Jul 032017
 

RESPECT WANTED

Tourism is a subject I’ve written about more than once, and so I think my views are pretty well known. But in case anyone’s failed to get the message . . . tourism in Wales is exploitive, tasteless, disruptive, damaging to Welsh identity and culture, destructive of our physical environment, and far too little of the wealth it generates reaches Welsh people. Tourism in Wales is one of the more obvious manifestations of colonialism.

Which is why I was encouraged to read this morning about Eryri in future being treated with “respect”. Remarkably, this is the very word I have used in my previous criticisms of the damage being done to the area by crude and exploitive tourism.

The word was used by Helen Pye, the Snowdonia National Park’s former head warden for Snowdon who is now manager of the Snowdon Partnership, a group representing various interests that has produced a draft plan for the area which invites comments. It’s a fascinating document and I urge you all to read it, and to submit your comments before Friday’s deadline.

The document tells us, for example, that Snowdon is a “national asset” . . . without stating which nation is being referred to. But as it goes on to say, ” . . . the most visited mountain in the UK.” it’s reasonable to assume that we are here discussing the mythic UKish nation.

A remarkable, and worrying, statistic may be found on page 20, which tells us that between 2013 and 2015 the percentage of first-time hill walkers attempting Yr Wyddfa doubled from 10% to 20%. Which no doubt contributes to some of the more alarming statistics found elsewhere in the report.

Page 43 bears out my criticism of tourism providing low-wage and seasonal employment, and contributing little to the overall economy of an area, with: “Tourism to Yr Wyddfa is estimated to contribute £69m of economic benefit per annum. There are low rates of full-time employment and low median wages in the Park”.

Though my spirits were briefly raised when I read, on page 48,“Invasive species are being controlled”, under the “Where do we want to be by 2030?” heading . . . only to realise that the draft was not referring to tourists.

All in all, it’s a very disappointing and unambitious document, with ‘compromise’ written through it like ‘Tenby’ through a stick of rock. Hardly surprising when we look at some of the ‘partners’: Visit Betws-y-Coed, The Outdoor Partnership, The National Trust, Beddgelert Tourism Association, Snowdonia-Active, Visit Wales, Snowdon Mountain Railway.

All of which can be grouped under the ‘Playground Wales’ umbrella. Organisations which insist that attracting unsustainable numbers of tourists, and encouraging many to settle, has no damaging consequences for Welsh identity, social cohesion, and the natural environment.

Not a lot different to tobacco companies back in the ’60s and ’70s arguing that cigarettes were not harmful to health. If you have a vested interested in denying what it is becoming clear to everyone else then that’s what you do . . . and just hope you get away with it.

TREN BACH YR WYDDFA

After writing the name I got to wondering a bit more about the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which not only owns the train to the summit but also runs the cafe close by the summit.

Reading the website one of the first things that struck me about the early days of the railway was the almost total absence of Welsh involvement. This was all happening in spite of us, or over our heads. But then, that’s colonialism; a whole nation treated as if it has learning difficulties, unable to do anything for itself.

The section below is taken from the website’s History section.

From ‘History of the Snowdon Mountain Railway’

The initial excursion in 1896 of No 1 Ladas, owned by the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd, was not a great success, for the train left the track. Fortunately there was just one fatality, Ellis Griffith Roberts of Llanberis.

This episode is so wonderfully emblematic of ‘Welsh’ tourism. Not only were those making the money English, even the driver of the derailed train, William Pickles, was brought in from Yorkshire (with his nephew to serve as fireman). And as is the case 120 years later, it’s the Welsh who suffer.

The company number quoted on the website is 00042476 which, when typed into the Companies House site, takes us here. We can see that this company is based in Liverpool, and has been dormant for many years. Not only that, but since 2001 the company has got by without auditors. (You’ll note that this decision was taken at a meeting in Ripon, North Yorkshire. Perhaps in deference to Will Pickles and his nephew.)

