On this day in history….17th April 1951

On this day in history : 17th April 1951 – The Peak District is officially confirmed as the United Kingdom’s first designated National Park after decades of campaigning by the public….img_2918

It was during the 1880s that Member of Parliament James Bryce started the campaign for public access to the countryside. His first Freedom to Roam Bill failed – but the ball had started to roll…. The 1900s saw a growing appreciation for the outdoors, with people wanting to escape the towns and cities to take advantage of the country air…. The arrival of the motor car and improvements in public transport making the countryside far more accessible to all….

In 1931 a government inquiry recommended the formation of an authority to select designated areas…. Only no further steps were taken….causing major public discontentment, resulting in a mass trespass in 1932…. Scores of walkers exercised their ‘right to walk’ in the Peak District – only to be opposed by the gamekeepers of wealthy landowners. Occasionally things got heated and came to blows; five trespassers found themselves being imprisoned….

In 1936 the SCNP – Standing Committee for National Parks – was set up….a voluntary organisation to lobby government. The result was the establishment of the Principle for National Parks….as part of Labour’s post-war reconstruction a White Paper was produced in 1945. Finally in 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed – an Act to establish National Parks to preserve and enhance their natural beauty and provide recreational opportunities for the public….

Nowadays we have a total of 15 National Parks in the United Kingdom; 10 in England, 3 in Wales and 2 in Scotland…. Each is looked after by its own authority – with the aim to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage – and to promote understanding and enjoyment of the area’s special qualities….

The Peak District with its historic houses, rugged rocky moorlands and limestone valleys creating breathtaking views was the original Park designated in 1951….

Also in 1951 came…. Dartmoor with its open moorlands, medieval villages and wild ponies….

….The Lake District – home to deep glacial lakes, high fells, rural villages – and is now a World Heritage Site….

….And Snowdonia – where the highest mountain in Wales is found…. With its wooded valleys, coastline of sandy beaches and historic villages Snowdonia was the first National Park in Wales….

1952 saw Wales gain another Park – when the Pembrokeshire Coast, with its golden beaches, volcanic headlands and limestone cliffs, was designated…. It is also known for its 300km coastal path and marine wildlife….

In the same year the North York Moors were made into a National Park; wide open moorland with high hills, deep dales, bubbling streams and beautiful coastline….

The Yorkshire Dales were added to the list in 1954; old stone villages and dry stone walls, rolling hills – and the Three Peaks….Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough….

Exmoor National Park was also established in 1954 – with its rolling hills, moorlands, dramatic coastline and wild ponies….

Northumberland with its heather covered Cheviot Hills and Hadrian’s Wall was designated in 1956 – and is Europe’s largest area of protected night sky….

The last National Park to be designated in this decade was the third of the Parks in Wales – the Brecon Beacons in 1957…. Situated in South Wales with four mountain ranges and rolling hills it is again an International Dark Sky reserve….

In 1976 the Norfolk Broads in East Anglia, which had not originally been named as a National Park but had been recognised as having the same status, adopted the name…. Over 200km of navigable waterways and the habitat of some of Britain’s rarest wildlife….

In 1987 the UK’s largest National Park was designated….the Cairngorms in Scotland. Britain’s highest mountain range and the natural habitat of red squirrels, pine martens and golden eagles….

Scotland’s second National Park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs was established in 2002…. Mountain ranges, forests, lochs – and the location of the largest lake in the British Isles….

The New Forest was given National Park status in 2005…. Wild heathlands, ancient woodlands, roaming sheep, cattle and of course, ponies….

Finally, the last area to be designated a National Park – the South Downs in 2010. Our newest Park, with its dramatic white cliffs, rolling hills, beautiful villages and rare wildlife, stretches across the South of England….

You cannot deny – this is a beautiful land we live in….

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus….

March the 1st is the National Day of Wales – Saint David’s Day – and has been celebrated since the 12th Century….

