Tuesday, 2 October 2012

National Trust Great British Walks

The National Trust are listing a new series of walks on National Trust owned land. There are 1288 across the whole of the UK, of which 33 are in North Wales.

These include Cnicht from Croesor - a moderate walk of 6 and a half miles. Or for more coastal scenery there's a walk on the Cemlyn Shingle Ridge. Many of the routes have step by step guides marked on OS maps.

Nordic Walking in Beddgelert Forest

Caroline Moncrieff runs courses on Nordic Walking on the Llyn Peninsula and elsewhere in North Wales. This Friday she's going a bit further afield to Beddgelert Forest. This is from her newsletter. If you would like to join in, please contact her using her details below:

Beddgelert Forest TAITH NORDIG

Friday / Dydd Gwener : 5th October  /  Mis Hydref
Meeting Time / Amser cwrdd:    10.30 AM/YB  

Meeting point / Man cwrdd: Take the turning at the Pont Cae Gors sign,then follow the track down and you will come to a car park at the start of the walks. ( If you are coming from Beddgelert you drive past the campsite on your left, the take the Pont Cae Gors turning on the left, the road goes back down on yourself.) If you want to meet up to car share let me know.


We will have a walk around the forest, bring something to eat, as we can walk up to the lake and have lunch there.

Please let me know if you are coming or bringing a friend, so I have enough Nordic Poles for the session.  Can you also pass this information on to anyone you think would be interested in joining our Nordic Walks.

Thank you /Diolch

07980 538811

Monday, 1 October 2012

Bwlch y Groes-Hellfire Pass

Bwlch y Groes actually translates as "Pass of the Cross". The English name "Hellfire Pass" is a mis-translation and is not used locally. It is so named because it was the Pilgrim's route from North West Wales to St David's. There has been a cross on the site marking the way since medieval times. The current cross has existed since 1989.

High passes and the Red Bandits of Mawddwy

I was driving through Southern Gwynedd the other day and took these photos of the pass Bwlch Oerddrws near Mallwyd.

This is the route I took - slightly off the beaten track!

Looking into the history of this area , I discovered the legend of the Red Bandits of Mawddwy. These were a band of red-haired highwaymen who terrorised this area in the 16th century, circa 1555.

National Slate Museum, Llanberis

My visit to Llanberis gave me the opportunity to visit the Slate Museum at Llanberis where the history of slate mining is well explained in models, film and arifacts. The setting is the workshops and finishing area for the Asheton Smith quarries.
The largest working watermill in Great Britain. According to the information plaque - "50' 5" in diameter, 5' 3" wide, and built around a 12" axle, it was constructed in 1870 by De Winton of Caernarfon, Gwynedd. The original was replaced in 1925 by a Pelton wheel or turbine, (still in use), but remarkably the water wheel was not scrapped. Restored to full working order in 1982, it is powered by water from the opposite side of the valley, carried by a 2' diameter cast iron pipeline."
Dinorwig workshops. "Whilst the surrounding mountains echoed with blasting, this building, Dinorwig workshops, built in 1870, serviced all the needs of the quarry. Over 100 men were employed here - with skills to make the operation self-sufficient. Wood from local trees was lifted in by crane to make trucks and engines for slate transport. In the smithy and foundry, men built and repaired machinery. Pattern makers crafted huge wooden patterns for metal machine parts. The giant water wheel gave power."

Here is a list of the many North Wales slate quarries that once existed. Only a few of them now remain.

How the price of slate has risen in value !

No traitors live here! 
This was a common sight at the time of the Great Penrhyn Strike and can be seen in the window of one of the cottages reconstructed at the National Mining Museum at Llanberis. This strike was one of the most bitter in North Wales' industrial history. You can read more about the history of this important strike at the Snowdonia National Park website.

This is a terrace of former miner's cottages. The information board at the front reads:

"This terrace of houses, Fron Haul, was built in the village of Tanygrisiau, near Blaenau Ffestiniog, as homes for slate quarrymen. Here, the houses are furnished to reflect important  periods in the history of the slate industry.
In no 3 lives a slate worker's family of 1861, crammed alongside their lodgers, exploiting the boom years of slate. No 2 is a house at Bethesda, during the bleak Penrhyn strike and lockout of 1900-03. The family struggles to survive, but a placard in the window says "There is no traitor in this House". No 1 is set in Llanberis in 1969: Dinorwig Quarry has closed, the father has no job, the future is uncertain. No 4 is used for educational projects on the lives of quarrymen and their families."

