South Llyn-y-Pandy / Rhyd Alyn Mine

21 August 2015

Posted by
Jerry Gibbs

Naga Naga, Double Death Bombs

It was an earlyish start for some of the Teesside contingents but I was fashionably late.

By early, I mean it was supposed to be a 10 o’clock start which is not really that early; however when I woke that morning I found I had been blessed with a wood the size of a telegraph pole and Kath was keen to exploit it. I therefore blame Kath for making me late.

So, at half past 10, we finally set off; me, Chris and Aaron on a leisurely drive to the campsite near Mold. As we had plenty of time, I wasn’t in my usual race mode and thus I didn’t see Chris trying to hit the imaginary brake and I didn’t lift the vans rear wheels of the road either and I saved fuel too.

My reduced speed didn’t help Aaron though, he had planned to photograph the plaque commemorating the queen opening the M62 but as my reduced speed mode was still hovering around 90mph, the plaque passed us by in a blur.

There then followed a short deviation around the gridlocked M60, which is par for the course these days, then we were back on track.

We stopped briefly at McDonalds on the outskirts of Mold since Aaron can’t eat anything that’s not wrapped up, then set off to find the entrance to the South Llyn-y-Pandy / Rhyd Alyn lead mine.

It was a nice stroll along the banks of the river Alyn and we found a number of interesting holes which we thought we might, time permitting after our big trip, have a quick look in – how naive we were then.

After a minimal amount of time searching, the entrance was located and after some faffing which involved a conversation along the lines of “oh my god; how bad would it be if somebody dropped the key down the hole” the padlock was finally opened and the lid lifted for verification.

Then we wandered back to the van.

Next we looked for the a suitable pub near to the campsite and found two, The Royal Oak and the Cross Foxes but they were both closed until 7 which was disappointing to say the least.

Conveniently, just behind The Royal Oak was the entrance to Hendre Spar mine so we had a quick look in there via a rickety in-situe ladder; but armed only with the light from my phone and still dressed in decent clothes we didn’t go far.

On the way back down to the van, the heavens opened which is a polite way of saying it fucking pissed it down and we were forced to take shelter in some abandoned mine buildings for a bit before deciding that three blokes (well, two blokes and Aaron) might have looked a bit suspicious standing in a derelict building in a dark wood, so we left there with a plan to find a good venue for us all to dine in the following night.

By chance there was an Indian restaurant just up the road and we booked our party in for 8:30, working on the assumption that we would definitely be out by then – Chris hoping this more than most since he paid the deposit on the meal.

With the Royal Oak still closed and no chance of a swift afternoon scoop or two we thought we should find the campsite and set-up our tents. Thus we had put up our tents and cracked off a significant amount of ciders before the rest of the Teessiders and the Yorkies had even set off.

Many ciders later we found a Scouser with a burger van on the camp site and ordered some fine burgers with a hint of a special squirt sauce.

Aaron wasn’t so happy, he particularly wanted the Scousers special sausage in a bun and considered the burger to be a poor second best, despite the addition of a small squirt.

More ciders later and the rest of the group arrived then after a brief flurry of tent erecting activities, and some Yorkie faffing which may have involved more erecting activities, we finally set off to the pub.

Soon we were happily ensconced on a long settee in the pub and drinking copious quantities of cider, whilst Aaron drank the sort of weird and sickly blue drink that’s typically consumed by kids and men who bowl from the pavilion end.

Saturday morning I awoke with an immense pressure in my stomach which was caused by a build-up of wee and a build-up of gas. Since I was naked and still zipped in my sleeping bag, releasing the gas seemed like the simplest solution.

Little did I know but the rest of the group were rousing from deep slumber and thus my expulsion formed some sort of alarm call not akin to the dawn chorus.

Such was the volume and the frequency and the duration too that most of the group expressed their admiration for my achievement – although I’m sure that this view would have been completely different if they had been trapped in my tiny tent like I was – for it made my eyes smart.

It was still early but I thought a shower might be a good idea, I’m not quite sure why though since the shower ran for less than five seconds before the button needed to be pressed again and when I did press it, my clothes hanging on the back of the door seemed to receive more of the water than I did.

Others questioned why I bothered to shower since we were all going to get manky in the mine but as far as I’m concerned, it’s always worth a quick shower.

