I was thinking about this on a run the other night. I’d decided to take a slight detour to take in, possibly 400m of forest trail. Decent trails like this are an absolute rarity around Caernarfon, where you’ve either got roads/tarmac cycletracks or the usual farmland ROWs that are either impassible, muddy or require a suicidal dash along a narrow main road with no path to get to. So I arrive, and to my horror the beautiful, mushy surface has been covered in slate waste! Are people that afraid of walking on a bit of leaf litter and get their boots dirty? Are these the same people who’ve sent the 20000 signature petition to ask Nintendo to produce the Wii Fit: Snowdon Edition? I’ve no woodland trail anymore!
The same has happened to a great little stretch of path between Caernarfon and Waunfawr, being put over to a harder surface, not to mention the entire cycle track changing from a hard packed gravel to continuous, knee-jarring tarmac. Thankfully, another ancient trackway remains gloriously muddy and rough, and remains as the nearest stretch of decent trail I can reach in a direct run from town.
This is what it looked like in 2006. This track has now been covered over and is much wider, resulting in less hedgerow plants and the loss of the ancient surface. In the name of progress.
Look the other way, and this has gone as well… Now this was timely, as the National Park Authority is going to tarmac the Miner’s Track to Llyn Llydaw. I’m all for access, but taking this to it’s natural conclusion, are we going to end up going all American with ROADS up to the summits? I don’t expect the park to actually allow cars up there, but I see the day where the Llanberis path is tarmac all the way, with a couple of wide zig-zags below Clogwyn as being a natural conclusion to this. After all, there’s railway, why not go the whole hog? Lets even put a cafe half way as well as on the top while we’re at it!
This project as a discrete entity, if they manage to solve that eternal question of life, the universe and a tarmac that doesn’t look like tarmac, doesn’t really bother me. In fact, I think it’s a pretty decent idea as it’s damn near a motorway anyway so improving the surface slightly so a few more people can get there is fine. One argument is that it’s going to increase the number of people getting into trouble on the mountain. Now I can’t see the numbers involved being that great and that even if you assume that statistically the same proportion get into trouble as for those who can already access the area, i’d imagine it’s going to come to a statistically insignificant amount. I’d imagine the greatest hazard is returning downhill. If you want a footpath of sorts, you do the PYG – jaywalking’s kept strictly to the Miners’. What needs to be clear is what the park, which sets draconian planning regulations for most, will do and explicitly WON’T DO to our mountains.