Interior circa 1870

Interior circa 1970

Sunday, 30 September 2012

VIPs at the Quarry Hospital

I had the pleasure to be invited to the launch of the Ein Treftadaeth / Our Heritage initiative, a 1.8 million £ scheme to improve the way we bring history and culture to life for residents and tourists alike. Walking will be a big feature of this initiative because it will sponsor the creation of the route for the Pilgrim Way North Wales, a 12 day walk from Holywell to Bardsey Island see www.pilgrim- way-north-wales.org ‘Ein Treftadaeth’/’Our Heritage’ is a £1.7m project to provide an integrated approach to heritage tourism across Gwynedd, Conwy and Snowdonia National Park.
The aim is to maximise the economic value of the area’s heritage, by increasing the volume, length and the value of visits. Gwynedd Council is leading the consortium in partnership with Conwy Borough Council and Snowdonia National Park. Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Huw Lewis said
"Our historic environment is one of our most precious economic and social assets. It makes a powerful contribution to tourism and Wales’ attractiveness to investors. It can also contribute significantly to regeneration.
“I am therefore extremely pleased to be here today to congratulate Gwynedd Council and their partners who are developing such an imaginative project, which will celebrate the diversity and distinctiveness of the heritage of North West Wales.”

Gwynedd Council’s Economy Cabinet Member, Councillor John Wynn Jones said,
“As well as a stunning landscape of mountains and coastline, Gwynedd and the wider North West Wales area has a fantastic story to share with the world - from the Celts and Romans to the Princes of Gwynedd and on to the 19th and 20th century quarries which exported Welsh slate across the globe.
“By packaging our area’s fascinating historical attractions and presenting them within their wider context, the ‘Ein Treftadaeth’/’Our Heritage’ project has the potential to have a significant positive impact upon our growing heritage tourism industry.”
By using both traditional and new technologies, the project aims to deliver improved co-ordinated interpretation including at the Quarry Hospital, Parc Padarn, and Padarn Lake Railway to emphasise the importance of the rail and slate industries.
‘Our Heritage’ is just one of a number of schemes that has benefited from the Welsh Government funded Heritage Tourism Project, bringing to fruition new ideas for attracting visitors to heritage sites in Wales and thereby creating jobs in our communities.
The Heritage Tourism Project is a £19 million Welsh Government managed initiative, backed by the European Regional Development Fund, to develop heritage tourism across Wales. The success of the project hinges on an integrated presentation of heritage sites and the development of meaningful and memorable storylines, making connections between sites, places, people and communities.

 The staff at the old quarry hospital love to bring history alive. Here is matron discussing the use of bedpans with Dewi Davies Strategy Director of TPNW.

Inscribed Stones at Penmachno

One of these stones is the odd man out. This is the one on the extreme left. This is a 13th Century stone and it may mark the final resting place of Iorworth Drwyndwn who was also (confusingly) known as Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd (1145-1174), the eldest legitimate son of Owain Gwynedd. He was killed in battle at Penant Melangell in Powys, but his son went on to become one of Wales’ most famous monarchs-Llywelyn the Great.
The other four stones date from the late 5th / early-mid sixth centuries and are grave markers written in Latin.
Church housing the stones

Capel Salem-why Salem?-26

This well preserved Methodist Chapel in Penmachno had an open day on 15th September and I was able to see its classic pitch pine interior and magnificent organ. One thing that strikes me about such chapels (which are everywhere in North Wales) is that they are all just too large and must have been too large even when nearly everyone in the village went to some sort of chapel or church. Only at an exceptional event could they possibly have been full.
The names of these chapels were heavily influenced by the Old Testament and some of them seem odd to the 21st Century mind. Salem is a short form of Jerusalem. Saron is the largest city in the prosperous Israel province of Netanya. Soar is a reference to Isaiah 40/31 “They will soar on wings like eagles”. Bethel is the place where Jacob dreams of a ladder stretching between heaven and earth, thronged with angels. Carmel is a mountain in Palestine. Horeb is a Hebrew name for the mountain where Moses received the 10 Commandments. Nebo is a challenging one. It was a Chaldean deity of the Babylonians and Assyrians. It all reminds us of another age when such biblical knowledge was widespread.

