30 April 2014

Weekend run

I now have an established working day running route, which is rather spiffing, but when I wanted to go for a run on a Saturday I decided to go elsewhere. Running is a great way to see some of a country! And the Dutch chap in the office opposite me, who runs too (probably a lot faster than me) had recommended the Anglesey Coastal Path. So I thought I'd give it a try! I found a nice stretch along cliffs on the map and went thence. It was a beautifully sunny day! I scampered along the well-maintained and well-marked path, and took forever, as the route came past nice views and cute beaches and impressive cliffs all the time. And some nice people. I think I should do this more often!

I parked in Red Wharf Bay

It was a nice path for running

The path (the steps give it away) ran past and over some nice cliffs

Me squinting against the sun

It reminded me of Cornwall...

Nice fossil corals, too!

29 April 2014

Underground swimming: in Wales too

I first thought I couldn't join last week's Thursday underground trip, as it was announced to that week be on Wednesday. But that wouldn't be good; that day I had to be in Holyhead until rather late to get my seafarer's medical certificate for this summer's cruise. I would never have made it in time! But I was soothed by the thought that the next trip seemed to be something right up my sleeve, involving swimming in a mine to some previously unexplored level. But then the Thursday trip went reassuringly back to Thursday, and I did make it. But I still looked forward to the wet trip! Even though it would be quite far out on the Llyn peninsula.

We met up at a supermarket in town. Four of us gathered. That left two more; one that had asked me to pick him up, but who hadn't responded to messages and phone calls all day so of whom the attendance was now in doubt, and one chap coming from Blaenau Ffestiniog. We decided that given it looked like it was just the four of us, we might as well pile into one car. And we went in a beauty of a Rover from '72! I had to keep all my kit on my lap but that was alright.

Somewhere in the dark interior of Llyn we met the others. The elusive chap had tried to contact me to say he would get a ride in with the Blaenau chap, but that he hoped he could come back with me, but I had never received his message. Late now! But he took it like a man. And all together we drove to the entrance of the mine in question.

We first checked out a small adit next to the path. It didn't go far, but it did lead to some nice old man's workings. Then we explored part of the mine that had been used as a landfill. Dear! That was a bit bleak. It was a mine in black rock to start with, and strangely coloured oozes came out of all sorts of openings in the walls, which were infested with unpleasant-looking molds. And the accumulated garbage was unnerving too: quite a lot of the metal was so rusty you couldn't stand on it; your foot would go straight through. There was a big gas bottle in there too. Empty, one presumes, but can one be sure? I don't easily find a mine unsettling, but this one surely was!

 Descending into the rubbish. Pic by Linden

Dave, the owner of the Rover and the other School of Ocean Sciences employee, tried one inclined winze everybody else was too scared for (going up would be OK, but going down? Rather him than me!) and then we gave up on this part. And went to where the water body was we wanted to cross. After a bit of a look around we gathered at the shore, and I lowered myself in. Dave (every caving club needs at least one!) soon swam past, and got to the level that was our goal first. And seconds later he found out the level was filled up with stuff only metres further. Too bad! But we were having a nice time anyway. We all swam back, pootled around a bit, and then came out. (I tried to take a picture but screwed up. There are some on Flickr, like this one.) Where we were greeted by a pink evening sky with a rainbow in it to top it off. We were in a very beautiful valley near the shore anyway, and the view was just so amazing we decided to let the rest of that mine sort itself out. We were going to the beach!

 The flooded stope we'd swim. Pic by Linden

 The rainbow that lured us out! Pic by Linden

The beach was beautiful too. It started raining; we didn't care, we couldn't really get any wetter anyway. But when darkness ate the view we went back to the cars, changed, and then enjoyed the cake the chap from Blaenau had brought.He was leaving for London soon, not to return for months, and someone had baked him an adit-shaped goodbye cake. It tasted amazing too! And after the cake we went looking for a pint, which we found in Pwllheli. And then it was time to go home. It would be past midnight when I got back to my car. A long night for not very much underground exploration, but fun anyway. Next week I'm otherwise engaged, but I look forward to more daftness with this bunch after that!

