Cambrian Mountains Orefield IPA
Location: Scattered to the north and south of the A44 in west central Wales.
Grid Reference: SN 802 751
This IPA is made up of 12 long-abandoned metal mining sites and an area of metal rich river shingle beside the Afon Ysywyth.The sites are scattered within approximately 10 km around the famous Devil’s Bridge Falls which lies to the east of Aberystwyth.The natural, metal-rich outcrops were mined by the Romans and over the years have attracted workers from Cornwall, Italy and Germany to extract gold, silver and lead.In 1870, over 10,000 workers are thought to have been employed in the industry and the landscape has been significantly affected by this human activity. The plant interest here, are the populations of metal tolerant or metal demanding mosses, lichens and higher plants and due to this most of the sites are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
Close to the small village of Cwmsymlog is a dry heath on an old derelict mine which shows both the impoverishing and enriching effects that the industry has had on the local plant life.Ruins and walls have been colonized by a unique fern community including the largest known population in Wales of the rare forked spleenwort and other rarities such as brittle bladder fern and moonwort.In contrast, the toxic mine spoil inhibits the growth of many plants and there is only a sparse covering of heather and gorse with some resistant species such as alpine penny-cress and sea campion.Where spoil is at the surface, plants which can survive these more basic conditions can be found such as fairy flax and burnet saxifrage.
To the east of Ponterwyd is the disused Mwyngloddfa Castell mine which exploited the rich, 10 km long Castell Lode.Rock outcrops, spoil heaps and disused buildings support one of the richest metal-tolerant lichen flora in Wales and several of these lichens are nationally rare or scarce. These species were at one time probably associated with naturally occurring metal-rich outcrops which have been destroyed by past mining activities and so are now only found in manmade habitats.In some wetter areas close to the mine the nationally scarce bog orchid can be found.
South of Cwmbrwyno lies the abandoned mine of Mwyngloddfa Cwmbrwyno. This mine was worked in the late 1800s and in its lifetime, 6,000 tons of silver bearing ore were removed.The spoil tips and buildings are now colonized by lichens and fungi and a significant number of these are confined to this rare metal rich environment.
Please be aware that mine sites can be very dangerous and must be treated with caution. Never enter any tunnels or shafts and do not stray from designated rights of way.
Image: Cambrian Mountains Orefield © Ray Woods