Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I managed to get my tent packed up before the rain rolled in for what transpired to be a utterly miserable day in the Welsh valleys. Just as well the nice bike ride was on the Saturday and I'd set Sunday aside for a couple of industrial museums close by in Blaenavon. While not nearly as extensive as the fantastic museums at Ironbridge, there was enough to keep me interested to want to wander around in the driving rain for a few hours.

First up were the ironworks, of which there were the hearths of the a couple of blast furnaces, a couple of old casting halls, the remains of lime kilns & charging floor, and the shell of a huge balance tower (a water operated lift for lifting carts of pig iron ten metres or so). The audio explanations dotted sparsely around were excellent in explaining what it was like for those iron workers. The site is of note for the pioneering of basic steel-making which enabled high phosphorus ores to be used.

A little down the road is Big Pit, an old underground coal mine (of which, there were of course many in Wales once upon a time) that is now the National Coal Museum.  It closed over thirty years ago and opened shortly after as a coal museum.  The big attraction is the chance to go down a coal mine.  It's not far, less than a hundred metres down.  As it's still regarded as a mine, our small group donned hard hats, miners' lamps and emergency gas mask before we could enter and gave up any item containing a battery, matches, lighters etc.  The tour was very well done and most informative - nicely it hasn't been sanitised too much for the public, so there's plenty of opportunity to bump one's head or fall over in the dark.  Not quite as much fun as my previous trip underground in to a fully operational pit under the Waikato River back in NZ - but interesting all the same.

So I only managed a few pictures of the cage and winding mechanism - with the weather, they're really quite poor.

Back above ground there are a few things to look at - the restored bath house that the miners used has some good exhibits in.  A good visit & nice to be out of the rain.

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