Aberllefeninear Corris – 23, 20, 50 & 2 Cannon Holes
This is the second in what I hope to be a series of caches near to rock cannon in Meirionydd.
Rock cannon can be found all over north-west Wales, especially near mines and quarries. The cannon were created for firing on celebrations & holidays and were used from the end of the 1700’s until black powder stopped being used in the slate industry. The introduction of sticks of gelignite led to a different style of cannon being devised that didn’t need any holes in the rock.
Making a rock cannon was hard work. All of the holes and grooves for fuses had to be cut with hand tools (please remember this if what you find doesn’t look that impressive!). The cannon were cut into the tops of cliffs, slabs of rock or large boulders, the biggest having nearly 200 holes and the smallest having just 2. Each hole was about 5” deep and 1” in diameter. The later cannon had grooves connecting the holes which were filled with black powder to make the fuse. The channels had to make a long enough fuse for each separate bang to be heard and each flash to be seen.
The Bluemaris cannon were cut into shale like slate slabs. They can be found on left of the Public Footpath, after it has passed through the quarry remains, starting from Aberllefeni. Some of the explosions have shattered the rock, possibly because too much explosive was used in them or the powder was rammed too tight into the holes before firing. The cannon are a bit hard to spot. If you get to Bluemaris house and haven’t seen them, you’ve gone too far! I first found these cannon after a day’s “adventure industrial archaeology” in the nearby Cwm Ratgoed. This valley has some beautiful walks too.
This cache lies just outside the boundary of the Snowdonia National Park. When the boundaries were drawn up, many of the slate quarries in Gwynedd were still working and the easiest solution for the people planning the National Park was to draw the line around them and ignore them! You can also see this effect on the map around Llanberis and especially around Blaenau Ffestiniog too. The Snowdonia National Park a.k.a. “Parc y Polo” the only national park with a hole in the middle (but no minty flavouring…).
The best approach to the cache is to park in Aberllefeni, near the still operational Wincilate slate works and next to the old quarry office. You’ll know you’re in the right place, because this still has the bell on one end of the roof that was used to signal the start and finish of the working day, and emergencies at the quarry too. Behind the old office is a bi-lingual information board with details of the walk which passes the cache and some other walks nearby. Follow the Public Footpath on a good, wide track through the spoil tips. Eventually you will pass the head of an unusual water-balance incline which was used for hauling rock up to the level that you are standing on. The drum, brakes, rails, cable and water tank are all still there – it’s worth a look. On the footpath, just beyond the water balance, you might feel a cold blast of air. This is coming out of an adit, buried under spoil. Can you spot it? Keep following the Public Footpath to find the rock cannon, which are not as spectacular as at Carreg yr Ogof (sorry!). To get to the cache, keep following the Public Footpath up the cwm. You will need to climb a rock stile and cross a stream on the way.
The plantations surrounding the old quarries are owned by the Forestry Commission and are designated Access Land under the CROW act. The old quarries and mines here are definitely not for exploring. They are the property of the Wincilate slate company and although they are currently inactive, they may become active again in the future. Please stay on the Public Right of Way in the quarries.
Once you’ve found the cache there’s lots to do nearby. There are facilities (café) in Corris Isaf, there’s a mine you can go down at Arthur’s Labyrinth (and a café & shops), there’s the short steam railway at Corris and the Centre for Alternative Technology (which has a shop and a café too). Thinking of all these cafes makes me feel like a cup of tea. I’m off the put the kettle on: enjoy the cache!
Books (Industrial Archaeology)
“The Rock Cannon of Gwynedd” by Griff R. Jones ISBN 0-9533692-1-8
“Slate Quarrying at Corris” by Alun John Richards ISBN 0-86381-279-1