Winter in the Industrial Landscape
A double whammy this time, from the hills above Blaenavon -I thought they’d make a suitable pair since they were both taken on the same day (I’m sure you recognise the likeness in palette, if not necessarily the subject).
Depending on your feelings about snow, we either had a bad winter or a good one this year, as the white stuff was very sporadic. Unlike the last couple of years. This image is actually about 2 years old, from around midwinter, when snow was lying deep and crisp and even -not so bleak though. That year the snow was lying on the ground until around mid March, and in places it was a few feet deep right up until it melted (made it very difficult to move around in at times). The joy having of the snow around for so long was that photographic opportunities were rich and varied, as many of the other winter pictures in my gallery show. So a beautiful clear day with a dramatic sunset meant that on this day in history I dashed out to get some snaps. Now that the weather is warming up a bit here in the UK, it feels like it’s just about safe to post them without tempting fate (no one mention this year’s storms!).
The place, Keeper’s Pond, is between Abergavenny and Blaenavon, just off a road known locally as The Tumble, which ascends the side of The Blorenge. I used to live fairly close by, and it’s a favourite viewpoint of mine for when the conditions get spectacular. The frozen pond in the first picture used to be a reservoir for a forge in the early stages of the industrial revolution, while the second actually shows spoil tips from iron and coal mining (under all the snow). You see this is an industrial landscape, and is actually a World Heritage Site, because of all the 19th century industrial remnants; either intact buildings, or ruins and workings up on the hills. I believe the citation for World Heritage inscription goes something like: “the most complete example of the 19th Century industrial landscape”. This is such an isolated area that modern industry and development largely passed it by, with the result that the mass demolition and rebuilding that may have gone on in other valleys towns never happened here. So in the ruined ironworks down in Blaenavon, there is still a core of solidified iron in the blast furnaces, because they just shut up shop and walked away to a newer, better site. Housing demand here was so low due to out-migration that there wasn’t any need for many new-build housing estates in the 1980’s, so old miner’s cottages remained largely unchanged too. Add this to the fact that this was a pioneer town (you could read frontier town there), at the leading edge of industrial development in the 18th century and there’s some really interesting history here, if not necessarily as spectacular as some World Heritage Sites. Heritage status is now working to bring life back to the area, and has brought all sorts of funding, events and projects. There are some excellent websites to look up if you’re interested: http://www.visitblaenavon.co.uk/en/Homepage.aspx, or http://www.ggat.org.uk/cadw/historic_landscape/blaenavon/english/Blaenavon_Main.htm, so I won’t say too much.
All images © Stephen Tyrrell, Mountains, Wild Places and Water, 2014. All rights reserved.