Snowdonia National Park





The English name for the area derives from Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560 ft (1,085m). In Welsh, the area is named Eryri. One assumption is that the name is derived from eryr ("eagle"), but others state that it means quite simply Highlands, as leading Welsh scholar Sir Ifor Williams[1] In the Middle Ages the title Prince of Wales and Lord of SnowdoniaTywysog Cymru ac Arglwydd Eryri) was used by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, whose home was at Garth Celyn on the north coast; his grandfather Llywelyn Fawr used the title Prince of north Wales and Lord of Snowdonia. proved. (

Today the word "Snowdonia" is largely synonymous with the Snowdonia National Park, although prior to the designation of the boundaries of the National Park, the term "Snowdonia" was generally used to refer to a much smaller area, namely the upland area of northern Gwynedd centred on the Snowdon massif, whereas the national park covers an area more than twice that size extending far to the south into Meirionnydd. This is apparent in books published prior to 1951 such as the classic travelogue Wild Wales by George Borrow (1862) and The Mountains of Snowdonia by H. Carr & G. Lister (1925). F. J. North, as editor of the book Snowdonia (1949), states "When the Committee delineated provisional boundaries, they included areas some distance beyond Snowdonia proper." The traditional Snowdonia thus includes the ranges of Snowdon and its satellites, the Glyderau, the Carneddau and the Moel Siabod group. It does not include the hills to the south of Maentwrog. As Eryri (see above), this area has a unique place in Welsh history, tradition and culture.

 

 

Nature, landscape and the environment

The Park's entire coastline is a Special Area of Conservation, which runs from the Llŷn Peninsula down the mid-Wales coast, the latter containing valuable sand dune systems.


Disused quarry near Llanberis in the foothills of the Glyderau

The Park's natural forests are of the mixed deciduous type, the commonest tree being the Welsh Oak. Birch, ash, mountain-ash and hazel are also common. The Park also contains some large (planted) coniferous forested areas such as Gwydir Forest near Betws-y-Coed, although some areas, once harvested, are now increasingly being allowed to regrow naturally.





The Gwydir Forest lies in an elevated position, and offers views towards the Glyderau and the Carneddau ranges.

Northern Snowdonia is the only place in Britain where the Snowdon Lily, an arctic-alpine plant, and the rainbow-coloured Snowdon beetle (Chrysolina cerealis) are found, and the only place in the world where the Snowdonia hawkweed Hieracium snowdoniense grows.

A large proportion of the Park is today under designation (or under consideration for designation) as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Biosphere and Ramsar sites.

One of the major problems facing the Park in recent years has been the growth of Rhododendron ponticum.[10] This fast-growing invasive species has a tendency to take over and stifle native species. It can form massive towering growths and has a companion fungus that grows on its roots producing toxins that are poisonous to any local flora and fauna for a seven-year period after the Rhododendron infestations have been eradicated. As a result there are a number of desolate landscapes.

Rare mammals in the park include Otters, Polecats, and Feral goat, although the Pine Marten has not been seen for many years.[11] Rare birds include Raven, Peregrine, osprey, Merlin and possibly Red Kite.





Bird watching in Mid Wales  

Every species of bird that has been recorded in a wild state in Wales. Compared to the avifauna of Britain as a whole, Wales has fewer breeding species but these include a number of moorland species such as Red Grouse and Black Grouse, large numbers of seabirds (particularly on offshore islands such as Skomer, Grassholm and Bardsey) and good populations of several species typical of Welsh Oak woods including Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler.[2][3] Among the birds of prey is the Red Kite which had become extinct in other parts of Britain until being reintroduced recently.[1] In winter many wildfowl and waders are found around the coast, attracted by the mild temperatures.[2] In spring and autumn a variety of migrant and vagrant birds can be seen, particularly on headlands and islands.[2]

Barmouth on the coast 
Devils Bridge 

Associated legends

 Pont du Diable in Céret, southern France

The bridges that fall into the Devil’s Bridge category are so numerous that the legends about them form a special category in the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales (Number 1191). Some of the legends have elements of related folktale categories, for example Deceiving the Devil (AT #1196), The Devil's Contract (AT #756B), and The Master Builder legends.

