Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Y Pellennig - The Remotest Hills of Wales - From Concept to Publication

Y Pellennig - The Remotest Hills of Wales

From Concept to Publication

There are no other listings of hills in the British Isles that are equivalent to ‘Y Pellennig - The Remotest Hills of Wales’, as this list documents hills by their ‘remoteness’.  This qualification is a first and adds a new chapter to the much varied landscape of British hill lists.

The criteria used in the list materialised a number of years ago when I was trying to find the remotest point in Wales.  During this process I started toying with the idea of compiling a list to remote Welsh hills.  However, before doing this I had to define ‘remoteness’.  There seemed a number of possibilities for where a hill should be remote from.  One was human habitation, whilst another was the distance in separation between qualifying peaks.  I even considered the sense of a summit being remote, but as this is transient it would prove extremely difficult to quantify.  Eventually, I decided upon the distance from the nearest paved public road to the summit of the hill.  This criterion seemed self-explanatory as most hill walks start from the convenience of a road.

Once this qualifying rule was established I looked at various hill groupings and analysed their numbers for this new Remote list, firstly by distance from the nearest paved public road to the summit and secondly by drop.  I wanted the list to have a sufficient number of hills to make it a worthwhile challenge.  I considered a distance of 3km with a minimum drop of 30m.  However, these criteria proved too restrictive as the number of hills that qualified was deemed insufficient.  I then tried 2.5km with a minimum drop of 15m.  By using this latter qualification all manner of interesting hills suddenly qualified and it also boosted the overall number up to a total that was deemed to be a ‘challenge’.

I then considered how the distance from the nearest paved public road to the summit should be measured.  There seemed to be three options; firstly, the inclusion of vertical height gain between the starting point of a walk and the summit, secondly, the shortest distance walked from a paved public road following the natural lay of the land to attain the summit and thirdly, the distance from the summit direct to the road via a straight line.  I soon found that although vertical height gain is part of the overall distance between road and summit, it is almost imperceptible in changing the overall distance figure when compared to that from option three.  The second option was considered, but the first hill I analysed meant a route up and over an intervening ridge, followed by a walk around a lake and then up a cliff!  As one person may choose one side of the lake compared to another, and as people would probably decide not to attempt an ascent of a near vertical cliff face, this option was soon dismissed as being too subjective.  The third option proved easy to work out, “as the crow flies”, although the word ‘easy’ is relative, as over 3,000 Welsh hills have been measured for remoteness using this method.

Once the qualifying criteria were established I systematically measured these 3,000 plus Welsh hills via ruler and map and noted each distance.  The 2.5km distance proved to be 100mm on an Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map, a distance that is easily remembered.

I started in the north of Wales and worked my way south.  As each OS 1:25,000 Explorer map was opened, I would set my compass to 100mm and draw an ark from a road in one corner of the map and repeat the process until all the map had been covered.  By doing this it gave me all the land in Wales that is at least 2.5km from any paved public road.  All of this land was catalogued in a hand written document and listed by Explorer map number.

First stage:  Listing all the remote land in Wales that is 2.5km from the nearest paved public road

The process took many months to complete as when each map was finished with being ‘arked’, I then scrutinised any remote land and noted all summits that had a minimum of 15m of drop.  These were written out in increments of 100m of absolute height, following the format that I had used in my Welsh P30 listings that had been published on Geoff Crowder’s v-g.me website.  Once this had been done I converted the data in to a neatly hand written list of 160 qualifying hills with various details including; Order (from 1 – 160), Name, Remoteness, Grid Reference, 1:50,000 map, 1:25,000 map, Group, Height, Drop, Notes and Date of Ascent.

Second stage:  Listing the remote hills in increments of 100m of absolute height
Third stage:  Hand written document listing the hills by remoteness

The fourth stage in listing these hills was to convert all of the data in to a spreadsheet.  This proved to be the first time I had ‘computerised’ a hill list; a great change from the hand-written form that relied upon the kindness of other people to type it up.  This list was also the first to incorporate place-name research that had been conducted, with many seemingly unnamed hills being listed for the first time by the name that is known locally.

Fourth stage:  Typing the details into a spreadsheet and printing it off for proof reading

I then printed the spreadsheet and proof read the list until it seemed all typos had been eliminated.  Once complete I approached Geoff Crowder and asked if he would be interested in publishing the Remotest Hills of Wales list.  Geoff confirmed and I sent the list via email attachment.  By now the list was in effect two lists, one for the whole of Wales which included a number of islands, and the other was just to the mainland of Wales, which included two tidal islands joined to the mainland.  I wanted two lists as many of the more remote islands are officially out of bounds due to colonies of nesting birds, therefore having a second list just to the Remotest Mainland Hills of Wales meant that the completion of the list was attainable.  Geoff converted the lists in to a format acceptable to upload to his website and printed off copies of each list and sent them through the post for me to proof read.  Once proof reading was complete he uploaded them to his website.  Soon after publication, I asked Geoff if he could add the name of ‘The Pellennigs’ to the list; pellennig is a Welsh word meaning ‘distant’ or ‘remote’.

