Snowdonia


Rainbow

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

What makes a good view? I often hear people say -”That’s a lovely view”, when all they are looking at is some agricultural fields. Does any view of the countryside make a good view. Maybe if you have lived all your life in the city it may be so but I think there is more to a good view than a few farmer’s fields.
I have driven up to Snowdonia for a course and it has set me thinking because North Wales isn’t my ideal mountain scape. What poetry has been written here after all?
True, Turner came here to paint pictures but my problem is that is stricken by the industrial age with such scars on the landscape that it turns me away. OK, there are lakes with the mountains reflected in them, the snow capped tops partly hidden in the clouds should be beautiful but it is difficult to really get enthusiastic. The vistas are just not quite as well formed. It seems just a conglomerate of lumps and lakes without any aesthetic design, unlike the more prosaic Lake District.
Still, is is a wild place and for that I give it a lot of respect. Tucked away in the top left corner of Wales it is a long way from central England. I always forget how far it is until I drive it. After leaving the central motorways you are left on the A5, a winding road that joins together various welsh towns with appealing names…Llangollen, Betws-y – Coed. Apart from the central mountainous region there is plenty of moorland and an attractive coastline. This is the home for choughs, ravens, curlew, buzzards, kestrel, merlin and sparrowhawk.
The remains of the mining industry lie everywhere. Gold, copper and slate were the main industries and there are large open cast mines that have been carved out of the hillside. Most of them have been filled in and to some extent nature has recovered and there is something almost attractive about the way in which the hillside reclaims its territory.
The highest mountain in Wales in Snowdon and there is a railway that goes to the top although there are several paths for walkers, although I haven’t actually done the whole ascent myself. The railway means that the summit is often crowded with people so I have never been attracted to the top.
First came the plant hunters attracted by a range of alpine plants that had been left over from the ice age.
Thomas Pennant popularised Wales in the 1700s with his book on the Tours of Wales. Thomas Telford improved the road in the early 1800s. I am staying at the Plas y brenin mountain centre which was origianlly a hotel built to have a specatular view across two lakes towards Snowdon. It was after the road was improved that toursists really started coming here in their droves and the same is true today.
Of course, there were people here before the 1700s. There were Stone age settlements and evidence of Bronze age settlements. The Celts arrived here around 600BC . In AD 43 the Romans arrived and introduced modern agricultural practices – sheep. Mining techniques were also improved via the Romans.
After a few days on the course, I think I have been turned to the attractions here. The mountains away from Snowdon are remote places and the views from the top were stunning. As the clouds move and swirl around, there are snow-capped tops, and layers of hills stacked on top of the other like cardboard cutouts in the winter sunlight. Away in the distance is the coast and the glistening sea. Now this is a view to behold and it beats anything that the Lakes has to offer.

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