Historic Landscape Characterisation

Mawddach - Area 17 Northern slopes of Cadair Idris (PRN 18347)



Historic background

The Cadair Idris range has true mountain qualities, with precipices dropping to lakes and a particularly dramatic northern side (when it is visible!), where snow often lies late, which dominates the town of Dolgellau. The high summit ridge, with screes, boulders and high, wet gullies where alpine plants grow, is very popular with walkers: the highest peak (Mynydd Moel) is 863m, and there are several routes to the top. The mountain is associated with a number of myths and legends it is the chair of the giant Idris, and anyone sleeping on the mountain overnight will awake as either a madman or a poet! Most of the western part of the area is labelled, on the 1839 Llangelynnin tithe map, as Common', while the eastern part, shown on the 1842 Dolgellau tithe map, shows only five or six huge enclosures defined by simple, straight, walls heading directly up the slopes (most of which can be traced today). These carry on down into area 18. Much of the land is described as belonging to Cefn yr Owen uchaf and isaf.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Mountain summit and upland screes

This area contains the summit of Cadair Idris and the steep, craggy, inhospitable slopes below on the northern side. The area contains few vestiges of previous human habitation beyond the typical, straight 19th century enclosure walls running across and down the slopes, a few sheep folds and a single prehistoric settlement site.

Most of this character area lies within the Cadair Idris SSSI (CCW ref. SSSI Cadair Idris' 31WMT) which altogether extends to some 1102ha in all, much of which includes a National Nature Reserve. It has been designated for its outstanding geomorphological importance which includes such features as the extensive Tal-y-lyn fault, as well as several corries and narrow summit ridges. Geologically it is a highly complex area; the massif comprises a section of well-exposed Ordovician volcanic and sedimentary rocks (see also areas 15 and 19). These support a range of plant communities, with grassland prevailing but which also contains bilberry heath and areas of montane moss heath, well-developed acidic soligenous mires and blanket mire, with remnants of sessile oak woodland on the lower slopes. There is a moderately-rich flora on the higher, less accessible slopes and ledges, and in addition some ornothological interest; it has also long been used for research and teaching purposes.


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