500 year old tunnels you get a feel for the harsh conditions copper mining involved in those days and it always dazzles me what the people of that age were able to accomplish using only stone hammers and bone.

The tunnels take you down to the second level which is approximately 60ft below the surface and it gets really cold and damp down there. If you feel claustrophobic easily this might not be the right place fore you. Only 3% of the tunnels are open to the public at the moment so some follow up visits might be required in the future.

And if you feel like you need some open air afterwards just make your way up to the top of the Great Orme with its stunning view.

A hidden gem of industrial history

Well, I admit it, I got a bit obsessed. With a Hoffmann kiln out of all things. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a special kind of kiln (a type of “oven” that produces very high temperatures) that was used for the production of bricks or, in this case, for lime-burning. It’s basically THE super kiln (and invented by a German; hey, we are known for being efficient).

It had all started with several visits to the Minera Limeworks, not far from where I live, where several other kilns can still be seen. When I did a bit of research and read about it, I came across the Hoffmann kiln, its history and the fact that there are only a few left in the British Isles. I still have no idea where the remains in Minera are (I probably just went right past them) but I wanted to see one and so visited the Llnymynech Heritage Area near Oswestry one day, where they have a marvellous example. And what a splendid day it turned out to be.

Llanymynech stables

The limeworks stables – horses, mules and donkeys pulled trucks of stone on tramways around the quarries and limeworks

Reconstructed tramway

Reconstructed tramway

Llanymynech kiln

Chimney and (conventional) kilns

Llanymynech is literally on the border between Powys, Wales and Shropshire, England with the border running along its main street and even right trough a now closed pub. The car park of the heritage site is quite easy to miss, I had to discover, but I met some very helpful people who could even provide me with a leaflet of the site.

Now, I am not a very big fan of mining though if you live here in North Wales you can’t miss it (and if they name a pub “The Lime Kiln” it tells you a lot about the area), but this heritage site is really interesting and very well made. I found my Hoffmann kiln (well, it’s hard to miss as it is quite big) and could even step inside.

Llanymynech Hoffmann Kiln

The object of my obsession – the Hoffmann kiln

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You really get a sense of scale when you walk inside the Hoffmann kiln

Sculptures by David Howorth of lime workers taking a break

Sculptures by David Howorth of lime workers taking a break

And all the other processes from the quarries to the transport of the final product were explained in an easy to understand and visual way. If you walk up the quite steep path to the quarries – there are two, an English and Welsh quarry side by side, linked by a now blocked tunnel – you get some beautiful views into Shropshire as well. And in my case heavy rain, but never mind.

Llanymynech Tally House2

The Tally House – there was a weighbridge in front of the house, so each truck of limestone from the quarries could be weighed and directed to the kilns

Pushing an imaginary truck

Pushing an imaginary truck

Llanymynech English Brake Drum House

The Brake Drum House on the English side of the quarry. A cable around the brake drum controlled the descent of the heavy stone-filled trucks, while at the other end of the cable the empties were hauled back up the hill

Llanymynech English Quarry

The English quarry – now a beautiful walk

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The sculpture are spread throughout the whole heritage site and help explaining the work that was carried out

Llanymynech English Quarry3

There are lime kilns everywhere, sometimes just visible as deep holes in the ground

Llanymynech Welsh Quarry

The Welsh quarry with the brake drum house to the left

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Welsh side of the tunnel linking the two quarries

Llanymynech Golf Course3

You get some spectacular views up there…

Llanymynech Golf Course2

…and you can find out what the weather has in store for you. For me it was rain.

Llanymynech golf course

There is a golf course on top of the cliffs. Why is it they are always in the nicest locations?

I can only say, I was positively surprised by this hidden gem, so if you’re ever in the area visit the Llanymynech Heritage Site, it is a bit educational but you get some beautiful walks too.