Which means that one of Wales’ major tourism enterprises is run by an unaudited, dormant company. So who owns this outfit? Well, the answer seems to be, according to this document, that the shares – all 1,803,690 (10p shares) – are owned by Heritage Great Britain PLC of the same Liverpool address.

Heritage Great Britain plc is a holding company and we are also told that, “The Group undertakes the operation of various landmark and other day visitor attractions situated in the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, North Wales, and holiday accommodation in Scotland through a joint venture”.

So who owns Heritage Great Britain plc? According to this document, as at 5 April 2016 all 5,213,371 £1 shares are held by Cherberry Ltd. Which is where the trail almost goes dead. Because if you type ‘Cherberry Ltd’ into the Companies House website you draw a blank . . . for Cherberry was registered in May 1996 in Jersey.

Naturally – you know me, nosey bastard! – I went to the website of the Jersey Financial Services Commission to see what I could learn about Cherberry Ltd . . . which was not a lot. Other than the fact that the trail goes on to Dukla Ltd of Gibraltar, as set out in this document. The Dukla Articles of Association are dated August 2015. Having paid out £4 for the Jersey documents I was in no mood to splash out more than thirty quid a time for the Gibraltar docs.

And even if I’d bought some Gibraltar documents then I might have found that they led on to the Caymans or the British Virgin Islands. Which raises a few questions.

Hafod Eryri. All the architectural charm of a public urinal from communist East Germany

First, the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd leases the cafe at the summit, Hafod Eryri, from the Snowdonia National Park. This ‘visitor centre’ opened 12 June 2009 and was built at considerable cost. Given who owns it it’s safe to assume that a great deal of public funding was involved. How do those funders – probably using your money and mine – feel about this publicly-funded asset now being leased to a company based God knows where?

Second, the Snowdonia Mountain Railway ferries a few hundred thousand people between Llanberis and the summit every year. In the event of an accident, how easy would it be to hold to account a company we’ve traced to Gibraltar, a company that through yet more changes of name and ownership may ultimately be located even further afield?

