Sunday, 31 May 2009

Summit up in Snowdonia

Tense times in North Wales with the imminent official opening of Hafod Eryrithe new £8.3m visitor centre atop Mount Snowdon. First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan, is due to cut the red tape on June 12th.
   But the project is a whole 12 months late, required a last-minute cash injection and has been blighted by the legendarily severe Snowdonia weather. All the building materials had to be hauled up to the summit at 3,560ft by train. Not easy in a 100mph gale.
   Worse still, the Snowdonia National Park Authority still seem to be rather tetchy about the words of Prince Charles, who famously described the original 1935 summit  building as "the highest slum in England and Wales". Ouch.
   They refuse journalists entry the building and seem rather keen to avoid any publicity at all. I suspect, then, they didn't take kindly to the piece in the Independent last Monday, even if it takes a generally positive view.
   Ray Wood, a local photographer, who has charted the development since the original building was demolished in 2005, does a better job at assessing whether they'll make the June 12th deadline with his Snowdonia Summit blog.
   I went up Snowdon last week to get an exclusive preview of Hafod Eryri for a piece that will appear in this Saturday's Daily Express.
   Wednesday was a wash out with winds up to 69mph and black sheets of rain (the picture, above left, was taken at 8.30am and says it all). But I went back up on Saturday, a glorious day of Simpsons-blue sky and panoramic views across to Ireland. 
   I took the Snowdon Mountain Railway up as far as Clogwyn station and walked the rest. My knees are still throbbing. At the top there was a bunch of irritable people who wanted to use the bathroom and buy a cup of tea before the walk down. Several claimed they didn't know the centre wasn't yet open. More information needed.
   Did I make it inside the building? What is it actually like? And why is a hen party from Kent cracking the bubbly on the doorstep two weeks before the burly security workmen actually allow the first punters to spend a penny in the grey-slate bathrooms? Oops, that's blown it.
   I'll post the link here on Saturday with all the answers.

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