Welsh Slate to be Nominated for World Heritage Status

The UK Government has announced plans to nominate North Wales' slate quarries as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Included in the bid are key sites that define Welsh slate: the Ogwen Valley quarries, Dinorwig, Nantlle, Blaenau Ffestiniog, the quarries in Cwm Pennant; and in the south of Snowdonia, Bryneglwys, Abergynolwyn a Rheilffordd Talyllyn and Chwarel Aberllefenni.

The Rainbow Area of the Dinorwig Slate Quarries.  © Alan James
The Rainbow Area of the Dinorwig Slate Quarries.
© Alan James

Each year the UK can put forward one site for consideration, and yesterday heritage minister Michael Ellis made the case for the industrial and cultural heritage of Gwynedd's gargantuan 19th Century slate quarries:

"Gwynedd's slate landscape is hugely important," he said. "Its vast quarries and mines have not only shaped the countryside of the region but also countless buildings across the UK and the world.

"This is a crucial milestone on the road to becoming a world heritage site and the global recognition that brings. While the Unesco nomination process is very thorough, I believe this unique landscape would be a worthy addition to the list."

Industrial remains in the Dinorwig Slate Quarries.  © Mark Reeves
Industrial remains in the Dinorwig Slate Quarries.
© Mark Reeves

Gwynedd Council have a website with more details of the bid, Llechi Cymru

If accepted by UNESCO, a decision that will be made in 2021, the slate quarries will become the fourth World Heritage Site in Wales and one of only 32 in Britain as a whole.

What this may mean for climbers and walkers is unclear, but it certainly seems likely that businesses and local government would seek to capitalise on World Heritage status to bring in more visitors.

Fun and games in the Dinorwig Slate Quarries.  © Mark Reeves
Fun and games in the Dinorwig Slate Quarries.
© Mark Reeves

In the meantime [plug alert] if you want to enjoy the quarries in their present state, loved by (some) climbers but generally neglected by the rest of the world, the new Rockfax North Wales Slate is out now.

Wes Hunter teetering up Poetry Pink on the Rainbow Slab.  © Mark Reeves
Wes Hunter teetering up Poetry Pink on the Rainbow Slab.
© Mark Reeves

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24 Oct, 2018

Not sure how I feel about this.  It's a shame that some level of preservation in the slate quarries wasn't undertaken many years ago.  As a regular visitor to the various North Wales quarries for the last 20 years (have explored most of them pretty extensively) there has been so much degradation, vandalism and general change in that time that a lot of the history that was visible even 20 years ago is now a shadow of it's former self. 

At Dinorwic, a lot of the old slate mills, metalwork and infrastructure was leveled with the arrival of the pump storage station.  The huge saw shed towards the top of the site has lost its roof and it's interior is now rapidly deteriorating.  The 'stairway to heaven' is now much collapsed and the workmens clothes/boots hanging in the huts have now largely disappeared (or been burnt). 

At Maenofferen near Blaenau the once amazingly intact surface workings (workshops, incline houses, offices, slate processing sheds) have been extensively vandalised, looted and/or demolished by it's current owners and others.

I've got a feeling that this is a bit too late and preservation of this unique landscape (if that's what is wanted) should really have started 30+ years ago.  That said, there are still areas where preservation of certain unique features will make a difference. 

Can't see CEGB allowing organised tours of Dinorwig quarry though and part of the appeal of exploring these places is the fact that not many people go there (or have the skills to go there).  Generally you have to have your wits about you to stay safe, accept a level of personal risk, sometimes considerable risk for some of the most inaccessible areas - and even then rockfalls can happen as we have seen in Lost World recently. 

Lets hope this doesn't impact climbing!  Perhaps the secret of the quarries is now finally out?

24 Oct, 2018

Isn't there already plans to flood one of the quarries for another hydro plant? 

24 Oct, 2018

Do people really find industrial slag heaps pleasant to look at ?

Rock faces, grassy hillsides and lakes are a thing of beauty, but it always strikes me that the area is spoilt by the spoil heaps. And that rather than quarrying for rock elsewhere, be it high grade for building or low grade for roads, we should first be processing the rock we have already blasted.

No doubt this is uneconomic, but only because restitution of the landscape is not properly factored in with quarrying ( a bit like decommissioning nuclear power plants).  

Isn't there a risk that by giving such devastated landscape protected status, we actually normalise environmental destruction ?

24 Oct, 2018

Yep, I think it’s a stunning area full of history.


24 Oct, 2018

Can you imagine trying to get parked at Bus-Stop if this goes ahead? I can't see them being able to stabilize the quarry enough to allow tourist to properly explore the place, however where ever tourist walk ways end up going I can imagine it being an end to climbing in those areas. We're technically not meant to be in there anyway. (Or at least have no right to be) so I can't see us being given much of a say in any plans. 

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