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Cwm Brwynog

[work in progress]

please use the ‘slide control’ at the top of the issuu.com webpage to zoom into photos

Cwm Brwynog

[Valley of the hill of rushes]

31 january 2012 - project concept

19 March 2012 - project start

i realize that since i came to llanberis in 1999 i have learnt very little about the valley at the foot of mount snowdon, cwm brwynog, thus i decide to document it.

from the farm where i have stayed on and off over the past 13 years capel hebron has always been in the distance. despite walking past it on the way up snowdon i have never been near and i ask the farmer, joe davies for permission to photo it.

capel hebron is now partly roofed and in a very bad state of disrepair. there are still signs of how beautiful it was once inside.

in order to show detail both inside and outside i have to take many photos with different exposures of the same view using a tripod. ‘hdr’ - high dynamic range is the method which combines these images to make one photograph with great definition.

Capel hebron as it looked when still being used from the late 1950’s and earlier.

the capel hebron congregation from 1958.

this book is a work in progress. I have made this so the people whose portraits i am taking can see what i am working towards. the photos will later be re-edited and more descriptive text added.

from the chapel i walk to nearby cae newydd. i have seen a photo from the 1930’s of it being lived in. a man smoking a pipe was changing over a gas bottle and it caught fire, destroying the roof. since then it has been derelict.

the single photos you see here are made up of 10 images using different exposures. i under expose by 5 ‘stops’ and over expose by 5 ‘stops’. this results in a picture which gives great blacks and shadows with tones all the way through to bright whites and highlights.

I have always focused on people and their portraits but it is essential to give a sense of place by documenting the stunning landscapes.

this is rol williams’s book. it’s only written in welsh and includes some black and white photos. i don’t expect to be able to match the factual content but i do hope to produce some images which give a good feel of what it is, and was once, like in the valley.

i find it incredible that the advert at left applies to the remains of the farmhouse at right.

a photo with cae newydd in the background from 1933.

I believe the remains of this old house are called cae’r fran. i have much research to do and more photos to make.

most small holdings kept pigs and cows even if the man of the house worked in the nearby slate mines in llanberis. keeping livestock helped with keeping the family fed and could provide a second income.

the light constantly changes as do the seasons and nothing stays the same.

this is the map i am following from rol williams’s book. i need to make my own, 3 dimensional map at a later date to show where every house and person i have photographed is located.

this building apparently ‘cooled’ a local electricity supply but is now home to mobile phone masts. this reminds me of a futuristic ‘prog rock’ album cover of the 1970’s depicting a station on a far away planet or, as someone said - something from dr.who. out of view, in the distance, is the lake.

cae newydd as it was in the 1930’s.

cae newydd in 2012.

along from brithdir are a row of houses called ty’n yr aelgarth.

i photographed this end of the old house because it’s apparent this low roofed shed was used as a pig sty. keeping a small amount of livestock crucially provided extra income and food to families who had to work all hours in order to survive.

leon on his quad, moving off to round up sheep.

view of llanberis town whilst walking up toward mount snowdon.

leon morris farms sheep on this part of the hill.

ty mawn - used by charity ‘the reading snowdonia consortium’. leased by the then owners of the vaynol estate in 1967 to the reading borough council, ymca and 79th reading scout group to provide basic accommodation for youth groups at a very low price. the light is left on every night as a ‘welcoming’ light.

from left to right: david pettit, brian williamson & christine price. there are 8 members in the consortium and 4 trustees within the 8. brian has the ‘silver wolf’ - the highest award from the scout association, for his work over 50 years and the longest member of this consortium since 1967 helping to re-build derelict ty mawn.

ty mawn consortium meeting.

the building sleeps a total of 16 people so numbered because that is the amount one mini-bus can carry. this room takes 5.

this room sleeps 11 people in this ‘2 up, 2 down’ building.

panoramic 01

panoramic 04 taken from here

looking north-east from the hill behind ty mawn down to llanberis at centre. off to the right is cwm brwynog.

this boulder must have been dropped by a glacier as it slowly made the way down towards llanberis.

the hill behind ty mawn is a popular place for people to learn how to paraglide.

panoramic 02

previous pages: llwyn Celyn Bach farmhouse and the davies family.

panoramic 03 taken from here

the view looking south-west from the slate mines at dinorwic down to llanberis. cwm brwynog starts above the town and moves left behind the first mountain.

panoramic 03

panoramic 05 taken from here

looking towards the slate mines at dinorwic (past the lake).cwm brwynog runs from left and then out of view, to the right. Mount Snowdon is directly above as are the building remains from when the british army trained here for the boer and second world wars. bullet remains can be found from target practice.

