Weekly Word – Obfuscate

Weekly Word is a weekly post intended to illustrate the meaning and use of a single word. The chosen word will begin with a different letter each week, as Louise (my daughter) and I work our way through the alphabet.

Louise posts on her website:

An Enchanted Place

This week’s word begins with the letter O:

Part of Speech:

Verb (transitive)

Meaning: 

1.  to obscure, make unclear, or darken

2 . to bewilder confuse or stupefy

(often intentionally in both definitions – other than in natural processes of darkening e.g. nightfall, severe weather conditions)

Pronunciation:

ob·fus·cate

ob-fuh-skeyt, ob-fuhs-keyt,

Audio Link:

OBFUSCATE

Related Forms:

obfuscation

obfuscatory

obfuscating (present participle)

obfuscates (third person singular present tense)

obfuscated (past tense)

Synonyms:

1.  obscure  bedim  dim  make obscure  dull  blur  muddle  jumble  muddy  cloud  befog muddy the waters  overcast  shadow

2.  bewilder  mystify  confuse  puzzle  perplex  baffle  complicate  confound  bemuse befuddle  nonplus  flummox  rattle

Antonyms:

clarify  elucidate

Word Origin:

Late Middle English (1525-35) from late Latin obfuscat meaning darkened, from the verb obfuscare, based on Latin  ob + fusc(us ) dark 

The Merriam Webster dictionary gives this extra piece of information, which I particularly like:

“The verb shares its ob- root (meaning “over, completely”) with obscure,  another word that can refer to the act of concealing something or making it more difficult to see or understand. The rest of obfuscate comes from Latin fuscus, which means “dark brown” and is distantly related to our word dusk.”

Use the Word in a Sentence: 

1.  Gelda quickened her pace as a thick fog closed in around her, gradually obfuscating the narrow path through the forest, the only route that would take her safely home. If her mother had not obfuscated about the whereabouts of Gelda’s father, they would never have had that awful row and she would not have run off into these woods in the first place.

2.  Jeremy often looked back on his schooldays, recalling how he’d hated most of the teachers. Admittedly he’d been a mischievous lad and learning had never been easy for him – but that didn’t excuse the way they all seemed to deliberately resort to obfuscation when he asked them to explain things he didn’t understand. Yet Jeremy would always remember the kindness of one of his earliest teachers. Mrs Willows’ lessons were never obfuscatory and she was always happy to spend time explaining things to him. If more of his teachers had been like her, perhaps he would have made something of himself in life instead of drifting from one dead-end job to another. Too late to do anything about it now; he was almost forty, after all.… Or was it too late? Perhaps a few classes at night school would get him some useful qualifications. Then, if called for job interviews, the questions he was asked would not obfuscate him as much as they’d done in the past.

3.  Inspector Davis, let me be clear on this. You’re suggesting that all the witnesses have lied throughout police investigations and this trial in order to deliberately obfuscate matters?’

***

If you would like to join us in doing this weekly post, both Louise and I would be happy to see you. You can pick your own word and illustrate its use in any way you choose (even a short story) or use your chosen word to follow a similar pattern to our posts.

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Image  from Shutterstock

Broken – Flash Fiction

I see through your lies, that gilded façade you show to the world. You wish to conceal the emptiness you feel by your cheerful smile and plans for joyful times when your lover returns.

Being the object of pity would be more than you could bear, so you convince yourself of his undying love; that he did not wed the heiress he met in Saint-Tropez.

What will it take to mend your broken heart and shattered dreams? Gaze through the splintered wound and there will be me, waiting here for you to see.

*

I wrote this very short piece  of flash fiction in response to the photo below that my daughter Louise had taken at the meadow she visits and photographs throughout the year. It may seem a strange story from a picture of an old bench, but it was the idea of it being broken/damaged that made me think, and I could see how the idea could well apply to a person – human emotions being what they are.

Featured Image:  Photo by Ismael Sanchez from Pexels

Weekly Word – Nebulous

Weekly Word is a weekly post intended to illustrate the meaning and use of a single word. The chosen word will begin with a different letter each week, as Louise (my daughter) and I work our way through the alphabet.

