Thursday, 18 July 2013

Snowdonia National Park

Today we left the isle of Anglesey and toured onto the UK mainland in Wales through Snowdonia National Park. Just before driving over the bridge we went to see Bryn Celli Ddu Passage Grave. The islands’ most famous Neolithic chambered tomb which was built on top of a circle-henge with partially restored entrance passage and mound. Late 3rd millenium BC it is also one of the few burial chambers that you can enter. The entrance to the burial chamber is through a 20 foot long passageway. It is known that the site was broken into in 1699 by men with lanterns who were terrified by the site of the rounded pillar standing like a ghost in the main chamber. The site became more derelict over the years until in 1927-31 it was excavated and restored. Evidence suggests the site is the product of two different religious systems. The first phase is a henge, an open air sanctuary for religious ceremonies and included the ditch and bank and the ring of stones. Phase two is the burial chamber, a classic passage grave with a high chamber roof and lower passage roof. No bones or other artefacts were found during the excavations but there is a stone with zig zag inscriptions standing alone on the outside of the chamber. 

Crossing the Menai Straight from the Anglesey Isle to the mainland we could see the suspension bridge and Ynys Gored Goch. A gored is a tidal fish trap that works by trapping fish behind a stonewall as the tide falls.

We also had to stop and see if we could attempt to say the name of the village with the longest place name. Meaning the Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave.

Views from Llanbegs

The Snowdonia National Park has jagged peaks of the most ancient rocks on earth. The highest peak in England and Wales. Snowdonia National Park covers 840 sq.miles of northwest Wales, 570 sq.miles protected for conservation or special scientific interest. 20% is legally protected because of its wildlife. The park also has: 90 summits above 2,000 ft. and 15 over 3,000 ft. 9 mountain ranges covering 52% of the land. 1,700 miles of public footpaths, bridlepaths and rights of way. 75% of its area in private ownership with the rest owned by the Crown, National Trust, MOD, Forestry Commission, other public bodies. The highest peaks are Snowdon (3,560 ft.) in the north and Cader Idris (2,929 ft.) in the South. 

We stopped at the village Betwys-y-Coed where the Pont-y-Pair Falls are in the centre of the village. 2 miles up the road from the village is Swallow Falls (Rhaeadr Ewynnol). This waterfall on the Afon Llugwy has become a familiar natural celebrity over the past 100 years and has featured on film, postcard and canvas. In 1913 the Swallow Falls was given to the Betws-y-Coed council by the second Lord Ancaster. The council were more than pleased to accept it for they had incurred a debt of £15,000 through the installation of water and electricity supplies to the village, and it was anticipated that by charging to view the waterfall at close hand, it would provide a source of income to help pay off the debt. Over the years it certainly did. Once the debt was cleared the parish retained the waterfall as a source of income until 1974 when Local Government Reorganisation reduced the status of the parish council. But what an interlude that proved to be! An interlude when Betws-y-Coed was in the enviable position of being the only parish in Wales where its residents paid the lowest rates in the country!

Pont-y-Pair Falls

Fairy Glen Betws-y-Coed a wooded gorge where Merlin lived in a cave is a beautiful spot on the Conwy River. Fairy Glen where Wuhelmina Stitch, "waits and waits, to see the fairy men".
Located only a short distance from Beaver bridge, a combination of rapids and cascades on the Conwy river are chanelled into a narrow ravine presenting an impressive and dramatic scene. Wooded banks and rock walls clothed with vegetation add to the charm.

On mossy mound where toadstools grow,
They dance in moonlight, row on row,
To music from the purling brook
Where Conwy dreams in secret nook.
Strange moonlight whisperings thru the wood
Where ancient golden beech have stood
And drowsed, thru drifting times of yore,
Steeped deep in mystic myth and lore.
Their bark with lichen garlands hung,
'Neath cobweb skiens with dew-pearls strung,
While knurled and knotted roots surround
To shield, from man, the hallowed ground.
That mist-clad land of whims and spells,
Floating music and tinkling bells;
A door lies hid beyond night's pale,
Wrapped in a glimm'ring, shifting veil.
But if that spell-bound caul you'll pierce,
Then drink the mead from faerie tierce;
The shade will fall away, and lo,
Into the elven realm you'll go!
Where pwca, sylph and woodland sprite
Trip light and skip in pure delight,
While imp and hob kick up their heels
And spin and whirl thru faerie reels.
A faerie woodwind's eerie lilt,
From fife that's hewn of wood and gilt,
With pulsing throb of faerie drums,
Through the glen at midnight comes.
Leila Sen (C)

Swallow Falls

Views of the National Park driving to Beddgelert Village

Holy Well or Sacred Spring of St Cybi's Well was our next stop. The information panel which reads: “The ruined structure in front of you is that of a pair of well chambers and an adjoining caretaker’s cottage. The well is dedicated to St Cybi, who reputedly lived in this area during the 6th century, and its waters were believed to cure disease."

