/ NEWS: Welsh Slate to be Nominated for World Heritage Status
Not sure how I feel about this. It's a shame that some level of preservation in the slate quarries wasn't undertaken many years ago. As a regular visitor to the various North Wales quarries for the last 20 years (have explored most of them pretty extensively) there has been so much degradation, vandalism and general change in that time that a lot of the history that was visible even 20 years ago is now a shadow of it's former self.
At Dinorwic, a lot of the old slate mills, metalwork and infrastructure was leveled with the arrival of the pump storage station. The huge saw shed towards the top of the site has lost its roof and it's interior is now rapidly deteriorating. The 'stairway to heaven' is now much collapsed and the workmens clothes/boots hanging in the huts have now largely disappeared (or been burnt).
At Maenofferen near Blaenau the once amazingly intact surface workings (workshops, incline houses, offices, slate processing sheds) have been extensively vandalised, looted and/or demolished by it's current owners and others.
I've got a feeling that this is a bit too late and preservation of this unique landscape (if that's what is wanted) should really have started 30+ years ago. That said, there are still areas where preservation of certain unique features will make a difference.
Can't see CEGB allowing organised tours of Dinorwig quarry though and part of the appeal of exploring these places is the fact that not many people go there (or have the skills to go there). Generally you have to have your wits about you to stay safe, accept a level of personal risk, sometimes considerable risk for some of the most inaccessible areas - and even then rockfalls can happen as we have seen in Lost World recently.
Lets hope this doesn't impact climbing! Perhaps the secret of the quarries is now finally out?
Isn't there already plans to flood one of the quarries for another hydro plant?
Do people really find industrial slag heaps pleasant to look at ?
Rock faces, grassy hillsides and lakes are a thing of beauty, but it always strikes me that the area is spoilt by the spoil heaps. And that rather than quarrying for rock elsewhere, be it high grade for building or low grade for roads, we should first be processing the rock we have already blasted.
No doubt this is uneconomic, but only because restitution of the landscape is not properly factored in with quarrying ( a bit like decommissioning nuclear power plants).
Isn't there a risk that by giving such devastated landscape protected status, we actually normalise environmental destruction ?
> Do people really find industrial slag heaps pleasant to look at ?
Yep, I think it’s a stunning area full of history.
Can you imagine trying to get parked at Bus-Stop if this goes ahead? I can't see them being able to stabilize the quarry enough to allow tourist to properly explore the place, however where ever tourist walk ways end up going I can imagine it being an end to climbing in those areas. We're technically not meant to be in there anyway. (Or at least have no right to be) so I can't see us being given much of a say in any plans.
I can understand the interest in history, and yes it's worth remembering how much of this quarrying was done by hand
I can see the beauty in the pic used in the news article, but here is a wider view from up the valley
I have clear memories of walking up Elidir Fawr when I was 17 and being blown away by the size and sheer ugliness of those spoil heaps.
Mind you, I suppose you'd get a lot of opposition if you wanted to build the pyramids these days !
Yeah don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want a new quarry now!
Can't really agree with that.
I love natural beauty but our industrial heritage can get wiped away so fast. I took my kids to see Ravenscraig a few months back. It's incredible how little is left; a moss cover peneplain mostly. We found the bases of the iconic water tower and the roots of the neighbouring Venturi towers but little else. In its heyday this site was as impressive (in a very different way of course) as any mountain view I've ever seen.
The slate quarries are an incredible place to explore, mostly because they were just abandoned and nobody attempted to clear up the mess. Guess the UNESCO rating will see it get severely sanitised.
I used to go in there alone, up through the tunnel above Twll Mawr and sit at the base of the California arête. Total silence other than a strange hum that I could never quite place. I remember thinking about the ghosts of the place and I did write a (now long lost) ghost story about a conversation between a climber and an old man.
I think it is a wonderful place. I'm not sure if adding a layer of bureaucracy to it will make it better or worse, but I do have some very fond memories of climbing there.
