Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Coming up: Part two of Don Roscoe's personal view of the Rock & Ice.

Rock and Ice cream!
Don Roscoe,Eric Price and Alan Taylor take a break from cragging at Porthcurno, Cornwall, 1958. Roscoe Collection©

'As we became more affluent we began to acquire motorcycles and eventually old vans and cars. There are probably more stories about the motorcycling epics of the Rock and Ice and of the Cromlech Club- with whom we have always had a very close relationship-than there are of our rock-climbing exploits. Fortunately the roads were considerably quieter back in the 50s and few of our accidents were serious. No longer reliant on public transport, weekend visits to Wales and the Lakes became possible. Conse­quently the motorbike era heralded a flurry of new routes further afield. The Alps were also much more accessible and for our early alpine ventures we had to equip ourselves with state of the art survival gear: ladies' plastic macs (only ladies' macs had hoods). Ray Greenall relates the story of travel­ling out to the Alps with Fred (Count Fred Neddygough) Gough, The first proud Rock and Ice owner of a car. Fred would drive all day and on arrival at a camp site would consider his day's work to be done, pick up a book and read while Ray made camp and started the meal. After a day or two of this routine Ray decided that a change was due. As Fred picked up his book Ray handed him the water bucket and told him to get some water. Fred looked up stricken, total surprise and horror written across his face, and said plaintively: "What, me? I don't speak the bloody lingo!"

This Friday, the conclusion of Don Roscoe's fascinating account of his Rock and Ice days.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The good lads always have two...part one.

Joe Brown relaxing on The Dangler:'He had a remarkable ability to relax in the most difficult situations'


Roscoe Collection©



I started rock-climbing at the age of 15 with my school friend Eric Price. There was no formal instruction to be had in those days and we learned by trial and error and watching other people. Rope work was rudimentary to say the least and kit was minimal: an old sisal rope, old clothes and a pair of thin leather boots, nailed with hobnails and steel toe and heel plates. There was only one climbing shop in Manchester — Brigham's little shop in Conran Street; in any case, as working class lads just leaving school, we had little money. I made my first karabiner by bending a piece of quarter-inch mild steel into an oval with the ends overlapping to form a slot into which the rope could be inserted. Fortunately, this karabiner was not called upon to hold any falls before it was replaced by an ex-army one. Thus attired, we set out to discover rock-climbing and along with Alan Taylor we formed a climbing trio which lasted for many years.
Alan was about 6-2" and had the biggest feet I have ever seen, taking size 14 boots. When, several years later, he paid his first visit to Chamonix, he went into Schnell Sports to buy a pair of Terray boots and Msr. Schnell looked at his feet and asked him if he would have two pairs of sevens. Surpris­ingly, Alan was very good on delicate routes; to see him lead a route such as the very thin and unprotected Dorothy's Dilemma on the Roaches in his huge bendy boots was awe-inspiring. Climbing in boots was the norm then, rather than the exception and climbs were graded for nailed boots.
A route considered too hard for boots would be graded VS rubbers' or per­haps 'Hard VS rubbers, but not easy of this class'. Rubbers meant gym shoes and the best money could buy were to be had from Marks & Spencer. They had thin black rubber soles and cost the princely sum of four shillings and six pence (23p).
I started with one karabiner and sling, which remained more or less permanently round my waist. One day we were travelling out to Greenfield on the bus and we met a lad who asked if he could join us as his mate had not turned up. This lad was Les Wright and his mate, we later discovered, was Don Whillans. Les was physically a full size version of Don. In his army paybook was written 'exceptional physique' but Les, unlike Don, was a mild and gentle person, very slow to take offence. On the day we first climbed with Les we noticed that he carried two karabiners and slings, one round his waist and the other round his neck. Neither saw much use during the day and over a pot of tea while waiting for the bus home I asked him why he had two. "Oh." he said modestly, "the good lads always have two." The next week Eric and I both went out and bought a second krab and sling.
Don Roscoe on Cow Udder: The Cow: Ilkley.Roscoe collection©


