The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week invites us to consider wild landscapes, untouched and unspoilt by the hand of man. I’m going to break the rules (no change there then). I thought a lot about what to showcase, but suddenly had a Eureka moment, and remembered a holiday in Anglesey, off the coast of Wales, some years ago. Anglesey is bucolic, pretty, with mighty seascapes as well. But in the far north of the island is something else, Parys Mountain.
Once, a century ago, Parys Mountain was alive with people: men, women and children hacking deep clefts and canyons into the earth, in search of copper-bearing rock. Now the area is bleak, desolate, abandoned. The poisoned sulphurous soil supports little but odd clumps of hardy heather. Yet this large site, with just a single set of abandoned winding gear, a single ruined mill is strangely beautiful, elemental, and we fell under its atmospheric spell.
As soon as I saw that this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge was ‘elemental’, my mind flew back exactly a year. This was when we were in Anglesey for a week with the boys. This was when we visted Parys Mountain.
What an extraordinary place it is. Its landscape is brutal, ravaged, yet strangely compelling, stained and despoiled by centuries and centuries of mining . The copper ore found there was exploited as long ago as the Bronze Age. The Romans knew it. By the 1780s it was the largest copper mine in Europe, and the ore mined here was used to sheath the wooden hulks of the British Admiralty’s war ships, protecting them from seaweed, barnacles and shipworm. Eventually, as the copper seams became exhausted the site was largely abandoned. An industry that once employed up to 3,000 people was by 1840 giving work to a few men, underpaid, undernourished and ravaged by typhus. The site is stained by leaching ores and acids and pools of chemical waters. A few grittily determined plants make their home here.
There’s still copper . They’ve recently discovered zinc, lead, silver and gold. Work at this extraordinary place continues.
Here we are in Anglesey, near Moelfre. And here’s the view on the walk along the cliff, in bright August sunshine. I thought of it when wondering about this week’s WordPress photo challenge: atop.
We’re more than half way through August. It ought to be high summer, but autumn’s on its way. As we walked down the road yesterday, a few crisp brown leaves blew across our path. Mornings start later, night comes sooner. The combine harvesters trundling round the fields seem almost to have completed their work. The shops are full of neat school uniforms and bright pencil cases ready for the new academic year.
Before it’s too late, here are some summer time views, from Moelfre in Anglesey. And because it’s British Summer time, the sea isn’t always blue and nor is the sky. But that’s fine: we expect that here in the UK.
Once, a century ago, Parys Mountain was alive with people: men, women and children hacking deep clefts and canyons into the earth, in search of copper-bearing rock. Now the area is bleak, desolate, abandoned. The poisoned sulphurous soil supports little but odd clumps of hardy heather. Yet this large site, with just a single set of abandoned winding gear, a single ruined mill is strangely beautiful, and we fell under its atmospheric spell.
Alex inspects a man-made crater at Parys Mountain
PS. This post was written on a borrowed laptop. As far as my phone goes, I can access my WordPress site, write and illustrate a post, then it tells me I can’t publish, as I don’t exist.
PPS. To add insult to injury, the borrowed laptop automatically spellchecked ‘Parys’ to ‘Paris’. Grrr