Are Cyngor Gwynedd and the ‘Welsh’ Government satisfied that adequate insurance is in place to cover all eventualities? Satisfied that culpability can be apportioned and justice satisfied when the guilty party or parties may be beyond UK jurisdiction?

~~~

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The principal characters in the Snowdon Mountain Railway, in the forms of the three current directors are, Gary Johnson, Allan James Stuart Leech and Peter Miles Johnson-Treherne; the last of whom can be founded listed on other documents as Peter Treherne or Peter Johnson-Treherne.

The same three crop up running the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd (where Gary Johnson now becomes Gary Andrew Johnson). You’ll remember that this is the name of the company for which the luckless William Pickles and his nephew worked back in 1896. (Though of course they were lucky compared to poor Ellis Griffith Roberts.) So what does this company do?

In a word, nothing, for it became dormant almost from the date of its Incorporation on 22 May 2013. And as we read in the Annual Report and Accounts dated 31 January 2014, “The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Heritage Great Britain plc which is registered in England and Wales. The ultimate parent company, Cherberry Ltd, is registered in Jersey . . . “. 

Something that puzzled me was, given the ages of the three I’ve named, and their relatively late entrances, who was running the show before they got involved? Part of the answer came from the former directors of the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd, for among them I found the information below.

Kevin Ronald Leech (born August 1943) is probably the father of current director Allan James Stuart Leech (born October 1972). Leech Senior’s Jersey address is the same address given for Cherberry Ltd.

UPDATE 04.07.2017: I am indebted to Simon Hillman for providing (in a comment below) more information on Kevin Leech. I suggest you read this Telegraph article from October 2002 and this Guardian piece from January 2014. This is the man who might still own the Snowdon Mountain Railway through a network of offshore companies, and the man to whom the Snowdonia National Park has leased Hafod Eryri. Cause for concern.

RESPECT HAS TO BE EARNED

The fundamental problem exposed here is one we find in other parts of Wales, and indeed, around the world. To wit: A beautiful area attracts tourists, the more tourists that come, the more degraded and less beautiful that area becomes. This combination of tourism and degradation is unavoidable.

Among those refusing to concede this universal truth we may find some denying that there is a limit to how many tourists an area can accommodate, especially when they don’t live in the area and run their businesses through offshore companies.

If Ms Pye and her Snowdon Partnership are serious about showing respect for Yr Wyddfa then the answer is simple: rather than searching for the alchemist’s stone of attracting a limitless number of tourists and expecting them to cause no harm, accept that the problem is too many tourists and start limiting the numbers.

By all means encourage responsible walkers to ascend the mountain, but for God’s sake don’t make it easy for every lazy bastard to get there on a bloody railway – and then encourage them to fill their fat faces in the cafe at the top!

So make a start by demolishing the pissoir at the peak, after all, this is owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority and was paid for from the Welsh public purse. With the visitor centre gone there’ll be less incentive for the obese and the idle to get the train to the summit.

If money was found for the carbuncle now desecrating the skyline then money can be found to buy out the Snowdon Mountain Railway, by compulsory purchase if necessary. Once bought, the rolling stock can be flogged off and the tracks torn up to restore Yr Wyddfa to something approaching its natural state.

Anything less is simply tinkering with the problem; so if that’s what’s happening then don’t build people’s hopes up by using words like ‘respect’. Use the word that I fear already describes the Snowdon Partnership and its draft plan – fudge.

♦ end ♦

 

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25 Comments on "Respecting Snowdon"

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Simon Hillman
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It seems Kevin Leech has quite a reputation:

here
and
here

Big Gee
Admin

Says it all really. He’s not a particularly rare beast in the jungle he roams in. Most of them do it under the radar of the public eye. Apart from being spotted occasionally by the likes of Jac, they just roam and devour at will. The public of course is too distracted by X-Factor, other celebrity crap, football & other sports and very importantly, where they’re going on holiday this year. They’re not even remotely interested in what’s going on in the real world. Well I call it ‘real world’, it is in fact a perception deception. The ‘sheeple’ are kept quiet and ignorant by manipulation of their closed off minds thought processes.

In colonised countries like Cymru it’s even more apparent. The public having been fully programmed to just accept it as if it’s the ‘norm’.