 Pic by Linden

28 April 2014

After the house now the garden

It took me two weeks to get the house all sorted! But I have a garden too. I had used it; I sometimes drink coffee on the concrete steps, and when I have guests I sometimes drag some kitchen chairs out. But it was all a bit makeshift. And I have three summers here; it would be worth investing a bit in making the most of it. So after due consideration I decided to buy a classy wood four-seat furniture set. And the next day it arrived. After work I assembled it. And the next morning, when it was sunny, I dragged the table and one of the chairs onto the lawn and had my first well-facilitated al fresco breakfast! May many follow. And I hope there'll be al fresco dinners and BBQs and whatnot too!

26 April 2014

The struggle for broadband

Internet matters. I remember doing without. I remember the first emails I sent in university. I remember the dial-up connection I had in my little apartment in Amsterdam. But I also know I have good use for internet. It allows you to stay in touch with the myriad of people with whom you mainly stays in touch via forums and email. It allows you to phone your mum in an affordable way. It allows you to look up where places are, when they are open (if they are shops and such) and how you can get to them (fewer and fewer places are listed in the yellow pages!). It allows you to look up how things are done. How to replace the wing mirror of a car, how to repair your bike gears, how to wire a TV pug. I got myself broadband in York, and I liked it; it allows you to do a lot more at home. You don't want to have to go to the office on a Sunday in order to find out how to repair something! But of course, only 8 months later I moved house. I phoned my broadband provider to ask if I could move the contract with me. They said I could, but I would have to have a new connection made. Another man drilling through the wall to install a socket! She said she'd have a technician contact me to make an appointment.

I thought I'd better be prepared. I hesitantly brought up the topic of drilling through the wall with the landlord. He said there already were holes in it; for instance, there is a satellite dish attached to the wall. Did I want to use that? Well, no, I don't.So he grabbed the cable coming down from it and pulled it. He said we could use that. Just rip that cable out of the wall and shove another one through! So I figured I'd get ready for that. Let's disconnect that cable from whatever it was attached to, and check if it would move. And here comes the embarrassing part.

I traced the cable in. It clearly ended in a socket. It did look suspiciously like a phone socket, but hey, if the landlord says it's the satellite dish, then it must be, mustn't it? I regularly tell myself I should not be so easily lead; my instinct is to place too much weight in the judgement of others. It's one of the relics of my youth I am trying to get rid of, but it's hard. Maybe this episode will help...

Anyway. I took apart the socket and pulled on the cable. It moved! Good. So the wait for the technician could start. But nobody of that kind contacted me. I decided to phone my provider again, to see what the state of things was. The lady I had on the phone said I should be connected. I had a phone socket, didn't I? It should provide broadband. Hmm. Well, good news, but I'd liked to have known earlier! would it have been my daft Welsh address that had confused the other lady who had told me I wasn't connected? But anyway; it was time to re-evaluate my destructive work.

I walked around the house. That cable came from quite such a pole as where my York broadband cable came from! Oh dear. And the dish cable came out in another corner of the room. Oh dear again. I should not just believe people. Now I had naked wires sticking out of the wall and no idea how they had been fixed to start with. Note to self: when you take things apart, first take a picture so you can put it back together if necessary! 

I still had slow wifi, so I did what I do in such case: I googled my issue. Which cable goes where? Of course I was bombarded with lots of information that wasn't suitable. That dealt with different models of sockets, different types of cable, different issues altogether and whatnot. I found something that looked like an instructive youtube video but my slow connection didn't allow me to watch it. In the end I found a site that seemed to give the answers I needed, but they were shrouded in warmings. The socket belongs to BT! It is illegal to tamper with it! Don't touch the wires! Use the right tools or you'll never make it work! I decided to give it a try anyway, and just phone BT to have them re-install it (at an estimated cost of £130) if I failed. I wired the whole thing up again and went to bed.

 Margot's marvellous wiring

The confusion during the test phase

The next morning, with coffee and daylight, I plugged my modem in. The light saying "broadband" actually came on; a good sign! But my compute didn't want to connect. It claimed authorization issues. So I phoned the provider again. They checked, and said the problem was just that with a new address I had a new (theoretical) landline which the connection depended on. My computer was trying to connect to York! So she told me to reset the modem and then all should be well. Would it?

