Once upon a time, mines were full of miners. Now they’re full of thrill seekers. Recent news that a 19th century slate mine in Snowdonia has reopened as a giant adventure playground demonstrates how disused industrial areas are being transformed into tourist attractions. And how tourists no longer want to just observe things, but ‘do’ things too. Preferably things that ‘thrill’.
The underground mine at Llechwedd ceased production in the 1980s and the workforce joined the 17,000 that once were employed by the Welsh slate industry but who have now been made redundant. Given the particularly harsh conditions that they worked under, many of these former miners must be amazed to see people actually paying to go down the mines, but this time on zip wires, or even giant trampolines. In fact, many of the former miners’ children are employed at the mine as guides which must make for some interesting meal time conversations.
The Llechwedd mine complex is truly enormous, comprising 10 separate caverns on 14 ‘floors’ and 25 miles of tunnels. So plenty of space to build 8 kilometres of zip wires (making it the longest zip line in Europe and the fastest in the world) and a huge underground trampoline. And its clearly appealing. Numbers visiting in 2015 topped 215,000 and the owners are hoping to attract 250,000 next year.
To the east of the site lies the Dolgarrog artificial lake. Former use? An aluminium smelter. Today’s use? A £12million Surf Snowdonia Centre that ‘uses pioneering technology to create reliable and predictable wavers for surfers’.
Of course, former gravel pits have long been flooded so as to create lakes for sailing, canoeing or rowing, but the scale of these latest conversions is truly breath taking. And it demonstrates the level of investment that’s needed to attract today’s tourists. These tourists no longer want to just see things but to participate in them as well. Or better still, be frightened by them.
The ‘Zip World Titan’ at Llechweed can reach speeds of up to 70mph travelling ‘over moor, mountain and mine’. Now that’s taking thrill seeking to a whole new level.