Wednesday 29 October 2014

Woods & Water: A Weekend In Snowdonia

View over Gwydyr Forest to Moel Siabod

From the Cairngorms National Park to Snowdonia National Park, a train journey of over ten hours, leaving in rain, arriving in rain. The reason for this trek south was the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild AGM Weekend at the Plas Y Brenin national outdoor centre. A rainy day indoors at the centre with interesting conversations, a workshop on the challenges of new media, a thankfully straightforward AGM, an excellent dinner and the awards ceremony. A good day, ending with a lift back to my B&B in Betws Y Coed (the friendly and cosy Grove House) courtesy of Mark Richards (thanks Mark!).

Rushing stream in Gwydyr Forest

Sunday morning and the rain still fell and the sky was thick and dark with low clouds. OWPG members were going for a walk. I might have joined them but missed the only bus to Plas Y Brenin. I didn’t mind. After a day with people I was happy to wander off on my own and the wooded hills round Betws Y Coed looked interesting. And so they proved. The woods aren’t old and much is plantation forestry but overall the mix of trees, including big oaks and Douglas firs, and the steep hilly terrain with many hidden crags makes for pleasant and varied walking. After all the rain the rivers and streams were splendid too. The rain kept up all day, starting as drizzle but becoming heavy in the afternoon, and the wet forest glowed in the soft light and smelt wild and wet.

Hafod mine

Whilst the woods now are quiet and gentle this is an old mining area as it is rich in lead and zinc. A hundred years ago it was heavily industrialised. The last mine only closed in 1963 though most were gone long before then. In the woods there are many remnants of the industry, dark barred shafts leading into crags, channelled streams rushing down leats and, in places, the last ruins of smelting mills. I wandered through the tiered remnants of Hafod mine and passed the site of Parc mine. The latter was the biggest mine and the last to close. Now it’s hard to tell it was ever here. In the sixty years since it closed the forest has taken over. The lakes in the forests were utilised for mining too, some purpose built, others enlarged. Now they add to the beauty of the landscape.

Llyn Parc

Rain dribbled down as I made my way to the railway station for the long journey home. The air was still sullen and heavy. Along the North Wales coast though the sun shone and the beaches were bright and the sky blue. It didn’t last and for most of the journey the rain lashed down. Aviemore station was dark and wet. I drove the last miles home with the wipers on full.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I know it quite well round there — very pleasant, interesting and, as you say, varied walking.