|Chisels in the sun|
|Howard working on the river of slate|
Local artist Howard Bowcott, creator of the works, described the significance of the river: ‘it symbolises the formation of slate with river mud washed out to sea four or five hundred million years ago. The river was also the vital corridor for exporting slate before the Ffestiniog Railway opened in 1836.’
Each bank of the river has a line of poetry by Gwyn Thomas, one in Welsh and one in English. ‘Time flows on and water too but not the life of a rockman’ and ‘Men die. The rocks and empty darkness of these mountains endure’. Worked out slate chambers are the ‘empty darkness’ and both poems reflect the perilous work conditions of the ‘rockmen’ and their transience, but a blink compared to the life of rock.
|A version of the|
Lightning Strike by David Nash
If words and symbols of Blaenau’s slate heritage are not enough, keep on walking about ten minutes out of town to Llechwedd Slate Caverns where you can literally get beneath the surface of it all. They offer a choice of two underground tours and provide exhibits that bring to life the incredible stories of rock cannons and wild cars. This is also the place for downhill biking; a bit like skiing, the riders buy a ‘lift pass’ for the day hurtling down a choice of runs ranging from the gentle blue to the double black. It makes a good spectator sport.
Everywhere is unique but Blaenau takes the biscuit! Local artist Falcon Hildred says in his recent book ’I believe that Blaenau Ffestiniog and its landscape are the best and most complete surviving industrial landscape in Britain’. It’s not stuffed away in museums but all around you. Shops are one-offs where you buy bread from a baker, local meat from a butcher and discuss the finer points of DIY with the ironmonger. Cafés are homely and good value.
No amount of words can describe this place, it must be experienced. If you’ve been before, you won’t recognise it.