Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ITV Wales 'The Mountain' : Summit of televisual creativity?

It's Snowdonia Jim...but not as we know it!

I blogged a week or so back about an upcoming documentary on Welsh commercial TV called ‘The Mountain’ which rather all too predictably focused on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). As I expected, the first episode was pretty dull fare which offered every cliché in the book. At least the farming lady in Nant Gwynant referred to her land as ‘her office’ and not as farmers are wont to do, refer to it as her ‘factory floor’, and of course mountain rescue guy repeated the mantra,‘we’re all volunteers’ for the hundredth time in a TV programme featuring an MRT.  The Park Ranger enthused about the number of people attracted to a mountain- ‘Trail magazine calls the busiest mountain in the world!’  Somehow this was slotted into a section which referred to the mountain as ‘a Last Wilderness’. A concept of wilderness unfamiliar to most mountain lovers?  He then told us that in some countries, people are forced out of national parks by the state to preserve its ecological integrity. I’m not familiar with any  country enacting a form of ecologically based ethnic cleansing of its inhabitants but perhaps  he’s right and there are some countries which encourage a form of population control in wilderness areas?

In a way this was an extended episode of BBC 1’s Countryfile. Wholesome enthusiasm in spades, nice views, and nothing controversial to rock the boat. It’s hard to imagine that in future episodes the programme makers will tackle subjects like the controversial spate of hydro electric schemes suddenly taking off around the massif; the unnatural ecology of the mountain through intensive sheep grazing; the social impact on local communities strongly reliant on seasonal employment; the continuing  lack of a right to roam on the mountain. (See Dog Day Afternoon)..etc. 

Someone I know on the social media who lives near Snowdon referred to the mountain as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ which serves a positive role in the way it acts as a magnet for those coming into the national park and keeps them away from the quiet, off the beaten track areas of Snowdonia. Particularly in its southern  fringes where you can still ascend certain mountains on a summer’s bank holiday and have them to yourself. Ditto the climbing cliffs of mid-Wales and even northern Snowdonia which rarely see a soul from one year to the next.

I can see that argument for sure. Snowdon as Hyde Park or Coney Island. A ‘Kiss me Quick’ mountain stripped of magic and mystery but serving a useful role as a mountain theme park. 

But back to the TV programme. Despite it being ‘twelve months in the life of Snowdon’ I couldn’t detect any structure in the first episode. I was expecting the programme to start in winter with its focus on the usual snow and ice related topics but it just flitted about without any discernible coherent structure?  What season was this supposed to be or was it supposed to be a ram-jam of talking heads? Was there a theme? Not one that I could detect. 

Oh Well...only five episodes to go and the only way is up I suppose; although it will probably be via the Snowdon railway!

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