Louise posts on her website:

An Enchanted Place

This week’s word begins with the letter N:

Part of Speech:

Adjective

Meaning:

1.  Cloudy, misty or hazy e.g. indistinct shapes in the gloom

2.  (Of a concept) lacking definite form or limits; vague; not clearly defined or easy to understand

3.  (As in astronomy) of, relating to, or characteristic of a nebula or nebulae (plural) in deep space; nebular

  • For a good, simple definition of a nebula and nebulae see this one from Nasa.
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Pronunciation:

neb·u·lous  /  neb-yuh-luhs   (nĕb′yə-ləs)

Audio Link:

NEBULOUS

Related Forms:

nebulously (adverb)

nebulousness (noun)

Synonyms:

Ambiguous  amorphous  indistinct  indefinite  indeterminate  unclear  vague  ill-defined  imprecise hazy  cloudy  murky misty  fuzzy unformed  shadowy  confused  lacking definition  opaque  blurred  blurry  out of focus  foggy  faint  shadowy  dim  obscure  shapeless  formless  nebulose

Antonyms:

clear  well-defined

Word Origin:

As in Sense I: Middle English (1375-1425) from Latin nebulōsus, from nebula, cloud

Sense 2 dates from the 19th century

Use the Word in a Sentence: 

1.  Believing himself to be alone in the deserted old farmhouse, the nebulous shape coming towards him in the hall gave Jim the shock of his life. There was nothing for it but to turn tail and run.

SuperHerftigGeneral from Pixabay
SuperHerftigGeneral from Pixabay

2.  After listening for the best part of an hour to the CEO rambling nebulously about his plans to increase the productivity of the firm, few of the employees were any the wiser.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

3.  Waking up in a hospital bed following the car accident, Mike’s memory of what happened was decidedly nebulous for several hours.

Image by Akent879 from Pixabay

***

If you would like to join us in doing this weekly post, both Louise and I would be happy to see you. You can pick your own word and illustrate its use in any way you choose (even a short story) or use your chosen word to follow a similar pattern to our posts.

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Image  from Shutterstock

The Desolate Tones of Madame Butterfly

Evaline Rawston flicked on her favourite CD and sank into a comfortable chair, closing her eyes as Madame Butterfly’s soprano soared. Memories of her final performance at the Theatre Royale flooded back: such applauds; such ovation. So many friends with promises of keeping in touch…

Two years had passed since her glorious, thirty-year career had ended. Her throat could have taken no more. Time to cease the hours of rehearsal and gruelling performances, before her voice completely failed. The heyday of her life was over; the fiery sun of summer set. No friends had flocked to her door. Autumn had hurried in fast, and once the mellowing colours had faded, years of cold, wintry loneliness and regret would follow.

For twenty years Geoffrey had wanted Evaline to marry him, but she had always put her career first, imagined he’d wait until she was ready. News of his leaving hit her like a hammer blow; six short months before she’d retired. How she missed his deep, soft voice, his gentle touch.

Beyond the window, October sunlight played on the ambers and golds. She loved this old house with its beautiful garden, drew comfort from its ever-changing moods. But even they could not lessen the loneliness she felt.

‘Miss Rawston, there’s a gentleman at the door. Says you know him.’

‘Really?’ Evaline smiled at her young housekeeper. ‘Then you’d better show him in.’

‘Evaline, my dear, how are you?’ Geoffrey asked as he entered the room.

Evaline gestured to an armchair opposite her own. ‘Much better for seeing you. I’ve thought about you often since we parted, and wondered if we might resume our relationship one day.’

Geoffrey smiled and wandered over to stare out the window. ‘It’s certainly been a long time, my dear, and a lot of water has flowed under my particular bridge since then… as, I imagine it has under yours.’

‘Evaline stared at his straight back, admiring the cut of his dark Gucci suit. ‘Life goes on,’ she replied, ‘though I’d hoped to be happier in my retirement. If truth be told, I’ve never been so lonely.’

Geoffrey returned to take the proffered seat. ‘My dear lady, you have no one to blame for that but yourself. Think of all those years when you pushed everyone away, wanting no one in your life other than your adoring audience.’

‘But you always stood by me, Geoffrey. You, at least, understood–’

‘Or so you chose to believe. I can’t recall you ever asking me how I felt. As the years passed by, I came to realise I meant nothing to you, other than as a pair of listening ears for your ever-mounting complaints and constant worries of failure. Did you ever stop to think that I, too, might need someone to help me through the difficult time when my dear sister died, or when my company teetered on the brink of collapse?’

