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Looking through my archive of digital photographs taken over the past decade I realise that five years have passed since I last visited Dinas Silica Mine. On the 3rd July 2010 I convinced my photographer friend David Smith that we should visit the location with a view to taking photographs underground, not that he needed any persuasion. Armed with a pile of torches and a powerful flash gun that was not compatible with my camera we set off on our first exploratory trip. I say first, it may have been for Dai, but I had been there on a few previous occasions more than a decade previously when I had first been interested in tracing some of the narrow gauge industrial railways of the Neath Valley area; Dinas was one such location. Underground Dai and I attempted to take photographs using just light from the torches and with exposures of around 30 seconds were also able to randomly manually fire my powerful but ancient flashgun; results were reasonable but erratic for a first attempt.

After visiting the mine we couldn’t resist also exploring the long-disused access tunnel which had originally been used to carry a tramway to take the mined silica through the mountain to the distribution point near Dinas Rock and subsequently to the original Dinas brickworks the other side of the Afon Mellte. The tunnel has long been out of use, no specified date has been found but for many decades silica was transferred to Dinas Rock trans-shipment area by an overhead cableway. The tunnel has been closed at the far end either by accident or design, but it is not possible to pass through the whole length. Near the end there is a lot of standing water which has to be waded through if you wish to reach the limit of exploration, this is about a fifteen inches deep and just possible in wellington boots, fairly easily traversed until you wish to go back when the mud you’ve stirred up makes the return passage slightly more testing as you can no longer see the deep bits. This map published in 1935 shows the tunnel, I’ve highlighted it in yellow with the approximate area of the flooded section in orange and the blocked end shown in red. Clicking on the map will take you to the source of the image.

dinas tunnel

The photograph shown here was taken at the far end of the tunnel and is pointing towards the entrance over the water I then had to wade back through, as you can see, it’s very murky. The highlight is the beam from one of the torches. This is the only photo I took in the tunnel on this visit and until today haven’t really looked at it, perhaps a return should be made to take some more.

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Previously in 2008 I had visited the area to photograph the river and waterfalls with my digital camera and had stood in the entrance to the tunnel and using natural light from behind me had taken a long exposure with the 14mm L series lens. This is included here to show the condition of the tunnel near the entrance.

Visit my flickr site where you can see albums of my photographs taken at Dinas silica mine in 1992 and 2010. You might also like to see Dai’s interpretation of Dinas silica mine in an album of his photographs.

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