Brychan
Guest

So how does the ‘Snowdon Mountain Railway’ measure up to a 10 point tourism strategy for Wales (rather than in Wales)?

(1) Does it provide all year round income?
No. It’s summer season only, only during the saturation peaks, with no possibility of expansion into shoulder periods due to weather.

(2) Does it boost local spending?
No. It takes spending away from local businesses. A pound spent on the summit is a pound lost in the valley.

(3) Does it protect the environment?
No. It causes catastrophic damage.

(4) Does it add value to the overall offer of the industry?
No. It debases the quality offer.

(5) Does it employ local people.
No. Mainly summer students from England on minimum wage, and volunteers.

(6) Is it self sustaining?
No. It swallows up public money.

(7) Does it provide income in the supply chain?
No. Coal is imported for steam.

(8) Is there ancillary employment?
No. Overhauls of loco’s are fitted locally but parts manufactured elsewhere.

(9) Does it compete or compromise with other more lucrative offer?
Yes. The ‘mountaineering community’ frown upon it.

(10) Is it sustainable technology?
No. Pumps out CO2 and sulphurous pollution into the National Park.

It could be argued that other ‘steam heritage railways’ in Wales perform a useful function of keeping assets open, like the Ffesiniog, Gwili or Rhyd Ddu trackbeds, but this is certainly not the case with a trackbed to Copa’r Wyddfa.

This installation is a no-brainer,
Close it, demolish it.

Dafis
Guest

Apart from the opaque ownership situation the possibility ( no, probability ) of some wide boy with deep offshore cover ducking obligations in the event of some serious liability arising should get the local authority and ultimately the Bay seriously agitated. As with the recent Grenfell fire where there seems to have been a chain of shoddy decision making ( or no decisions at all !) the same would apply if the old train toppled over crushed a few dozen while slinging another group over the side and down a drop of a few hundred feet. Is there a risk assessment document that’s been lodged with Gwynedd or the National Park ? Is it regularly updated with 3rd party inspection to ensure a rigorous approach ? or has it been left to “someone else” as it’s “not likely to happen”. No doubt there is a bland meaningless document gathering dust somewhere but whether it is any good at all is open to question.

On the opaque ownership that should be repatriated as soon as possible. The offshore spiv could be told to hold the title in a entity of his choice as long as that entity was registered, based and paid its taxes here in Wales. Sadly we do not at present have any form of government that can pass or enforce such a regulation.

Mabon
Guest

Did you know that the percentage of children in Llanberis’s primary school, ysgol Dolbadarn, speaking Welsh at home fell from 69.1% in 2013 to 53.6% in 2016 according to the school census results. Further details can be found here: http://politicsbyrebuttal.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/will-welsh-language-survive-my-thoughts.html?m=1
This seems to have coincided with the growth in first time hill walkers during those years. I blame zipworld for it. A similar scale reduction occurred in ysgol Abercaseg (babanod) in Bethesda during those three years, and I can’t help but think that zip world Bethesda with its seemingly 100% non-Welsh staff might have something to do with it.

Dafis
Guest

That migration of labour is a bigger threat than that posed by tourism, where at least the visitors bugger off home after a week or 2 with us woollybacks. The imported labour, which seems to be the norm at places like ZipWorld, will bring with them an AngloBrit view of most things and with a few exceptions will make no effort to integrate with a local language and culture that remain visible and accessible to those who wish to engage.

K. A. Mylchreest
Guest

Given that tourists will always come to places they’ve heard of, and given that as you claim they inevitably cause damage, is there not an argument for containing them in a limited area? Better maybe to encourage them to stuff their faces in the bunker on top of Yr Wyddfa than to leave them to wander all over the landscape. Left to their own devices there’s no telling what the poor dears might get up to, what damage they might do to themselves and the environment. Fortunately managing the behaviour of your average tourist is not very difficult, and quite probably pays for itself.

Cat\'s bum.
Guest

It surprised me a few weeks ago, I went through Pen-y-pass before 6am and the car park was already showing the ‘llawn’ sign… a few hours later and the scene at Storey Arms was a national disgrace, looked more like a music festival than a protected wilderness area… complete with queues to march up and down Pennyvan.

The underlying truth here is pretty obvious – tourism is just another that can be added to the list of water, wind, coal, steel, LPG pipelines etc: ways Wales is defiled to make money for other people. We are the national equivalent of the old ladies on Rogue Traders who keep getting ripped off by scams: we are poor because we keep letting people steal our stuff.

Dafis
Guest