As we walked out to catch the bus to go climbing we had to cross a 'croft' — a patch of waste ground resulting from the war­time bombing. Often we would come across two sets of tricouni nail footprints and we would speculate as to who had made them. Eventually, we did meet up with the two climbers, who turned out to be Ray Greenall and Ronnie Moseley. It tran­spired that Ray lived about half a mile away from us and Ronnie actually lived in the street opposite mine,only two or three hundred yards away. Both became firm friends. Ray was renowned as the best second in the world. In the event of a leader fall — a far more serious matter in those days of sparse protection — he could be relied upon never to let go of the rope. His reputa­tion was really made when he sustained serious rope burns to both hands and forearms while holding Don Whillans in a fall from the crux of Peapod on Curbar Edge, breaking his fall sufficiently to land him gently and un­harmed on the ground. He also had other most useful attributes, as we shall see.
Ron Moseley was a brilliant, if somewhat erratic, climber with The Left Wall (of Cenotaph Corner) and White Slab on Cloggy among his major first ascents. He was also a first class commercial artist, probably the only white collar worker in the early years of the Rock and Ice. At the time of this meeting the embryonic Rock and Ice was coalescing from the Manchester element of the Valkyrie and other dis­parate climbing teams such as our­selves, the Greenall brothers (Ray and Pete) and the Salford-based Don Whillans and Les Wright.
Eventually, the club consisted of about fourteen of us with two major things in common: we were all fanati­cal rock-climbers and we climbed to a high standard. The Valkyrie was formed in the mid 1940s by a group of  mainly Derby-based climbers. This club had a fairly short existence and petered out about 1949, but from its ashes the Rock and Ice emerged in 1951

The Rock and Ice had a mainly Manchester- area membership includ­ing, from the Valkyrie, Joe Brown, Slim Sorrell  and also the Derby-based Nat Allen. Although officially a club,Rock and Ice was in reality a close-knit group of friends and consequently ob­taining membership was not easy if the prospective member was not known to and approved of by the majority of members. Doug Belshaw was the first secretary and held this post for many years. No-one ever paid fees, so a treasurer was unnecessary and as no-one wished to be president this office was drawn from a hat at the annual dinner. Once a member had been a president his name was no longer included in the draw.
Joe Brown, at the age of twenty one, was already becoming a legen­dary figure with many hard routes on grit to his name including such clas­sics as The Right Unconquerable and Brown's Eliminate — the first ascent of which was led by Joe in nails. He was also starting to make his mark on the Welsh climbing scene with his impressive first ascents of Diglyph and Vernber on Cloggy and Hangover on the Grochan. Even at this stage many rumours, circulated about him, the most popular being that he had very long gorilla-like arms and fingers like bunches of sausages. Lack of transport kept us confined to Derbyshire for most weekends; places further afield were re­served for longer holidays. However, there was plenty to keep us going on the grit and it was here, on the fierce gritstone cracks, that Joe perfected the hand jamming techniques which were to open up a new era of British rock-climbing in the 50s and early 60s. Joe was always Alan Taylor's great hero in the early days and I would dismiss him by saying that it was all brute strength. This view was dispelled on the very first occasion on which I saw Joe climb. He was leading the very delicate Great Slab on Froggatt and just made it look so easy that I became an instant convert.
The other truly great climber in the Rock and Ice was, of course, Don Whillans. For quite a long time his genius, was overshadowed by that of Joe, but in fact there was very little to choose between them. Don was built like a mini­ature Charles Atlas and really did have arms like a gorilla; there was no appreciable thinning at the wrist, the solid muscle just merg­ing into the hand. This forearm development was a result of his apprenticeship as a pipe fitter which involved much tightening of huge nuts on large pipes. Don, too, was surrounded by legend --most of which centred around his ability as a fighter, but in the many years of our friendship I never once saw him hit anybody. Usually a threat was sufficient, thanks to the legends. Like Joe he revelled in steep and strenuous cracks and overhangs but he too was equally at home on delicate routes. Don had his own ways of inspiring confidence. The first time I tried to lead Right Unconquerable Don was watching while I made a half-hearted attempt and retreated to assess the situation. To dem­onstrate that I was making a fuss about nothing Don, who was wearing shoes with very thick crepe rubber soles commonly known as "brothel creep­ers', proceeded to solo the route with ease.
Both Joe and Don were past masters at appearing to be completely relaxed in the most difficult situations, often resting or arranging runners in places where the second would find himself desperately trying to stay in contact with the rock while removing them. Not that there were all that many runners to be had in those days; nuts had not been thought of in the 50s, consequently runners could only be placed on natural spikes and threads. These were often in short supply so we did not need many karabiners and slings. Eventually, someone hit upon the idea of inserting chockstones as runners and we started to carry suitable small stones around in our pockets. Small pieces of gritstone had a tendency to crumble and so, on our infrequent visits to Wales, we would collect a selection of igneous pebbles.
I often wondered what future geologists would make of these pebbles lodged in the millstone grit.
Discussing pebbles reminds me of what I consider to be one of Don Whillans's most daring leads. Going out to do the Left Wall of Cenotaph Corner he discovered that he had left most of his gear at home. Nothing daunted he set off carrying three karabiners and slings and a hammer and a couple of pegs. Left Wall in those days relied heavily on aid and high on the wall, where one starts to traverse towards the arete, Don found himself standing in one sling round a pea-sized pebble with another sling round his neck and the rope hanging free to the ground a hundred feet below him while he tried to place the third sling round an equally small pebble. At this point he realised that the pebble supporting him was beginning to crumble and quickly hammered in one of his pegs, which stayed there for many years.
It was not long before several groups of climbers began to experiment with artificial chockstones. In the Rock and Ice, Ray Greenall, trained as an aircraft fitter, was our star metalworker and he filed out the threads from a variety of nuts and other objects. We usually carried several of these on one sling. From this point it was but a short step to purpose-made nuts but it was quite a long time before the first good one appeared. In about 1966 while John Brailsford and I were lecturing at Loughborough, he designed the nut which was to become the famous 'Moac'. We got a keen craft stu­dent to cast a dozen of these nuts in a sand mould and we split them between us. Some we filed down to give a nut half the thickness of the original, which, with its very shallow taper, became a universal favourite. The advent of good nut protection set the stage for another leap forward in rock-climbing standards, but that is another story.
Ron Moseley on Jericho Wall: E2 (US 5.10c) Dinas y Gromlech. N Wales.Roscoe Collection©

