My mother always said about having clean pants since you never know when you might get run over and have to go to hospital.

Personally I think that after being run over, the state of my pants would be the last thing on my mind but clean pants are essential since one never knows when a surprise blow job might appear.

Breakfast for me that morning comprised of crap processed ham, sliced chorizo, spicy Mexican cheese, jalapeno coleslaw and chipotle sauce in a healthy tortilla wrap rather than a calorific bread bun.

Breakfast for everyone else comprised of a visit to Scouser Steve’s burger van; all except Matt that is who appeared back at the tents looking dejected.

“that Scouser took the piss out of me for asking for a vegetarian breakfast” he said as he started pouring hot water into a beef and tomato pot noodle.

I’m not sure what he expected, but it would appear that Scouser Steve’s version of a vegetarian breakfast is similar to mine – it’s a normal English breakfast but without any sausages and bacon.

May be if he had asked just for the other bits i.e. egg and beans on toast, he might have got a better response.

Aaron fared much better and actually received the Scousers sausage that he had so desired.

Whilst I spent a few minutes creating my lunch in a similar manner to my breakfast, Aaron started manufacturing his lunch too.

Much as I like to belittle Aaron at every opportunity, I have to give him praise when praise is due.

In the absence of a butter knife he showed me how a credit card is the perfect shaped implement to transfer butter from the tub to the bread bun in one easy movement.

Previous to that I thought the secondary use of a credit card was to scrape ice off the car window – using my wife’s card obviously.

The primary use being for cutting lines of coke of course.

And after a surprisingly minimal amount of Yorkie faffing we had left the campsite and were soon plodding into the South Llyn-y-Pandy / Rhyd Alyn mine.

Mr Balk told me this was a dry trip with nothing deeper than welly depth so with this in mind and being conscious of my own comfort, I wore thick socks instead of the traditional wetsuit sock which I find uncomfortable on long dry trips.

So it came of some annoyance to find many areas were considerably deeper than the ‘welly depth’ that had been suggested and suffice to say, my feet were wet from the offset and stayed wet for the duration.


Some facts

The Rhyd Alyn or South Llyn-y-pandy Mine was worked by an adit driven southwards for 256 yards from the river Alyn at Llyn-y-pandy, and from Coed Mawr Shaft at the east end of the vein. It was operated successively by the Rhyd Alun, South Llynypandy and Llynypandy Mining Companies at intervals between 1876 and 1906, and produced 6,840 tons of ore.

We descended some twenty or so dodgy ladders in various states of disrepair and decay and at minus three hundred feet or so we entered the Milwr tunnel which was our true destination for that trip.

There we were greeted by a small but perfectly operational train sitting on the track just waiting to take us to our destination. Sadly the owners of the train may have been wise to joy-riders and had hidden the starting handle so in the absence of a helicopter, hovercraft of any other form of transport, we set of walking.

We walked past numerous abandoned mining artefacts.

Pumps and power banks with batteries and charging stations were in one area whilst trains, tubs and the man riders sat on the tracks and in sidings in various areas of the tunnel.

There was more than one type of man rider underground too but for safety’s sake I kept the other type in full view at all times.

I did contemplate that my excessive consumption chilli might possibly be self-protecting but I am not planning to test that theory.

As well as my heavy consumption of chilli, I overdose on garlic too and as a result, I have never been bitten by a vampire so some aspects of self-protection must be true. In saying that, I have never been bitten by a shark either but that’s more to do with the knowledge that sharks only bite wet people so if I stay dry I am sure to be safe.

We mainly walked in the centre of the tracks by the side of a deep and fast flowing sough; the ground was un-even and the sleepers were slippery which made the going awkward to say the least. It was not helped by the tracks being submerged in some places and in others the track simply hung from steel frames.

It was in one such area that I thought walking on the decrepit planks between the tracks was a good idea, but this was only until I heard a cracking sound which was accompanied with a drop of a couple of inches; I leapt off the plank faster than the babysitter’s boyfriend when the car pulls up, then I walked the rest of that section balancing on one rail instead.

I waited with Sprog at the far end of that section as it seemed inevitable that somebody would actually fall in and we weren’t disappointed although to my surprise it was Cat who clearly wasn’t as agile as her feline namesake and fell in.

