Forgotten Snowdonia

Unusually, the Snowdonia National Park has a hole in the middle, around the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate quarrying centre. This was deliberately excluded from the Park when it was set up more than half a century ago in order to allow the development of the new light industry to replace the decimated slate industry – “Forgotten Snowdonia”

In 2010 the town council fought for the boundary that turns the place into an island within the National Park to be scrapped. Despite the Snowdonia National Park Authority voting to back the inclusion “in principle”, the Welsh Government decided not to proceed with the proposed boundary variation as at that time it was not seen as the best value for the expenditure that may have been needed to see it through.

In what they felt was an appropriate alternative to the boundary variation two years ago they embarked on a plan to secure UNESCO World Heritage Status for the North Wales slate industry which would include amongst other locations, parts of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The entire process of being selected for World Heritage Status can take between five and ten years and even then may not be successful, by which time I am sure that the original proposal to vary the boundary of the Park could have been completed and possibly at considerably less cost.

Whilst accepting that Blaenau Ffestiniog itself was unlikely to be ever included in a boundary change there are in my opinion a number of areas of the landscape around the town that should be protected within the Park and which even if World Heritage Status is ever secured are still unlikely to be protected. I refer in particular to the fringes of the excluded area including the more remote landscapes to the North around Moel Bowydd and Moel Penamnen and to a lesser extent the East around Manod Bach and to the West above Cwmorthin.

Forgotten Snowdonia – North

Over a number of years, I have walked and photographed some of these unprotected landscapes. Not being part of the Snowdonia National Park I have until now not released any of the images but in the light of the above, I have decided to share some of these less well-known landscapes in the hope that others will take the opportunity to enjoy them and have a similar view to myself over their protection.

North Wales Slate Quarries
Llyn Bowydd

Starting to the north of the town the first image above shows The Rhiwbach Tramroad across Bowydd Dam which was built in 1862/3, less than a decade after the construction of the dam and continued in use until the 1960s. For most of the period, horses were used to pull the wagons, but post-WWII an electric rail tractor was introduced. You can just see Snowdon in the distance on the upper left.

Forgotten Snowdonia
Llyn Du-bach

This time a view west across Llyn Du-bach with The Moelwynion forming the background.  This is one of two lakes in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area named Llyn Du-bach.  This lake, which is in two sections was constructed to provide water for the Graig Ddu Quarry mills with water being carried there by means of a leat.

Forgotten Snowdonia
Chwarel Bowydd

Hopefully showing that even the most neglected industrial landscape can be beautiful in the right conditions. The image shows the ruined engine house at Chwarel Bowydd which provided power for working the inclines linking the quarry with Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Forgotten Snowdonia – West

Now crossing over to the west side of the town and up through the Cwmmorthin valley, one of the lakes you can visit and enjoy is Llyn Clogwyn brith.

Llyn Clogwyn brith

The lake was natural but its level was raised by the construction of a dam which can still be seen today. The main function of the reservoirs on the Northside was to supply the main mill and dressing shed. The water from this lake was fed to Llyn Coed, the last link in the supply chain which lay far below in the centre of this view.

Passing through the slate areas there are a number of features that you come across where the slate is being used for less obvious uses.

Slate Fence

The slate fence was a cheap and easy way to mark boundaries using quarry offcuts. As long as the wire at the top is regularly replaced such structures have an indefinite life.

Llyn Cwm Corsiog

This is a view of Llyn Cwm Corsiog. It is a purely artificial reservoir, created in 1899 to meet the increasing demands for water power. The lake covers a large area and it is impounded by two dams separated by the beautiful red rocky outcrop shown here.

Whilst it is important to emphasise that Snowdonia is not just about wonderful landscapes I hope these images go some way to highlight some of the landscapes that are currently excluded from the Park and therefore I am sure forgotten.

You can see further images in the Snowdonia and North Wales gallery.  

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