Geoffrey shook his head. ‘No need to answer that, Evaline, I saw your shallowness years ago. But, as they say, we can’t always choose who we fall in love with and, believe me, I loved you dearly for a very long time. Once I met Bronwyn everything changed. She has loved me and cared for my needs as much as I have for hers these past two years.’

Momentarily choked for words as her tears threatened to flow, Evaline stared out of the window. But the solace she sought in autumn’s warmth was masked by the coldness pervading the room. ‘Then tell me, Geoffrey, why are you here? Was it your intention to witness how low I’ve fallen so you could share with your friends what a sad old woman I’ve become?’

‘No, my dear, I could never do that, if only because of how much you once meant to me. I’ve merely come to bid you goodbye and wish you well. Bronwyn and I have been married for the past three months and next week we fly out to start a new life in Australia. We don’t intend to return, but we take many fond memories with us.’

Geoffrey took Evaline’s hand. ‘So, it’s farewell, my dear. Do try to get out and socialise a little, perhaps meet some new friends. It’s the only way I survived when you rejected my proposal for the dozenth time. “There are plenty more fish in the sea”, a close friend told me, and I’m thankful to have netted the very best of them.’

Too emotional to speak, Evaline watched the housekeeper escorting Geoffrey to the door. She switched on her favourite CD and sank into her comfortable chair, her tears flowing freely as she listened to the desolate tones of Madame Butterfly.

Weekly Word – Maunder

Weekly Word is a weekly post intended to illustrate the meaning and use of a single word. The chosen word will begin with a different letter of the alphabet each week, as Louise (my daughter) and I work our way through the alphabet.

Louise posts on her website:

An Enchanted Place

This week’s word begins with the letter M:

Part of Speech:

Verb (intransitive)

Meaning:

1.  Talk in a rambling, indistinct, incoherent or disconnected manner

2.  Move or act in a dreamy or idle manner; wander slowly and aimlessly

3. Grumble (chiefly British  to express dissatisfaction, pain, or resentment usually tiresomely)

Pronunciation:

Morn-der   (UK)

maun·der  (US)

Audio Link:

MAUNDER

Related Forms:

Maunders verb (plural) and 3rd person partciple

Maundering (adj)

Maundered (past participle)

Maundering (adj)

Maunderingly

Maunderer (n)

Synonyms:

ramble  prattle  prate  blather  blether  blither  drivel  rattle  chatter  jabber  gabble  babble slabber  gab  yak  yabber  yatter  rabbit  witter  waffle  natter  chunter  twaddle clack

Antonyms: 

crow  delight

Word Origin:

17th century (1622) in the meaning defined at  Sense 1, perhaps from the obsolete maunder, meaning to beg – from the Latin mendīcāre.

Use the Word in a Sentence: 

1. Miss Stevens carried the requested files into the office, as usual maundering about her aching back.

2. If this  man continued to maunder on for much longer, Charlie would have no other option than to tell him to his face that he bored the socks off people.

3.  Jane maundered across country fields for most of the day, trying to clear her mind of the humdrum that had become her everyday life.

***

If you would like to join us in doing this weekly post, both Louise and I would be happy to see you. You can pick your own word and illustrate its use in any way you choose (even a short story) or use your chosen word to follow a similar pattern to our posts.

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Image  from Shutterstock

A Couple of Lovely Victorian Parks

Southport in Merseyside is an Irish Sea coastal resort about twenty miles north of the city and port of Liverpool. It’s the town in which I was born and where I lived until I was twenty-one when I moved away to take up my first teaching post near Doncaster.

Location of Southport in Merseyside

The town grew rapidly in the mid-nineteenth century, soon becoming popular as a seaside resort known for its extensive coastal dunes and invigorating sea air. I intend to do a full post about Southport soon but, for now, I just want to focus on two lovely, Victorian parks in the town that draw many visitors every year, namely Hesketh Park and Botanic Gardens.

Locations of Hesketh Park and Botanic Gardens in SouthportHesketh Park is located at the northern end of Lord Street, Southport’s most famous street, and just a mile away from the town centre. It was created in 1868 by Edward Kemp on land donated by the Reverend Charles Hesketh of Meols Hall, which I’ll be talking about in my post on Southport in general.