Don Roscoe©

Part Two on-line next week

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Coming up: Inside the legendary Rock and Ice Club.

 
 Don Roscoe (L) and Joe Brown make the second ascent of Finale Slab- Almscliffe.Roscoe Collection©


" Joe Brown, at the age of twenty one, was already becoming a legen­dary figure with many hard routes on grit to his name including such clas­sics as The Right Unconquerable and Brown's Eliminate — the first ascent of which was led by Joe in nails. He was also starting to make his mark on the Welsh climbing scene with his impressive first ascents of Diglyph and Vernber on Cloggy and Hangover on the Grochan. Even at this stage many rumours, circulated about him, the most popular being that he had very long gorilla-like arms and fingers like bunches of sausages. Lack of transport kept us confined to Derbyshire for most weekends; places further afield were re­served for longer holidays. However, there was plenty to keep us going on the grit and it was here, on the fierce gritstone cracks, that Joe perfected the hand jamming techniques which were to open up a new era of British rock-climbing in the 50s and early 60s. Joe was always Alan Taylor's great hero in the early days and I would dismiss him by saying that it was all brute strength. This view was dispelled on the very first occasion on which I saw Joe climb. He was leading the very delicate Great Slab on Froggatt and just made it look so easy that I became an instant convert.
The other truly great climber in the Rock and Ice was, of course, Don Whillans. For quite a long time his genius, was overshadowed by that of Joe, but in fact there was very little to choose between them. Don was built like a mini­ature Charles Atlas and really did have arms like a gorilla; there was no appreciable thinning at the wrist, the solid muscle just merg­ing into the hand. This forearm development was a result of his apprenticeship as a pipe fitter which involved much tightening of huge nuts on large pipes. Don, too, was surrounded by legend --most of which centred around his ability as a fighter, but in the many years of our friendship I never once saw him hit anybody. Usually a threat was sufficient, thanks to the legends. Like Joe he revelled in steep and strenuous cracks and overhangs but he too was equally at home on delicate routes. Don had his own ways of inspiring confidence. The first time I tried to lead Right Unconquerable Don was watching while I made a half-hearted attempt and retreated to assess the situation. To dem­onstrate that I was making a fuss about nothing Don, who was wearing shoes with very thick crepe rubber soles commonly known as "brothel creep­ers', proceeded to solo the route with ease.'

This Friday, part one of a fascinating feature on the legendary Rock and Ice Club from someone who was at the heart of the club- Don Roscoe.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Drowning Season

The cottage at Nant Addu commanded a good view of Arenig and other heights.The Lake of Treweryn was at hand and in the distance rose the pyramids of Moelwyn. I think Innes was never happier than when painting in this district...perceived by him as the reflection of some miraculous promised land.
Augustus John.


