Insta fans kill special places, says cave cleaner

3 weeks ago 25
Media caption,

Cleaning up the 'cavern of lost souls'

Instagram photo seekers are "killing" special places, says a caver, after volunteers hauled piles of rubbish out of a 19th Century mine filled with dumped cars.

Anthony Taylor said a YouTube video of old cars dumped in the Gwynedd quarry has had more than six million views, bringing an influx of visitors.

Hundreds of photos of the "car grave" have since appeared on Instagram.

But those taking the pictures also left behind rubbish and graffiti.

"They are beautiful places, and a lot of people don't want them to be ruined," said Mr Taylor, 42, from Aberystwyth, Ceredigion.

"Instagram seems to be the killer of a lot of things," he said. "People turn up, take a picture and then leave [a mess]."

Gaewern slate mine is on private land near Corris Uchaf. Mining began in 1820, and continued after merger with nearby Braichgoch slate mine until the 1970s, employing 200 at its peak.

After it closed old cars and televisions were dumped into one of the mine's two main chambers above a lake, creating the unusual scene of a rusting scrap metal heap that gets illuminated by shafts of sunlight at certain times of day.

Image source, Anthony Taylor

Image caption,

The cavers removing graffiti and rubbish from Gaewern in March

"It's a bizarre environment, probably the one of the oddest places in the world," he remembered from his first visit in 2022.

"How often do you see hundreds of cars underground with lights coming onto them from the sun?"

But to get there, he first had to pass an entrance littered with discarded bin bags that visitors had used to try to keep their feet dry.

"From about 30 ft in, the spray painting starts, and it was awful," he said.

Image source, Anthony Taylor

Image caption,

Miners etched initials in the mine in the 19th Century, but some walls have since been covered in graffiti

The graffiti gets worse in the main chamber towards the cars, he said, with more rubbish on the floor, including discarded glow sticks and human faeces.

"When you get to the end, it was just a sea of boats, inflatable dinghies everywhere," he said. "It's just disgusting, really sad and disheartening."

"The whole reason people want to visit a place like this is because they've seen it on the internet and think, 'That's an amazing place to go and see', so why would you trash it?"

Image source, David Winstanley

Image caption,

Volunteers had to sling rolls of discarded dinghies up a 100ft (30m) drop to get them out of the mine

Mr Taylor said he his fellow cavers hauled as many dinghies out as they could and held a bigger clean-up with six volunteers on 22 March.

"Something had to be done," he said, estimating his group and another from the YouTube channel Hell on Earth removed 30 discarded dinghies in total.

"The people that go to these places, influencers they call themselves… they go because they've got inherent value to them. Why destroy it for everyone else?"

Image source, Gareth Jones

Image caption,

Caver Gareth Jones and the other volunteers alongside the rubbish brought to the surface

He wants to educate people about the value of old mines, and fears sites like Gaewern could one day be sealed off.

"If these things keep happening, it's going to be lost to everyone forever."

During his many trips to abandoned mines around mid Wales he has found a child's footprint, hobnail boots, tools, miners' gloves and a 170-year-old barrow "still where the miner originally left it".

Image source, David Winstanley

Image caption,

Cavers had to descend a 100ft (30m) drop to reach the mine's main underground chamber

"If you can't see [the value] in that I don't know.

"I wouldn't have thought you'd have to teach people these things, but you really do in this day and age."

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