Nant Gwrtheyrn revisited


Lathe belt drive

A quick visit before the hordes descend was made on the 14th of March, primarily to shoot a couple of pics of the Amy Summerfield down on the beach, but how could I resist a venture into the quarry at Porth y Nant?

Ever since I found out about the old lathe down there I’ve been a bit obsessed with photographing it, so of course I did so again on this visit.

There’s a new path being built down to the beach as I’m writing this, and a lot of fencing going up. Who knows this may have been the last chance in the quarry.

Quary Wagon

Quarry Wagon

I had  a hunt around for alternative ways into the quarry, thought I’d found one but it only takes you along a dead end level. Some interesting remains along it, but would require a climb up a waste tip to get to the main quarry area.

Pedestal cap

Pedestal Cap

Instead I decided to scramble down the tip to the remains of a non typical wagon at Porth y Nant. It’s a woodne bodied side tipper, to the same design as those at Penmaenmawr. There is also another chassis to the same design higher up the mountainside.

This level does conveniently lead to plenty of rusty remains, so it wasn’t a total loss. There’s this nice cast Iron Pedestal caplying beside the food of a rock chute/ What’s most curious is that the rock chute ends almost directly above the top of another which leads to the bins by the pier, quite whyit was constructed in 2 pitches I don’t know.

The collection of rock chutes almost resemble a miniature Great wall of China as they climb the lofty crags of the mountainside.

Rock Chute

Rock Chutes

All these shots have been duplicated on film, but I have yet to develop them. Maybe they will be worthy of theis own post in time.

Dyffryn Nantlle on film – I

Lancashire Boiler

Lancashire Boiler

Here’s installment 1 of a no doubt lengthy series exploring the Industrial workings of Dyffryn Nantlle.

My love for the valleystarted some 10 years ago, and I visit pretty frequently. There is always something changing in the valley.

This installment focusses on the periphery of the Dorothea quarry, now best know as a death sentence for divers.

The most striking remains on site are those of the Cornish pumping engine. It is CADW protected, but that doesn’t seem to be worth a lot to anyone.

Engine House

It was erected in 1903, and I believe is the only Beam engine in britain still in situ outside of Cornwall, and is an incredibly rare thing to exist at all in the slate industry.

Annexed to it is the boiler house, with 2 Lancashire boilers in situ. The roof is long gone, which is a shame as the engine house received a new roof fairly recently.

The chimney stack is long gone, but the base remains as does the flue, as well as a the coal hopper.One day I will hopefully get another chance tosee the sleeping Giant within.


Steam Valves

Commercial Hotel

A short walk around the south wester side of the Dorothea pit takes you to the site ofthe former Commercial hotel, part of the original Talysarn village which was swallowed up by the quarries.The hotel became offices for Dorothea quarry. The interior is now wrecked and grafiti covered. I liked the irony, lost as an image, asduring my visit there was no silence to be had! Pen yr Orsedd quarry was busy working, Ty Mawr quarry was very active as a rubbish dump and to top it all, someone was at it with a chain saw at Talysarn hall a short distance further along the old road!


Talysarn hall is a fantastic spot. I love visiting these old mansions, they are so eerie and rather sad. Somewhere in the garden is a fountain, although I have yet to see it. It is on the edge of the qaurry pit so perhaps it has been consumed by collapse or the rhodeodendrons have claimed it for their own, it remains a reason to return.

Stable block at Talysarn hall

All photographs shot on Ilford XP2 Super, using an Olympus OM2 Spot/Program with Tokina 25-50mm lens.






Wreck of the Amy Summerfield

There’s a lot of jagged rusty metal in Nant Gwrtheyrn, never really paid much attention to a lot of it as kid, except the obviously railway related bits. One of the bigger collections of scrap iron is ‘Amy Summerfield’, a coastal steamer built in 1921.

Wreck of the Amy SUmmerfield

Amy Summerifeld

The full strory can be found on, along with some archive photos.

Boiler & Bow

I first visited last year, duinring my E520 Training day, and took a few photos but none that I was really that impressed with, but today I finally returned, this time brandishing an OM2 + 25-50mm and a GH1 + 14-45mm and an all important Infra Red filter, used on both the photos here.


There isn’t a lot left to see. Her bow has been half buried by sand since the 1980s pics on, but is still there. You’d certainly never guess that anything there today was originally a boat!


Training Days – Trefor & Nant Gwrtheyrn

Training because I had a lot to learn about the camera and lens combination I was holding. Olympus E520 matched with Manual focus only Vivitar 24mm f2.8. To those who don’t know, the E520’s viewfinder is quite possibly the worst thing to look through an MF lens with (and a major reason I moved to m4/3), resulting in the majority of shots from these 2 days being binned.

Trefor Granite Quarry

Datestone from the Compressor house

I entered Trefor quarry at the top end, over the shoulder of Nant Gwrtheyrn. A level down is the shell of a compressor house, finely pointed and entirely constructed from granite blocks. It’s a shame that most of the other buildings on site have been levelled.

As I trundled down the dumper tracks, level after level of desolation eventually got me to the bottom, and something I wasn’t expecting – the concrete massif of the crushing plant still on site in pretty good nick too! I’d never even noticed it before – despite it being visible from the A499!

The crushing plant at Trefor

The Crushing plant at Trefor

This was a great find, it’s sheer size meant not a hope in hell of fitting it all in to the viewfinder with the little Vivitar, so it presented a nice excercise in framing with a prime lens.

As I was moochin gabout here, a couple walked through, and suggested it would be a good location for a Vogue fashion shoot. I’ll bear that in mind if I ever make it big!

