Welsh Cakes and Snottites

Heather who is a member of the Dudley and also North Wales Caving Clubs organised this trip into the Parys Copper mines on Anglesey. Breakfast is always essential on these trips so I set of at 4.45am so we could meet up in North Wales for breakfast at 8am when the cafe opened. A hearty breakfast and a couple of cakes later we were able to set off to meet the rest of the team for the trip. The Parys Mine is located in a desolate almost Martian looking area on the top of Parys Mountain in where centuries of open cast mining and the tipping of spoil from the mines have left a large area crater marked and strewn with multi coloured spoil from the copper mining. The area has been mined from the Bronze Age, although most of the evidence of this has been wiped out on the surface from decades of open cast mining and the tipping of spoil from the deeper and later mines. The entrance to the Parys mine, dating back to the Victorians takes you down a series of rock steps down to the mined levels. The evidence of the Victorian miners can bee seen from the deeply incised clog marks on the steps.

Heather, Keith and Rob at a flooded stope
Heather, Keith and Rob at a flooded stope

The high mineral content of the rock makes this an interesting an colourful place, the rocks, formations and even the water is brightly coloured, making this a great place to photograph.

Crystal Pool Parys Mine
Crystal Pool Parys Mine

The sulphur and metal content of the rock along with the damp conditions makes this the ideal home for snottites, the extremophile colonies of bacteria that dangle like stalactites from the roof of the passages. These digest the sulphur in the rock producing sulphuric acid as a by product which give the water in the cave a very low PH. The snottites quiver with every drop of water that drips from them and the slightest breeze of air makes them writhe like tentacles, they look horrid in the photos and are much worse close up!

Snottites in Parys Mine
Heather views snottites in Parys Mine

After mining had finished drainage levels were dammed to allow the mine to flood. This was to leech the metal content from the mine and spoil, the water then being taken to precipitate the metals. This process ceased but the dam remained in place meaning the mine stayed flooded for a number of years. In recent years the mine has been drained to prevent the possible breech of the dam causing catastrophic flooding in the town of Amlwch that sits below the mountain. In the lower levels that were flooded now remain some very bizzare dried snottite formations.

Dried snottites Parys Mine
Keith views dried snottites Parys Mine

The flooding of the mine and the very acidic nature of the water means that most of the timbers are rotting away, making some places very “interesting” as here were the disintegrating timbers are supporting tonnes and tonnes of deads.

Stacked Deads in Parys Mine
Stacked Deads in Parys Mine

In one area of the mine the Victorain workings intersected some of the Bronze Age mine workings. In this section there is still in place the round hammer stones that the Bronze Age miners used to break up the ore containing rocks.

This is a really facinating place and a photographers paradise.

3 thoughts on “Welsh Cakes and Snottites”

  1. Great report Brendan – what a great splash on to the blog! 😛

    I agree, those snotties are horrible looking – I’ve never come across them myself, and reading your description of how they “quiver” and how they are “much worse close up” make me glad not to have done! 😕

    Looks like you are using quite a wide angle lens for these shots (and a lot of flash light)?

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