It would. I got my broadband back! So I took everything apart again, re-assembled everything in a neater way, and plugged the modem in in my bedroom, which by coincidence doubles as my home office, as there was a socket there too, and I figured the two must be connected. And it worked! I've been typing this wile being connected to the rest of the world. It didn't go the way it should have, but I have faster internet again! And I've learned a fair few things...

The much neater view when I had put everything back together to the best of my ability

25 April 2014

Bike issues solved!

When Rich would visit me in York we would often go into town or on a ride elsewehere on my two bicycles. But these days, I only had one that worked! So when Rich came to visit me in Wales he brought his own. And not only that; he brought a bike that had been gathering dust in his garage, for in case the black bike would indeed be irrepairable. And after two beautifully sunny days, which we spent in Snowdonia, we used a rather cloudy and windy morning to see if we could A) repair the black one B) make the new one road-worthy after its long hibernation.

 The dusty bike in Rich's shed

The issue with the black bike (earlier episodes here and here) was that the wheel tended to fall out. On one side the derailleur half blocked the slot the axle fits in. And that lead to it falling out on the other side. The garage had fixed that problem but replaced it with another (namely, that the wheel didn't rotate freely anymore), so we were still quite close to square one. But we decided to try to just file off the blocking bit of the derailleur. It looked like it would still easily be solid enough! So we did. And it seemed to work! I also replaced some random thing on the axle (not always a good idea) with a big washer for extra friction. And then we had to adjust the brakes.

Twiddling the brakes

The red bike needed some tuning of the gears too, and some air in the tyres, and adjustment of the saddle. Not much, really! And when we were done we decided to try them out. We went east. And they both seemed to be fine! When we hit a slope I found out the hard way the red bike has its gears tuned such that if you gear down the chain falls off, but after putting the oily thing back on a few times I learned to avoid the danger zone. And the black bike was fine! So we went all the way to Beaumaris. And that's not very far, but further than we took for granted.

Once in Beaumaris we had a small walk around, and bought soem food as all the shops in Menai Bridge were closed. And then we went back! I'm glad I didn't choose to live in Beaumaris; we were quite keen to avoind the main road, but the only feasible alternative starts with a hill that would guarantee a very sweaty arrival at work every day... So now I went from one working bike to three, all in one weekend. Opulence! Thanks Rich!

24 April 2014

Dinorwic Quarry - finally!

The first time I came to North Wales I saw Dinorwic Slate Quarry for the first time. And I was blown away! What do you imagine if you hear "slate quarry"? An unimaginative hole in the side of a hill? That is sort of what I'd thought. But Dinorwic is massive, complicated, and riddled with industrial heritage. Ever since I'd seen it from the other side of the lake I wanted to one day have a stroll around. That weekend we only saw the museum at the bottom, and later weekends we didn't go there at all. But now the time was right! It was still Easter weekend, still amazing weather, and we figured Dinorwic would be beautiful, but largely devoid of people, even on a day like this. So off we went!

We walked in, walked along a ledge to a tunnel that lead to another part of the quarry, where some climbers were doing a very difficult route (here it's done by its inventor), and then we walked up an incline. We admired all the remains along the way. There is a lot to see! And walking along we came to another part of the quarry, where the original ladders connecting the various levels were still in place. We went down a whole array of them! One was a bit daunting as it involved a change-over in mid-air, but that only made it more fun. And once we reached a level from which the only ladder down spelled suicide we walked along. And then the same thing on the other side! Up the incline, admire all the stuff, and then down again. This time we were back at the car at a sensible time. And we drove back home in only some 20 minutes. Isn't it great to live here! And we had time and energy left to go into town for dinner. And Menai Bridge doesn't offer as many possibilities for dining out as it does with outdoor exploits, but that's the right way around, if you ask me! 

The road to the quarry

 The first view into the quarry

The small red dots are the climbers!

Teessider viewed through rusty iron

Big mill for sawing slate

An incline we didn't climb

View into the laddered bit of the quarry. Notice the buildings on the far side for scale.