After converting the lists to a format acceptable to upload to his website, Geoff printed the lists and sent them to me for proof reading

Geoff published the remote lists towards the end of 2011, but since this time all manner of on-line mapping has become available and the prospect of updating the list against the latest mapping was one I wanted to take advantage of.  I approached Aled Williams with the idea of the two of us updating the list, Aled accepted the offer.  Since the original publication of ‘The Pellennigs’, Aled and I have worked on two listings for Mark Trengove’s Europeaklist website, with both publications relating to 400m P30 hills.  The first was ‘Y Pedwarau’ (Europeaklist, May 2013) and the second was ‘The Fours’ (Europeaklist, December 2013).  All we now had to do was convince Mark that he wanted to publish a list with a P15 qualification; this could be viewed as a difficult task, but thankfully Mark agreed.

The computerised version of the list that Geoff had sent through to me after v-g.me publication was used as a template.  The hills had been listed by remoteness from 1 – 160 for the whole of Wales and from 1 – 123 for the mainland, with the former now being used as the updating model.  This is the list that now appears on this blog, please click {here} for the All Wales list and {here} for the Mainland Wales list; it is also the list that will be used for future updates, with these appearing in red to highlight them.

The Y Pedwarau and The Fours listings had their respective hills listed under a ‘Cardinal Hill’, which are the highest or most prominent hills in the immediate area of the qualifying hills.  Some people refer to such hills as ‘Parent Hills’.  Listing by ‘Cardinal Hill’ was new to me when we first started compiling Y Pedwarau; it is now a system that I am used to.  It is a system that works effectively and, when coupled with the ease and eloquent design of Mark’s Europeaklist Master Spreadsheet, proves a joy to work with.  As some of the qualifying hills are found on islands or are part of island chains, the term ‘Cardinal Island’ was coined by Aled in order to effectively group such summits.

As the research continued we found that the overall total for the whole of Wales had increased from 160 to 165 hills, with an addition of nine hills as well as three deletions.  There are also three summit relocations from the original published list.  Once the Master Spreadsheet was completed, it was sent to Aled who assessed each hill for most appropriate name and other place-name detail.  Aled also double-checked much of the data and discovered an additional hill that qualified for the list, raising the total to 166.

In 2012, Aled picked up on the hill-name research that I had undertaken in and around 2007 and has since expanded his interest in this field to all upland-related names in Wales.  Being a first-language Welsh speaker, he has a natural understanding of the names he records and studies.  Aled’s task for this project was also laborious due to the meticulous process that is required in assigning a hill with a name.  Each hill-name assignment is painstakingly done and he starts by checking all the publically available OS maps for suitable names, with the positon and composition of the names monitored through the various editions.  Additional sources are then used to confirm the validity of the OS-recorded names or to uncover names for hills not recorded by the OS.  These sources vary from local information to historical documents, such as books or estate maps.  Even old nautical charts were studied for some of the ‘Pellennig’ island summits.  Finally, the spelling and composition of the names are decided upon for the purpose of consistency and faithfulness to correct Welsh usage.  

Different maps from different times showing the change in landscape and how the placement of place-names appear on maps and how their spelling can change over time

Once the place-name evaluation was completed, we discussed all the changes and additions that had been implemented, before settling on a version that we were both satisfied with.  Aled then had the task of editing the publication in preparation for submission to Europeaklist, whilst I updated the blog spreadsheet.  It was then Mark Trengove’s privilege to make any final editorial decisions, before the official publishing date was fixed.

The front cover of  the Europeaklist booklet Y Pellennig - The Remotest Hills of Wales

Since Europeaklist publication the list has been fully updated and transferred to the sister site of this blog; Mapping Mountains Publications.  The ‘Pellennig’ listing comprise all the summits in Wales that are 2.5km or more from a paved public road and which have at least 15m of drop.  There are 168 such hills in the whole of Wales and 124 in mainland Wales.

Myrddyn Phillips and Aled Williams

(April 2015) (updated July 2016)

Y Pellennig: The Remotest Hills of Wales’ is available as an e-booklet version and a print-booklet version on Mapping Mountains Publications.

It is also available for GPS Waypoints and as a tick list on the Haroldstreet website.

The list is also available on the v-g.me website.

It will be maintained on the Mapping Mountains site.

The list is available as an ‘All Wales’, ‘Mainland Wales’ and ‘Remote Island’ list.  If wanting direct links to the individual listings please click {here}.

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