I’ve no particular association with the area or the industry, but I have an odd fascination with the slate industry and the way it has shaped the landscape of North Wales.
In most industries, once a plant has worn out or is rendered obsolete for whatever reason, the place is either raised to the ground and something else is built there, or it is regenerated or re-purposed into something else, e.g. apartments, offices, colleges, etc.
Not so quarrying. While some quarries that are simply holes in the landscape have been filled with landfill, the removal of rock from a hillside or mountainside is somewhat irreversible. But whereas most quarrying has minimal waste (e.g. the majority of what is quarried is used, such as gravel or sand quarrying), slate quarrying of the past was a different proposition entirly. Yeilds of around 10% meant that collosal amounts of waste material (or ‘rubbish’) were created, and these continue to litter the hillsides of Snowdonia.
I’d visited Dinorwic on a couple of occasions previously, but hadn’t explored any other quarries but had read about them on the Quarryscapes blog, Graham Stephen’s Geotopoi blog and Iain Robinsons Treasure Maps blog, the Penmorfa website as well as on Flickr. These quarries are a complete paradigm shift from other industrial sites, and not just for the reasons I mentioned above. They tend to have been closed for many, many years, and the places are just left to decay. Consequently, people have been exploring and photographing them for years, so by searching various sources online there’s a really good chronicle of how things have changed over the past 30-50 years.
It has been through these websites that I have become friendly with Iain Robinson, who invited me along to see the Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry, one that he is quite familair with. The quarry isn’t a huge place, certainly nowhere near as big as the giant Dinorwic and Penrhyn Quarries that dominated the industry for many years, but is a good size nonetheless. Furthermore it has recently seen a partial re-opening after a seam of green slate was discovered.
See Iain’s blog here: http://robinsonmaps.blogspot.co.uk/