Although not a public holiday many events take place across Wales; festivals and parades, usually with a dragon theme – the biggest being the National St. David’s Parade in Cardiff…. Many people attend special church services and recitals of Welsh literature (Eisteddfod)…. National costume is often worn, especially by school children….and traditional songs are sung. Many heritage sites offer free admission on this day….

A woman in “Welsh national” dress with a spinning wheel LIGC ~ NLW via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions Original image URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/llgc/5552906473/

Leeks and daffodils are to be seen everywhere being the National symbols, along with the yellow and black flag of St. David….

St. David’s Flag Bruce Stokes via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA Original image URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bruciestokes/14344677406/

The traditional meal of the feast day is Cawl, a soup made with meat, root vegetables and of course, leeks…. Other foods enjoyed are Bara Brith (Welsh fruit bread), Tiesen Bach (Welsh cakes) and Welsh Rarebit….


So…. Who was David, Patron Saint of Wales? It’s hard to know for sure, so many stories and theories have emerged over the years…. In Medieval times it was believed he was the nephew of King Arthur; it does appear he may have been born to Royal parentage….

It is said David was born on a cliff top one night during a raging storm – some time around 500 AD in Pembrokeshire, on the South West coast of Wales. Some say he was the son of Sandde – Prince of Powys – and ‘Non’ – the daughter of a Chieftain…. Others say his parents were Sanctus, King of Ceredigion and a nun (Nonnita). St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland, is reputed to have been born in the same region some years before and he is said to have had a ‘vision’ of the birth of David…. At the site of David’s birth there stands an 18th Century chapel, dedicated to Non….also the ruins of a tiny ancient chapel and a holy well….

St. Nons Bay dachalan via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA Original image URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54945394@N00/6201523513/

The young David was brought up by his mother at Llanon, a village in Ceredigion…. He was then possibly educated at Hen Fynwy – a monastery – and tutored by St. Paulinus. It seems he was always destined to be a priest….

David became a missionary – spreading the Christian word throughout the British Isles – he even made a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made a Bishop…. During his life he is supposed to have performed several miracles: he restored the sight to his tutor, St. Paulinus….he brought a child back to life with his tears…. But perhaps his most famous miracle is from the time he was preaching to a crowd out in the open air – some cried out from the back that they were unable to hear him…. Suddenly a white dove landed on his shoulder and the ground beneath his feet rose to form a small hill….and then everybody could hear what he had to say…. The white dove became the emblem of St. David; he is often depicted in pictures and stained glass windows with one on his shoulder….

St. David Lawrence OP via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND Original image URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/3319037420/

David was made Archbishop of Wales in 550 and founded 12 monasteries altogether, including Glastonbury – but the one he chose to make his base was the one close to his birth place, which he founded around 560 and is now the location of St. David’s Cathedral and St. David’s Bishops Palace – having been built by the Normans on the site of the original monastery…. In fact there is a stone which sits within an altar in the Cathedral which is believed to have been carried back by David himself on his return journey from his Pilgrimage to Jerusalem….

St. David’s Cathedral in St. David’s John D. Fielding via Foter.com / CC BY Original image URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/john_fielding/10335587213/

David’s monastery and church was built at Rose Vale (Glyn Rhosyn) on the banks of the River Alun. A settlement grew around the monastery and became known as David’s House – (Tyddewi)…. Life was tough in a monastery and David ran a particularly strict Order…. All were expected to work hard; ploughing the land by hand without the use of animals, to provide food with which to feed themselves and the travellers they gave shelter to…. They undertook many crafts, including beekeeping….but one of their main tasks was to look after the poor and needy by clothing and feeding them…. Their diet was vegetarian – David himself reputedly ate just bread and herbs and he was known as Dewi Ddyfrwr (the Water Drinker) because this was all he ever drank…. He was also very harsh on himself and was not beyond self-imposing penances such as standing up to his neck in freezing cold water – reciting the Scriptures….

