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History Of Snowdonia

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Pre 20th Century History The Celts had settled across much of Britain by 500 BC and gradually divided into tribes, including the Ordivices in parts of northern Wales.One of the earliest settlements discovered in Snowdonia is Tre'r Ceiri dating from around 200 BC, where a village of 150 stone huts with turf roofs was encircled by stone walls. The Romans moved into northern Wales after their invasion in AD 43, but were resisted in the Ordivices' territory around Anglesey and Caernarfon by warriors under Caratacus (or Caradog). In AD 51, Caratacus was defeated, encouraging the Romans to strike deeper into remote northwestern Wales in AD 57 and AD 60. The Romans directed their second campaign against the isle of Angelsey in the far northwest, a spiritual Celtic stronghold led by druids. After AD 70 the Romans built forts in captured territories, but the Welsh tribes continued to effectively resist using guerilla tactics. The Roman fort at Segontium (present day Caernarfon), a significant garrison at the limit of the Roman Empire, was built for 1000 men. It was occupied for around 300 years from AD 77, during which time northwest Wales remained a thorn in the Roman side. With the decline of Roman power after AD 390, the Scotti people (from today's Ireland) took the opportunity to invade the home of the Picts (today's Wales and Scotland). In response to the invasion, people from Gododdin (in Scotland) came to northwest Wales. Their initial plan was to drive out the invaders, but they stayed and settled in the area, which became the kingdom of Gwynedd. (The modern county, including Snowdonia, still proudly bears this name.)The struggle between Welsh settlers and Irish raiders along the coast carried on for the rest of the Dark Ages. During this time, Christian missionaries and settlers arrived from Ireland throughout the 6th and 7th centuries. While these newcomers arrived from the west, the people of Wales were also under pressure to the east - constantly harassed by the Anglo-Saxons of ...read more.


At Clynnog Fawr, on the mainland, the Church of St Beuno was a stopping place for these pilgrims, who prayed at the shrine of the saint and bathed in the healing waters of the well. Before the final crossing to Bardsey the travellers rested at the Church of Aberdaron, where the sea lapped against the church wall at high tide. But apart from the evangelists, other newcomers weren't so welcome ... With the departure of the Romans, the Britons were left to defend their borders against swarms of land-hungry tribes -- Irish, Picts, Scots, Danes, Angles and Saxons. Vortigern (son-in-law of Macsen Wledig) retreated to the craggy rocks of Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert, from a Saxon invasion of Britain. Vortigern tried to build a fortress on the summit, but, mysteriously, the structure kept disappearing over-night. Young Merlin the Magician revealed why: beneath the foundations was a hidden pool in which two dragons were fighting for control of their crowded kingdom. Although at first the white dragon -- a Saxon interloper -- seemed to be winning, ultimately, Merlin foretold, the red dragon -- a true -- well -- Romano-Briton -- would triumph! In the south-east of Britain the mixed races settled down together. They adoped a common Germanic tongue and the name of 'Angles', referring to the previous inhabitants as 'wealhas'. By the seventh century the Wealhas living in the west of Britain spoke a derived version of their original Celtic language. At the Church of St Cadfan in Tywyn the epitaph for Cingen was recorded -- not in Latin this time -- but in Welsh. The language of Rome was still used though, and when a 20 foot high stone cross was erected in the ninth century to honour Eliseg, King of Powys, his descent from Macsen Wledig and Vortigern was inscribed in Latin. Close-by the Abbey of Valle Crucis was called after this monument -- its name means Valley of the Cross. ...read more.


Snowdonia's lakes and rivers aren't free from interference either: Llyn Celyn near Bala provides water, via the River Dee, for Merseyside. Beneath the lake lies the ruins of a small village, drowned on the orders of Liverpool Corporation despite loud protests from both the villagers and Welsh MPs. At Trawsfynydd the reservoir waters cool the reactors within Britain's first inland nuclear power station, frowned on by the Roman ghosts of Tomen-y-Mur, in the hills above, who created heating and hot water with such ease 2,000 years ago. Nowadays most of Snowdonia's grazing land is used for sheep-farming but in the past rearing cattle and goats was more popular. In these earlier times the Welsh farmer had 2 homes: from the winter farm-house -- called the hendre -- in the lowlands the family and herds travelled in May upto their summer-house -- the hafod -- in the mountains. As the wool and clothing industries increased in importance sheep became the dominant farm animals. Overnight, commonland was turned into private land, enclosed by dry-stone walls winding across mountains and pastures. On the river-sides near Penmachno and Trefriw fulling mills were built in the 19th century, powered by water-wheels, to take the rough hand-woven cloths from the villagers and smooth them into superior woollen clothing. Today the remaining upland farms are self-sufficient units. Despite the harshness of Snowdonia's winters, the Welsh Mountain Sheep and Black Cattle -- plus the goats and ponies whose ancestors escaped into the wild -- are ideally suited to the mountainous land in which they live. To ensure that the beauty of this countryside is protected from uncontrolled planning, over 800 square miles of the land around Mount Snowdon was designated in 1951 as the Snowdonia National Park. In reality British national parks are neither nationally owned nor parkland: much of the land is in private hands, and people live and work here as they have since the Ice Ages, taking care of "y greigfa ddeniadol, Cymru" -- this beautiful rockery of Wales. ...read more.

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