Friday, March 10, 2006

Copper Mining in Anglesey

Archaeologists tell us that copper has been mined in Anglesey for 3,500 years. A similar story emanates from the Great Orme, the headland at Llandudno. In Anglesey there were two mines. The Parys Mine was owned by a family in nearby Dulas (pronounced Dillas) and the Mona Mine was in the ownership of the Marquess of Anglesey. Back in the earlier part of the 19th century the mines were beginning to fare badly. It was probably down to poor organisation.

The Marquess of Anglesey decided to do something about the Mona Mine and recruited a Cornishman, James Treweek, as his mine manager. Treweek had experience of copper mining in his native Cornwall and recruited quite a number of Cornish families to come and live in Anglesey to work in the mine. As far as the mine was concerned, James Treweek was successful in vastly improving productivity, and eventually became the supremo of both mines and the ancilliary trades too.

Cornwall was and remains an area where Methodism rules OK. Treweek was a Methodist and a local preacher. When he came to Anglesey he worshipped at the Wesleyan Chapel in Wesley Street, Amlwch where was the port through which the copper passed. The whole island was Welsh speaking, so Treweek learned to speak the language and began preaching at the Welsh Services. He realised that his workers needed to worship in English and so he arranged to lead English services at the Wesleyan Chapel.

Later he realised that the ideal situation was to have an English Methodist Church. He organised fund raising and in 1830 the English Methodist Church opened, further up Wesley Street. Pew rents were the main way to raise the cash needed. A few years later the chapel was extended to become the church building we see today.

It was and is a small building with a maximum capacity of about 120 people. It stands with its side to the street, unlike most free churches whose front faces the street. This makes it quite easy to walk past it without realising it is there. It is built in the Cornish style with a centre aisle and is very condusive to worship.

A considerable amount of time has passed since copper was last mined on Parys Mountain where the two mine stand. The land surrounding the old mines is multi coloured with reds, oranges, yellows and greys to be seen everywhere. The great opencast is a huge hole dug out over a long period of time using very dangerous practices and causing many deaths at work there. It was a hard life for the families employed there, but probably no harder than the life of a slate quarryman on the mainland. I refer to families because wives and children all came to work at the mine. The children used to carry large lumps of ore to the women who broke it up into smaller, useable pieces for onward shipment.

Visitors to the island can take a look at what remains of the old mine workings. There is a heritage trail which takes you all round the various parts of the site and there is a great vantage point for photographing the Great Opencast. At the start of the trail you can buy, using an honesty box, a copy of the Copper Trail map in Welsh or English. On top of all this interest you get fit doing the walk! My wife and I have done the trail and enjoyed it. But take heed, if you have any disability, because the trail is level for most of the walk but changes to a steep hill towards the end.

Down at the port there is an old sail loft which is now a Heritage Centre, dedicated to copper mining and other aspects of Amlwch. It is most informative and you can get an excellent cup of tea or coffee with a sticky bun or a biscuit in the cafe there. The port was an important part of the petro chemical industry not long ago when super tankers used to moor off the coast and discharge part of their cargo before offloading the rest on Merseyside on the mainland. At the seaward end of the port you will see the modern docks used by the service vessels of the oil industry. Right next to them is what remains of an old dry dock when ships were built and maintained at Amlwch port.
 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mynydd Bodafon in the Snow

My readers will recall that it was my intention on St David's Day (1st March) to take some pictures near Mynydd Bodafon(Bodafon Mountain) on the island. Well here is a picture of the lake close to Bodafon Mountain, a favourite beauty spot of mine. The lake surface is partially frozen but is a beautiful mirror of the sky.

There are all sorts of birds visiting this place all year round. Last summer I saw a cormorant there and often see coots and moorhens together with two families of mallards. I love this place because our first family holiday in Anglesey was in a farmhouse part way up Bodafon Mountain. At the end of the track there is still a bent sign saying "Clegir Farm." My wife, Pauline was frightened when I pulled over and parked the car in the snow which was six inches deep. As it was on the level there was no problem really. After all, I had to stop the car and get out to take my photos!

