17 June 2014

Down with a guest

I'm writing this in some sort of glorified caravan park in South Wales. I have spent the day traipsing around the Taf estuary with 26 students, and will be ready to do it all again tomorrow morning at 4:45. Yes, AM. My thoughts aren't really with what I did a week ago, but I feel bad about doing things in the wrong order (sorry Marieke!). So here I am, writing about last Thursday's underground trip.

One of our regulars; Paul, would have a visiting friend, who would come with us, but had no underground experience. No complicated ropework this time, evidently! So we picked a slate mine, which was a walk in. And a pretty one; it was, again, a beautiful day, and abandoned slate mines tend to be very decorative. And Paul's friend; Lexi, turned out to be very nice. We also had Mick, who had been working in London for many weeks and would return to that before the next trip, with us, which was evidently a rare pleasure these days. So with an excellent group of people we walked along the spoil heaps to the entrance.

The adit we came in seems to have an outburst flood preventive system like I've seen them before; a concrete half-dam, intended to mitigate but not stop abrupt floods. It was quite interesting to try to get over that! But after that there were no major impediments and soon we reached a nice chamber, where we did a group pic, unfortunately without Dave in it because he took it. And underground the timer won't work; that is, the timer does, but if the source of light runs away the picture is no success.

 Phil, Mick, Don, me, Lexi and Paul. Pic by David

After a while we went on, and explored several chambers, some of which were enormous. One had a fault in the ceiling; I had never seen something like this! It was an actual gap. Geology come alive.

A chain in one of the chambers; I don't know why they develop these saucer-shaped appendages when they rust, but that they do is very beautiful!

I managed to take a rather spooky selfie

The fault in the ceiling, in the form of an upside-down gully

We went into one side tunnel that was very very dodgy. I did go to the end, underneath the collapsing timbers, because I figured the next time I'd go there it may not be possible anymore. And from there we went to the end. There was a nice white line in the wall; it was another fault,with clayey fault gouge in it. Nice! One day I might use pictures like this in a lecture. Such structures don't survive in the outside world.

The fault in the wall, with the fault gouge oozing out

We went back. We hoped to find the most interesting part of the mine, but nobody seemed to be able to remember where it was. And while going back to where the group picture was taken, a rock Lexi stood on moved, and her foot did too but not the most of her body, and she thus twisted her knee. Very unpleasant! But she was undeterred, and witnessed the map-confusion in the first chamber undaunted. But then Phil had a brain wave, scampered into a side tunnel, and found what we had been looking for. A chamber with lots of structures in! In the old days, you would have been able to see daylight from it, but it had been dumped full of mine waste. But if you went into the next chamber and suicidally climbed up a big, unstable slate slope, you did end up at a hole in the wall through which you could look out. Madness! But except for Lexi (knee) and Paul (sympathy) we all did it. It was nice! But then it was time to get out.

One of the structures

Mick had been given another amazing cake (the only other time I'd met him he had brought an adit-shaped cake; he must have friends in patisserie places) but had thought it'd collapse if he kept it in his hot car, so he invited us to his place. He made us a cup of tea and served igloo-shaped Victoria Sponge. Nice! His place was quite a sight to behold as well. He is a roadie, and his house speaks loudly and morbidly of his profession. But it was midnight, and we had to move on. And on Saturday we'd be out again. Time for bed!

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