Autumn in the Welsh countryside

I realise my posting has been somewhat non-existent lately but the drawing part of my life had taken over. Which means no big Welsh adventures either.

I managed to squeeze in some Sunday afternoon strolls though and considering that the beautiful countryside starts right at my back door, I didn’t have to drive that far either. So I hope you enjoy at least these small glimpses into the beauty of Wales and hopefully there will be some bigger adventures soon.

Pre-New Year’s Resolution: Get out more again.

First the Panorama Walk near Llangollen – beautiful autumn light and views of Dinas Bran.

 

The Minera Lead Mines and the quarry not far away offer more of a view into the industrial past of the area. Very impressive nonetheless.

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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.

hope mountain winding house

Winding house at the bottom

 

Dyserth – waterfalls, views and quarries

‘Dyserth’ means ‘a deserted  place, a hermitage’. But throw into the mix a Saturday afternoon and glorious sunshine and it’s not that deserted at all.

Dyserth was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 and is steeped in history, from an ancient hill fort on the top of Moel Hiraddug to the industrial quarries and lime kilns. The village is also known for its spectacular waterfall which cascades seventy feet from the River Ffyddion in the centre of the village and provided the perfect starting point for my circular walk.

dyserth1dyserthThe massive pair of walls to the left of the falls were probably built to support a water wheel which would have been driven by water diverted from above the waterfall.

dyserth14Making my way up to the top of the waterfall and the river. These stones are most likely property boundary markers, the Windsor family was one of the dominant landowners in the area.

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dyserth4In 1869 the London and North Western Railway opened a branch line from the main line at Prestatyn to Dyserth. Initially this served the Talargoch Lead Mines and the two Dyserth Quarries. It was not until 1905 that a passenger service was opened.

dyserth5The Meliden Goods Shed once bustled with activity when the train was the lifeline for the local community.

dyserth8Remains of the loading gauge. It prevented the trucks being loaded too high to go under the bridges and through tunnels.

dyserth7Stunning panorama from the top of Graig Fawr. (Sorry, a bit small. Just click on it for a bigger view)dyserth panorama smallAlong the way.

dyserth9Grove Mill, for flour, closed in 1912, was re-opened in 1920 and finally closed five years later.

dyserth11 dyserth10Walking through Church Wood towards the village of Cwm.

dyserth12dyserth13Even the sheep have beautiful views here.

dyserth15When you think you’ve done it all after passing the lower slopes of Moel Hiraddug…

dyserth16Back in the village of Dyserth you can find many remains of lime kilns.

dyserth17One last look at the waterfall.

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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

Llanymynech Hoffmann Kiln2

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

Llanymynech English Quarry2

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

Llanymynech Welsh Quarry2

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.

minera-lead-mine4

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.

ruin1-e

ruin1-c

ruin1a

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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.

ruin2-a

ruin2-b

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…

ruin3-a

ruin3-b

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.

kiln2

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.

ruin4-f

It looked like there were several buildings once.

ruin4-e

ruin4-a

Must have been quite big ones too

ruin4-c

I guess it was once part of something bigger…

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More ruins further into the woods

ruin4-d

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

Getting closer to my destination…

quarry-1

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?

quarry-3

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.

quarry-4

Maybe this gives you a better idea of the scale

quarry-5

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.

ruin5-a

ruin5-b

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

minera-lead-mine-sunset1

sunset

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