These are some photos of features inside some of the entrances to the park.

This is of a photo of a fountain at the south entrance to the park. It was taken in early November 2019.

Like Botanic, Hesketh has many Victorian features and landscape designs. The central feature of both parks is a lake, around which all of the other attractions are situated. Both parks have undergone alterations and refurbishments in relatively recent years  to restore the splendour of the original Victorian work. Amongst other things, Hesketh boasts an observatory, a small cafe, a play area for kiddies, crazy golf, a small waterfall, a floral clock and a Victorian gate house at two of the four entrances, both lived in by park keepers. There are nature trails, exercise machines in some of the little niches and a large conservatory, once full of exotic plants. In 2007 the plants were removed and the building was restored on the same site. The beautiful lake has a small island in its centre for wild birds that breed in the park.

The following are photos taken in Hesketh Park on a few of our visits at different times of year. First are a few from a visit in August 2015:

These are some photos taken in Hesketh in November 2019. I always loved this park in autumn.

Botanic Gardens is in Churchtown, once a delightfully pretty village in its own right, which is now a suburb of Southport. Botanic is situated on the opposite side of Bankfield Lane to Meols Hall and its estate, the main entrance to which is shown in this photo:

Botanic was founded in 1874 by a group of working men known as the Southport and Churchtown Botanic Gardens Company, who acquired the land from the Reverend Charles Hesketh at Meols Hall – the same person who had donated land for the creation of Hesketh Park a few years earlier. As at Hesketh, the lake is the central feature. It was formed from a stream called the Otter Pool that flowed through it from Meols Hall. The lake is now known as the Serpentine and is crossed by two ornamental cast-iron bridges. At the south end of the lake was a boathouse and when I was a child we could hire little boats and row ourselves around the winding lake.

There are a number of attractions just inside the main entrance gates to greet visitors on arrival, including a former museum and cafe. These three photos  are from February 2o17:

Unfortunately, the museum (central photo above) closed in 2011, and I believe some of its exhibits are now in the Atkinson Art Gallery and  Museum on Lord Street in Southport, including this fabulous dugout canoe, dating from AD535. It was found in a field near Crossens (just north of Churchtown) in 1899, close to what once was the northern shore  of Martin Mere (‘mere’ being the name for a lake). I remember seeing this canoe many times on my visits to Botanic  in earlier years.

Dugout canoe dated AD535. Author: Small town hero: Public Domain

I also recall rooms full of stuffed animals and birds which, as a child, I hated. I still hate the idea of taxidermy, though I suppose it takes some skill, and it was extremely popular in Victorian times. Like the canoe and other local exhibits, the taxidermy section is now housed in the Atkinson Museum.

On the opposite side of the entrance to the museum and cafe is the aviary, which always delights the children. There are various bird species including peacocks (not averse to fanning their tails to impress appreciative audiences) parrots and budgerigars, to name but a few. There are also a couple of ‘runs’ with rabbits and guinea pigs. We’ve taken lots of photos of these in the past but, unfortunately, right now I’m at a loss to find them! Duh…

These are a few of the photos taken in  August 2015 and 2016. We visited in the rain in 2016. The different floral displays of each year are also evident:

Other attractions of Botanic include a bowling green, mini-golf, a children’s playground and brass bands in the summer.  A fernery houses a unique collection of ferns from around the world and is all that remains on a former huge glass conservatory that was built in Victorian times and eventually demolished in the 1930s and 40s. This is a photo of it from Wikipedia, which shows two Edwardian ladies in front of it.

Southport Botanic Glasshouse, taken during the 1920s. Author unknown. Public Domain.

It stood where some of the flower beds are today, with the front entrance facing the museum. In the  photo below, the fernery is at the back of the flower bed:


To finish with, these are a few  photos taken in Botanic in February 2017. There are no bright flower beds at this time of year and there are fewer people about, but it’s still a very pleasant place to walk, especially when the first hints of spring are evident.

Weekly Word – Lugubrious

Weekly Word is a weekly post intended to illustrate the meaning and use of a single word. The chosen word will begin with a different letter of the alphabet each week, as Louise (my daughter) and I work our way through the alphabet.

