Cascade Wood - The trace of our Mining Heritage


  • Typical arrangement for a waterwheel and associated equipment used for shaft pumping. (Bick, D. E. 1974. The Old Metal Mines of Mid-Wales: Part 1. Cardiganshire-South of Devil’s Bridge. The Pound House, Newent, Gloucestershire).


A much-loved feature of our community is Cascade Wood (also known as the Fairy Glen) which straddles the River Alyn. Under certain lighting conditions when the wild garlic is in flower it can be quite a magical place.


However, the woodland also contains the remains of buildings that relate to an important part of our history. The earliest record we have relating to lead mining in the Maeshafn area (the original spelling was Maes y safn) is dated 1641. A later estate plan reveals that by 1769 a small waterwheel pit had been erected on the east bank of the river at the southern end of the wood adjacent to the cascade in the river. The waterwheel was used to pump water from the mine workings. The wheel pit eventually fell into disuse until it was refurbished in 1870 in order to power a sawmill at the same site. The remains of the waterwheel were dismantled a few years ago as it impeded the installation of a barbed wire fence. A major development associated with the Maeshafn lead mine took place at the beginning of the nineteenth century on land at the northern end of the wood. Three major structures were constructed here plus the stone-built causeway bridge across the river.



The first, and most southern, structure is an impressive water wheel pit which contained a 50 feet diameter waterwheel. This was supplied with water from a leat, or channel, that started about 2.5 km upstream in the adjacent Community of Llanarmon. The second, much later, structure was designed as a wheel pit to power crushing machinery but probably was never used as it was completed just before the mine closed. Finally, the third large open structure to the north enclosed the dressing floors where the lead ore was separated from waste rock. (The mined material was brought down from the mine workings close to Maeshafn by means of a mineral railway.)


The mine waste was piled on both banks of the river at the north end of the wood. During the mid-twentieth century this waste was removed and re-processed to be used for the then fashionable pebble dashing of house walls. The barren nature of the ground at the site of these two former spoil heaps reflects the toxicity of the lead remaining in the processed mine waste. Access to the woodland is via the public footpaths along the west bank of the river and across the twin arched causeway spanning the river. However, it must be emphasised that the buildings are on private land and show signs of decay and instability and therefore should not be approached. A minor curiosity is a well sunk into the riverbed adjacent to the footpath on the west side of the river near the causeway. The well is now silted up, but the kerbstones are still visible. This was the original water supply for the nearby farm of Tyn y Caeau before the installation of a piped supply.