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Strangely Beautiful But Dangerous: Mynydd Parys in the 1940s

© Croeso Cymru / Visit Wales

Despite dire warnings by our parents that we were on no account to go there because of its sheer cliff faces and open mine shafts, most of the children who grew up in Amlwch during the last war spent many happy hours playing around the scarred lunar landscape of the former copper mines of Mynydd Parys. 

© Boguslaw Mazur | Dreamstime.comHealth and Safety regulations were unheard of then, and as there were no adults present to chide or to guide, there was no limit as to where our imagination could take us over its broad heather and spoil covered slopes.  In a way, the whole strangely beautiful, dangerous and therefore exciting landscape was there for us to do much as we wanted with, and in this way it became in our minds ours by default.

For that reason it found a place in our hearts, for no one else seemingly cared for the place, and it became nothing more than an unofficial rubbish dump.  The noise and bustle had gone, but in the silence broken only by our laughter, the shrill call of a falcon, the distinctive croak of a raven or the barking of a fox, it became for us boys a magical place full of benign ghosts from another time.

We knew little of its former glory as a mine which briefly governed the world price of copper, or the incredible story of Twm Chwareu Tég, the local entrepreneur whose then-novel business strategies have since become the norm.  All we knew was that Trefor's grandfather had been a miner there, and Mair's grandmother was once a "copper laddie," which to our minds was all the more reason to make it ours.

Parys Mountain, 1960, by Geoff Charles; National Library of WalesLittle surprise then that after retiring as an engineer I jumped at the chance to supervise the much needed consolidation work on the Pearl Cornish Engine House on the mountain's eastern slope.  Its tall chimney had fallen down many years before and the ivy clad engine house was very close to total collapse when work began.

Indeed some people in authority had unashamedly said that it should have been left to become what they described as "a romantic ruin." Fortunately, others thought differently and the limited funding available was just about sufficient to replace rotting lintels and re-point the crumbling walls, making the building safe once more to be enjoyed and claimed by future generations as their heritage.

The dozens of open shafts dotted around the mountain had earlier been capped and made safe, but it soon became obvious that other historically significant buildings and features needed the same loving care and attention if they were to survive.

Thanks to the supreme efforts of the Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust over many years the Pearl engine house chimney is now being rebuilt and the remains of the Cairns windmill saved from further deterioration to serve as a visitor centre, and the whole mountain landscape adapted as a colourful and unique attraction bringing in many thousands of visitors annually - that's our heritage!



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