Louise posts on her website:

An Enchanted Place

This week’s word begins with the letter L:

lugubrius

Part of Speech:

Adjective

Meaning:

Looking or sounding sad and dismal, especially in an affected or exaggerated manner

Pronunciation:

loo-goo-bree-uhs    ((lʊˈɡuːbrɪəs)

Audio Link:

LUGUBRIOUS

Related Forms:

lugubriously (adverb)

lugubriousness and lugubriosity (nouns)

Synonyms:

sad  melancholy  morose  gloomy  dismal  pensive  doleful  mournful  dreary  serious  woeful  woebegone  sorrowful  depressing  unhappy  downhearted  glum  forlorn  crestfallen  downcast  funereal  brokenhearted  blue disconsolate  sombre  subdued  despondent

Antonyms: 

cheerful  joyful  bright  friendly cordial  cheery comforting cheering  festive  sunshiny

Word Origin:

Late 16th – early 17th century (1585 – 1605) from the Latin lugubris meaning mournful (from the Latin verb lugere: to mourn) + English ous

Use the Word in a Sentence: 

1. Ten-year-old Michael suddenly charged through the back door. ‘Mum, what’s the matter with Charlie? He looks really sad and miserable. Is he ill?’

‘No he isn’t – and don’t let that lugubrious face he pulls fool you. He’s just feeling sorry for himself because I caught him eating the cat’s food and chased him out. And he can jolly well stay there until I decide to forgive him.’

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Image by Christine Klassen from Pixabay

2. I’d waited for what seems like hours at a bus stop when a whole convoy of buses with the same destination arrived with lugubrious slowness.

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Image by manfred Kindlinger from Pixabay

3. The lugubriousness of the view that hit us as we rounded a bend caused a wave of sadness to wash over me. Could this neglected, derelict old  building really be the same pretty house of my childhood… a house that had once been filled with laughter and love?

‘Don’t worry, sweetheart,’ my husband said, smiling at me. ‘The house might look woefully lugubrious now, but the workmen I’ve hired will have it looking bright and cheerful before we know it, even on the gloomiest of days.’

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

***

If you would like to join us in doing this weekly post, both Louise and I would be happy to see you. You can pick of your own word and illustrate its use in any way you choose(even a short story) or use your chosen word to follow a similar pattern to our posts.

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Image  from Shutterstock

On the Outside Looking In

Daryn stared at his reflection in the puddle, not for the first time wondering why he never seemed to fit in. He looked quite ordinary in the puddle and couldn’t understand why he felt this way. At school he was, somehow, different to the other kids, and spent much of his time on his own. At home all he wanted to do was sit in his room and write stories about heroes who saved people from evil giants, witches, or rampaging beasts.

In all of his stories, people worked together, a social response to attacks on their homes. Daryn was the outsider who rode in to dispose of the threat. But he never actually became one of those people, always staying on the outside, looking in.

‘You’ll feel different as you get older,’ Daryn’s Dad said, without taking his eyes from the newspaper he was reading.

‘That’s right,’ Mum added. ‘In the next few years the shyness will go away and you’ll make plenty of friends.’

Daryn often wondered how getting older would make any difference. He knew he wasn’t just shy, he simply felt uncomfortable being around people. Intended words formed readily in his head, but seemed to dissolve into nothing before they reached his mouth.

The puddle was changing, oily colours spreading across its surface, and with it, Daryn’s thoughts cleared. He saw himself as an adult, looking suave and confident in his expensive dark suit. The odd thing was, he was surrounded by people, all waiting for him to sign the books they held in their hands. On closer inspection he could see the author’s name on the covers: Daryn Tomlinson…

‘That’s me!’ he gasped, ‘I’m an author, a successful one, too.’

As an author, Daryn would soon be back at his desk, writing his next best-seller, away from the people he could not relate to. Being on the outside looking in suited him down to the ground.

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Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Featured Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

Weekly Word – Kibosh

Weekly Word is a weekly post intended to illustrate the meaning and use of a single word. The chosen word will begin with a different letter of the alphabet each week, as Louise (my daughter) and I work our way through the alphabet.