A walk through industrial history – Minera Country Park

One day, I had just moved to Wrexham, I picked up this leaflet from the Tourist Information called “Healthy Walks in and around Wrexham’s Country Parks” which sounded like a good idea for me to get to know the area. And though I had explored these walks quite early on, there was still one left. The Minera Country Park Lead Mines Walk. I had been to Minera Lead Mines several times but had never managed to walk beyond that point. So as it was a sunny day I decided it was time to do so. And what a surprise it had in store for me.

engine house, Minera, lead mines

The large engine house at Minera Lead Mines.

Although it mentioned in the leaflet that the “walk is packed with geological and historical interest” and that there is Minera Quarry at the end, I had no idea that there would be so many ruins along the way and that Minera Limestone Quarry was once the largest lime workings in the north of Wales and were only closed in 1972. I had to find this out afterwards when I was back at home.
As the leaflet gives a good description of the walk itself but unfortunately not of the ruins along the way I won’t be able to tell you exactly what you see on the following pictures. I’ll try my best though.

The name Minera has its source in Latin meaning “ore” or “mine”. The lead mining in this area dates back to the Middle Ages and had become very productive and prifitable by the mid 19th Century.

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Quite a few things lying around. They explain everything on open days.

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Wheel at the top of the engine house.

The most prominent remnant of that era is the large engine house at Meadow Shaft, which housed a steam engine which powered pumps as the mines were prone to flooding.

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Looking back at the engine house

Passing the engine house I headed for the old railway line when I came across this ruin. No idea what it once was. My guess would be it had something to do with mining?! It definitely looks industrial.

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Maybe the remains of a chimney?

Time to move on but not far away I spotted this derelict building on some farmland.

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It was fenced off (and if there is a proper fence, a sign private property or danger – I won’t go). There wasn’t too much left anyway even the sheep on the field weren’t interested.

tree-figure

Nice idea

You can really tell that you are walking along a disused railway line as the way is just too straight to be natural. The railway was built to transport lead and limestone from the quarries and mines to Wrexham and distribute them further from there on, I believe. On some parts of the way some of the old stone sleepers are still visible.

stone-sleeper

You have to look closely to see the sleepers

toilet

I had no idea there were public toilet facilities provided along the way…

Another ruin near the old Minera goods station. Maybe another kiln? I don’t know…

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Next to the goods station you can see lime kilns behind the trees. Lots of them, just like a long wall that goes on and on.

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You can just make out the openings behind the trees

I believe there were two banks of kilns like this, plus one of the spectacular Hoffman kilns which I didn’t manage to find. I probably just turned around too early, didn’t recognise it at the time or went into the wrong direction in the end, not even knowing there was one. Never mind.

kiln1b

More close up

I think these are draw kilns. Again, everything was fenced off. And very angry dogs nearby…

Getting closer to the quarry I spotted these ruins in between the woods. As there was no fence this time just a small stream to cross I took a closer look.

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It looked like there were several buildings once.

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Must have been quite big ones too

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I guess it was once part of something bigger…

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More ruins further into the woods

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Looks like another kiln. I didn´t want to venture too far.

Getting closer to my destination…

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It already looks more like a quarry.

Finally the quarry. Or at least as close as you are allowed to venture into it. Did I mention fences already?

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It´s much bigger than what you see on this picture.

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I really wanted to have a closer look and maybe get some good views across the region as well, so decided to venture along one of the public footpaths.

Some other ruin on the way.

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No idea what it was

I was getting conscious of the time as well so I just walked up to the top and had a quick look.

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Maybe this gives you a better idea of the scale

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Looking back. I got the views too.

sheep

Finally some company

horse

The horse probably had the best view of all

Then it was back again as I wanted to reach my car back at the Minera Lead Mines visitor centre before dark.

sky

Interesting sky

There was just one other thing I had spotted earlier on and as I knew I was almost back at my car made a slight detour. This was probably just an old barn or something. But it still intrigued me.