 Impressive chains

Me doing the ladder change-over

 Rich staring at a blondin (for those who follow that link: it's the same one!)

23 April 2014

Onto Moel Siabod

It was Good Friday, I had Rich visiting, and it was nice and sunny. Rich's visit was a bonus; we live on opposite sides of the country, I have a demanding new job that involves a lot of travel, and we'd only had had a month to go from first date to goodbye, so these are not circumstances in which one is tempted to keep a liaison going. But an Easter visit was quite a good idea! And altogether, it was a good day to venture deeper into Snowdonia. A good day in the sense that it wasn't a working day and one would have nice views from hilltops. Not quite a good day for having a hill for yourselves.

We had a plan for what route to take, but that was a bit of a way too commonplace plan; we wouldn't have had anywhere to park, and we would have been on crowded paths. So we drove around for a bit. Rich claimed to have a plan. At some point we turned off the main road to Roman Bridge, and parked. We were quite far from any hill, but at least it was quiet there! We could see a hill in the distance, which later turned out to be Moel Siabod, and we aimed for it. Unfortunately we had driven off the map, so we had to make a route up. And we made something up that wasn't too evident.

It started bucolic.

Then it got tiresome!

Here we had our goal in sight

To get to Moel Siabod we had to cross a broad valley. And it turned out to be rather swampy, and filled with annoyting plant life! But we got there, eventually. And the view got better and better with height. And it got more fun when we reached the ridge, and were clambering rather than trudging. Fun! And rather quiete, too; we only met two other walkers, and their dog. And fairly soon we reached the top. Very beautiful! And from there we had to improvise our way back to the car. We managed to avoid the swamp, but in return found ourselves on a forestry road that snaked its way through the woods in the most inefficient of ways. By the time we got back to the car we were sweaty, tired and thirsty, and by the time we got home (we didn't take the most efficient way) we were hungry and fed up too. But we had beer, the fire bowl, the bath and whisky to do something about that, and that was quite sufficient!

It got steeper and more spectacular

The top!

Panorama at the top

22 April 2014

Inside Snowdonia

I recognise a lot of roads in Snowdonia from trips with the PCG and YCC. But I was never driving myself, and I never had a clue where I really was! Now that has changed. I was driving to a parking lot I had parked before for underground reasons. And I had Rich in my car! He was visiting for the weekend, and he was quite happy to drive all the way from Teesside to some hamlet in Snowdonia, and to immediately get into his kit and go underground. So that's what happened!

We met the very small gathering, which were not as new to us as could have been. The man who had made my Bangor University staff web page was one of them, and one of the others (there were only 4) happened to be an old friend of Rich's. And soon we were on our way up the hill! It was going to be a lazy person's underground trip, with all the pitches going down, but that does mean, of course, you have to do all the up bit in advance, on foot.

They let me go first. It was a nice place! And after the first pitch, the second followed soon. And after the pitches were ladders. At that level we had a nice scamper around (well, some of it was flat-out belly crawling), admiring the stoping, colours, artifacts and whatnot. I was having a blast! We also tried some little holes leading away from the main levels. A bit of exploring is always fun! And this place had plenty of playground possibilities.

Rich modelling on a ladder

 A strange slide-like chute (or something) at the top of the last pitch

When we'd seen quite a lot we decided to get out. If we did it quickly, we would be in time for last orders in the pub! So we went down the last pitch, and wandered out of the adit. Which was level with the parkign lot. And the thought of bneeer let us change quickly. And we made it to the pub in time! This is a bunch I look forward to go underground with a bit more often. Next week there is some underground swimming involved! My favourite...

21 April 2014

Running route found

A good look on the map showed that on my first Welsh run, I had missed the Wales Coast Path by only some tens of metres. And that was a pity; it might provide a good route! So when I felt dynamic one morning I slipped into my running kit and gave it a go. I wasn't sure how good the path would be.

First it was a bit rooty, and then it got grassy. And then it got worse. I tried to scamper lightly over the field but it wasn't going to happen! Within no time I had sunk down in the gunk up to my ankles. That was exactly what I had hoped wouldn't happen. But such is life! It was only some 20 metres of swamp, and then I was on solid ground again. So with brown socks and shoes I scampered over the very scenic path. This was working out after all!