left, and at right are the remains of celtic stone roundhouses used before roman times. these are amongst the first settlements in wales. under the tree at left is a stone with a seat carved out of it.

in the foreground it is still possible to see stones which have been placed one on top of another to make a roundhouse wall and which have stood like this for thousands of years.

a close-up of the building remains, at bottom of photo, which were used whilst soldiers practiced in the valley for the boer war. The peak above is that of mount snowdon.

panoramic 04

panoramic 0

panoramic 06 taken from here

01 taken from here

looking north towards llanberis. this is at the far end of cwm brwynog near the foot of mount snowdon. below is helfa fawr which is now a bunkhouse. at right is hafoty newydd and in the middle of the page ty’n yr aelgarth and brithdir.

a photo of helfa fawr as it stood up until being renovated to a bunkhouse in 2008. it can now only be let out to holiday makers and not lived in full time. legend has it that the poets ran to the hill at the back of helfa to get away from the kings of anglesey. jane o’donells great, great, great grandfather farmed here.

a photo of the remains of helfa fain taken from helfa fawr.at one time up to 80 people lived in cwm brwynog - a remote community with their own church who kept animals and rented their land from the vaynol estate as no-one could afford to own the land themselves.

the next pages show jane o’doneels two sons inside helfa fawr and a living room for people using the bunkhouse, old church pews make practical sense as wet clothing would make sofas damp and they would wear out quickly. it is only possible to access helfa fawr by quadbike or 4x4 as the track is very rough and impossible by car.

looking east to no. 1 muw mawr and the slate mines beyond. the building used to be called tywdd yn siarl but when the owners moved they took the name with them to their next house just a short way away.

evan roberts has lived here since 1991 when the building was just single storey. at left an original beam is exposed above the fireplace and at far left it is possible to see the join in the wall where the second floor was added.

ed’s temporary building for his family is in his garden and built onto the remains of some pottery sheds from the 1960’s when an artist community flourished around in the nearby houses. i aim to photo his house on another visit.

at no. 2 muw mawr ‘crochendy’ ed harmer sits in a building he has made for his family to temporarily live in whilst he renovates their house. ed originally came from norfolk, now 15 years in wales he lived in deinolen before. the view eastwards looks up cwm brwynog and cae esgob.

renee & huw davies at hafod. the couple lived (and met) in nant peris for 33 years, spent 10 years in cors-ywlad on the llyn peninsula, 42 years in hafod lydan and now 5 years at hafod. they have been farming all that time and are the parents to joe davies.

panoramic 05

panoramic 02 taken from here

cwm br

panoramic 06 nant peris

mount snowdon

clogwyn du’r arddu

gist moel cynghorion bwlch cwm brwynog clogwyn llechwedd llo


hafoty newydd bwlch maesgwm

helfa fawr

afon helfa cwm creigiau duon foel goch cefn drum

moel eilio

cwm cesig


cae newydd

braich y foel

capel hebron


llyn padarn

panoramic 07 mount snowdon

cwm dwythwch derlwyn

dolbadarn castle

gorsaf hebron capel hebron

panoramic 08

cae newydd brithdir

hafoty newydd

mount snowdon



moel cynghorion pistyll gwyn cefn drum

foel gron afon tan yr allt

panoramic 09 clogwyn du’r arddu

moel eilio moel cynghorion

afon arddu


oty newydd

mount elidir

llyn du’r arddu

halfway cafe

panoramic 10 yr aelgerth

hut circles [before christ]

llyn dwythwch

shane jones

mount elid


mount garn

old lead mine

boncan brithdir

on the snowdon mountain railway train shane jones looks out passed capel hebron in cwm brwynog which his relatives used up to the late 1950’s.

shane crosses a stile 13 minutes into the 8 mile ‘moel eilio mountain race’ which starts at plas garnedd and goes over moels gron/coch/ eilio and cynghorion.

sir chris bonnington at the top of mount snowdon with the olympic flame on it’s 11th day touring britain before the 2012 olympic games [29/05/12]

gwyn jones has worked shovelling the coal into snowdon mountain railway steam engine no.6’s boiler for over 30 years. gwyn is shane’s dad.

panoramic 11

bwlch carreg y gigfran

jo lloyd davies

panoramic 12

adwy’r lwyd

helfa fain brithdir rali isaf ty’n yr aelgerth rali

panoramic 13


Eirlys jones was born in 1931 and would make the journey as a child, with her younger sister and father, to visit her grandfather at brithdir from Brynrefail (at the northern end of llyn padarn). slowly i am finding out alot of information from people like eirlys about what cwm brwynog was like 60+ years ago.

