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For some while I’ve been wanting to visit Rosebush slate quarry in West Wales. Recently, along with photographer and friend David Smith, known on flickr as Wiffsmiff23, I eventually got to see it. The weather was not on our side and we procrastinated for a while in the village car park before venturing on the short walk to the quarry.

The slate quarries at Rosebush, a tiny village in Pembrokeshire, were acquired by Edward Cropper c1870. In 1871 he signed an agreement with the GWR to link his quarries by a railway of his own construction, this was the Narbeth Road and Maenclochog Railway and had a siding extension from Rosebush station into the quarry, the railway opening in 1876. The quarries were extended in 1879 with a major cash investment but by 1883 the high connection charges imposed by the GWR forced a suspension of traffic. The branch didn’t re-open until 1895 and then saw little use until final closure of the quarry in 1914.

Today it is very difficult to interpret the site although the standard gauge railway earthworks are evident. A few roofless buildings remain but no indication of their purpose can be determined. It is possible to access the different levels without too much difficulty although initially we found the most awkward way to some of these levels scrambling up loose slate screes. Once on the level it is easy to see the way back down again and on any future visit this will be remembered.

I had previously seen photographs of tunnels or adits and wished to see these for myself, I knew one of them was flooded and wanted to access the entrance to photograph the interior so wore wellington boots for the expedition. Fortunately the site is a very short walk from the car park in the centre of the village but once at the quarry my footwear which has much less grip than my walking boots provided me with some entertainment as we accessed the various levels. The adits or tunnels were not immediately obvious and it took about an hour of scrambling around the site to locate them.

The first we encountered is obviously a tunnel and constructed with an arched entrance in a large slate wall built presumably to hold back slate waste. The ceiling of this tunnel was very dodgy, the supports rusted and sagging from the weight above, I went into the entrance without going under the supports, took my photograph and left. View a photograph of the entrance on my flickr site.

The entrance to the flooded adit was discovered on the next level up and after some deliberation about how to reach it we finally stood outside the entrance. Foolishly I didn’t take a photo showing the cramped access, it was raining again, so crawled inside past a dribbling streamlet which deposited a large amount of water into one of my boots resulting in a soggy sock. This photograph was taken from just inside the adit and no flash has been used, just available light coming from behind me. The tunnel is larger than it looks in this photograph as those ferns were massive.

Whilst we were up on this level we noticed another adit on a level below which could only be accessed down a sharp slope with loose slate and very few footholds. My gripless footwear was a bit of a problem once again but by mostly slithering down I reached the bottom, I’d worry about how to get back up later. This adit was much larger than the flooded one and may possibly have have connected with the first tunnel I photographed as the alignment was about right. However I only had a very small LED torch in my kit bag so didn’t venture too far. This photograph was taken near the entrance, I have used infill flash to illuminate farther into the distance. There is also another photograph on flickr taken about 30 or 40 metres further into the tunnel. The scramble back up to the level above was interesting and took some effort, fortunately it was possible to use the adjacent rock face for support and I managed to haul myself back up.

There are many other features at the quarry, including a flooded lake which has a water outlet management sluice, so presumably some form of water turbine power was used and this is hinted at in various sources although the rain dampened our enthusiasm to investigate further. A return will be planned, maybe for winter when there will be less vegetation.

Historical information sources:
A Gazeteer of the Welsh Slate Industry, Alun John Richards;
Industrial Locomotives of Dyfed & Powys, John de Havilland, IRS.

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