#249 – Return To Dinorwic – Australia Level Part 1

Climbing the incline is hard work. I’d put the angle somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees, and although there are some crumbling stone steps in sections, the rest of it is a combination of grass and loose slate. The gradient is relentless, and unless you are a Nepalese Sherpa or are seriously fit, it’s probably impossible to do in one go without a break. As I struggled to the top of the incline in increasingly wet and windy conditions, I felt a degree of satisfaction at having made it to the top. Distance wise, it’s probably less than a mile top to bottom and I felt a little foolish for not having made it last time. I don’t think I realised just how close I was in 2009, but that’s hindsight for you.

Line Shafting

As I left the shelter of the winding house, I realised just how wet and wild it was, with the rain blowing almost horizontally past me. I made for the saw mill for some shelter, but the lack of a roof afforded me only limited respite. Instead, I wandered into a small building next door, which had no windows and the majority of it’s roof left. Perching on a rock on the floor I ate my well deserved dinner and rested my aching legs in the relative dryness of the little building.

Vanishing Point

Back outside, the wind had not relented, and I began to get concerned. Although it wasn’t strong enough (yet) to blow me off the edge, I still had to get back down again, and the incline was not only exposed and very slippery, but also relatively narrow and with little if anything to hold onto. Still, I was here now, I thought, make the most of it while I can, and then get the hell off this mountain.

There are lots of gaps in the interior wall, presumably for east access to the railway lines that ran in the building.

The saw mill was much bigger than I’d realised, and other than the lack of slates on the roof, was reasonably intact, with all the cutting tables still there, blades still on the saws, and all the line shafting still in place.

Teeth

Alone on the exposed galleries, it made me appreciate the harsh working and living conditions faced by the quarry workers in years gone by. Sure, the wind was strong when I was up there, but it wasn’t strong enough to cause me any problems. But the prospect of being up there in really bad weather was scary, especially given the lack of warm, waterproof clothing like I was wearing. Reg Jones book on the quarry tells of the miners just putting sackcloth over their shoulders.

Come home to a real fire? I’m sure that this would have been most welcoming on a wet and windy day.

Several things struck me about this building. First, that such a large factory would be built 1000 feet up a mountain seemed slightly mad, although I can see the logic in finishing the slates up here so that disposal of the waste would be easier, and second, that all this had been left to just rust away. I know that there was an auction of all the plant once the quarry closed, I can only presume that the equipment was either out of date or it was uneconomic or just too damned difficult to bring back down the hill. Either way, it’s going to be up there now until it just falls apart, which will probably be hundreds of years off!

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