Friday, 24 August 2012

Quarry Power

The weekend beginning 14th September will be a celebration of old quarry engines. Full details are on the event website including guided walks. Engines on display will include the trio of Hunslets which can be seen here pulling up a gravity train on The Ffestiniog earlier this year.  

Thursday, 23 August 2012

It's an elm!

20 to 25 million elms died of Dutch elm disease in the UK but don’t blame the Dutch, it was their scientist who identified it. Today it’s a rare sight to see an elm but you can find one on the drive down from Plas Tan y Bwlch towards The Oakeley Arms, on the right hand side, just after the turning to The Lodge.

The gardens are open to the public from 10am until 4pm and contain all sorts of trees. Oaks of course, giant limes, also the handkerchief tree and the tree of heaven. But for me the elm is the star – I wonder how it survived.

I'm told there are quite a few elms across the valley in Ceunant Llenerch.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Power of The Plas

It was one of the first houses in Wales to have electricity with a Gilkes turbine installed in 1905. This was used until 1928; presumably made redundant by the opening of the much larger Maentwrog hydro scheme which was big enough to power all of north Wales. Since then nuclear has been and (almost) gone and in a few months The Plas will be back to having its own hydro power generated by yet another Gilkes turbine.

Construction is fraught with conservation complication. Work on the turbine end, alongside the main road, can only be done in the summer months so as not to disturb bats. Trench work at the top end has to wait until the ecologist confirms ground nesting birds have fledged. The section through the orchard to the road has to avoid anthills. And then there are trenches beneath highly prized trees, such as the huge limes and the ‘Tree of Heaven’, which have to be hand dug to preserve the roots.

The scheme costs £420K and at current electricity prices is expected to have a ten year payback. Generating 100,000 Kw a year that’s enough for about fourteen normal households. 

Stori Traws

Stori Traws is a weekend conference, 16th to 18th November, celebrating the heritage of Trawsfynydd power station & electricity production in Eryri.

It's about the social as well as the technological impact of one of the largest industrial developments seen in North Wales during the last 50 years. It is an impressive story of innovation and engineering on a grand scale encompassing the three main phases of Trawsfynydd Power Station’s lifetime: construction, power production and decommissioning.

Footbridge, reactors and Stwlan

Now, as work on site is approaching its final stages, an imaginative programme is underway as part of the Trawsfynydd Heritage Strategy to safeguard this unique aspect of our industrial and social history by preserving documents, photographs, and the taped memories of former workers etc. for the future.

Nuclear power production though is only one part of the story of electricity generation in the area. Our conference timeline starts with the production and use of electric power in local quarries in the Victorian period, early hydro-electric schemes, establishing local supply networks, the National Grid, the advent of nuclear power, pump storage schemes and the recent revival in interest in micro-generation and concludes with a look to what the future might hold.

Interwoven with this story of technological revolution is the social and economic impact of such a large development as Trawsfynydd power station and the domestic transformation which followed the coming of power to people’s homes.

The conference begins at 7pm Friday 16th November with an open evening for the public; an exhibition of photos and a chance for former / present workers & their families to share memories. Followed by a presentation of ‘Stori Traws’ by Joanna Wright & Naomi Jones.

The weekend course costs £160 to £180 on a residential basis or £8 per session non-residential.

For further details contact Twm Elias at 01766 772600 or

Friday, 17 August 2012

Dragon's Back Race

200 miles and 45,000 feet of altitude starting at Conwy Castle on Monday 3rd September and finishing five days later at Carreg Cennen Castle near Llandeilo. 

 A hundred competitors from fourteen countries are expected to take part in the ultimate endurance race which was last run in 1992. Day two of the race will start with an ascent of Cnicht then Moelwyn Mawr, Moelwyn Bach, through the Vale of Ffestiniog and across the Rhinogydd. Faster runners are expected to complete each day in about eight hours whilst slower competitors will be out for over sixteen before making it to the overnight tents. The mind boggles and the price for all this ‘fun’ is a mere £500 per person.

Full details can be found at Dragon’s Back Race

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Fat Ladies in Blaenau bus shelter

Scaffolding down and the sculptures are looking great with the steps ready to go in. Completion date only about a month away. Here’s Howard Bowcott talking about the project and some of the fine detail regarding ‘fat ladies’ in the bus shelter:

Previous films about the progress of the sculptures can be seen through these links:

Monday, 13 August 2012

Art on the line

Howard Bowcott
It’s not unusual when friends come to stay to take a walk to the pub. But with it being so hot, and someone’s ankle playing up, we chose the easy option; a down train to Tan y Bwlch then an open carriage to Blaenau. Newspapers bought we admired the new sculptures. Howard, the artist, was experimenting with finishes to bring out the colour and texture of the slate. The Queen’s Hotel, newly painted and renamed Ty Orsaf, is looking smart and recruiting staff. Someone said the downhill biking above Llechwedd was sold out for the second weekend in a row. The times they are a changing. Back on the train, coasting down to Campbell’s Platform, with a bottle of Purple Moose ... so much more than a walk to the pub.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Onion rings in Ffestiniog

With sun shine and blue skies I raced through the shopping to be ready for friends staying the weekend. I called by the Purple Moose Brewery to find the shop had moved a door down the street - the old shop being turned into more brewing capacity. I bought some new to me bottles of Ysgawen, a summer beer made with elderflowers. Then to the butcher for Sunday’s salt marsh lamb and that evening’s steaks of black beef.  At the supermarket some meringues and whipping cream to go with freshly picked bilberries.

I blame the Ysgawen 
The scene was set. Friends arrived. News was exchanged over a cup of tea as peas were shelled from their pods. Lots more chatting over a couple of beers as I lit the logs in the Rayburn and prepared the steak supper. Inside the oven some skinny chips, big mushrooms and tomatoes with garlic and pepper. As an afterthought, and a quick rummage in the deep freeze, I threw in a few onion rings. Searing hot griddle pan et voilá, a local feast was on the table. 

There were compliments to the chef who modestly said it’s all down to the ingredients but apologised for the onion rings which hadn’t quite worked out. Then someone solved the mystery – these onion rings were made of squid. I blame the Ysgawen.