One version of the tale presents the bridge builder and the Devil as adversaries. This reflects the fact that frequently, such as in the case of the Teufelsbrücke[1] at the St. Gotthard Pass, these bridges were built under such challenging conditions that successful completion of the bridge required a heroic effort on the part of the builders and the community, ensuring its legendary status.

Other versions of the legend feature an old lady or a simple herder who makes a pact with the Devil. In this version the devil agrees to build the bridge, and in return he will receive the first soul to cross it. After building the bridge (often overnight) the devil is outwitted by his adversary and is last seen descending into the water, bringing peace to the community.

Each of the bridges that have received the Devil's Bridge appellation is remarkable in some regard; most often for the technological hurdles surpassed in building the bridge, but on occasion also for its aesthetic grace, or for its economic or strategic importance to the community it serves.

 

Dolgellau


The rooftops of Dolgellau
Cymer Abbey
Bridge over River Mawddach at Llanelltyd

The area upon which Dolgellau stands was, in the pre-Roman Celtic period, part of the tribal lands of the Ordovices, who were conquered by the Romans in AD 77–78. Although a few Roman coins from the reigns of Emperors Hadrian and Trajan have been found near Dolgellau, the area is marshy and there is no evidence that it was settled during the Roman period. There are, however, three hill forts in the vicinity of Dolgellau, of uncertain origin.

After the Romans left, the area came under the control of a series of Welsh chieftains, although Dolgellau was probably not inhabited until the late-11th or 12th century, when it was established as a "serf village" (or maerdref), possibly by Cadwgan ap Bleddyn — it remained a serf village until the reign of Henry Tudor (1485–1509).

A church was built at some point in the 12th century (demolished and replaced by the present building in 1716), although Cymer Abbey, founded in 1198 in nearby Llanelltyd, remained the most important religious centre locally. Dolgellau gained in importance from this period and was mentioned in the Survey of Merioneth ordered by Edward I (Llanelltyd was not). In 1404 it was the location of a council of chiefs under Owain Glyndŵr.

After a visit by George Fox in 1657, many inhabitants of Dolgellau converted to Quakerism. Persecution led a large number of them to emigrate to Pennsylvania in 1686, under the leadership of Rowland Ellis, a local gentleman-famer. The Pennsylvanian town of Bryn Mawr, home to a prestigious women's liberal arts college, is named after Ellis's farm near Dolgellau.

The woollen industry was long of the greatest importance to the town's economy and by the end of the 18th century, output was reckoned to be worth between £50,000 to £100,000 annually. The industry was to decline in the first half of the 19th century, however, owing to the introduction of mechanical looms. Another important contributor to the local economy was tanning, which continued into the 1980s in Dolgellau, though on a much reduced scale.

The town was the centre of a minor gold rush in the 19th century. At one time the local gold mines employed over 500 workers. Clogau St. Davids mine in Bontddu and Gwynfynydd mine in Ganllwyd have supplied gold for many royal weddings.

Dolgellau was the county town of Merionethshire (Welsh: Meirionydd, Sir Feirionnydd) until 1974 when, following the Local Government Act of 1972, it became the administrative centre of Meirionnydd, a district of the county of Gwynedd. This was abolished in 1996 by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994.

Today, the economy of Dolgellau relies chiefly on tourism (see below), although agriculture still plays a role; a Farmers' market is held in the town centre on the third Sunday of every month.

The Centre of Dolgellau - Eldon Square/Y Stryd Fawr

It is believed that Dolgellau Cricket Club, created in 1869, is the oldest cricket club in Wales.[1]

The name "Dolgellau"

The name of the town is of uncertain origin, although dôl is Welsh for "meadow", and (y) gelli (from celli, pl. cellïoedd/cellïau) means "grove" or "spinney", and is common locally in names for farms in sheltered nooks. This would seem to be the most likely derivation, giving the translation "Meadow of Groves". It has also been suggested that the name could derive from the word cell, meaning "cell", translating therefore as "Meadow of [monks'] cells", but this seems less likely considering the history of the name.