Would a man born in 1878 who would go on to become one of the early 20th century's great post impressionist painters have ever imagined,as he put down those words,that within his lifetime, the seeds for the destruction of that 'miraculous promised land' would take root. The flowering of those plans bringing the total destruction of an entire valley which included the ethnic cleansing of a community, the bulldozing of a village which for centuries had been at the heart of the Treweryn valley and the ecological degradation of a habitat which was once diverse and brimming with life; to be replaced by the dead waters which coursed down from the encircling mountains? 

The destruction of the village of Capel Celyn and the forced removal of its inhabitants can be seen as one of the most shameful acts perpetrated by the British government in the latter half of the 20th century. The fact that the destruction was carried out to build a water supply for a city whose population and industrial base was already in free-fall makes the chapter even more shameful. In effect.a vanity project for a corrupt political elite which controlled the city of Liverpool at the time.To understand how such a crime could be enacted, we need to look at the social and political landscape of post war Britain.

The city of Liverpool lies less than 20 miles from the Welsh border. For centuries there has been an ongoing cross border migration between north Wales and Liverpool to the extent that districts in the city's south end saw  Welsh enclaves established with the language being commonly spoken on the street corner and chapels . As a child attending Dovedale Road primary school off Penny Lane in the sixties, it is no exaggeration to say that the majority of  my teachers were from North Wales and Welsh was the language of the corridor and staff room. Indeed, the higher points of the city looked out to uplands of north Wales and it is still true that north Walians are socially and culturally much closer to this English city than they are to their own capital city of Cardiff which geographically and culturally is as remote and alien to them as Norwich!

In the early 1950's the city of Liverpool-once known as the second city of the empire- had a population of just under one million.It had the longest working waterfront in the world and despite containing some of the most deprived areas in the UK, was still considered a powerful economic region. However,the base upon which the city's economy was structured,was in serious decline.

A city which looked west to America and which is often seen as more American than European in character was to find itself on the wrong side of the country. Within two decades the UK would be politically and economically linked to Europe. Factor in the accelerating decline in heavy industry-not just in Liverpool but throughout the UK as private firms sought out cheaper labour markets in Europe and the sweat shops of the east--then it can be seen that Liverpool as a significant economic force sustaining a large population was at a tipping point. A process which, as it reached the 1960's would accelerate to the extent that the city's population would half before the end of the century and it's maritime and heavy industrial base would be ravaged to a degree that by the 1970's the city would become one of poorest and most socially deprived in Europe. 

Planning a major development whilst ignoring the relevant statistical data, even in the 1950's can be seen as seriously flawed with regard to factoring in all the planning elements which are required to present a coherent application. The Treweryn grand project can be seen as akin  to applying for planning permission to build a three bedroom extension on your home just as your children are about to leave and go to university!  

The complicated politics of the city can be explained by the fact that Liverpool with its huge Irish population was essentially politically divided along religious lines. The city was the only mainland city to have councillors elected on a 'Protestant' ticket whilst the Labour Party was seen as a Catholic party. The protestant councillors eventually merging into the Conservative Party by the 1960's. During the 1950's the city was governed by a Tammanny Hall style Labour Party council under the control of Bessie and Jack Braddock. It was in the middle of this period that the first plans for the destruction of the Treweryn Valley were formulated in Liverpool Town Hall. Overseen and promoted by Liverpool's own 'Iron Maiden'- who was also a Westminster member of parliament- the city sponsored a private bill to be brought before parliament to develop a reservoir in the Treweryn Valley near Bala in Meirionydd. Liverpool would not require planning consent from the Welsh authorities if the act was passed in the Westminster parliament.


John and Mabel Evans leave their home at Garnedd Llwydd for the last time.A few days later the house was demolished and both were dead.

Thirty five out of the thirty six Welsh MP's opposed the bill but not surprisingly in what is essentially an English parliament,the bill was passed in 1957. From here on in,the local community supported throughout Wales, waged an eight year battle to prevent the destruction of Capel Celyn

In 1950's North Wales,the country was without any significant representation in the UK parliament.The office of Welsh Secretary had not even been created. Furthermore,the nascent Welsh nationalist movement-Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) was a small fringe party without support or it seemed any hope of representation in London. The Welsh Language movement-Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg- was yet to find it's feet and politically, acts like the Treweryn bill had essentially a free run in the UK parliament. In effect Wales was a region to be exploited in the same way as England wearing it's Great Britain hat, had once plundered it's way across Africa in the name of empire.

