Draethen lead mines

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Regions \ Wales \ South Wales Metal Mines \ Draethen lead mines

Draethen Woods are located between Newport and Caerphilly, to the north of Cardiff. The woods contain a number of lead mining sites and surface workings dating back to at least Roman times. All the sites are fenced off, but there are no known access restrictions. The mines once exploited a vein of lead ore that exists in the exposed limestone of the Southern Outcrop in this region.

Contents

Mine sites

Draethen Lead Mine

Location: ST214876

Description: The most extensive of the sites, it requires tackle to descend; either SRT or ladder. The description below is taken from the, now out of print, "Caves in Wales and The Marches" guidebook by David Jenkins and Ann Mason-Williams (1967).

DRAETHEN LEAD MINE (2) 
Glamorgan. Parish: Rhyd-y-Gwern 

O.S. Map 1in. 153. ST/214876. 

2 1/2in. ST/28. 6in. 37NE. 

Length 1000ft. Depth 160ft. 

First recorded exploration, M. Davies, S. Phillips and C. Ford, 1957. 

Surveyed, M. Davies and S. Phillips, 1961. 

Position. Turn off the Rudry-Draethen road at Cwm Leyshon Quarry. Follow the 
track up the cwm to the cottage. At the top of the steep path leading up 
through the wood turn right. The old workings follow two lines along the 
ridge, one set running south-east and the other north-west near the top. 
Draethen Lead Mine is near the west end of the north-west set of workings, 
about 500 yards from the top of the steep path. It is extremely difficult to 
find and the shaft is not obvious until one is close to it. It may be 
confused with some of the other shafts in the area. (These other shafts are 
themselves interesting and worth visiting but require care during 
exploration). 

Description. Tackle: Entrance shaft 45ft. ladder, 50ft. handline. Scree 
slope 60ft. handline. Final pitch 20ft. handline. 
A beech tree acts as a suitable belay at the top or the 45ft. entrance shaft 
at the bottom of which a steep scree slope is reached. 60ft. down the scree 
slope there is a ledge on the right below which the drop becomes vertical. 
30ft. along the ledge a 15ft. pitch, requiring a handline, completes the 
116ft. descent to the bottom of the shaft. The mine workings in the rift can 
be followed for 100ft. to the left and 700ft. to the right. The walls are 
partly natural and partly mined, covered in places with white calcite 
streaks. The maximum height of the passage is 30ft. and ends in a small 
grotto. Halfway along a 43ft. shaft leads to lower workings access to which 
can also be gained through a circular hole in the wall of the passage 60ft. 
beyond the shaft.

Roman Mine

Location: ST218878

Description: Less accessible passage exists in this mine, but it is worth a quick diversion to visit none the less. The character of the mine is very similar to that of the main one, being a single excavated ore vein, with a few smaller parallel rifts.

A 20m handline is recommended for the entrance slope which is usually covered in leaf debris, loose sticks and soil. The line can be belayed to the fence or sturdy trees.


Cwm Leyshon Adit

Location: ST212870

Description: Approximately 70m of adit is accessible ending in a deep sump pool.


Draethen Deep shaft

Location: ST211871

Description: This site has not been located by the author of this article despite searching. May be connected to Cwm Leyshon Adit.


References

  • Caves in Wales and The Marches, David Jenkins and Ann Mason Williams, 1967. ISBN 0852060750
  • SWCC newsletter number 63, May 1969, page 7 - "Draethen Wood Lead Mines, Glamorganshire" by Melvyn Davies.
  • SWCC newsletter number 49, March 1965, pages 1-5 - "The Iron, Lead and Copper Mines of the South Wales Carboniferous Limestone Outcrop" by Melvyn Davies.
  • SWCC newsletter number 19, May 1957, page 6 - "Roman Lead Mines" by Seaton Phillips.
  • Welsh Sump index, Cave Diving Group. Entries on Draethen Deep Shaft and Cwm Leyshon Adit in the mines section.
  • Bristol Exploration Club, Caving Report no. 15, "Roman Mine" by J. & N. Tuck, July 1971.
    Roman mine report
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