Monday, September 16, 2013

Dog Day Afternoon

Is that a bagel I see before me?

On Saturday I set off on a memorial walk for David Hooper. Much loved guide and stalwart of the UKC climbing community who died a year ago. His friends and family had organised a walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) on what would have been the week of his  60th birthday. It seemed only yesterday that I had had the honour of closing his funeral service with a reading of Yeats’ ‘Lake Isle of Inishfree’ and it was still hard to accept that his larger than life character was no longer holding court at his Capel Curig bolt hole.

Mindful of the horrendous crowds who descend on the mountain at the weekend, I decided to walk up from just outside Beddgelert, following a public footpath to reach what I believed was open access land. The rammed car parks and crowded verges confirmed I’d made the right decision as I dropped down into a sombre Gwynant Valley swept by showers.

I had considered walking up a track on National Trust land. Heading up to the outlier of Craig Wen before heading over to Yr Aran and on to Yr Wyddfa. On Google Earth it showed a good track leading up to and passed a farm, continuing up to old quarry barracks and workings. Problem was, when I pulled up in the lay-by I was met with ‘Private’..’Keep Out’ signs. This is NT land we are talking about here but don’t get me started on the NT. Actually DO get me started on the NT because as an organisation their only real talent is for allowing its members to be fleeced by greedy landowners. Witness the ludicrous amounts it paid-through public donations-for two mountain estates hereabouts and compare it to what the John Muir Trust have paid for mountain estates in Scotland.  There’s no comparison. The JMT appear to have skilled negotiators and apply sensitive land management strategies to the estates they acquire. The NT by contrast, appear particularly clueless as to land value in different parts of the country and their management skills leave a lot to be desired. They should stick to stately homes and leave mountain estates to more appropriate organisations.

Anyway...I ended up  following my original track from just outside Beddgelert and initially it was a rather pleasant approach. The problem came when I struck off for the higher ground and was brought to heel by a piercing whistle, perfected from a lifetime of sheepdog management. I wandered back down and went through the ‘get orf my land’ routine. Being told that ‘this is my land’, there was no right way up the mountain and the only open access was on the tops. Not wishing to quote ‘all property is theft’ or discuss Tom Paine and the rights of man, I followed his directions and found myself back on the road. This time the other side of Beddgelert.

By now it was too late to reach the summit and meet the other walkers who were mostly coming up the trade routes so I ended up walking up Bryn Castell above Llyn Dinas where my parents-and Menlove Edwards- ashes were scattered. By now, the sun had come out, Yr Wyddfa had come out of the cloud but nevertheless, it would be heaving . I was sorry that my part in Dave’s memorial walk had all gone pear shaped but it was very pleasant here upon the knoll, far from the madding crowds.

It’s hard for me not to get angry when I consider the feudal access rights we have in Wales-and England. Despite being promised a right to roam by the Blair government, what we got with the compromised Crow act was a piece of tripe created by timid bureaucrats and aimed at appeasing landowners. I blogged a while ago-(Access all Areas) about access problems in mid Wales, where a private estate bans walkers from directly accessing an impressive waterfall, and sends them on the potentially life threatening detour. 

The idea that we are anywhere near to enjoying a right to roam is fanciful in the extreme. When even organisations that purport to be managing land in the interests of the people are telling those very people to keep out and advising there is no access across the land they own and manage then you realise just how far we have to go before we really do have open access in England and Wales.


  1. There are moves afoot to improve the situation beyond recognition in Wales but it's early days yet... And sorry it was me that suggested this route...

    1. Hi John
      Sorry you were not able to make it to Yr Wyddfa because of a selfish and myopic 'land manager'. Having said that, you were probably able enjoy a quieter and more contemplative day than we all did, joining the vast multitudes ascending to the summit. We did experience a rainbow at the start of the walk, framing the Cromlech, and later in the day sunlight, vivid colours and distant views on the descent. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the grimness of the cafe and summit meant that ashes and remembrance were abandoned. But a lovely and beautiful day were enjoyed by all, friends of Dave from many different circumstances. Maybe on a quieter evening soon, we can take time in stillness to remember and celebrate the passing of our friend.
      Dave Dear