Saturday, 30 May 2015

The History of Welsh Hill Lists

The History of Welsh Hill Lists – Part 9

The Early Years

1951 – E. G. Rowland

Because of its first use of 50 feet as the minimum re-ascent value, Arthur St. George Walsh’s 1950 list was ground breaking and so, in its own small way was our next publication; ‘Hill Walking in Snowdonia’, by Edward George Rowland.  Until now, the great majority of hill lists were somewhat restricted in their availability and hence their readership.  E. G. Rowland’s publication was widely available and became the first book to the Welsh mountains that incorporated a series of guided walks, following which one attained the summits of an accompanying list of mountain tops.  The guide book to the Welsh mountains had arrived; this publication formed the basis of many a young peak bagger’s first forays into the hills.

After retiring from the Civil Service, E. G. Rowland returned to live at Cricieth in 1943.  He was now within sight of his favourite hills where he renewed and extended his knowledge of the Welsh mountains.  Soon he decided that although an extensive choice of literature dealing with Snowdonia existed, he felt that a gap may be filled by producing a small volume detailing an account of routes up and down all the 2,000 foot peaks in the Northern part of the Snowdonia National Park.

The result was published in 1951 by the Camping & Open Air Press Ltd.  ‘Hill Walking in Snowdonia’ consists of eighty three pages interspersed with black and white photographs by W. A. Poucher (who will be entering our story in subsequent years).  A whole range of topics are covered including: ‘Notes on the Countryside’, ‘Welsh Words in Place Names’, ‘Countryside Societies’ and the ‘Snowdonia National Forest Park’.

Front cover to 'Hill Walking in Snowdonia'

Chapter one is entitled ‘Introducing Snowdonia’.  It is quite entertainingly informative and passes comment on a variety of subjects such as: “The native sheep that, unlike their more placid Southdown relatives, are filled with fierce Celtic blood and can negotiate anything less than a five-foot wall or a five-barred gate with the greatest of ease”, or, how to: “Prevent blisters, it is a good thing to grease your feet before putting on your socks”.  A number of suggestions for proper hill walking wear follow: “The short gaiters of the Home Guard are useful.  Battledress style jackets are hard to beat, while leather gloves take the chill off wet rocks.  Light oilskins are as useful as anything to keep the rain out”.  How times have changed.

The main part of Rowland’s publication deals with his guide to the 2,000 foot mountains of Northern Snowdonia.  The walks described give routes to the summits of all the listed peaks, either singly or in combination with others, with alternatives and variations incorporated.  The guide to these mountains is found in chapters three, four, five and six – with detailed excursions to the Snowdon Massif and excursions from the bases of Beddgelert and Rhyd-ddu, Pen-y-Gwrhyd, Pen-y-Pass and Llanberis and, lastly, Capel Curig and Ogwen.

Rowland doesn’t stop here. Within chapter seven are ‘some lower walks’ including one to the top of the excellent Moel y Gest.  The inclusion of the Clynnog Hills and Yr Eifl within chapter eight’s excursions to ‘A few Outliers’ shows that although these hills are not in Rowland’s list, by mentioning them in his guide, he takes the first step in recognising the merit of hills that are lower than 2,000 feet in height.  It would only be a few short years before an author listed some of these self-same hills.

The list which interests us within the boundaries of this article appears on pages viii and ix and is entitled ‘Mountains in Snowdonia’.  In all, fifty three mountains are listed in order of altitude with their name, height in feet, section and number of walk being detailed.  The specified number given each walk can be cross referenced with each respective guided excursion whilst the specified section letter can be used in conjunction with the ‘Sketch Map of Snowdonia’, which appears on pages 42 and 43.  This map is split into five sections; these are marked from A-E with each mountain’s designated number, in order of altitude being indicated on the map against its position on the ground.

The list of 'Mountains in Snowdonia' 

On page 19 of chapter two, Rowland pays tribute to the main source of his list, this is; “That excellent standard work, ‘The mountains of Snowdonia’, lists 49 peaks that top 2000 feet and of these 14 exceed 3000 feet.  The list on pages viii and ix includes all of these 49 peaks, with a few additions that seemed to merit inclusion.  To qualify there must be “a crest, distinct from high land leading up to some other peak”.  Therefore, E. G. Rowland’s 1951 list incorporates Carr & Lister’s 1925 list with four additions.  These are: Bera Mawr, Foel Gron, Gallt y Wenallt and, lastly, Gryn Wigau [sic].  Of particular note is Gurn Wigau (correct spelling) which although mentioned by Carr & Lister it did not, in their opinion, warrant a listing in their 1925 publication.  Therefore, E. G. Rowland’s listing of this particular mountain is the first time it had appeared in a hill list.  Also of note is the name given to the mountain at the head of the list.  Up until 1951 all previous hill list compilers had used Y Wyddfa, this being the Welsh name for Wales’s highest mountain.  Unfortunately, E. G. Rowland broke with this established tradition and within the context of his hill list just used the name, Snowdon.

As mentioned above, Rowland’s list is very similar to Carr & Lister’s.  He does employ a minimum designated height of 2,000 feet but his choice of mountains is somewhat arbitrary.  Yet his publication of ‘Hill Walking in Snowdonia’ proved to be Wales’s first guide book to the mountains that also comprised a list of hills.  I wonder if E. G. Rowland realised just what he had started.

Next instalment due on the 30th July 2015

For the Preface please click {here}

For Part 1 please click {here}

For Part 2 please click {here}

For Part 3 please click {here}

For Part 4 please click {here}

For Part 5 please click {here}

For Part 6 please click {here}

For Part 7 please click {here}

For Part 8 please click {here}

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