The earliest recorded spelling (from 1253, in the Survey of Merioneth) is "Dolkelew", although a spelling "Dolgethley" dates from 1285 (the thl is almost certainly an attempt to represent Welsh /ɬ/). From then until the 19th century, most spellings were along the lines of "Dolgelley", "Dolgelly" or "Dolgelli" (Owain Glyndŵr wrote "Dolguelli"). Thomas Pennant used the form "Dolgelleu" in his Tours of Wales, and this was the form used in the Church Registers in 1723, although it never had much currency. In 1825 the Registers had "Dolgellau", which form Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt adopted in 1836; it may derive from a false etymology. This, however, is the modern form in English and Welsh, although the town continued to be known as Dolgelley in English until 1958, when Dolgellau was adopted as the official name by the local Rural District Council.

Shortly before the closure of the town's railway station it displayed signs reading variously Dolgelly, Dolgelley and Dolgellau.



Literary connections

Near Dolgellau is the house of Hengwrt, whose 17th century owner Robert Vaughan (1592–1667) kept an extensive library. This was home, among other treasures, to the Book of Taliesin, the Black Book of Carmarthen, the White Book of Rhydderch and the Hengwrt manuscript.

In 1971 John Elwyn Jones, a retired teacher who had taught Russian, German and Welsh at Dr Williams School, published Pum Cynnig i Gymro ("Five Tries for a Welshman"),[4] an account of his time as a Prisoner of War in Poland during World War II. The title of the book refers to the five attempts he made to escape, the last of which succeeded. The book was dramatised by S4C in 1997. In 1986 and 1987 John Elwyn published his autobiography in 3 volumes, called Yn Fy Ffordd Fy Hun ("In My Own Way"). These do not duplicate his Prisoner of War adventures, but recount his upbringing in the area—he was born at Bryn Gwyn, less than a mile from the town—and subsequent return to the area after his years in the armed services.[5] He died in September 2007.

The modern Welsh writers Bethan Gwanas and Nia Medi live local to Dolgellau. Marion Eames educated at Dr. Williams' School, lived in Dolgellau up to her death in 2007; she is probably best known for her book The Secret Room (originally published in Welsh as Y Stafell Ddirgel), a semi-fictional account of the events leading up to the 1686 emigration of Quakers from Dolgellau. It was dramatised by S4C in 2001.

Local attractions

Dolgellau and Cader Idris

The surrounding area is known for its wild but beautiful countryside and places of historical interest. It is popular with tourists who enjoy activities such as walking, hiking, horse riding, white-water rafting and climbing. Dolgellau is the main base for climbers of Cadair Idris (known as Cader Idris locally).

The Great Western Railway line from Ruabon to Llangollen was extended via Corwen and Llanuwchllyn to Dolgellau, where it formed an end-on connection with the Cambrian Railways line from Barmouth Junction and a shared station was opened there in 1868. The Ruabon Barmouth line was closed in the 1960s under the Beeching Axe. The railway line was converted some years ago into the Llwybr Mawddach (or "Mawddach Trail") which now runs for some eight miles from Dolgellau to Morfa Mawddach railway station, near Fairbourne on the coast. It is maintained by the Snowdonia National Park and is very popular with walkers and cyclists. It passes some estuarine areas that are important for water birds.

The site of Dolgellau railway station itself, along with approximately a 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of former trackbed, was used to construct the Dolgellau bypass in the late 1970s.

Historical attractions, apart from the town itself, include the 12th century Cymer Abbey, a short walk from Dolgellau. The Tourist information centre also has an exhibition on Quakers and there is a Quaker graveyard in the town. A field known as Camlan, in nearby Dinas Mawddwy, has been claimed as the site of the last battle of King Arthur (based on a mention of the name in the Annales Cambriae; see also Battle of Camlann).

Dolgellau is a good centre for visiting a number of nearby narrow-gauge heritage railways, including the Corris Railway, the Fairbourne Railway and the Talyllyn Railway.

 





 
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