Whilst waiting, I thought it timely to syphon the python and during my wee (which was much more pressing than I had realised) I noticed a number of moths flying around which I thought strange as I had no idea what they were living on or how they had got in there in the first place.

This type of moth emergence normally occurs when I open my wallet but in the absence of my wallet, I could only conclude that they must have been in my underpants.

How they could live in such a hostile environment defies belief.


Some more facts

Digging of the Milwr Tunnel commenced in July 1897 at Boot End, Bagillt, from a point 9 feet below high water mark on the foreshore of the river Dee. It was driven up a gradient of 1:1000 at an average rate of 45 feet per week until 1957 when work was halted by sand running in; at this point it was over 10 miles long.

It successfully drained over 50 veins and created a labyrinth of over 60 miles of interconnected passageways and it still discharges an average of 23 million gallons of water per day.

When the tunnel finally closed in1987 it had produced around 200,000 tons of lead ore and 80,000 tons of zinc ore.


A long, long way along the tunnel we turned right up the Rhosesmor branch and eventually arrived at Powel’s Lode Cavern. Here we were greeted by a huge lake which was crystal clear but had a very tranquil blue hue about it. Its clarity invited a skinny dip but the slight blue hue caused me to question how long it would take before my skin blistered and my body dissolved.

After a little explore around, Aaron found a generator (that’s two good things he did) and with a swift pull of the cord and a roar of noise, the chamber was illuminated by the sort of light normally found in Olympic stadiums.

It was a bit of a novelty to see a chamber this size in all its glory and we marvelled at it for a half an hour or so whilst we had lunch.

My chilli laced wraps made my eyes water but when others also complained of watering eyes we quickly identified that it wasn’t the chilli or my farting that caused the problem; it was in fact, the generator. Quickly, before we all succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning we turned the generator off and made our way back.


Even more facts

The tunnel system intersects with many mines as well as several natural cave systems, including the remarkable Powell's Lode Cavern on the Rhosesmor branch tunnel. This is a natural passage at least 100 metres (328 feet) deep, at least 60 metres of which is taken up by a natural lake, though probably much deeper (its full depth is still unknown; thousands of tons of waste rock were dumped into the lake over the years without affecting its level). The cavern can therefore claim to be the highest such natural cavern in the UK


We started our return back along the same Milwr tunnel next to same fast flowing sough and the same trip hazard tracks.

The constant marching along with a unremitting view along a never ending passage induced a hypnotic state which was only altered when something of interest appeared out of the gloom or a stumble awoke the mind before the trip turned into a fall which may have resulted in a humiliating dive into the sough.

After a while I thought I was getting delirious and my vision was becoming impaired and was aware that I was stumbling more and more; it was only when someone else walked nearer to me that I noticed how bright their lights were compared to mine; thus I deduced that I wasn’t actually going blind. I changed the batteries in my lamp which improved the situation and was considerably better than the retina implant that I thought I needed.


Half way back we turned right into some huge limestone workings and here we were greeted by another working train and another generator.

Like the first train, this trains owner was also concerned about joy-riders and had hidden not just the starting handle but the drive belt too. The generator on the other hand, that was a worker.

In one particularly large chamber, a second floodlight was spotted bolted to the wall; putting two and two together we traced the cable back to a plug then dragged the generator along and hey-presto, this chamber too was illuminated in a spectacular style.

Like moths around a light bulb we were again oblivious to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and we all sat marvelling the spectacle until the generator stopped and the light went out.

At this point, the tunnels that lead back to the Milwr intersection were completely choked with a dense, acrid smoke. Fortunately us Teessiders are well equipped to deal with this type of pollution as our mutations allow us to breath even the most toxic of air and thus and we made our way out without a drama.


This area of the Milwr tunnel runs under the pretty village of Rhydymwyn which, in a former life was not pretty at all, for Rhydymwyn was the home of mustard.

Not the Colemans English mustard that often accompanies roast beef and sometimes Christmas pudding too, no, no, not that mustard.

The mustard manufactured at Rhydymwyn was the mustard gas used to indiscriminately kill and maim people during the war; early atomic weapons were developed there too.

Boffins at the plant thought it a good idea to stockpile it in the very mines we were strolling through and the evidence of its storage was in abundance. JD spent some time perusing through the abandoned storage chambers and the remnants of the chemicals were probably responsible for the ‘Father Jack’ mutation that JD experienced just a couple of weeks later.