C.b – I’ll split hairs and take issue with your spelling of Pen y Fan, but there again it’s being reduced to a “penny fan” by the abuse inflicted by those who tramp all over it leaving their dirt and litter behind. Visitors often bring their dogs and they are free to shit wherever they please and few owners bother to clean up ! Is that how they behave at home ? not bloody likely ! In Wales tourism is a mucky downmarket trade. Go to other parts of the U.K and things are kept a lot cleaner although the lot of the poor buggers working at the sharp end is no better wherever you go.

Jeremy
Guest

A huge number of tourists, including those that walk, enter Cymru with a full tank of petrol/diesel and a rucksack full of sandwichs and leave at the end of a day having spent not a penny.
I would suggest some sort of charging zone (for private cars and coaches), boundaries debatable, which charges those living outside Cymru a charge but one that is refunded if a certain spend is reached with a business in that area.
If you are going to have tourists then if you are to benefit you need ones that spend money – which is the first stage of circulating that money locally.
As regards the railway, terminate its route at the point where the Pyg, Ranger and Llanberis paths converge with the railway. The majority even then would not attempt the summit.
Your research is appreciated Jac.

daffy2012
Guest

The ‘Welsh’ Government is asking people for ideas on new ideas for taxation. Maybe a tourism tax would be a good idea? I think you’ve mentioned it before Jac. Of course, it must also be passed by both houses in London.

Brychan
Guest

I seems to me that central Eryri would be an excellent patch for a congestion charge levy on the roads. Welsh people have to pay it when visiting London, so why not charge people from England visiting North West Wales?

You could have the ANPR cameras at Nant Peris (Nanny perees), Betws y coed (Betsy Cod), Beddgelert (Bedigillet) and Banc Owgen (Oggy). Any vehicle entering the central area in summer could be charged £25. Remove the Penypass and Ogwen parking charges. All revenues from entering the charging zone should go to Gwynedd Council.In return they could put on a self financing ‘Hyrdo Eryri Bus, electric vehicles charged at Cwm Dyli hydroelectric, equipped to carry rucksacks and bikes. The park and ride car parks would be within the surrounding towns encouraging spend there.

The congestion charge could be paid online or at the café-shops at Capel Curig (Capel Curry). Anyone wanting to climb Yr Wyddfa itself, but also Tryfan (Tree Fan), Penyrolewen (Penny Rolly Gwen), or Clogwyn Du’r Arddu (Cloggy), Moel Siabod (Mole Sideboard) can either catch the bus or pay the congestion charge. Obviously, vehicles registered in Gwynedd and Conwy would be exempt from the charge (like the London boroughs). The priority route north-south is the A470, and east-west the A55, which wouldn’t be inside the charging zone, desirably taking up the displaced through traffic. Double charge caravans, and it would also solve the problem of HGVs in Beddgelert.

Also, like London, exempt vehicles would be police, ambulance etc, but you could also include school trip mini-busses and stuff like scouts.

I cannot see any ‘affected community’ opposing such a scheme. It would be welcomed by the indigenous population, and I’d be very surprised if the dungaree wearing good-lifer eco-bourgeoisie types would object. Just the second home squatters would oppose this. Also, when the mountain rescue team return the daps and t-shirt to the family of the dead Brummie pillock, an invoice can be included. Also put number plates on the back of Phantoms and Typhoons.

Good idea?

Hefin Wyn
Guest

Respect is not a word that needs to be emphasised when referring to the community project to buy the iconic Tafarn Sinc in the heart of the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire. That is taken for granted.
Formerly known as the Precelly(sic) Hotel established by English entrepreneurs to supplement a proposed spa resort that never materialised. However, they did work two quarries for a while and brought a railway line to the village they named as Rosebush in lieu of their inability to pronounce the native Rhos-y-bwlch.
Then a quarter of a century ago the neglected property was bought by a local entrepreneur for £18,000. By now Brian Llewelyn, his daughter, Hafwen, and son-in-law, Brian have transformed the enterprise into a pub cum restaurant cum museum worth £295,000 on the open market. This has been achieved by means of a vision and sheer hard work.
The experience of walking through the door is akin to walking back in time several decades. Flitches of ham hang from the ceiling, farm implements of yesteryear have been placed on the walls along with posters and photographs all designed to create a taste of the locality. Faggots just like mam used to do can be ordered.
Visitors appreciate the ambience and the chance to hear the Welsh language in its natural environment. Waitresses are employed specifically to practice their bilingual prowess with the customers.
All this achievement is in peril as the doors will be closed and locked unless a buyer is found. Hence a public meeting will be held at nearby Maenclochog on Wednesday, July 12 to assess the local enthusiasm to organise a community buy out. Shares will be offered at £200. Number of shares on offer will be limited to 1,876 – the year the original hotel was opened.