Llyn Idwal-a real scenic treat and easy too.

I love walking by water and having great views at the same time and at Llŷn Idwal these are there in abundance. The Lake (Llŷn in Welsh) is a classic glacial tarn set at the foot of the YGarn. Ambitious walkers can scale this great peak rising to 947 metres, but I stayed mainly on the level.

Nant Ffrancon is ac lassic glacial U shaped valley

Waterfalls abound. Take some time to visit the Rhaeadr Ogwen near the car park to the north.

The Snowdonia National Park have done a great job surfacing this route, not tarmac but real stone. The trouble is you have to watch your footing.

20 minutes of steady walking reveals this brilliant view north wards.

The Lake is tranquil and home to a feat variety of wildlife species.

The Carneddau Mountains loom as a backdrop and a reminder of challenges to come

YHA-still going strong

Saturday 15th September was Open Day for the YHA Hostel at  Idwal Cottage on the A5 near Llŷn Ogwen at the head of the Nant Ffrancon Valley
This is one of the longest established hostels in the country. A plaque on one of the walls bears the following history:

"YHA History
In Wales, by Easter 1931, four hostels were open with 130 beds.
One of these first four hostels was Idwal cottage, 1000ft above sea level at the head of the Nant Ffrancon, a site of sombre and a magnificent loneliness. Mr Symonds contacted Lord Penrhyn, its owner, asking if the Y.H.A. could use it. The latter agreed and generously let it to the Merseyside Group at a low rent. It is still one of the most popular hostels in the country, turning away thousands every week in August and September, holding records for over-nights; 4,653 were registered in 1932."
The hostel is all self catering now
Bunk beds are there in small dormitories but they also have en suite rooms
What’s this? Alcohol! Idwal is well known for its warm welcome and brilliant staff, here behind the bar.

Whatever happened to the slate industry?

 Driving down the A5 en route for a walk around Llŷn Ogwen I stopped off at one of the last working slate quarries in North Wales, the Penrhyn Quarries near Bethesda. Once 100,000 men worked in the slate quarries of North Wales. Currently employing around 90 workers, this quarry is a shadow of its former self. Underinvestment, cheap imports from Spain, the fashion (now passing) for tiled roofs, and the problems of disposing of all the waste that a slate mine makes have taken their toll. Some sense of all the mess that slate mining creates can be seen on the aerial view of this quarry on Google Earth (please find it SW of Bethesda and print it here)
The scale of the operation is still impressive 90 lorries leave the site each day-20 of “ready for roof” slates and 70 for chippings which a prized for garden paths and for pipe bedding. These are made in a giant crushing machine.

The waste of years ago makes a sorry sight but this quarry may soon be home to a tourist zip wire project.
Bethesda has slates of varying shades
High quality slate waste (off cuts and the like) can be ground down to a fine powder and used for make up powder.
Some of the old trackways have been made up into cycle tracks, nice level routes suitable for kids of all ages that aren’t looking for a workout

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Red sky at night

One of the pleasures of returning to Pen Llŷn in the evening is the prospect of a spectacular sunset when the weather is right. Last week (just before all the very wet weather came) was one such evening. The horizon burned before me as the Wicklow Hills danced in the distance.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Llanystumdwy - say that in a hurry!

Lloyd George as the champion of the people, a great orator and statesman

No wonder Lloyd George said he came from Criccieth. Llanystumdwy is one of the most difficult place names for English people to pronounce, but it was the home of the prime minister Lloyd George who led Great Britain and the Empire during a large part of the first world war. You can visit his boyhood home which is a humble terraced cottage which also served as a shoe maker's workshop for his uncle (his father having died when Lloyd George was a baby). There is also a very good museum at an adjacent large house. His eventual home in Ty Newydd is just up the lane and his burial place is in a beautiful wood at the bend in the Dwyfor river. This is a great place to come for short walks. There's plenty of parking and you can walk through the woodland on lanes or strike out south for the coast path, which will take you into Criccieth.

Lloyd George's grave, designed by Clough Williams Ellis.

His boyhood home.

Ty Newydd, now a writer's centre, see http://www.llanystumdwy.com/english/tynewyddE.html