Somewhere between the limestone workings and the Rhydymwyn storage areas I acquired a rock drill steel and thought is a good idea to carry out; now some would argue that nothing should be removed from mines, particularly historical artefacts however I know that if left alone, the drill steel would have rusted away to an orange stain in the mud. Now though, things are very different; the drill steel has been restored to its former glory and painted in a satin black which should preserve it for long into the future and it now takes pride of place in the pub. So there !


Thinking that carrying a drill steel home was a good idea, was actually only a good idea at the time of thinking it because we were still a couple of miles away from the South Llyn-y-Pandy / Rhyd Alyn lead mine and that alone involved more than three hundred feet of ladders (which would all have to be climbed one handed).

Suffice to say that any of the group who were climbing up the ladders directly beneath me did so in the fear of death since a slip from me would have very likely resulted in me dropping said drill steel and impaling whoever was beneath.


Once outside and back at the van, I stripped down to find all of my clothes to be completely soaked with sweat - including my clean-on pants. With no chance of wearing wet pants under light coloured trousers I searched through my bag for another pair although I’ve no idea why; I had packed light with only one change of clothing and as I learnt not to piss in my pants many years ago, I saw no reason to pack excess pairs. Now with my clean on pair soaking wet I could only curse and put the second hand pair back on.

Sprog suggested inside-out would justify them as being ‘clean’ but showed distain when we discussed back-to-front then inside out again being four wears and stepping through the leg hole as a waist and using the waist band as a new gusset would repeat the process; in theory giving sixteen wears between washes – we are getting into Chalky’s realm here.

Now wearing exactly the same clothes as I arrived in Wales in, I questioned why I had bothered with a shower in the first place rather than remaining as stinky as everyone else.


At the Indian, I chose Bengal Jal-fry as it sounded like a good starter although I had no clue what it comprised off, and Naga Delight as a main as I am drawn to anything with Naga written on it.

The food was particularly good; the Jal-fry was not what I expected but was really nice and hot too and the Naga Delight delightful as it seemed to comprised of mainly Naga chillies and very little else, I was in my element.

All enjoyed their choices except for Aaron who was unable to find anything pre-wrapped on the menu and settled for a cheese omelette instead.


Back at the campsite we were all stuffed from the Indian and shattered from the trip so there wasn’t a huge amount of drinking to be done before most people retired but not before the fart tape was discussed.

Whilst I am aware that I seem to fart more than most, I had assumed that most people could fart a reasonable tune and that most people would want to record such farts for prosperity.

So it came as some surprise to find that I was the only person who had completely filled a Sony C60 tape with every fart I had ever done over a two week period, just for my own amusement; and I was more surprised that everyone else hadn’t even contemplated it let alone attempted it.

Obviously they will be appalled when they phone me to find I periodically fart into the phone rather than actually say hello.


At some point during the night or early in the morning I slipped into a terrible nightmare (or disturbed dream as I call then since becoming and adult) and I struggled to get out of it.

I’m not sure of the circumstances that generated this nightmare for it was too terrible for my memory to recall but it culminated with an old witch standing right behind me with her nose nearly touching the back of my head.

I had no idea why she was there of how long she had been there for either but it shit me up. So much so that I woke myself up with my yelling (or may be screaming). Then, once awake I curled into a little ball and hid at the bottom of the sleeping bag for safety.


Some years ago I was pissed on by a witch – well I called her a witch anyway – and after that I gained immortality. Ever since then I have never died but periodically I have to protect myself with an invisibility cloak which I normally refer to as a sheet although that particular morning I used a sleeping bag instead.


Later that morning I awoke with the same amount of pressure I normally have in the morning and released it in the normal way then trundled down to the campers toilet for the first of the mornings output – all well and good, all fairly normal I thought.

I breakfasted on the standard sweet chilli wrap stuffed with the last of the spicy cheese and the remains of the jalapeno coleslaw whilst others also keen to be tortured paid another visit to Scouser Steve’s burger van.