Despite quickly mobilising a campaign drawn from across the political and social spectrum ,the anti Treweryn Resevoir campaign was easy for the politicians in Liverpool and London to ignore. Enter MAC..Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru...a militant group who in effect were a Welsh IRA. The groups first act was to blow up a transformer on the dam construction site.Further bombings were carried out over the next six years before the campaign ended when two MAC members were blown up planting a bomb in Abergele on the day of Prince Charles's investiture as the Prince of Wales in 1968.

In effect the campaign despite it's more militant developments was doomed. Without any political power and overwhelmed by the dominant state, the grand project was ruthlessly pursued in the name of the people and industries of Liverpool, although of course,the ordinary people of Liverpool had as little say in the Braddock's grand project as the people of Capel Celyn!

Farmers of the valley and surrounding areas gather in the shadow of Arenig Fawr for the final sale

The little village of Capel Celyn stood at the heart of the Treweryn Valley. An exquisitely beautiful place of scattered farmsteads and cottages with the village with its school,chapel,post office and houses nestling in the valley below. The valley was fringed to the east with a railway line which had been earmarked for closure during the Beeching cuts. The mountains of Arenig Fawr, Y Nodol,Carnedd y Filiast and Arenig Fach cast an encircling arm around the community at all points but to the east where the Afon Treweryn escaped from the valley and meandered down towards Bala. Those coralling peaks-' too cold for crow'- had once inspired Augustus John, James Innes and Derwent Lees who were at the heart of 'The Arenig School' A unique post impressionist art school based just a mile to the west in the little cottage of Nant Ddu. In a civilised state such a community with its unique cultural associations would be regarded as a national treasure. However, even in a more enlightened new century, landscape and culture are still, as then, very much of secondary value compared to economic factors.

Looking towards the Treweryn Valley: James Dickson Innes 

After its 1957 ascent through parliament work began quickly. Somewhat poignantly,photographs taken at the time show a community getting on with its day to day life against a backdrop of bulldozers and demolition. It brings to mind modern day Palestine where families attempt to live their lives as Israeli bulldozers demolish their homes and workplaces. The 1950's British version of a dominant state flexing its muscles against a weak minority, if not as ruthlessly pursued as in 21st century Palestine, in its way just as efficiently executed and as in Palestine,the project carried out under the watchful eye of uniformed servants of the state.

European ethnic cleansing: North Wales 1962

Despite the continued opposition and attempts to halt the development, by 1962, the last  villagers and smallholders had been driven out of their homes. Capel Celyn had been totally depopulated and work began at once to demolish the village and surrounding farms. The graveyard attached to the chapel saw eight of the dead disinterred to be reburied.The majority within the graveyard left to lie where they were.The graveyard then covered with concrete. On the 28th October 1965 the Llyn Celyn reservoir was officially opened.Attended by the great and the good of Liverpool and London. Those driven out and their supporters were in attendance but a heavy police presence kept away those who had had their lands stolen and lives destroyed.

Writing in the Daily Post in 2005,Ian Parri interviewed a number of those who were driven out of their homes. Their memories still raw and unforgiving. The passage of the years failing to offer rhyme nor reason as to why they had to witness the destruction of their valley. Aeron Prysor Jones was 10 years old at the time and attended the village school.."Who wouldn't remember that ?  We used to live in a smallholding of some 20 acres called Ty'n y Bont, the house being right next to the chapel house. The whole of that smallholding was drowned, the house and the land. The house was demolished, flattened to the ground, as was every house scheduled to be drowned.
The meadows below the old Bala-Blaenau railway line, plus the house and the sheds, had to go. We had to move into a caravan because the new house we were building wasn't ready, so we had to carry all our furniture into a cow shed on land that was to remain.
They were eager to see us go, and if we'd moved a fortnight earlier the house would've been demolished a fortnight earlier. It was only a matter of a couple of days after we left before it was flattened.
It was almost as if you had come to terms with the idea before it happened. I'd seen every tree disappear before my eyes, chopped down, and the valley had been stripped bare. It was like a desert, and the only things left standing were the cemetery wall and two bridges'.

