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 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.

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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.

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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.

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You have to look closely to see the sleepers

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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.

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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.

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Finally some company

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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.

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