After a while I saw a junction. I turned off! Who knows where that would take me. It turned out it lead to a forestry track. Very nice for running! And I ended up underneath the bridge I tend to use when I drive to town. Blimey it was very impressive! If you drive over it you have no idea. I took some pictures and then went back along the Wales Coast Pat. Very very pretty. And it was a beautiful day! I was being a coward and went back to the road before I would reach the muddy patch. And then back up the hill! It had been beautiful. I think next time I'll see if I can do the uphill bit through a field. If so I have my route settled! And with such views I will have no problems motivating myself!

One of the two lions flanking Britannia  Bridge; it seems the original bridge was lower, and you could see these from it! Now you can cross that bridge endlessly many times and have no idea they're there...

The bridge from below

 Part of the Wales Coast Path

20 April 2014

High speed Welsh

When I went to Welsh class with Stella it took us some 2.5 hours to attend a 1 hour course. We had to get there, find a parking space (I was by car that day), find the room, do the course, take advantage of being in town anyway (she sorted something with HR and I had my keys copied) and get back. That could be more efficient! And I had heard of a class taking place close to the school. The School of Ocean Sciences, aka Ysgol Gwyddorau Eigion, that is. And it was not a beginner's class, but it was something to aspire to. One colleague who heard that I was interested advised me to join; the more people are learning, the easier it is to practice with people of similar level! So I mailed the teacher. She said I was welcome...

It is rather daunting to join an advanced class after having only had one hour of training. So I was glad to see only the teacher when I came in! She could stoop to my modest level. I was hoping nobody else would show up and I would get private tutoring. But no! Soon a lady came in. She turned out to be a Canadian ecologist who had been in Wales for 1.5 years. Oh dear! But the teacher immediately made us have conversations together. My brain was working at top speed! I had to learn the words and the grammar on the spot. And I was stammering and inelegant, but I managed to get the sentences right. It was going well! And then a chap I had met on my interview day came in. He turned out to be an American who had lived here for a year. He joined in too! And my previous lesson had not ventured beyond "hello, how are you? I am Margot! Bye!" but now we were inquiring after the other's parents and sibling and cats, and their ages and jobs and colours and whatnot. Blimey!

 The island (peninsula?) on which the local course takes place

My vocabulary exploded. But I held my ground! When the hour was up my head was spinning. I was very keen on only speaking English for a while! This had been hard. But the stubbornly going through the phrases in the course material and the repetitively listening to the CD for the pronunciation had paid off! The day after the CD was back. The next Monday is Easter, and the one after that I'm in Vienna, but I'm determined to keep up the self-teaching and to keep going with the Island course... I want to get to conversation level as soon as I can!

18 April 2014

Muscles saved

North Wales, the land of gaping caverns! Those who venture there should have a powerful lamp and big arm muscles. I have neither! But I wanted to make sure both would be within reach. I ordered a new lamp about a month before I left York; I expect it to show up any time now. And I wanted to hang my pull-up bar in a door frame again. But it didn't fit! Now what? I can hardly hang it in the office. But one should not be too dictated by pref-fab. These bars don't have to be in that position! Where are my girl guide skills? I managed to just tie them in a position that works. It's a bit wonky, but it won't come down, and I can now just get ready for any big-pitched slate mine that would offer itself to me! Bring it on.

16 April 2014

Hunting for shells

Sharing your office with loads of sclerochronologists has its perks. They need shells for their trade, and where do you find these? On the beach, of course! And new residents benefit from being shown some nice corners of the region by those who have had time to find them. So James and Paul took me and Stella to the beach on the west side of Anglesey, next to the rather nice peninsula Ynys Llanddwyn, to look for Arctica islandica's. One might remember the hoo-ha some time ago when one of them turned out to be the oldest animal ever recorded(which even features on the wikipedia page). But of course, they found that out by plonking it in resin, sawing through it, and counting its grown increments. In other words; while it was dead. The tabloid press wasn't impressed! But anyway; we needed some for training purposes and went to look for some that would be already dead, and that would in all likelyhood not have lived particularly long anyway. (The very old one came from cold, nutrient-poor regions where their metabolism is slow, and it takes them forever to grow to full size.) And we would get a nice scamper on the beach with James' dog to go with that!