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Back at the visitor centre I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

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sunset

There is much more to see so it´s well worth a visit.

King Arthur, Mining and Beautiful Views – Loggerheads Country Park

What do King Arthur, mining, limestone and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have in common? You can all find it at Loggerheads Country Park. You might find this an unusual name for a country park but even this comes down to history. A dispute over mining rights gave the park its name – the involved parties were at loggerheads. The country park lies in Denbighshire right at the border to Flintshire and this is where King Arthur comes in even though in an unexpected way.

Carreg Carn March Arthur is a boundary stone marking the borders of these two counties (they had different names back then) and is said to bear the hoof print of King Arthur’s horse, following a leap from nearby Moel Famau. I know, it’s not quite what you’ve expected but there you go. You can find a lot of Arthurian mysteries and legends around here.

Loggerheads_Boundary-Stone

Carreg Carn March Arthur: I think the hoof print is on the smaller stone underneath the arch.

Loggerheads is a tranquil place featuring stunning woodlands and dramatic rocks and by the 1920s had become the destination by bus from Liverpool. But 200 years ago Loggerheads was a loud and busy industrial area. Thousands of tons of lead and zinc were mined here and you can still see some of the remnants of that era today.

Pentre water mill is over 200 years old and its machinery was used to ground corn into flour, cut timber and generate electricity.

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It’s quite noisy when the mill is running

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You can go upstairs and take a look at the room there

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It is set up for grinding corn into flour

But before I come to the industrial past of Loggerheads let’s enjoy the beauty of the rich woodlands and the views from the limestone cliffs.

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Going up there for the view

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Half way. Those steps really are steep.

The thing about getting a good view is you have to climb up. And even though it mentioned steep steps in the leaflet I had, I didn’t quite believe it as usually these things are a bit exaggerated. So I was a bit surprised that these steps actually were steep, luckily not too many of them and after a short walk through some woods I was rewarded with amazing views across to Moel Famau.

Loggerheads_Cliff-Top

After the climb I am rewarded with those beautiful views. On the right in the shadow you can see Moel Famau with the Jubilee Tower.

Moel Famau is not only the summit King Arthur’s horse was somehow connected to but at 554m also the highest summit of the Clwydian Range. At its top stands the Jubilee Tower, built as the focal point of local celebrations to mark the 50th year of King George III’s reign. Only a ruin remains of the tower today.

Loggerheads_Moel-Famau

Another view of the valley and Moel Famau. This time the summit is bathed in sun shine.

There are several points with amazing views along the Cliff Top Trail and each one is worthwhile stopping. Apart from the views even the woods are amazing as you find many different types of trees growing here. Ash, oak and elm trees grow naturally here because of the lime-rich soils. Add to them trees like beech and larch that were planted as timber crop plus sycamore trees und you get a beautiful mixture. You might even find some wild flowers along the woodland borders.

Loggerheads_Woods

The cooling shadow was much appreciated.

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It was buzzing with bees and butterflies

I definitely wanted to see dramatic Devil’s Gorge and on my way there I saw the first reminders of Loggerheads’ industrial past. Enormous entrances to mine shafts are along the way and they do look a bit scary. You’re not allowed to go into the mines because of dangerous rocks but just to imagine the conditions the miners had to work in makes me shudder.

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Entrance to a mine shaft

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Just a few steps into the opening

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Another mine shaft

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Devil’s Gorge – the climbers give you a sense of scale

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Fortunately for people like me there is a bridge across it.

After I watched the climbers at Devil’s Gorge for a while I made my way back along the River Alyn. The river joins the River Dee near Wrexham and like many rivers over limestone, it sometimes dries up and disappears underground through swallow holes. It is quite fascinating.

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The riverbed of the Alyn – there should be water here.

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The water just disappears in this kind of puddle.

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There are a lot of things to discover along the way.

Loggerheads---Mining-Cart

I suppose this is an old mining cart.