Aeron has never lived anywhere else but Cwm Tryweryn, still farming the land at Penbryn Mawr once owned by his grandfather James Edwards. His grandfather had to buy back what part of the land remains above the waterline after the corporation slapped a compulsory purchase order on the whole holding. He was never to see the new house built, dying before the valley was flooded Aeron still seethes with a sense of injustice. He insists that the farming community in the valley were far from adequately compensated, calling it "the most dreadful deceit perpetrated on this nation ever".
He explains: "The whole valley was bought by compulsory purchase for just its agricultural value. It might have looked like a stack of money, but looking how land values have increased it was woefully inadequate'

On a cold grey day in 2009 I drove over to Treweryn from my home which as the crow flies is no more than 15 miles away. For quite a while now I had contemplated writing an article about an event enacted in my name which even 40 years later appalled and angered me. The fact that it had recently been acknowledged that the waters of Llyn Celyn were not needed just compounded the crime.As did Liverpool City Council's recent apology to the people of the Treweryn Valley for its actions.
Parking up at the head of the dam I wandered across towards Nodol,intending to wander along the lake shore towards a place I remembered from walking in the area years before. Somewhere above the lost village under the waters was a small cottage which had amazingly survived the demolition process and still stood as a memorial to an ancient community.

The waters of Celyn where being whipped up by a furious north wind which created white horses which broke upon the rocky shore like sea waves. I had to restrain my normally water mad Springer Spaniel from jumping in as he would have been tossed around like a fur sack in a washing machine! At the head of the lake, Arenig Fach was wreathed in cloud as short sharp squalls peppered me with hail before subsiding only to return five minutes later with increased velocity.. It was an appropriate elemental cycle which followed me all the way to the small cottage hidden away amongst a grove of larch, Scots pine and sycamore. It was surrounded by cropped grass and nettle banks from which old farm machinery and rusted corrugated sheets poked through.Mint grew in profusion,no doubt once part of a cottage garden and old iron pots,jars and stoneware vessels lay scattered around.. At one time it had been home to a family who farmed 65 acres on this, the sunny south side of the valley.

Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea

I wandered around the outbuildings now dilapidated but still roofed and bearing evidence of its agrarian past. Old drums and bottles, rusted tins and implements. Shearing shears hanging from a crooked nail. The house itself was now door less, the living room deep in mud and sheep shit. Under the front door lintel an early lamb lay dead,half buried in the mire.The great range was still in place. I imagined it's blackened flue drawing a singing fire as an old man slept in an armchair angled to the blaze .The flames occasionally licking the dog grate as gusts whipped off the mountains and sent woodsmoke drifting up to the low, yellowed ceiling. It would have been a hard life.Living on the margins continually but at least sustained in the knowledge that you were part of a community and could access those things which sustain a community. A village shop and post office,a school, a place of worship and an inn at Rhyd y Fen. 
Walking upstairs,wallpaper now faded but still bearing its simple motif still lined the stairway. The backrooms remained dry but at the front of the house the roof was open to the elements.It would not be long before the ruinous process would reduce the cottage to a shell. I walked back along the shore and was suddenly caught in a terrible squall. Sheltering at water level behind a boulder I looked across to the far shore as the water foamed and boiled. The wind swept chariots of  spume in the direction of the dam head. It seemed as if the dead beneath the waters were screaming!  The grey sky now shot through with strands of crow black fast moving clouds leeched the afternoon light from the land; suggesting a storm of biblical proportions!.

I made haste towards my car- tumbling over hidden rocks and sliding backwards down fern covered banks which guttered the foaming waters running off Nodol into the Llyn. Soaked through and shivering, I virtually fell through the dwarf oaks onto the tarmac which fringed the abandoned car park at the dam head . On the tarmac in white paint,someone had painted 'Liverpool must suffer for Capel Celyn !' 

On my journey home I pondered those words. The irony being that if any city in England had suffered the slings and arrows of fate since the ill conceived Treweryn folly it had been the city of Liverpool!
 Apart from it's socio-economic disintegration, the city had been on a journey of political and cultural detachment from the central state for years. With a backdrop of extreme economic deprivation, the 1980's were ripe for political theatre of the most surreal and compelling nature.

Events brilliantly dramatised by local playwright Alan Bleasdale in works like the TV dramas 'Boys from the Blackstuff and 'GBH'. The election of a right wing Conservative administration in London in 1979 coinciding with the effective coup in Liverpool by the Trotskyite Militant Tendency who gained control of the ruling Labour Party, herelded a new confrontational era which was in sharp relief to the normally polite and passive political process in the UK. 

