Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

Something must be done for Wales

Neglected by its low-calibre Labour politicians, overlooked at Westminster and out-shouted by Scotland

On Monday 25 July we climbed Cader Idris. No particular reason except a free Monday and a memory of what a fine mountain it looked when, many years ago and heading for the north Wales coast, I skirted this massive ridged hunk of green and black rising from oak forests. Some hills have a strong sense of their own identity and Cader Idris impresses itself on all who see it. It’s a walk, really, not a climb, but at just under 3,000 feet a big, steep walk, taking four or five hours up and down.

So we set out from Derbyshire at seven and were there in three-and-a-half hours. In a little sunshine and some misty drizzle we left the car and followed the trail. Our route was to be circular, clockwise, right over the top.

Cader Idris must be, after Snowdon, Wales’s most climbed serious mountain and even on a dull Monday there were other groups on the path. It’s a challenge to maintain public access while avoiding footpath erosion, but the National Trust are making a determined effort, with thousands of roughly but beautifully built steps using great hunks of natural stone — and evidence of more to come in the shape of helicopter drops of hundreds more bags of rocks. Massive chunks of black slate have been laid across the stream as a bridge. The overall effect is of tremendous but sensitive labours that do not intrude on a wild and natural walk.

You start through oak woods with always the sound of waterfalls and the rushing stream in your ears, you emerge into open grass and heather (all in pink and purple flower now) and a striking diversity of mosses, lichens, flowers and ferns. Slowly the Welsh hillscape opens up beneath you; great flashes of bright quartz streak the dark rock, you circle a dark tarn far below, you begin to see flashes of the Irish sea, then undulate between two summits and pick your way back down.

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