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- ‘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

Railways and Walking - Full Steam ahead

One of the useful additions to the tourist infrastructure of North Wales this year has been the Welsh Highland Railway which now runs a full service from Caernarfon to Porthmadog taking in the best of the scenery around Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Gorge. Together with the Ffestiniog Railway which has been running as a steam narrow gauge railway for many years between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog this makes this concentration of tourism railways the best in the world. You could use it to admire the scenery all the way from Caernarfon right round to Blaenau and then catch the Conwy Valley railway to Bangor. It is then an easy bus trip back to Caernarfon. But that is a long trip. It would take all day. Much better to use the railway for short trips as a means of accessing walks. Look out for future blogs on a series of these. These photos which I took yesterday will surely whet your appetite.

What is a Duathlon?

Duathlons are similar to Triathlons, but lack a swimming leg.

If you are up for a challenge, a mountain bike duathlon is held annually in the Llandegla Forest. You can see pictures from last February's event at

Next Year's event will take place on Sunday 17th February 2013.

If you have any questions or would like more information on any of the events coming up in 2013, please send an email to
Uberfit Events
PO Box 494
M16 6DD

Tel: 07871 268 289

Walking in the Conwy Valley?

Something new has appeared at Bodnant and if you are walking in the Conwy Valley this weekend I can recommend a visit. This is the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in the Conwy Valley. It was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall in early July and 33,000 people have already visited. 60 jobs have been created and it has a shop, tearoom, tourist accommodation, bakery, dairy, bee keeping centre and a cookery school.

You can find a BBC news story from prior to the opening here.

30 Years of learning Welsh!

What are you doing this weekend? If you are going to be in the area of Caernarfon / Nefyn then why not book a place to celebrate Nant Gwrtheyrn's 30 anniversary as a language centre. The celebrations will start at 1.30pm on Sunday the 30th of September. There will be a slide show to start, followed by a party attended by Dr Carl Clowes who founded the project 30 years ago.

Porth y Nant was once a thriving mining village, but was largely abandoned and fell into disrepair after the quarry closed following the second world war. The village was given a new lease of life in 1982 when a group of tutors and students gathered in one of the newly renovated houses to learn Welsh.

Nant is now on the route of the Wales Coast Path, and Caffi Meinir is a great place to stop for a cup of tea while passing through.

Please Email the office at Nant on,  or phone 01758 750 334 if you would like to attend.

Kayakers rescued off Porth Dinllaen

Two kayakers from Aberdovey have been rescued after getting into difficulties off the Llyn Peninsula last Sunday. The two men were more than a mile from the coast and were facing difficulties in a flood tide. They sent a radio distress call saying that they could not make any headway, but they were unable to provide details of their exact location.

HMS Tyne
A rescue operation was put into action after the pair issued a mayday using a UHF radio at 14:50 BST on Sunday.

Luckily, a coastguard team from Aberdaron spotted them just over a mile off shore as the new lifeboat from Porthdinllaen made its way to the scene. But the first to arrive was the Royal Naval Minehunter HMS Tyne and the fishing boat Ocean Bounty.

Holyhead coastguards say the kayakers had struggled to cope with the strong tides but did not need medical help.

Porth Dinllaen Lifeboat

Thinking of working in the Great Outdoors?

If you are thinking of setting up a business in or around Conwy then Conwy Business Week might be just the thing for you. It has just been announced that between the 15th and the 19th of October there are to be 4 conferences in different locations around Conwy.

15th October Glan Llyn, Y Bala

16th October Conwy Business Centre
18th October Glasdir Llanrwst
19th October Plas Menai Caernarfon
Cost – FREE
Lunch provided

The aim of the conference is to:
· Engage with businesses across Conwy and Gwynedd so as to understand the needs and issues that the Outdoor sector faces and in particular those that prevent growth in our local companies.
· Promote the Outdoor Tourism project and the available support that it can provide to local businesses, plus the available support from the Welsh Government Regional Centre Service (Business support service).
· Update businesses on the latest developments in the sector across Wales including the branding of Outdoor Tourism in North Wales.
· Meet and share good practise with businesses across the sector.

To do this the conference will:
· Raise awareness of outdoor tourism as a way of working and meeting outcomes
· Share good practice and promote on-going work
· Provide opportunities for business development and partnerships
· Provide an opportunity to register an interest in being involved in the Outdoor Tourism Project either as beneficiary or provider of services.

I will be going to the Conwy Business Centre on the 16th. See you there!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Wild Cycling in North Wales

Last Saturday saw the formal launch of a brilliant mountain biking trail book relating to North Wales. This took place at the Outdoor Partnership Festival at Plas y Brenin.