Once you step through the door, you are taken into a very special place and time. An enclosed well with notches in the walls for seating or holding offerings and candles etc and steps down into the healing waters. A chamber around the back of the main housing is where the spring emerges from the ground here and the flows into the more obvious chamber, and then out along the long linear stonework. The remains of stone walls and houses can be seen beside a wide track, a bridge crossing the stream and a raised stone causeway leading to the well buildings can be seen under the grass. The buildings that stand now are the remains of eighteenth century buildings, on the left an enclosed bathing pool and beside it the remains of a house occupied by the well keeper. 

These were erected by the land owner Mr Price around 1730 after having been convinced of the efficacy of taking the waters. The spring itself lies immediately behind the bathing pool, forming another small pool from which water flows into the building. The well’s outlet is from the front of the building, through which it forms a fast flowing stream that flows through a stone lined channel across the field down towards the river. As it goes it passes through another smaller building, linked to the wellhouse by another stone path, which has at one time been a latrine block. The bathing pool itself is inside the left hand building of the pair, it is stone lined, approximately four yards square, with a narrow stone path running all the way around it. The well was a point of pilgrimage. Its waters were said to cure warts, lameness, blindness, scrofula, scurvy and rheumatism. Crutches and wheelbarrows left by cure seekers were to be seen around the well. At one time it is told that an eel lived in the well. The patient stood bare legged in the well and a cure would take place if the eel coiled itself around the patient’s legs. At one time the eel was removed and people believed that the well lost much of its powers at that time. Treatment was also said to have consisted of giving patients an equal quantity of well-water and sea water, morning and evening, for a period varying from seven to ten days. They then had to bathe in the water once or twice a day, retiring after each bath to a bedchamber in the adjoining cottage where they were given a quantity of healing water to drink. The success or otherwise of the treatment was judged by whether the patient became warm in bed or remained cold, with the former condition indicating that the treatment was progressing satisfactorily. An eighteenth century record of cures includes the case of one man, blind for 30 years having his sight restored after bathing his eyes in the well over a period of three weeks; whilst another was cured of a “sharp pain in the nose” after using the water. Water was frequently taken away from the well in bottles and casks for use as a medicine. Jones (1954) repeats the story of a band of smugglers who “…when returning with casks of spirits from Porthdinllaen were challenged by an excise officer. The smugglers said the casks contained water from ffynnon Gybi which they were taking to the well known land owner Mr Price of Rhiwlas.” The well was also frequently used for divination, with local youths floating handkerchiefs on the water to see which way their love would go. 

Cybi is another locally famed saint with origins far distant from North Wales. He came to the area rather late in life, apparently fleeing from a chain of disagreements and feuds he had had elsewhere. From what evidence exists he is believed to have been born in Cornwall, his father a Roman military leader or minor king, and through his mother Gwen, he was a first cousin to St David. He was educated in Cornwall and reputedly visited Jerusalem and Rome on pilgrimages before staying in France where he received his religious training. Baring Gould notes that some accounts have him staying in France until he was over 70, but this was clearly impossible. He returned to Cornwall at a time of strife in the area, and Baring Gould suggests that, maybe involuntarily, he may have become involved as a leader of a failed uprising and was forced to flee northwards. He arrived in South Wales, but was not well received by the local ruler there. Although he managed to obtain land for the establishment of two cells, he soon moved across the sea to Ireland. Again he worked on his ministry and established churches, but once again was involved in land disputes, and accused of incursion on other’s territory. Recrimination and curses followed as once again he was forced to move on, finally arriving on the Lleyn Peninsula where he founded his church at Llangybi. It was here that he plunged his staff into the ground bringing forth the waters which now flow as Ffynnon Gybi. Once again disputes arose between Cybi and the King of Gwynedd, Maelgwn. In settlement Maelgwn eventually conceded his stronghold on Anglesey where Cybi finally ended his days. This is the site that became known as Caer Gybi, in English, Holyhead. Cybi died on the 8th November around the year 554. 

Garn Fadryn or the Hill of Modron Welsh Mother Goddess has a number of large cairns and the remains of a hill fort on the summit of the mountain. On the slope of the mountain is a stone called King Arthur's table. There is also a well with a stone slab to kneel on to sample the delicious water which elderly locals recall drinking in their youth. Views of Anglesey in the far distance with nearer views of Nefyn and the coastguard station at Porthdinllaen can be seen. Garnfadryn is an extinct volcano and the stone circles to the west are pre-Roman. Garn Fadryn lies almost at the heart of the Llyn Peninsula. 

Unfortunately time had got the better of us today and we did not have time to walk to the top of the mountain to see it's treasures and had to drive on to our home for the night. I am glad that we were still able to drive up to the mountain and observe the area and the views.

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