Research Trip – Chartist Caves
I was invited by Pat Drewett (Chartist Association) to come along on a walk he had organised to the ‘Chartist Caves’ in the Brecon Becons. The caves are said to be where the Chartists stored weapons in preparation the uprising of the Newport Uprising. This was an ideal opportunity for me to scout out some of the other chartist related locations of south wales, get to talk more with Pat about our project and to meet some more people with potential stores.
The part the caves played in the uprising is somewhat disputed, our guide for the day was Alyson Tippings from Blaenau Gwent tourism board , she explained that there were some caves in another valley that claim to be the ‘Chartist Caves’ but she invited us to make our own minds up based on the things she would show us.
The Caves are situated about 3 miles from the quarry village of Trefil at the edge of the Brecon Beacons near Tredegar. The village is the highest in the UK and home to the highest rugby ground in Europe. Alongside the village runs old tramlines to the quarry which was operational during the 19th century and sent limestone down to the iron works. Alyson explained that because the tramlines were so close to the caves it would of been ideal for the Chartists, many of which would have worked in the ironwork’s and quarrys to transport weapons; she pointed out that weapons would probably have been made down in the valley and transported back up on the empty wagons which were going to be refilled in the quarry.
The scenery was stunning, it was a lovely clear winter day so we could see around for miles. We waled along the old tram track before coming off and heading onto the top of the mountain which was like a flat moorland. As we walked I got speaking more to Pat and we talked about funding our project and about some of his past problems with getting funding and organising successful events. He spoke about communication issues with the council and that it can be a very slow process, something I’ve already experienced. We spoke about potential characters for the online documentary and he agreed with me that although the story has been done a few times it has not been very well executed.
After a 40 minute slow walk along the frozen mountain top we arrived at the caves, They were well hidden so i could understand why they might be used by the Chartists. We went down to the first level but the caves went on further underground and could be explored by experienced cavers. There was a small plaque that mentioned the caves link with the Chartists. We sat around the caves and had coffee, this gave me a chance to talk to some other people about our project. People again seemed really positive and I took some email addresses from people who were interested in helping out, one particularly from the Dolman Theatre in Newport with regards to helping supply actors for the documentary if we need them..
We walked back to the village through the old quarry that was used in the 19th century, now all overgrown it was amazing to see the old works cut out of the mountain and the old tram ways that would have been used to transport limestone down the valleys.
I left the walk with new ideas about how the Klynt project might look, utilising these small locations to supplement a main documentary would be a good idea and add extra elements for users to explore on the subject. The walk itself is not published so this too could be of help to people who are just interested in unique walking routes!