Hidden gems: Newly discovered caverns to be opened


Cavern tours at Llechwedd have been happening since 1972, but nobody’s ever seen these two

Two caverns that have never been seen by the public are to be opened up as part of an expansion at the historic  Llechwedd Slate Quarry.

Staff at the attraction on the outskirts of Blaenau Ffestiniog had been unaware of the caverns’ existence since tours started in 1972. 

They were discovered when an inquisitive worker went walkabout and discovered them intact, with tools still lying there left over from when mining stopped in the 1960s.

The caverns will be opened up in autumn 2014 as part of an expanded new Heritage Tour incorporating the attraction’s existing Deep Mines Tour.

The £140,000 development will employ eight more staff.

Visitors will be able to do the extended tour with a guide on hand from start to finish.

It will begin with a walking section, and finish inside the Victorian deep mines, accessed by the existing deep mine train.

More stories of mine workers and their families are also being prepared to give people an insight into life in the  quarry.

One visitor on each tour will also be given the chance to start a blast – with a fake explosion to bring the attraction to life.

It comes as a second development at the site has caused some controversy.

Recently plans were unveiled by Quarry Tours Ltd and J W Greaves & Sons Ltd for a new underground rope climbing adventure centre.

But it would have meant stopping the popular Miners’ Tramway tours, as the tunnel to be used to access the ropes attraction is currently used by a small yellow tram.

The decision sparked the creation of a “Save the Miners Tramway” page on Facebook, with a petition which has attracted more than 400 signatures.

Writing on the page John Crosskey from Caernarfon pointed out the tramway can carry people with limited mobility: “The Miners’ Tramway should be kept open.

“There are ways of accessing the new attraction without closing the Tramway as in the original proposal and by other means.

“This tour can accommodate those with restricted mobility – the Deep Mine Tour cannot, yet another reason it should not close.

“The Tramway has been and is an important part of the Blaenau slate quarry history and should be retained for future generations to enjoy, not sacrificed for a quick buck.”

Last night quarry bosses said they have listened to the concerns, and although the tramway will have to shut temporarily to allow the underground climbing centre to open, it will be re-opened in 2015.

Llechwedd Quarry spokesman Michael Bewick said the expansion  would include an improved welcome desk and queuing system.

He said:  “It’s really lovely the way everyone cares about the little train.

“We are responding to customer feedback and have decided now to bring it back in 2015, we are just not sure yet in what form that will be, it may be as a smaller tour for children.” 

The quarry has suffered dropping visitor numbers for over ten years to the point where the future of the site was in jeopardy.

It’s hoped the new attractions will boost the tourist offer in the region, with a new zipwire attraction also set to open in Blaenau.

Source: Daily Post, by Eryl Crump, 17 Jan 2014




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