Under grey skies we reached the beach. Penny, the dog, was immediately very happy. She desired little more than fetching the ball. We walked along the beach, which we knew to be shell-poor, to Ynys Llanddwyn. That is just rather pretty, with small beaches and a monastery ruin and a lighthouse and whatnot. And it has amazing pillow lavas! But then we had to get down to business. So we walked to the target beach and aimed our glance down.

 James leaning against the pillow lava

Penny and her dear ball, deciding she's not getting enough attention

The scenic lighthouse

We found several nicely big islandica's! And a useful species to keep an eye on, as it can easily be mistaken for islandica. And some nice shells that could make earrings, and a big whelk that was still alive and that I chucked back into the sea. And during our walk the sun came out! Snowdonia on Saturday, Anglesey sunny beaches on Sunday; I think I got it sorted out rather well!

The winter storms had severely eroded the dunes, exposing the beautiful cross-bedding

15 April 2014

Bike issues continued

My bike had been given up by Halfords. But I figured someone who could weld could still save it. Who can weld? Many people, but among them car mechanics. And there is a garage opposite the School of Ocean Sciences. So I had gone there and explained the problem. The bloke I spoke to was willing to give it a try! So I brought the bike in some convenient day. And the guy didn't waste any time. He had a good look at what the issue was, figured a big washer might be able to spread the strain, realised this would not be enough, welded a blob of weld on, figured it wasn't big enough, and set off perfecting it, but I was conscious of having to get to Parys Mountain in time. So I left him to it!
He was just cutting a piece off the massive washer he had found, but it looked specatacular!

On Friday I picked it up again. The man explained he had managed to get the wheel solidly fixed, but at the expense of its smooth running. He had tightened the nut fairly hard, to keep it in place in spite of the big washer underneath. I felt it; it indeed had so much friction it felt like someone had over-tightened the brakes. It was quite bad! But I had things to do. I wanted to take advantage of my empty office to phone my mum. She didn't answer, but instead both my office mates appeared, and suggested a visit to the pub. So I left the bike at the institute.

The huge washer (with bit cut off) the garage put on

 Notice the big blob of weld on the inside!

The next day I walked down to go and get it. When I biked up the tiny lane back to the road I wondered if I would make it home in that excessively heavy-going thing. But I did! It's more a strength training apparatus than a mode of transport. But at least it's reliable now! I'll see if I can do something about the friction. But even if not, I have a usable spare bike again. Not to be used on long trips, but good for commuting annex fitness training!

During the weekend I figured I'd have a go at perhaps tweaking the repair so the bike would lose some of its friction. I figured that perhaps a washer on the inside would increase the area of contact between wheel and frame. So I took it all apart! And noticed that indeed, this limited the amount of thread available for the nut that kept everything in place. I tried some other nuts (I rarely throw things like nuts and bolts away) but struggled to put the whole system back together again. Was that due to the washer? I don't think I'm done tweaking yet...

14 April 2014

Cymraeg, os gwelch chi'n dda!*

I like to speak the language of the country I live in. I really enjoyed learning Norwegian, and I enjoyed being able to speak it after a while even more! And now I had accepted a job in Wales. And not just anywhere in Wales: northwest Wales. That's where the highest concentration of Welsh speakers live. My induction into the university revealed the figures; only some 16% of Welsh are Welsh-speaking, but in county Gwynedd, that Bangor is in, the number is around 65%. I'm not living in Gwynedd by the way; Anglesey is its own county, where the percentage is lower, but still; more than half of the population here speaks Welsh. So I want to add myself to that group!

I had looked on the university website if there would be any courses. And yes there were! All starting in September. Bummer! I just bought a booklet and figured I'd not learn much before the autumn. But then, during the induction, the designated teacher gave a presentation. And she mentioned beginners' classes, starting soon! That was right up my street. I registered! And the day after my induction I gained an office mate, Stella; she was keen too. So the week after we ventured over the bridge for our first hesitant utterances in this ancient language. My first Celtic language!

