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Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia - Terry Marsh

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Author: Terry Marsh / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 17 March 2010 / Genre: Sports / Subcategory: Walking, Hiking, Trekking / Publisher: Cicerone Press / Title: Great Mountain Days in Snowdonia / ISBN 13: 9781852845810 / ISBN 10: 1852845810

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      05.09.2010 13:07
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      Perhaps the best guide to walking in Snowdonia.

      Snowdonia, known as Eryri by the ancient Welsh people who lived in this harsh land, contains some of the most magnificent scenery in the whole of the UK. This vast area, covering 840 square miles, contains high mountain peaks, huge glacial lakes, and towering waterfalls that draw people from all over the country to admire the region's starkly beautiful landscapes.

      There are many guides to walking in the area, of course, but some stand out as offering something different. Many are simply books of maps, with little text, allowing the walker to discover the area for themselves. Others, however, describe the history, geology, and mythology of Snowdonia, as well as providing accurate information on where to go. This book is one of the latter. Written by writer and photographer, Terry Marsh, this may be the ultimate guide to walking the mountains of Eryri - 'the land of eagles'.

      As might be expected of a professional photographer, the photos within these pages are simply superb. All are full colour, and many are half and even full page in size. The scenery of Snowdonia makes it easy to take stunning pictures, but Marsh's images are something else. Each and every one is of the highest quality. Carefully selected, perfectly composed, and beautifully lit, these photographs seem to capture the viewer's gaze and bring this magical area to life in the living room.

      The written words, in some ways, create an even stronger image for the reader than the photos. Marsh has written a guide to walking in Snowdonia, but also tells of the area's fictional and factual past, in a writing style that is almost poetic. The names of the various landmarks help in this respect: Foel Fras, Rhaedr Fawr, Cwm Idwal, Moel Hebog, and many hundreds more, punctuate the pages enhancing the author's descriptions and creating images in the mind of mysterious, romantic, secret places just waiting to be explored.

      This is the land of King Arthur, and the lakes into which Sir Bedivere cast Excalibur (Glaslyn), and where Arthur was carried away by the 'fair maidens of the mountains' (Llyn Llydaw), can be visited by following walk one. Marsh tells Arthur's story as it relates to Snowdonia, allowing us to follow in that fictional king's footsteps. He recalls that there is a remote cave on the slopes of Y Lliwedd, where Arthur's men lie asleep to this day, awaiting their king's return.

      The area can, however, be extremely dangerous to the unprepared and the author gives excellent advice on the equipment needed to undertake a day in the mountains. Following Marsh's advice should prepare the walker for almost any eventuality (apparently, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing!). If things do take a turn for the worst, the author gives details of how to contact the various mountain rescue teams operating in the region.

      Forty walks are described in the book and each is given at least four pages. These are mainly circular, but there are a couple of 'linear' routes, too. Each walk starts with an information text box which briefly describes how to get there, where to get refreshments, and shows statistics of the walk such as length, timing, and altitude climbed.

      Also included with each walk is an excellent map. Produced by Harvey Maps, renowned for their maps for walkers, these are highly detailed, colourful, and extremely helpful in aiding route finding and planning.

      It is, however, the description of the walks that raises this book above the level of a walking guide. The reader is taken by the author, on a journey through the walk. Reading the text is like reading a good novel: the walk is imagined in the mind and it is almost possible to see the route as one eagerly devours Marsh's lovely prose.

      The beautiful way each walk is detailed does not get in the way of the necessary information, however. Each waypoint is noted, as is required, and any tricky areas highlighted, giving the reader the best chance of following the route successfully. The walks are so wonderfully described, however, that it is enjoyable just to read the descriptions, even if there are no plans to follow each particular walk. Having said that, Marsh is so good at highlighting the stark beauty and remote wildness of 'Eryri', that each and every walk cries out to be attempted.

      My only complaint about this book is the lack of attention given to the natural history of the area. Snowdonia is replete with special flora and fauna. Iconic mountain species such as the Snowdon Lily, purple saxifrage, chough, ring ouzel, and peregrine falcon live here. Details of where and when to see them would have been helpful, but Marsh has not included this information in his book.

      This volume has something for everyone wishing to go walking in Snowdonia. The routes are graded from 'moderate' through to 'arduous', allowing for walkers of all abilities to test themselves. Many of the busiest, most popular routes are given, where one will seldom be out of sight of people. Others are walks that are little known and rarely visited so the walker seeking solitude will find this a wonderful guide to the peace and tranquillity Snowdonia has to offer.

      I have read several books on walking in North Wales, but this is easily the best. The book succeeds on so many levels: superb photography, excellent walks, and fascinating background information that it stands head and shoulders above the rest.

      This book does command quite a high price, however, and is available from Amazon for £12.78 in paperback. Considering the amount of information contained in its densely packed 240 pages, and the enjoyment gained from reading it, I think this is very good value and can recommend it to anyone wanting to walk 'the land of eagles'.


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