Half an hour later, the input of spicy wraps combined with the exertion of packing my tent away and awoke the Naga within me and shortly after I felt the impending need for some more output. I set off with a purposeful stride towards the campers toilets but spied another youth also heading in that direction. Instinctively I picked up the pace as I was sure we were both vying for the same thunder box, and I wasn’t wrong. He picked up the pace too and beat me into the toilet block by a fraction of a second; in his haste he made a critical mistake and turned left towards the shower and thus my way to the trap on the right was clear, I was on the home run.

Then, etiquette got the better of me as the youth realised his mistake and turned to face me with an expression that said “oh my god, I was so close to shitting in the shower tray”.

Feeling sorry for him I allowed him to take pole position in the trap and suddenly it was I who was contemplating shitting in the shower tray.

As luck would have it, the posh caravaners toilets were in easy walking distance (which was nearly a sprint for me) and I found myself entering the palatial ablutions with not one but five thunder boxes to choose from.

I’m never very good with too much choice, I get lost in the enormity of it all. I struggle in Indian and Chinese restaurants, and for this reason I often plump for the chefs recommendations as a copout but here in such luxurious surroundings, the choice of which thunder box was taken out of my control as my sub-conscious took over and I burst into the nearest one whilst unbuttoning and undressing – and not a moment too soon either I might add.

It was in here that I laid a bum egg which will be formally known as a Naga Naga, Double Death Bomb.

This was way beyond the acrid air that I expelled the previous morning as this melted all surfaces and generally caused more damage than the Hiroshima bomb. I actually wondered if I had ingested some mustard gas at some point during the previous day.

Fortunately the place was empty but I silently apologised to the poor unsuspecting sods who were going to follow me in.


Since the Yorkies had declined a Sunday trip underground, sighting aches, pains and wet furry suits as a glib excuse, they packed and decided to leave and as I had no wish to be incarcerated for blowing up the posh toilets, we left around the same time.


I was a little disappointed with the general Sunday despondency and was not overly enamoured at the prospect of wasting a day so soon after we set off I was badgering Mr Balk to find us something underground on the way home.

He found two things; one was Stockport underground swingers club, which sounded quite good but not at the forefront of my mind on a rainy Sunday morning and the second was Stockport underground air-raid shelters which suited my mood a little better.

But first I had some more business to sort out as I felt another Naga nagging away inside me.


They don’t call me ‘three sheets’ for nothing; “El señor, e needa three scheets every morning”.


And so as we arrived in a wet carpark in Stockport, my focus was firmly fixed on finding another thunderbox.

After a short walk from the carpark, we came across a high street where I was convinced we would find a café and thus a toilet. My body thought similar and doubled my urgency but it succeeded in only causing me further discomfort as there was no café to be found.

Eagle-eyed Mr Balk spotted a Weatherspoons, the timing of which, couldn’t have been better and they were hosting a cider festival too.

Whilst I clocked the special offer of a pint of marmalade breakfast cider for £2.30 I was already in sprint mode. I did however marvel at the amount of people going up to the bar with already emptied glasses despite it being only 10 in the morning. I have to hand it to those Stockport people, I thought my cider intake was excessive but some people in there had taken it to a new level.


As I sat for the third go that morning I was frustrated to find the toilet roll holder was a centrefeed one that only issued single sheets in the form of a thin rope.

As a folder, I can never work out why some arsehole (no pun intended) would design a centre feed toilet paper dispenser.

It drives me to despair as I have to sit and unravel each sheet and lay them neatly on top of each other before I can contemplate shitting, let alone wiping. And believe me, after the second Naga Naga, Double Death Bomb, there was some wiping that needed to be done.


Whilst we waited for the air-raid shelters to open, we spent an hour drinking free refill tea and ogling a fine figure of a girl sat on the next table; then just around the time that her father had clocked us staring, we set off to spend an informative few hours wandering around the air-raid shelter complex that had been hewn into the soft sandstone. All very interesting.


Driving home was a fairly sedate affair by my standards but bizarrely, on the M62, just as we approached the queens plaque again - and Aaron was starting to cream himself, we were slowed by signs warning of an accident.

Aaron was as excited as a blind poof in a hot dog factory as we slowed more and more and although there was no obvious accident or apparent reason to slow, we ended up travelling at less than 15mph when we passed the said spot.

Aaron was in his element and was clicking away with his camera in a feverish manner and furiously fiddling with the shutter; I thought I would have to pressure wash the seats when I got home.