It has been a while since I wrote my blog for Bala Cottage Holidays, no excuse but it has been a mad summer holidays as normal! Both cottages have been full and we have had some lovely guests through the doors.
September walking, nothing beats it, we had a fantastic walk on Saturday with some friends from Angelesey, an area I had not been too in Snowdonia before, so we started just before Betwys Coed on the A5, at the end of a small village called Cwm Penmachno, a place steeped in history as this is where most of the old Welsh Slate mines were, after a steep climb through a forest we came upon the ruins of Ma Dwr per, an eerily beautiful place with the large chimney still very much standing.
Then on and up over to the top of Manod Maw with fantastic views down to Blaenau Ffestiniog and then onto the Porthmadog estuary and out to sea. Then we went down and onto Manod Quarry, a place with quite a secret.
The Manod is a cold and lonely place, 1,750ft above sea level. Its isolation caused it to be one of the most secret places in the second world war. The entire National Gallery Collection was hidden in its underground labyrinth in case Trafalgar Square was bombed, which, of course, it was in 1940. Londoners feared for their lives each night, and sheltered from the bombs wherever they could. But the Ministry of Works gave top priority to a nine-month building programme at Manod to ensure the paintings would be safe beneath a 300ft thick slate ceiling in the highly unlikely event of Hitler deciding to bomb a lonely mountain in north Wales.
Six vast underground chambers were installed for the treasures. Each had its own air-conditioning system, which ensured four changes of air an hour, and a constant atmosphere of 65F and 42% humidity. Five thousand tons of slate were removed from the moutain entrance increasing it from a 6ft square hole through which generations of miners had passed, to one 13ft by 10ft. This allowed masterpieces by Gainsborough, Hogarth, Constable, Turner, Monet, Degas and Rembrandt, as well as the remainder of the British, French and Dutch Schools, to be unloaded unobtrusively from lorries driven inside the mountain. The road surface under the railway bridge at Ffestiniog, was lowered two and a half feet so that the lorry carrying the vast Van Dyck canvas Charles I on Horseback and Piombo’s Raising of Lazarus could edge underneath with inches to spare.
Today you can still the barred entrance, but it really looks quite unremarkable, considering what a huge secret it held all those years ago. A walk really worth it not only for the history but for the outstanding views. Snowdonia never ceases to amaze me.
But back to home now and we do still have availability at Dolgadfa for October Half term from Friday 21st October for seven nights, so please get in touch and come and stay and if you are interested I can show you many wonderful walks in the area.