And that was MF101 day 1 over! Day 2, saw a trip just round the corner, to the Cae’r Nant and Porth y Nant granite quarries. Porth y Nant of course being famous as the setting of the National Welsh language centre.



Eye ring at f2.8

Same rules applied as or day 1,Viivtar 24mm 2.8 against the world, only this time I had the sense to open the aperture!

Cae'r Nant Quarry

Cae'r Nant Crusher station head


I started in the same place, the car park above Nant Gwrtheyrn, in much worse weather, but the weatherman said it would brghten up so I perservered. Cae’r Nant was hard going. When the workers left in the 50s it seems not much of anyone went there since. I was determined to get to the crusher station. I had wanted to get to the bottom of it, butit just wasn’t going to happen without ending in a hospotal visit, so defeated I headed for the car, and took the road down to the village of Porth y Nant.

Lathe in Porth Y Nant

Lathe in Porth y Nant


The weather by now was getting better, and by the tme I’d hit the beach, was beautiful sunshine, which was no end of help to getting the shutter speed somewhere near useful!

Now as a child, I lived in Nant Gwrtheyrn for a spell, and had come to know every nook and cranny of Porth y Nant quarry, however I had forgotten about, or perhaps not realised the significance of, and old metaworking lathe at the site of the old pier. It’s presence I only discovered through a series of black and white photos from the 70s on

Lathe Gearing

Lathe gearing


I was determined that I should find and photograph this lathe. I expect it to be high in the quarry, on some innaccessible level, and was suprised to find it near the ore bins on the beach!

By now the sun was really out, and a stroll along the beach was particularly enjoyable. Also through I had become aquainted with the wreck of the Amy Sommerfield, a vessel wrecked during a storm whilst attempting to moor at the Cae’r Nant jetty.

Ore bins

Abstract of Orebins

I think that will become the subject of afuture post though, as the photos taken on this occasion do it no justice.

At the site of the Cae’r Nant jetty is a massive concrete castle like structure, slowly tumbling into the sea. It’s only resident on my visit was a solitary sheep.

The walk back was punctuated by an incredibly large Spider crap, and fighting goats, although I was not quick enough to catch a shot of them in action!

Cae're Nant orebins

Cae're Nant Castle

So waht did I learn from this trip? Well a few things. The E520 is not a great camera for using manual focus legacy lenses, unless you have the luxury of a tripod in order to use Live view. The vivitar 24mm is  cracking little lens for 4/3 due to it’s almost 50mm EFL, good contrast, colour and sharpness (when not used at F22!) . It’s only let down by it’s tendency for flare indirect sunlight.


Cae're Nant Orebins

Along the battlements

Non photographically I learnt that Cae’r Nant is a Godless heathen land, which is best avoided unless you are part mountain goat!

And thus ended Day2, and there end this little tour.


Rhosydd & Cwmorthin

Time to get the Photos Rolling!

These were all taken on January 20th 2011, a perfect blue sky day, but the hills were incredibly icy in the shadows!

I stopped for lunch at the Cwmorthin Quarry barracks, and naturally fired off  few shots. It’s a strangely quiet place, seems a million miles away from nearby Blaeanu.

Mid-day sun in Rhes Cwmorthin

As I sat in the window of one of the barracks, I was passed by the farmer, who carried on up the valley, he in his Kubota mini truck and his sheepdog running alongside – how similar to my own Dexter,my Kelpie who seems to detest car travel! I caught up with him as he was just about to make his way down the valley again at the other end, arriving too late to catch the sheep movingin action. Never mind, it was all in shadow anyway I tell myself.

Farming in Cwmorthin

The whole track up the valley may as well have been a glacier. Very few patches had seen any sun that day, so I spent most of the trek in the frozen marshland, which was far safer than the official path!

Capel Rhosydd

Capel Rhosydd

Being a short January day, and being on the other side of a hill from the retreating sun, I didn’t get very long to shoot anything at Rhosydd quarry. Still it gives me an excuse to go back. It’s been 5 years since I first visited, and very little seems to have changed.

Rhosydd level 9

Rhosydd Barracks, 9 level

The gable wall on the Norh terrace of 9 level barracks is looking a bit worse for wear these days though.

During my short I did get to have a good play round with f1.8 on the GH1, but sadly the lack of light in the right places had to cut short my exploration. A far better trip than the first attempt, when I’d come up unprepared in just a T shirt, naturally the heavens opened at Rhosydd, and the descent to Tanygrisiau was somewhat cold and rather memorable!

Old Winch

Home-made Winch

Finally, a very careful trip back down the valley and back home for a nice warming brew!

What’s this button do?

Ooh this looks like fun! Or more accurately, this looks like a good way to spend the days I’m trapped indoors by non photogenic weather!

So let’s begin! Here I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself a little bit, I’m Alan (or Richard, or even Ray), and I like to take photgraphs. Not just any, but specifically dark, atmospheric ones centred on the bygone extraction industries that used to operate in these parts. These abandoned holes in the ground offer an interesting and rather poignant snapshot of times gone by, so wherever there’s rusty metal or crumbling masonary, you can find me there pointing a camera at it

For the record I shoot in both digital and good olf film. Photograhy is my passion, so you can expect a few deviations into the technicalities of photo equipment from time to time. What do I like photographically? Well I guess what I really like to see is gritty, high contrast B&W. There’s only a few things I hate in photography, and they would be overdone HDR, stupidly long exposure water shots and the over used pier/pontoon in a lake or lone pebble on a beach shots. Everything else stands a fair chance!

Right, that’s the intro out of the way,  now then, on with business!