CPAT logo
Cymraeg / English
Back Home
Mynydd Hiraethog Historic Landscape

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Mynydd Hiraethog

Conservation and Recreation

The recent history of Mynydd Hiraethog provides important lessons about the impact that changing values and perceptions can have upon landscape. Until perhaps as late at the second half of the 19th century the primary value of the mountain had for many centuries been measured in terms of its purely economic value, having been described for example by 16th-century writer as 'the worst parte of al Denbigh land' and by an early 19th-century writer as simply 'a large tract of dreary mountain and moorland'. Poor access and a dearth of picturesque elements in the landscape led to it being generally overlooked by early topographical writers, one of the few natural sights to be mentioned being the waterfalls on the Afon Aled, just to the north of the historic landscape area, mentioned in Thomas Pennant's Tour of Wales, published in the 1780s. Perhaps ironically, it was the construction of the Pentrefoelas to Denbigh turnpike road in the early 19th century which made the upland landscape more accessible and which helped to foster a more romantic perception of landscape, as is evident from the somewhat fanciful description which appeared in Bradley's Highways and Byways in North Wales, published in 1898.

The purple table-land, the silent wilderness of the Hiraethog, where fairies dance beside the bank of lonely lakes, and belated travellers see uncanny sights, and packs of white dogs with red ears go howling through the mist on the track of phantom deer, and relics of the prehistoric age lie strewn on every side.

The other major road across the mountain, the new road through the forestry north of Cerrigydrudion built in the 1970s as a consequence of the Llyn Brenig reservoir has made the mountain even more accessible.

Having been exploited economically for many hundreds if not thousands of years the moorland landscape of today is generally managed in a manner which is also sympathetic to the conservation of upland vegetation and wildlife habitats, its value as an educational and recreational resource, and to its sense of wilderness and desolation, these sensory and spiritual values being inspired by mountain ranges on every horizon including the Carneddau and Moel Siabod to the west, Carnedd y Filiast and Cadair Berwyn to the south, and the Clwydian Hills to the east.

More recently its historical value from the perspective of landscape evolution has begun to be more widely appreciated. Archaeological interest in Mynydd Hiraethog had begun in the 1850s when objects from a number of burial mounds opened by quarrymen from the Nantglyn quarries first came to the attention of antiquaries. More scholarly interest in the history and antiquities of the moor developed during the course of the 20th century, beginning with the Inventory published by the Royal Commission in 1914, and continuing with Ellis Davies's Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Denbighshire published in 1929, E Davies's article 'Hendre and hafod in Denbighshire' published in the Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions in 1977. More recent conceptual landmarks have been Frances Lynch's Excavations at the Brenig Valley. A Mesolithic and Bronze Age Landscape in North Wales published by the Cambrian Archaeological Association in 1993 and the inclusion of Mynydd Hiraethog in the Register of Landscapes of Special Historic Interest in Wales, published in 2001.

The forestry and reservoir landscapes largely created during the 20th century have given rise to a wide and diverse range of recreational pursuits. Although commercial timber production and water management remain the primary function of these modern landscapes, the reservoir margins and conifer plantations within the historic landscape area offer many opportunities for informal recreation, low-key facilities which have been provided principally by Forest Enterprise and Welsh Water including signed walks and parking and picnic areas, a visitor centre, museum, nature trail and archaeological trail. The larger reservoirs, notably Aled Isaf, Llyn Aled, the Alwen Reservoir and Llyn Brenig, also support a range of water sports, including sailing, water-skiing, sub-aqua diving, and fishing.

Privacy and cookies