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Is There a Heirarchy of Settlement In the Vale of Ffestiniog?

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Introduction

Is there a Heirarchy of Settlement in the Vale of Ffestiniog? Introduction The Vale of Ffestiniog is a 'U' shaped valley stretching from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the coast, in Gwynedd, in Northwest Wales (Fig.1), approximately 80 Km�, surrounded by mountains to the North, East & South, and the sea to the West. It's a rural area, and historically, revolved around agriculture, forestry and mining, particularly slate. Slate mining is the main reason behind the rise and fall of Blaenau Ffestiniog, the largest settlement in the Vale of Ffestiniog. As the industry grew, in the early eighteenth century, the population of Blaenau Ffestiniog did also, but as the industry declined in the nineteenth century, the population of Blaenau Ffestiniog was reduced to less than half, and shops and services forced to close. Another town, Porthmadog, which grew due to its' accessibility, created by the River Glaslyn Estuary, and which used to be the main port for distributing slate all over the world, has not been forced into recession by the decline of the slate industry, but has instead built itself and thrived upon tourism, which has been boosted since the introduction of the railways in the Victorian times. Nowadays, people still arrive by train, but the majority travel by car, allowing a greater freedom. Although a geographically 'removed' area, levels of communication are quite high, with good road links to the rest of the country. Also, railway lines are used a lot for commuting to larger settlements to the North, to access higher order services and larger supermarket stores. ...read more.

Middle

The services listed are only a selection of the services available in the settlements, and were picked because they include a variety of both high and low order. There are reasons behind Tremadog having such a high order service, the designer clothes shop, when its' hierarchy index is as low as it is, 76.48. Temadog is a planned, 'T' shaped settlement situated at the junction of two main roads, the A467 and the A498. Tourists frequent it and so there are few specialist shops that are geared towards them, rather than the local residents. As the 'weight' of each settlement decreases, the recurrence of the same amenity or service available also decreases. This is because the larger settlements cover a greater area and have a greater sphere of influence. Consequently, the same service has to be repeated throughout the same settlement, in order for it to serve the number of people in its range. Some smaller settlements have, at most, one of a few of the listed amenities. This is because the threshold of that particular service is met by only it's single occurrence in that settlement. There is also a pattern in the hierarchy index, and this is demonstrated in the 'Hierarchy of Settlement' graph. A general statement can be made that as the hierarchy is descended, each successive settlement is on average, approximately 18% smaller than the previous one, though there is an exponential decay from the largest of the settlements. ...read more.

Conclusion

This could be done in many ways, using either random or strategic sampling. The distribution of settlement in the Vale of Ffestiniog is somewhat random, and, according to Fig.7.b inconclusive. Even so, I think that there is a rational explanation for this distribution pattern. The Vale of Ffestiniog, as the name suggests is a valley, a 'U' shaped valley, sculpted by glaciers during the last ice age. The whole area consists of undulating hills, at the foot of Mount Snowdon, and so settlements tend to be in the lowest parts of the valley, close to the Afon (river) Glaslyn and Colwyn. This would account for the apparent random distribution suggested by the NNI (Fig.7.a), but an inspection of the site map (Fig.3) would show that the 'placement' is quite strategic. If there was to be a further line of enquiry, I would like to investigate whether there is a hierarchy of settlement in more urbanised areas of the country, or whether hierarchies are different in other countries. If I was to conduct the investigation again, I like to have taken more photographs in each settlement, so that there would be more 'visual' evidence of a hierarchy. Also, if it was at all possible, I think that aerial photographs would greatly enhance the project, showing size and type (linear, nucleated etc.) of each settlement. On the whole, I think that the facts contained throughout this document are substantial enough to support the general statement that; There Is A Hierarchy of Settlement In The Vale of Ffestiniog. Acknowledgements With thanks to Finham Park School Geography department, and the Plas Dol-y-Moch staff. ...read more.

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