Echoes of the North Wales Slate Industry
I have always loved walking in North Wales and one of my favourite climbs is to the summit of Cnicht (known locally as the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’). Once you reach the top you are confronted with a near level ridge extending to the north. From here you descend the steep eastern flank of the mountain until you reach the ruined slate workings of Rhosydd Slate Quarry. I have always been fascinated by these ruins. There is always an eerie feeling when you walk around the derelict buildings – all you hear is the wind and the bleating of sheep yet you can still sense the presence of the miners as everything is left just where it was when they put down their tools for the last time.
My fascination with these old slate workings has given me the idea to investigate the relics that the slate industry has left on the landscape of North Wales. I’ve used the word ‘echoes’ in the title to try to convey the evocative atmosphere – the sense that these ruins still stand as a silent witness to the past.
Whereas evidence of the coal industry is not so apparent in modern times – a lot of the land that used to be mined in South Wales having been re-developed – the debris of the slate industry in the north of the country is scattered all over the landscape. You can’t miss the towering slate tips, ruined quarrymen’s cottages and workshops, bits of rusty machinery lying around and the scars of the old tramways that used to bring the slate down to the valley floors.
I have used Rhosydd & Cwmorthin as a typical example of the many ruined quarries in the area.