Postcard from... Cwm Llan

By Paul Scraton:

From the car park we followed the procession of bank holiday walkers aiming for the top of Snowdon via the Watkin Path. Throughout the day the summit of Yr Wyddfa would remain in clouds, and descending walkers told us of the cold winds on the ridge and poor visibility. We were not aiming that high, just following the path long enough to turn the corner into Cwm Llan and up to the old slate quarries that stand in the shadow of the great mountain. Beneath huge piles of slate we picked our way through the remains of the old barrack buildings, standing solid-if-roofless on the boggy ground.

We tried to imagine what life was like for those working these quarries high in the mountains, tried to imagine the working conditions and the weather, but we failed. We could read about it, learn of the low wages and the poor life expectancy, but there would still be a gap in our understanding. We headed back down via the old tramway that had moved the slate down off the mountain to where it could be transported on to Porthmadog. It was a reminder that even the “wild places” of Britain are shaped by human hands… or the sheep they release to graze there.

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