Draethen lead mines
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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.
Draethen Lead Mine
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.
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
Description: Approximately 70m of adit is accessible ending in a deep sump pool.
Draethen Deep shaft
Description: This site has not been located by the author of this article despite searching. May be connected to Cwm Leyshon Adit.
- 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.