eirlys: “It’s a paradise of a place - so quiet” olwen: “happy memories but it’s so sad to see it gone to rack and ruin”.

eirlys’s and olwen’s nain was called anne jones and their taid michael jones and they both lived at brithdir for over 50 years. they had a small holding with chickens, 2 pigs, cattle and a pony. anne died when eirlys was aged 2. eirlys and olwen’s dad, harry, worked at the quarry in llanberis and died in 1968 aged 64 - he lived at brithdir until he got married in 1931. harry met his wife, katey owen, as she walked past brithdir on her way with friends to an annual fair in nant peris every 18 september. she would walk from waunfawr over bwlch masalgwyn and after the fair they all walked back together. anne and michael had 3 daughters and 4 sons. the eldest son, will lived at brithdir after harry moved out and michael died. will was married to jane and they had a daughter called peggy. eirlys remembers walking different routes aged 8 from brynerefail, sometimes using the railway steps alongside the church house and olwen aged 2 would sit on her dad’s shoulders to visit uncle will and aunty jane. eirlys remembers going through the door of the house into the kitchen (pictured opposite) which had red and black tiles on the floor, a small rug in front of the fireplace, an old fashioned grate and oven and a ‘settle’ - a wooden bench which opened to keep clothes inside. there were 3 small bedrooms, an outside toilet and a cow shed.

what eirlys hated more than anything was when aunty jane would be milking and when she walked into the shed jane would turn the cows teet and squirt eirlys in the face...she hated milk and the smell of it. at the front of the house (previous pages) there was a wooden bench where they would sit outside. peggy had menigitis when she was young and was too ill to go to church at capel hebron so instead the congregation would sing her 2 favourite songs ‘calon lan’ and ‘gentle jesus’ which she could hear from the chapel across the valley whilst seated at the bench.

jane would also make bara llaeth - bread made with buttermilk and would try to get the girls to eat it which they always tried desperately to avoid. a cousin called arthur finally lived in brithdir and when he died it went empty. it’s surprising to all how quickly it has become so derelict.

2 fields down from the house was a stream where all the water for the house and animals had to be carried by hand from. large earthen pots were used to hold the water and also keep the buttermilk. harry and his two daughters would go down to the stream in the summer, build a pool using stones and learn to swim there. eirlys remembers a lady with a deep voice like a man who lived at cae newydd who broke her foot. she had to wear a special shoe and hobbled. eirlys was terrified of her. later the lady came to brynerefail to live and Eirlys was able to talk with her but never told her when she was younger that she had been so scared of her. aunty jane would make jelly as a treat and once held up a bowl to show eirlys and olwen that it had set. jane turned the bowl upside down and all the jelly fell out -it hadn’t set and they didn’t have the treat that time.

olwen (left) is 6 years younger than her sister eirlys. they would visit this house ‘brithdir’ together to see their grandfather and aunt and uncle in the late 1930’s.

a months severe rain in 24 hours on 09 june 2012 led to devestation in aberystwyth and west wales. here run-off from mount garn cascades towards nant peris.

panoramic 14

right: climber dan ely (x3) at the ‘track of doom’ overlooking twll mawr in dinorwic slate quarry. llyn peris is below with llanberis at right.

next pages (panoramic 15): dan looks down into ‘lost world’ from one of the many tunnels (below ‘the lost level’) which people abseil from to get into ‘lost world’.

panoramic 15

right: looking down into ‘lost world’ where there are hard adventurous climbs accessed by ladders by a tunnel approach from ‘mordor’.

left: this face has a climb up to the tunnel (which dan is looking out of in panoramic 15 - previous pages). this is called ‘the wall within’.


noramic 16

panoramic 17

triple ladders lead down to mordor below ‘middle earth level’. notice dan on the bottom ladder, left & above.

www.edgold.co.uk [This book is not finished but i aim to complete it by june 2012. it is a fascinating project and i sincerely hope that this study or one like it to document a forgotten valley in wales - can be made into a photography book to preserve a part of wales’s history for the future]

Profile for Ed Gold

Cwm Brwynog - Valley of the Hill of Rushes  

The start of a photography project to document a valley which runs from Llanberis in north Wales up to the foot of Mount Snowdon. Includes p...

Cwm Brwynog - Valley of the Hill of Rushes  

The start of a photography project to document a valley which runs from Llanberis in north Wales up to the foot of Mount Snowdon. Includes p...

Profile for edgold