The iron mines of Fforest Fawr

The forest

This is the Fforest Fawr by Tongwynlais near Cardiff, not any of the many other forests called Fforest Fawr in Wales.

The whole of the forest is filled with remnants of iron mines, mostly just small depressions. Two of these are significantly large enough to deserve pictures, and unlike most of the others, actually contain some accessible passage. Both of these lie right beside the main path, unknown to most people who walk right beside them. They are fenced off as they both contain large drops where the ground has collapsed into them. One of these (just a couple of metres from the path) would land in deep water several metres below. Unlike the nearby Lesser Garth, there is no natural cave passage on this side of the valley.

  1. One of the alternative routes through the forest - invisible to the left, the first mine straddles the seemingly empty forest between here and the main path - this picture was taken during daylight, but the tree cover reduces it to this gloom
  2. A more open part of the forest

Three Bears Caves

  1. The mine entrance is an enormous crater, completely invisible from both the main path and the alternative route through the forest, even though it lies just a few metres from the main path
  2. Taken a while later on a blazingly bright day, the crater can be more easily seen Photo by Chris Poole
  3. Inside the crater are several short passages - the two on the left are only a few metres long each - the one on the right under the double rock bridge has a significant passage
  4. Looking out of the passage under the double rock bridge
  5. The passage descends steeply over rubbish and flood debris, to reach the mine face after about 50 metres
  6. The mine face, where the vein can be seen in the roof - the two largest boulders on the floor are actually fake, made of painted polystyrene
  7. Parts of the walls of the passage are covered very foolish fool's gold - artificial sparkling pieces of hexagonal fake gold - this mine was used as the location of a film set; the dragon's cave in the BBC 1989 dramatic adaptation of Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  8. Looking up from the end of the passage

Blue Water Iron Mine

  1. A few metres from the main path, yet unseen by most walkers and cyclists, the ground falls dramatically into a deep gully
  2. A side path offers an easier way to reach the entrance gully, and is actually quite obvious from this direction
  3. The fence at the end protects the entrance to the flooded mine passage
  4. Falling debris is slowly filling in the mine, but the water at the end is still deep and the passage continues underwater - this was also used in the BBC 1989 dramatic adaptation of Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as the place where Eustace was restored after being a dragon
  5. Calcite crystals, upto a centimetre across, cover parts of the walls of the gully
  6. Just a little further downhill is the adit that drains the mine - the arch in the brickwork shows the size of the passage, which is only about 10 metres long
  7. The adit collects the seepage water that runs under the gully between here and the main mine gully
  8. Although not as large as the main gully, this appears to have been dug not just for drainage, but also to extract iron ore from the vein

Old vs. new

  1. From the art of the old mines to the blatant destruction of the new limestone quarry - I have a lot more respect for the old miners