A landscape defined
It’s easy to sit back and soak up the vistas of North Wales without giving a second thought on how they were created, or, for that matter, maintained. The magnificent landscapes we gaze over, walk through and work in, all have their tale to tell - here is Snowdonia’s.
The Ice Age
Ice Ages have been a ‘common’ feature of the British Isles and Northern Europe, with 40 having been identified by geologists. The Migneint/Arenig ice sheet covering Snowdonia during the last Ice Age was at it’s greatest around 18,000 years ago. Just under a mile deep, only the tallest peaks would have been visible. As ice flowed from this sheet, its outlet glaciers cut great breaches into the land, creating some of Snowdonia’s most powerful scenery - the pass between the Glyderau and the Carneddau, Pen y Pass and the entrance to the Nantlle Valley.
The declining years of the Ice Age defined the landscape further; temperatures continued to rise until 12,000 years ago with cwm glaciers pouring out of hollows high up in the mountains, deepening the work of the earlier glacial breaches.
Key Ice Age features to look out for:
Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris - The village of Llanberis now sits on the shores of the popular Llyn Padarn, one of two neighbouring glacial lakes. They were in fact once one lake before becoming separated by sediment (an alluvial fan to use the correct term) from the Afon Hwch.
Cwm Idwal - One of the most studied glacial sites in Snowdonia. A short walk up to the lake lying at the bottom of this Cwm rewards you with spectacular scenery - a hanging valley surrounded by some of the highest peaks in Snowdonia. Its fascinating geological features drew the famous 19th century naturalist, Charles Darwin to the area.
Another relic of the Ice Age is the Snowdon Lily, only found on a few inaccessible sites, Cwm Idwal being one of them. The total Welsh population is thought to number fewer than 100 bulbs.
Cwm: Another word for a cirque; a bowl-shaped, steep-walled mountain basin carved by glaciation, often containing a small round lake.
Crib Goch - Keen walkers will be familiar with this ridge, which forms part of the Snowdon Horseshoe. Meaning ‘Red Ridge’ it is one of the most spectacular examples of an arete in the country. A narrow, serrated ridge between two glaciated slopes, and in this instance, with falls of over 300m on either side. A scramble along, it is not for the feint-hearted or ill-prepared.
Snowdon - Fittingly for the highest mountain in England and Wales, it offers walkers the opportunity to admire some of the best glacial scenery in the British Isles. This pyramidal peak was created by three surrounding glaciers. To see the true pyramid shape, look at it from the South, looking at Glaslyn to the summit.
Cromlech Boulders - Climbers, or in fact correctly known as “Boulderers”, can often be seen clinging to the massive fallen blocks of rock in the Llanberis Pass. The boulders, just South of the road bridge, Pont y Cromlech, edge out onto the road in places. They are in fact lumps of Volcanic Breccia, originally created by a massive volcanic eruption which occurred below sea level (which the area once was). During the Ice Age these boulders were moved by the ice flow, and eventually deposited in their current resting place once the ice had melted.
Maes - Caradoc - A fine example of Roches Moutonnee (also known as sheep backs) can be found in the Ogwen Valley. Created when rocky outcrops are more resistant than the surrounding bedrock. Ice moves around the outcrop, eroding the top leaving a smooth outcrop with a jagged underside.
Want to see Snowdonia's landscape for yourself? Stay in one of our fabulous Snowdonia cottages and explore this magnificent part of North Wales! With some wonderful winter savings to be made as prices are lower, go on be spontaneous and book a break in Snowdonia!
Find out more about The Handbook Volume 2, and how to get your very own copy here.