Spoke briefly with an Italian guide in the Dolomites one time. Liked his work, loved where he lived, appreciated the conservation, but absolutely hated the crowds that came with WH listing.
The hum is from the power station, no?
The industrial and with it cultural history of the quarries is amazing. The impact the quarry has had on the locals over the years is unique and is coloured with light and darkness. I managed to brush over the wider history of the quarries in the new guidebook, but there is so much more to discover to the history that is not climbing related.
It is part of this heritage that has helped me enjoy the quarries across North Wales even more.
To many they are a blight on the hillside, but the beauty comes from walking through them and exploring them. Who knows what UNESCO status would mean to them.
> The hum is from the power station, no?
I think so, but it sounds internal and isn't immediately identifiable as to where its coming from, I suspect its something to do with the flow of water underground but I'm sure someone else will be along to tell us.
I assumed it was the machinery inside the mountain; turbines, pumps, whatever. You hear the hum more loudly if you listen near the power station shafts (i.e. like the one just SE from Dali's Hole).
It seems rather a shame to me that the key determinant of whether something is worth preserving becomes how aesthetically pleasing it is. Personally I think they're one of the most uniquely interesting aspects of the North Wales landscape and that's because of their starkness and brutality, not in spite of it.
I've just completed a consultation form on the redevelopment plans for Parkwood Springs in Sheffield. (here's the link if anyone is interested, and very interesting it is too https://sheffield.citizenspace.com/place-planning/parkwood-springs )
It includes a long-term plan to reclaim a vast landfill site due to close at the end of the year. The plan is restore the hillside and make it usable for recreation, rather than leaving the waste visible. Now I admit that will be more "aesthetically pleasing" to me, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe we should embrace the "starkness and brutality" of a million fridges sticking out of the ground !
Thanks for the link. I am very interested in this, as this is where I run at lunch time. It has the potential to be something really quite special, being so close to a large city centre and to Kelham Island.
They were having a display about in the Winter Gardens today. I'm a big fan of the Parkwood Springs MTB trail, ride it about once a fortnight, in my lunch hour. Up, 3 laps and back in 50 mins !
Slightly bizarre straw man there, I didn’t argue that everything ugly deserves to be preserved...
I'm not try to be belligerent, I'm just trying to understand why people would like these monumental spoil heaps to be preserved (note - I'm not referring to the rock faces within the quarries, although I'm not sure they merit UNESCO protection either).
To me, part of the reason why I find them so ugly is that they represent our wanton plundering and thoughtless destruction of the environment. And yes there is a similarity with a huge pile of discarded household electrical items. Yes there is history there, yes a lot of hard work went into it and yes there is an argument for keeping it visible as a record of human folly. But if someone comes along with a better use for the area, that is beneficial both to nature and to recreation, it would be a shame if it were to be blocked because of the UNESCO status.
My feelings on the Welsh quarries have always been divided. From afar they look pretty hideous, and have partially eaten away mountains and hills (Manod Mawr N Top nearly went entirely: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manod_Mawr_North_Top). But close up they're fascinating, particularly Dinorwig and Cwmorthin - tunnels, old machinery, discarded coats. In certain conditions, the ghostly sense of history is palpable.
Some selected excerpts from Wikipedia. World Heritage sites must have "cultural historical, scientific or other form of significance"..."must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance"..."sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity."
Seems to me that Welsh slate fits the bill. Why not let future generations see what we did to these mountains? There was always talk about converting Dinorwig into a biking or ski centre, and I'm not sure that would be any more aesthetically pleasing than the quarry as it currently is.
> I used to go in there alone, up through the tunnel above Twll Mawr and sit at the base of the California arête. Total silence other than a strange hum that I could never quite place. I remember thinking about the ghosts of the place and I did write a (now long lost) ghost story about a conversation between a climber and an old man.
I think I might have Twll Mawr and Dali's Hole mixed up here (It's been a while). Dali's is the one with the turquoise water and dead trees right?
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