We started with what you pretty much always start with; "Hello, my name is Margot. How are you? I'm fine, and you? Fine, thanks. Bye!" (Next week: the cat is sitting on the column!) But that was strange enough as it is. Then we practiced our pronunciation; it's where everything starts. And it's not easy if you've spent your entire life pronouncing an f like an f and a u like many things but never an i! But we tried our best, and the good thing is that Welsh is rather logic. Once you know what's what you're there. So bring on Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll and the likes!

Once I was reasonably confident in my pronunciation I went back to the book I had bought. That would make more sense now too! And we were even given a CD with pronunciation at the Welsh class, so we wouldn't slip into erroneous ways in the weeks between lessons. So now I can practice any time! I have already once brushed up on my Welsh during a boring part of a meeting... I hope I will be able to have a sensible conversation soon! So far I'll have to restrict myself to simple stuff like "Be' dach chi isio i yfed?"** but that's already a whole lot more than only a week ago!

*: Welsh, please!
**: "what do you want to drink?" And I did that by heart! Now let's just hope it's correct...

13 April 2014


When I went to york I made sure I had a caving club lined up. And that was one of the best things I did! So I figured I'd do the same thing when coming to Wales. But north Wales is not like the Vale of York; there is a lot of underground stuff going on! There is the North Wales Caving Club, for instance. And the Great Orme Exploration Society. And the Parys Underground Group. And probably more than that! How to choose? I mailed a few to inquire. Some we a lot clearer about their activities on their websites than others. It's quite clear where the Parys folk go: to Parys Mountain. But the North Wales folk? That could be many places.

Mailing around revealed that the Parys men were quite happy to welcome me from the start. The Great Orme people held off a bit. The North Wales people were very welcoming, but revealed they do a fair bit in eastern Wales: too far away from me. But they seem to have a western branch, and I was explained how to find them.

Then I got there. The first week I was busy getting the house sorted, and I had a massive cold in addition to that. (I always get a cold when moving house; I just take too much on.) So I didn't go underground. But the next week the time had come! I decided to start with Parys Mountain.

I drove up to the very easy to find parking lot. And soon after two more cars appeared, that turned to contain to PUG men; Lionel and John. And to their surprise, no more cars appeared for a while. But what did appear was a mountain bike with a lady on it. She asked what we were up to; when we said we were going underground she started jumping up and down in enthusiasm. So we asked her along! The PUG turns out to have quite a collection of boiler suits and wellies and whatnot. So she phoned her husband to say she'd be a bit later and off she went with us!

I had already changed in the car park, as I think is the thing to do, but it turned out the PUG actually has a small cabin for this activity. So luxurious! And the entrance to the mine is in the cabin. They have it sorted out...

 The landscape of Parys mountain, with the stump of the old windmill on the horizon, and the little cabin of the PUG on the left

We went down into the mine, joined by a chap called Ron, and saw the vertical bits of the mine tend to be laddered. Some of it with the original ladders! And the mine itself was beautifully orange and purple. It is a copper mine, but there clearly is a lot of iron in there too! And the puddles on the floor were Wheal Jane red. And Wheal Jane acid! The pH in this place is somewhere near 2 as well. And full of daft elements. I started to see why there were water bottles dotted around the mine; were one to get lost, one gets thirsty soon. You can't drink any of the chemical waste that drips and flows around there! But the snottites clearly liked it - there were everywhere, and they were huge.

Me and the snottites

 A decorative red puddle

We didn't stay long. There was a committee meeting planned for later! So we scampered to an interesting archaeological site in the mine, admired the sheer age of the place, and went out. We changed, said goodbye to Ceri the ad hoc mine explorer, and went to the pub. There we were joined by two more men, and the meeting could start. It was nice to get an idea of what the club was up to, but I was acutely aware of the late hour I had gone to bed the previous day, do to the power issues; and the upcoming visit to Liverpool for which I had to be fresh. So I started getting impatient. At some moment I decided I knew enough. I apologised and scampered off! I just plonked my caving kit in the garage, not bothering to rinse the acid out. I wanted to go to bed! Hopefully next week I will get underground again, and this time without the after-cave stress....