Earlier in the day there would have been more snow in evidence but then would not have been a good time to try and climb the hill as snow was still falling. The supermarket rang this morning to say their vans were off the road because of the snow and would not be able to deliver. We therefore went to our local smaller supermarket and shopped there without fuss. For two days we have been waiting for a coal delivery as our supply is getting low. The man did try to make it but began skidding in his truck and turned back. I should explain that the coal is for our multi fuel stove and that we do have oil central heating. We shall not get too cold - don't worry.

Many of the island's schools closed for the day because of the snow. There are fleets of buses which go round collecting students from all over the countryside and these were unable to complete their task. Not only that but the market at Llangefni did not happen and the library there close half way through the day. You can tell that Anglesey is not used to snow and does not know how to organise when it falls. Where we used to live in Rochdale and Oldham area life would carry on as normal. The only change would happen if really heavy snow were to fall and prevent workers and students getting home at day's end. Then the order would go out to close down early.

After saying all this, we discovered that the south side of the island had seen no snow at all this week. You could driver along the A55 and see green fields, not white. But the new beauty created by the snow was worth recording on my camera. There will not be many chances to repeat the experience over the years.
 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

St David's Day 2006

Yes, today is the day of the Welsh patron saint. It also marks the opening of the Senedd in Cardiff, the new home of the Welsk Assembly Government. The Senedd is due to be opened at lunchtime by the Queen and she will be accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. There will be one significant input from Anglesey with a fly past of four Hawk jets from RAF Valley.
But even more significant today is the coming of snow to the island. Because our climate is so mild we do not see much snow, but today it has fallen and Anglesey looks so different. Later I shall be going out with my camera to record the scene at some of our beauty spots. I am looking forward to seeing Bodafon Mountain in the snow.
For those unfamiliar with the location of Anglesey it stands just off the North Wales coast to the west of Snowdonia. I live on the north west coast which is the most northerly point inWales. 62% of the population speak Welsh and, as throughout Wales, all public signs are in both Welsh and English. Thus, when you drive on our roads and approach danger spots you will be warned by a sign in white paint on the road, "Araf, Slow." Where a town or village has an English name the sign will give the Welsh name too. Menai Bridge is Porthaethwy in Welsh.
Thomas Telford was an engineer whose task it was to build a road from London to Ireland. He decided on the route of what is now the A5. Outside Bangor he had the problem of spanning the Menai Strait which he solved by building the Menai Suspension Bridge, the largest of its type when completed. The road then continued in a fairly straight line across Anglesey and across a causeway from Anglesey to Holy Island on which stands the old town of Holyhead or Caergybi. It was not long before Robert Stephenson was tasked with a railway line to cross to Holyhead for transfer of passengers to the ferry to Ireland. This necessitated building the Britannia Bridge just south of the suspension bridge. Here another new type of bridge was constructed. It was a tubular bridge. Huge square tubular sections were lifted into position to carry the railway. Back in the seventies some children accidentally caused the pitch in the tubes to catch fire and the bridge was badly damaged. A new plan evolved where a new rail deck was built, supported by a massive steel arch over the water. It was strong enough to carry a road deck at a higher level and this is now the main route onto Anglesey.
In the last few years the North Wales Expressway, the A55, was extended from the Britannia Bridge across to Holyhead, relieving local traffic and speeding up the journey to the ferry port. This is our only dual carriageway road. The A5025 goes around the north of the island and meets the A5 at Valley (Y Fali) crossroads. This road has a number of places where motorists have been killed. It is a safe road if used with commensurate care but budding racing drivers cause severe problems.
Many small roads and lanes criss cross the island to make most places easy to access. It is when you use these smaller roads then the beauty of Anglesey manifests itself on a big scale. There are wonderful vistas in any direction and a landscape photographer is in his/her element.
On the south of the island we have a racing circuit which is put to continual use by many motorsport enthusiasts. The latest addition to Anglesey is the new pedestrian bridge from the ferry terminal to the centre of Holyhead. It is still unfinished but its shape is obvious and it looks both modern and grand.
Watch this space for historical Anglesey. It is a very ancient place indeed, full of barrows and standing stones!