North Wales is rightfully well-known for it's fantastic purpose built mountain bike trails. At Coed y Brenin, Dafydd Davis pioneered the concept in the UK. Today we've also got trails such as the Marin and those at Penmachno and Llandegla to choose from.

But before these developments mountain bikers got their two-wheel fix and honed their skills on the area's trails and bridleways. The hills and mountains offer no shortage of memorable unsanitised adventures.

This new guidebook offers a carefully selected choice of 27 such routes using Ordnance Survey mapping. They range in difficulty from suitability for those new to the sport, through medium distance & black difficulty and on to some real challenging expeditions to test your fitness, skills, navigation and even sense of humour, like the epic 78km circuit of the Carneddau mountains.

There is a poignant story behind this book in that the author, Pete Bursnall, had just about finished writing the book before becoming too ill to carry on and sadly didn't live to see it published.

Matt Strickland, who has ensured that Pete's work wasn't wasted, said: "Pete researched, rode and wrote this book whilst dealing with what he always referred to as his 'cancer black dog'. He rode his bikes pretty much as if nothing was wrong with him and only in his final few months when lesser mortals would have long since stopped riding was Pete unable to ride."

He added: "This book was never intended to be a farewell from Pete, he never saw life like that, it's a book of great routes to be ridden and enjoyed just because you can."


It isn't very often that I stray "abroad" but on Sat 22nd of September I slipped across the rickety bridge at Penrhyndeudraeth into what used to be called Eifionydd (please check all spellings as I can't see what I am typing) and took the A496 down past Harlech to the great seaside town of Barmouth to help out at the Walking Festival.

Strictly speaking this is not in North Wales but I was so impressed by the determination of Lesley Amison and all her volunteer helpers in getting this Festival established that I offered to lay on a couple of Geocaching sessions. And very popular they were.

We had some 22 people all told on a sunny day and we managed to find the micro cache by the brass dolphin statue overlooking the sea.

The picture shows the morning group at the scene of their triumph. We moved on with our pre-programmed GPS units and found the Long Haul cache, another micro hidden on a bench by the slab of marble which had been on a ship that sank in the harbour over a hundred years ago.

Recently dragged to the surface it has been made into a statue of a group of sailors hauling a great weight-a reminder that working at sea long ago was not all a matter of jolly tars and sea shanties, but unrelenting hard work. We moved on to other caches and a great day was had by all-especially the children.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Accessible Walks

The Snowdonia National Park Authority has published 5 accessible walks on its website. These are suitable for wheelchair users with well-made level paths.

You can click on these links to find out more about them:

Mawddach Trail

Dôl Idris Path

Llyn Cwellyn Board Walk

Traeth Benar Board Walk

Foel Ispri Path

More adventurous wheelchair users might like to try the following two trails. These are more challenging and require more confidence and stamina.

Aber Falls (Rhaeadr Fawr) path in Abergwyngregyn

Dôl-goch Falls - the path to the first waterfall

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Which are the top 5 must-see archaeological sites in North Wales?

Snowdonia Mountains and Coast have advanced the case for:

Bryn Cader Faner

1. Segontium - the Roman fort on the outskirts of Caernarfon.

2. Tre'r Ceiri - the Iron Age Hill Fort on Yr Eifl.

3. Bryn Cader Faner - the Bronze Age cairn near Harlech.

4. Dinas Emrys - a place from Welsh Mythology near Beddgelert.

5. Tomen y Mur - a Roman fort refortified in Norman times near Trawsfynydd.


What do you think? Are there any of your favourite places that you would like to add?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Spectacular Autumn Fireworks on the way!

If you are planning an autumn break then be sure to come to Wales this Autumn because the tree colours are going to be fantastic. All the woodland in the Clwyd and Conwy Valleys, and in the foothills of Snowdon are going to be bursting with colour. It may have been a dismal summer but there is going to be an exceptional display as a result of all the wet weather which allowed foliage to flourish. The cold nights will now turn the leaves golden.

Had the summer been dry the leaves would already be falling from deciduous trees, but this year the leaf growth has been phenomenal. Now that night time temperatures are falling the trees will stop growing and begin turning.

Chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green colour begins to break down, exposing yellow, orange and red pigments. Plenty of Autumn gold is on the way.

Barmouth Geocaching Festival

I'll be running an introduction to Geocaching course at the upcoming Barmouth Walking Festival on Saturday the 22nd of September. If you're in the area, do pop along to the Dragon Theatre at either 10am or 2pm. It's £5 per adult, but under 16s go free.