There is obviously a local perspective as well as a broader perspective. Visitors from afar have shown an interest. An elderly lady brought up in the area intends travelling down from London to the meeting intent on investing heavily. There will be cynics. But there will be no denying that a community asset will be lost if Tafarn Sinc is to close by Christmas.
The comment ‘ces mi beint na dwe’ is in danger of becoming redundant. Mae Tafarn Sinc yn sefydliad sy’n adlewyrchu naws bro’r Preseli. Mae hefyd yn ei gynnal am ei fod yn gymaint o sefydliad ar gyfer trigolion lleol ag yw i ymwelwyr. There is no quaintness attached to such a quintessential Welsh establishment.

Brychan
Guest

You have raised, Hefin, a lesson from history about ‘respect’. That quarry owner you mention (1869- Cropper) ventured into the tourism industry (1877-just before a stint felling the Zulus), with his mineral line and it was advertised here..

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It was, of course, not for the local community and when the GWR wanted an alternative route for the line to Fishguard, he sold the venture to them (1899).

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GWR had no intention of developing the line through Maenclochog, and promptly closed it (1917).

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This was a devastating blow to the communities involved. But as the last insult, the railway tunnel at Maenclochog was used to test the prototype bouncing bomb of dambusters fame (1943), although you won’t see that in the films.

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So there we have it. The English arrive, extract the minerals, do a bit of tourism, close it down if it adversely affects other enterprises, then when all is lost, just bomb the shit out of it.

Respect?

Dafis
Guest

Tafarn Sinc is far more likely to produce a sound score on a 10 point measurement akin to that used by Brychan on 04/07 to highlight the utter disaster Yr Wyddfa has become.

Felly pob hwyl gyda’r fenter. Cadwch mwyafrif y cyfranddaliad yn dwylo pobol lleol(am resymau amlwg!).

Hefin Wyn
Guest

Interesting insight Brynach. Apparently there were two Cropper’s, senior and junior. Edward Cropper (1799-1877) made his money as a director of British and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company. (Was he an MP as well?) In 1859 he bought a country pile called Swaylands in his native Kent and set the Victorian architect, George Davey, to work on extensions. Ten years later he bought the partly disused quarries at Rosebush/Rhos-y-bwlch for the substantial sum of around £4,500. He financed the railway line from Clunderwen (Narberth Road as it was known then) to Maenclochog and up the incline to his quarries so that slates could be easily transported. The first journey was made in 1876.
Cropper junior – Edward Denman Cropper – was born in 1855, eight years after his parents tied the knot, and took his mother’s maiden name as his second name. He was educated at Eton. By the time the family moved to Pembrokeshire his step-brother, Joseph Macaulay, came in tow as well. However, in 1877 Cropper senior keeled over, Swaylands was sold and Margaret ensconced herself in Pembrokeshire and within two years married Col. John Owen of Orielton, near Pembroke. It was Owen and Macaulay who carried on speculating with their considerable wealth whilst Cropper junior busied himself with the Boer War.
A spa resort was proposed and hence the Precelly(sic) Hotel was built to accommodate the health seeking visitors. Posters were produced extolling the virtues of ‘Maencloghog’ as a holiday destination in the cool mountain breeze. Two artificial lakes were formed but alas samples of water sent off to London were declared, after intensive tests, devoid of any health giving properties. The project floundered.
Cropper junior was not unduly worried as he scythed the natives in Zululand under the guidance of the vain and much decorated Sir Evelyn Wood, who was also regarded as something of a hypochondriac. Cropper himself was decorated with the DSO in 1901 and had earlier won a Bronze Medal for trying to save a man who fell from the steamship, Idaho, off the coast of San Francisco in 1878. He came a cropper when he succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 46 in 1901.
How such landed gentry came to the Preseli is a matter of speculation. Nevertheless they ensured they would not be forgotten. Their names have been inscribed on a memorial stone of red granite close to the entrance of Tafarn Sinc. No doubt the adoption of the name Rosebush, rather than the Rhos-y-bwlch which the natives were happy to use, was due to their influence and the cap in hand attitude of the local inhabitants of the time.

Myfanwy
Guest

Diolch yn fawr iawn Hefin Wyn, for letting us know about Tafarn Sinc. My Mam came from near here and I would be very interested to know, if there is an online way of supporting the bid to keep Tafarn Sinc, as an intrinsic part of the local community?

Hefin Wyn
Guest

Both CLEBRAN and Achub/Save Tafarn Sinc facebook pages will keep you informed

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