In the early eighties,the black area of Brixton in south London had seen street riots. However,these were as nothing as weeks later the Toxteth area in Liverpool raged against the machine! .With rioters effectively controlling the area for three days and nights as police forces from all over the north and North Wales were kept back by the ferocity of the rioters. Toxteth saw the first use of rubber bullets on the mainland of the UK and the Tory home secretary put troops on standby when it appeared that even the police headquarters on the edge of the city centre might be overwhelmed by rioters. The first riot deaths in the UK occured which included a young man with learning difficulties called Davy Moore was mown down by a police Land Rover whilst trying to escape.

After Toxteth, the Labour Council provoked the Thatcher government by refusing to comply with the financial restrictions laid down by central government. Inevitably, many of the council were sequestrated including the deputy but effective leader,the flamboyant Derek Hatton and thrown out of office.
At least during this period the economic and political chaos was somewhat sweetened by the two Merseyside football clubs domination of domestic and European football. A game which in Liverpool was essentially a religion in itself. However,even in this sphere the city was it seemed damned. In 1986, Liverpool Fans at a European final rioted and killed 30 Turinese supporting Juventus. Ironically,three years later nearly 100 Liverpool fans were to die at a domestic cup semi final in Sheffield when mind numbingly insensitive policing herded thousands of Liverpool fans onto terraces that could not contain them. The heartbreaking events played out to a live TV audience!


Slowly during the 1990's a form of stability gradually returned and by the new century Liverpool was reinventing itself as a modern city which coincided with its success in becoming European city of Culture in 2008. The impressive world famous waterfront saw new skyscrapers take root amongst the Victorian architectural masterpieces and a city with a huge young population naturally saw a vibrant night life return.
If Liverpool had embarked on a voyage of discovery since Treweryn then without witnessing the drama which had engulfed Liverpool, Wales itself  quietly underwent a remarkable political and cultural transformation.

The Tracks of my Tears. The bed of the old railway line

Within a few months of the opening of the Treweryn resevoir, Plaid Cymru,the nationalist party won it's first seat in the Westminster parliament. The UK government had created a post of welsh Secretary within the cabinet and the Welsh Language was afforded equal status with English within Wales as a language act was passed. By the the early 1980's, Wales finally gained a Welsh language TV channel...Sianel Pedwar Cymru (S4C) and by the end of the 20th century,the people of Wales had gained their own devolved national assembly. It had taken 50 years since the Treweryn debacle but many now see that democratic process which has taken place in Wales,essentially driven by the appalling events surrounding the destruction of Capel Celyn. It certainly cannot be seen as a price worth paying but at least something positive had come out of the devestation.

In 2005,The City of Liverpool offered a public apology to the people of Capel Celyn and the Treweryn Valley for their actions.Some might argue that for the apology to carry more weight,the removal of Bessie Braddock's statue from the city's main Lime Street Station might be considered?

In 2010, as I write this,with the 50th anniversary of the flooding but a few years away,it is hard to imagine that such a thing could happen today? Certainly the valleys of north Wales will, I'm sure, remain inviolate. However,those who now come from abroad to exploit Wales's natural topography for profit or public utility no longer look down into the valleys but now raise their eyes to the hills.....Twas ever thus!














John Appleby: 2010©

Contemporary photographs,Geoff Charles courtesy of Casglu'r Tlysau.


Further information
Casglu'r Tlysau


Video Doc
Capel Celyn..the village that drowned


Enya..Dan y Dwr (Under the water)

Ymgyrchu

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Coming up:Rage..rage against the dying of the light.

 " Who wouldn't remember that ?  We used to live in a smallholding of some 20 acres called Ty'n y Bont, the house being right next to the chapel house. The whole of that smallholding was drowned, the house and the land. The house was demolished, flattened to the ground, as was every house scheduled to be drowned. The meadows below the old Bala-Blaenau railway line, plus the house and the sheds, had to go. We had to move into a caravan because the new house we were building wasn't ready, so we had to carry all our furniture into a cow shed on land that was to remain.They were eager to see us go, and if we'd moved a fortnight earlier the house would've been demolished a fortnight earlier. It was only a matter of a couple of days after we left before it was flattened.
It was almost as if you had come to terms with the idea before it happened. I'd seen every tree disappear before my eyes, chopped down, and the valley had been stripped bare. It was like a desert, and the only things left standing were the cemetery wall and two bridges '.