David died on the 1st March 589 AD, rumoured to having been over 100 years old…. He was buried in a shrine in the 6th Century cathedral he had founded…. During the 11th Century the Vikings plundered the site repeatedly, murdering two Bishops in the process – in 1087 it was finally burned to the ground….


After his death David’s influence spread throughout Great Britain, eventually crossing the channel to Brittany, France…. In 1120 Pope Callistus II made him a Saint – (St. David is the only Welsh Saint to be canonised by the Catholic Church) – it was the Pope who declared two Pilgrimages to the shrine of St. David were worth one to Rome, three Pilgrimages would equate to one to Jerusalem….

St. David’s (as the settlement that had grown from David’s House became known) was given city status because of its cathedral in the 16th Century – but this status was lost in 1888…. In 1994, at the request of Queen Elizabeth II, it was granted the status again, making it Britain’s smallest city…. In 2011 it had a population of just 1,841 – compared to the capital Cardiff with 358,000…. In 1996 bones were found in St. Davids Cathedral which are said to be those of St. David…. Some 50 churches in South Wales are named for him…. The affectionate (if somewhat cheeky) nickname we often give to somebody of Welsh descent – ‘Taffy’ – originates to the 17th Century and comes from the Welsh for David – ‘Dafydd’….

But what of the emblems for Wales – the leek and the daffodil? The leek is the original emblem; there are various stories to how this came to be…. One being that David advised Welsh troops to wear a leek in their hats whilst in battle with the Saxons, so they could be distinguished from the enemy…. This is doubtful, as apart from this story not being recorded before the 17th Century, David lived a peaceful life and was unlikely to have been involved with warfare….

Photo via Pixabay

Another more plausible theory comes from 1346, when the Prince of Wales, ‘Edward the Black Prince’, defeated the French at the Battle of Crécy. The long and bloody battle was fought in a field of leeks….to remember the bravery and loyalty of the Welsh archers, people began to wear leeks in their hats every St. David’s Day. This is the legend reflected in Shakespeare’s play Henry V….Act V Scene I : Fluellen insists Pistol eats a leek after insulting the vegetable on St. David’s Day…. “If you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek”….

The Welsh for leek is ‘cenhinen’, whereas the Welsh for daffodil is ‘cenhinen pedr’ – so it is possible over the years the two have become confused…. The wearing of a daffodil is a fairly recent custom….probably really coming about in 1911 after being encouraged by David George Lloyd at the investiture of the Prince of Wales…. You’ve got to admit a daffodil does smell sweeter than a leek when you are wearing it….

Photo via Pixabay

In the words of Dewi Sant (Saint David)…. “Gwnewch y pethau bychain mean bywyd” ~ “do the little things in life”….


On this day in history….25th July 1795

On this day in history : 25th July 1795 – The first stone of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham, North East Wales, is laid….

Credit : Arpingstone via Wikimedia – public domain

Pontcysyllte means ‘the bridge that connects’…. Designed and built by Thomas Telford and Williams Jessop it was considered a masterpiece of creative genius….and took around 10 years from design to completion….

Conceived as a waterway without locks the 307m long, 3.7m wide cast and wrought iron construction allows a cast iron trough to be supported 38m above the river on arched iron ribs…. The light but strong archways are in turn supported by 18 hollow masonry pillars; each of the 18 spans being 16m wide….img_3622

The mortar used was a mixture of lime, water and ox blood…. This may sound macabre but blood had been used in mortar for centuries; the haemoglobin found in blood helps strengthen mortar which is exposed to the elements – as it protects from breaking up in the freeze-thaw temperature cycles of climates such as ours here in Britain….

Above the 1.60m deep water trough a towpath was built and railings added to prevent pedestrians and horses from falling…. The project cost around £47K to complete – that is less than £4m in today’s terms…. The aqueduct was officially opened to traffic on the 26th of November 1805…. Since then it has been closed once every 5 years and the water drained to allow inspection and maintenance…. On the 27th of June 2009 the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was made a World Heritage Site and is now a major tourist attraction….