Louise posts on her website:

An Enchanted Place

This week’s word begins with the letter K:

kibosh

Meaning:

To spoil or destroy an idea or plan; stop from happening or developing (usually used in the phrase, to put the kibosh on); nonsense

Pronunciation:

kahy-bosh, ki-bosh

Audio Link:

kibosh

Part of Speech:

Noun

Related Forms:

Kibosh (transitive verb)

Kiboshes (3rd person present)

Kiboshed (past tense and past participle)

Kiboshing (present participle/gerund)

Synonyms:

veto, halt, interfere with, stop, scotch, inhibit, prohibit, nip in the bud, put a stop to, disrupt, thwart, quash, curb, cancel, check, hamper, hobble, bring to an end

Antonyms: 

allow, permit, start, impel, give permission, propel

Word Origin:

First recorded in 1830–40; of obscure origin.

The following is from a number of sites including the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

Kibosh has been a part of the English language for almost two centuries, but its origin baffles etymologists. It was common in lower-class London speech and used by Dickens in 1836 in an early sketch. One source states that in early 19th century England,  colloquially, the phrase, to put the kibosh on meant ‘to castigate, overwhelm (a person or political party such as the Whigs, who were failing to outlaw flogging in the military). In this case, the origin of kibosh could have been the alteration or imitation of kurbash – a whip. There are several other possible origins of the word, amongst others one from Yiddish and one from Gaelic, but I won’t go into them all here. There are also a variety of spellings such as kibbosh, kybosh and kyebosk – all of unclear origin.

Use the Word in a Sentence: 

1. He put the kibosh on any plans his young daughter had made to attend the party with her new boyfriend.

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Image from Shutterstock

2.  The presence of a large crowd was kiboshing the entire police operation.

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Image from Shutterstock

3.  The unexpected downpour kiboshed their hopes of spending the afternoon picnicking in the park.

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Image by janrye from Pixabay

4.  ‘Write it out again when you’re fully awake,’ Mrs Henderson said after casting a critical eye over Monica’s application for promotion. ‘As it stands this is kibosh and won’t even get you an interview let alone the elevated position you want.’

pexels-photo-442750
Image from Pexels

***

If you would like to join us in doing this weekly post, both Louise and I would be happy to see you. You can pick of your own word and illustrate its use in any way you choose(even a short story) or use your chosen word to follow a similar pattern to our posts.

shutterstock_558169333
Image  from Shutterstock

The Great Orme Copper Mines

The Bronze Age Copper Mines located in Llandudno on the Great Orme headland are one of Britain’s most important archaeological sites. Excavation began in 1987 and since then over 5 miles of tunnels dated between 1860BC and 600BC have been surveyed. The mine was opened to the public in 1991, enabling visitors to see the great complex of tunnels and old surface workings. We have visited three times now, the last time being in 2017, so I thought it was about time I wrote a post about it.

Great Orme Location Map

The Great Orme headland, or peninsula, is a massive chunk of limestone, rising to 207 metres /679 feet out of the sea. Its name, Great Orme, is of old Scandinavian origin, Ormr meaning serpent and hofuth meaning head. So the headland was called Serpent’s head, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Llandudno_&_Great_Orme anotated
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It is possible that the site of the mine was already a special place before anyone realised that the green copper ore could be turned into metal. It is thought that the 5,500-year-old Neolithic/Stone Age burial chamber only 100 metres from the mine was constructed there because the area was a closed, dry valley in which water disappeared down a sink hole.

Entrance to the mines is through Reception with a friendly piece of advice about wearing suitable shoes:

Entrance to the Great Orme Mines

Notice at the entrance to the site

The first part of our visit was around the large area of surface/opencast mining, which was all buried underground until excavations began in 1987.  The first opencast mining started approximately 4,000 years ago in places where the green malachite ore was visible at the surface. The malachite would probably also have been useful to the people for its colour as a pigment, perhaps for paint or eye make-up.

Open Cast Mining 2
Artist’s impression of the opencast workings as they may have appeared

Opencast mining probably continued for around 200 years, during which hundreds of tonnes of ore was extracted. When surface deposits were exhausted miners had no other choice than to follow the tunnels below ground. The little Bronze Age man on some of the photos was our guide through the mine, keeping us updated with interesting snippets of information.

The route through the tunnels for visitors has been carefully excavated since 1990. It reveals openings to previously unknown areas of the mine – many of which are too small to walk through.

