Saturday, August 11, 2012

Advancedbiker has a day off - Or does he ?

Advancedbiker has a day off – Or does he....
It is not very often I go out for a fun ride, as I usually have a client to look after or leading a group or on a tour.  So for a change I decided to try and combine my interest in motorcycling, world war two and photography.  I invited  friend, who shared my mutual interest and the date was set.  We decided to go for Friday 10th August 2012 and it was decided to head into Wales and our intention was to go for Elan Valley – to look for the remains of the dam used it the experiments prior to the Dambuster raid, then onto a Red Kite rescue centre, before ending the day further north at the Penmaenpool toll bridge.
We met up at Eccleshall, Staffordshire and as Mark my fellow rider had an Autocom headset, I brought along a spare Autocom system.  Powered it up from the socket under the seat on his BMW R1200GS and we had bike to bike comms.
I had a route in my head so we set off towards Shrewsbury for our first tea stop at Dinky’s Diner, which is on a lay by just outside of Shrewsbury on the Welshpool road.
I was determined for this to be a ‘Fun Run’ and settled down to a steady pace up to the posted speed limits.  It soon became obvious that Mark was starting to loose ground on me, when it came to the bends.  So do I say anything, as it is my day off, of do I have a chat over the Autocom system.   Well I couldn’t resist, but asked Mark if he didn’t mind, he didn’t so we had a chat.....
I had been out with Mark a few times, but he readily admitted on this occasion he was a little ‘rusty’.  All it was he was still riding his BMW in ‘Car Mode, not looking far enough ahead and concentrating too much on the bend he was going round, instead of the one he was going for next.. (Does this look familiar).
The ride after the tea break was completely different as we chatted about bend assessment, right speed, the gear and a constant throttle around the bends and looking all the time for the exit, before we had to go into another bend.  With the Autocom it meant Mark became more ‘switched’ on and responded better to any overtaking opportunities.

Well we got to our first destination just after midday, so decided to have something to eat at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre.  We arrived at our first photographic location, but had no idea where the Nant-y-Gro dam was.  I had done some research on the internet and it said it was about half a mile from the visitor centre.   However it’s exact location was not known to me so I asked the very helpful staff at the information desk, who then gave me a fact sheet and route to take to get to the dam.

Next problem, what do we do with our helmets, jackets etc... It was a very hot day so the information staff kindly offered to look after our kit, so we travelled light armed only with our Canon 600 EOS cameras, and a few lenses.   

Motorcycle boots not the best boots for walking.....Blisters now !

The route according to the staff was not that far......!  Follow the signs and keep the water on your right....Simple....

So on leaving the visitor centre and heading towards the dam up the valley, towards the Caban Couch Reservoir, cross over the bridge and then CLIMB...... to the top of the dam,  through the gate and turn right towards the reservoir.
At the top of the dam there are some spectacular views and a small track leading off to the left heading alongside the reservoir.  This eventually turns into a stone ‘goat track’ before climbing a bit over a few styles before getting to a small inlet.

The area is very over grown but as the grassed path leads off to the left, you spot a small information board.... You have arrived at the Nant-y-Gro dam.  (I am not convince it is only half a mile walk....)
The Nant-y-Gro dam (translated as The Pebbly Stream) was a small masonary dam built across the Nant-y-Gro stream during the construction of the dams and reservoirs in the Elan Valley, Wales.
The dam created a million gallon reservoir which was used to provide water to the navvies village below. It also supplied water to storage tanks used by locomotives, steam cranes and other steam driven machinery.

By 1905 the water works were complete, the Nant-y-Gro dam was no longer needed because the Elan village obtained water from the new water works scheme.  The dam became redundant and almost forgotten.
The dam was still standing during the war and Wallis used it as a secret testing venue for the development of Upkeep.

In 1939 as war clouds gathered Barnes Neville Wallis was considering an engineering solution and the possibility of using explosives on structures, such as dams.
After a lot of researched and testing on models, by the beginning of 1941 Birmingham City Council had given the Air Ministry permission to use the unwanted Nant-y-Gro dam for demolition experiments.  It was very fortunate as the dam turned out to be a fifth scale version of the Mohne dam in Germany. (One of the targets for the Dambusters).
In May 1942 the first live explosive test took place, but not much damaged was caused.  However on July 24th 1942, 280lbs of explosives were detonated against the wall of the dam at a depth of 10 feet. The blast blew a hole 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep in the dam wall. 
It caused a massive explosion, destroying the dam and by doing so lead to more development work which lead to the Dambuster raids.
What remains of the dam today:
Looking down into the valley from the information board

Looking towards the Reservoir

In the above three photgraphs, you can just about see the remains of the north part of the dam through the trees

South part of the remains of the dam, with cracks in the dam wall

The reamins of the dam, after the explosion in 1942, now covered in moss, nature taking over.

The walk to see the dam is well worth it, but was a fair way from the vistor centre.  Nature is taking over soI would think eventaully the structures will get covered, but it will take a few years yet.
These photographs taken by me and Mark were done roughly 70 years since the explosion.

The black and white pictures have been taken from other web sites. 
 Just on clsoing a video from the DAMBUSTER website

We never got to the other places.....Next Time

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What a wonderful day I had on this day out. I being the lucky one to ride along with Nigel.
At times we both thought we were mad, but we rode and marched on and it was all well worth it. To take in the wonderful scenery and ride some wonderful roads. To anyone with an interest in beautiful scenery and an interest in the Dambusters I can highly recommend the √Član Reservoir.
And to anyone wishing to improve thier riding skills then Nigel is the guy to contact.
This trip will always be remembered and the photographs are thier to reflect on in years to come.