Information poster at the entrance to the underground mines

Carbon dating in the Great Cavern in the central section of the mine suggests that it was mined in the middle of the Bronze Age, 3,500 years ago. It would have produced an enormous tonnage of copper metal. It is a huge cavern and so dark that it is illuminated by bright lights further in.

Early Bronze Age miners would have had a number of tools available to them. Around 3000 stone hammers have been unearthed since 1987. These were made from some of the hardest rocks, like dolorite, diorite and basalt, most lumps of which would have been found washed up on the beach. Battered markings on the hammers give evidence to the fact that the rock being worked was also fairly hard. When it was too hard to be worked with tools, a process called fire-setting was used. A fire was lit against hard areas of rock, causing it to crack. As with the use of animal fat lamps in the tunnels, fire-setting was hazardous as it burnt valuable oxygen.

Later in the period, tools were made of bronze:

Over 35,000 animal bones have been found at the mine, including cows, sheep, pigs, deer, dogs and rodents. Some of them would have been used for food, others by the earlier miners as chisels and scrapers in the mines.

The only Bronze Age smelting site in Britain was on the Great Orme.  As shown in the images below, copper ore was first broken into small fragments with stone hammers  before being fed into the kiln fuelled by charcoal, which burns at a much higher temperature than wood. The ore was changed into metal by heating it at temperatures around 1,100 degrees centigrade – which they wouldn’t have been able to measure, so I imagine they would simply get the furnace as hot as they could. The process is called smelting. Miners soon realised that on its own, copper ore is soft, and that by mixing it with 10% of tin they could produce the harder metal, bronze. The molten metal was poured into moulds and used to create a variety of objects.

As well as tools and weapons of all types, including spears, daggers, swords and shields, bronze could be made into many things, such as cups, cauldrons and the items named in to image below:

The many uses of bronze

This next image shows how broken or damaged metal implements were re-melted and re-cast into new ones:

There is plenty of evidence to show that an extensive trade network was in place during the Bronze Age.  The nearest source of tin needed to make Bronze on the Great Orme was Cornwall, 300 miles away. During the mid Bronze Age (3,500 years ago) a distinctive type of axe was made in North Wales. Hoards of these axes have been found in France and it is believed that the Great Orme copper was the main source of metal used. The metal has also been found in artefacts across Europe, stretching from Brittany to the Baltic.

Bronze Age boats found in Britain  suggest that trade was conducted by sea. The boats were capable of carrying cargoes of up to 2 tonnes and would have been able to cross the English Channel to France or Holland.

Bronze Age Travel
The mines on the Great Orme would have brought wealth and power to those who controlled them and the people of the Great Orme flourished with them.

Copper mines brought wealth and power to those who controlled them

Bronze Age copper mining on the Great Orme finally stopped when they reached the water table, by which time iron was the new material and the demand for copper declined. After a very long lull in interest, during which the mine seems to have been almost forgotten, there was a renewal during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Water was pumped out and shafts were sunk down to 470 feet (sea level). But eventually, Llandudno became known more as a popular Victorian seaside town than a mining town. The mines were covered over by spoil at the end of the 19th century and once again forgotten.

Although a great deal of excavation has already taken place since 1987, archaeological work will continue on both the surface and underground workings for decades. Tens of thousands of mine waste still cover large areas of the early mine workings and who knows what else will be discovered about this amazing site.

Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre provides plenty of information about the site, including a short introductory film, a model Bronze Age village, rock and ore specimens area and colourful posters around the walls to explain all about Bronze Age life on the Great Orme and working in the copper mines. The latter were the source of the snippets I’ve used in this post.

This year (2020) the copper mines re-opened on July 25, working to guidelines from the Welsh Government, including social distancing, a one-way system and face masks when viewing underground. Entry fees are £8 for adults, £5 for children and under 5s free. In 2005 the Great Orme mines was awarded the title of ‘The Largest Prehistoric Copper Mines in the World’ by the Guinness World Records Team and I can say that it’s well worth a visit.

References:

The Great Orme Bronze Age Mines Guide Book, purchased at the site

Information boards in the visitor centre and around the site

The Great Orme Copper Mines, Llandudno, Wales – Historic UK

Base map of Conwy, North Wales from Nilfanion at Wikipedia

Aerial photo of Llandudno and the Great Orme from Harvey Milligan at Wikipedia