Aeron Prysor Jones

The destruction of the village of Capel Celyn and the forced removal of its inhabitants can be seen as one of the most shameful acts perpetrated by the British government in the latter half of the 20th century. The fact that the destruction was carried out to build a water supply for a city whose population and industrial base was already in free-fall makes the chapter even more shameful. In effect.a vanity project for a corrupt political elite which controlled the city of Liverpool at the time.

John Appleby 

This Friday, the destruction of the Treweryn Valley and the village of Capel Celyn in North Wales in the 1950's and 60's. A pointless project which involved ecological degradation on a grand scale but more importantly, the ruthless ethnic cleansing of the Welsh speaking population,the demolition of the village of Capel Celyn and the surrounding farms and smallholdings within an area of such great natural beauty, it had once been the inspiration for a unique Edwardian art movement- The Arenig School.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Millican Dalton...Professor of Adventure

Millican Dalton demonstrates his bomb proof belaying technique.


We are coming to the end of an era in the history of rock-climbing. First there was the gully era, then that of aretes, followed by the steep faces, until the era of bold, overhang­ing and sometimes loose rock. Today bolts, climbing walls and competitions are clearly going to put an end to the era of risk and adventure in the history of the development of the sport. We are in a transitional stage. It seems a good time to look back on the life of a character who epitomises the spirit of anarchic fun to be had in the outdoors before the sport turned away from nature and became intensely po-faced.
I first met him on Pencoed Pillar, the Hard V Diff that gets you to the narrow summit of the Matterhorn of Mid-Wales. He was chuckling to himself as we sat there looking across the cwm to Cader Idris and Norman was saying, "Brilliant line, crap route." I glanced behind Norman to the lean grinning figure with the pointed beard and broad-brimmed hat with a pheasant's feather. His obviously home­made clothes were of leather, like his face, and his heavily nailed boots were sockless. He sucked on his Woodbine as if it were oxygen.
"What did you expect?" I whispered to Norman. "You're talking about a route put up by a Professor of Adventure who was noted for fresh air and fun."
The leather man lit another Woodbine.
"Not that Millican Dalton character," Norman shouted, "the one dressed like Robinson Crusoe? No wonder this route's more mud than rock. That eccentric guy who lived in a cave in Borrowdale? That's where Sumner should be, for giving this route three stars!"
I glanced over Norman's shoulder, but the Alpine gnome had disappeared. It was to be the first of several uncanny meetings over the following years as each visit to the Lakes included a search for signs of Millican Dalton. In 1903 he'd climbed Pencoed Pillar at the age of 36, just after he'd packed in the London office life and moved in to a hut in Epping Forest which was to remain his winter home until he died at the age of 80 soon after it burned down. At first he spent his summers in a tent beside Shepherds Crag, then he moved into the cave under Castle Crag which is still known locally as `Millican Dalton's Cave'.
My next encounter with his spirit was in the twinkling eyes of Harry Griffin, a man who still refers to the Lake District as 'the district'.
"Yes, I used to bump into him before the war in Rosth­waite, coming out of Plaskett's with his shopping. He'd hang it from the crossbar of his bike with the ropes and bits of camping equipment. He used his bike like a wheelbarrow. He was a genial, kindly man who would be glad to talk about anything. Born in Cumberland, of course, at Alston. Do you know it? No? You don't know the district very well, do you?
Well, I'd seen his picture in Keswick before I first met him.He had posters in the Abrahams' photographic studio and in Arden's bookshop advertising himself as 'Professor of Adventure' offering 'Camping Holidays, Mountain Rapid Shooting, Rafting, Hair-Breadth Escapes'. He can't have been the first professional guide in the Lakes because there was Gaspard, the Dauphine guide, at the Wasdale Head before the First World War, but he'd take people up the Needle or into Dove Nest Caves. That was his favourite place. He wrote a guide about it for the Fell and Rock Journal."
Millican aboard the 'Rogue Herries' on the Derwent.

Millican Dalton climbed new routes there in 1897, although they're no longer recorded since rockfall has rendered the place unsafe. His friends called this 'the rock gym' because they could practise so many different tech­niques within '150 feet square'. Yes, they trained, took their skills seriously in order to do daft things in all weathers on real rock.
"I've written most of what I know of Millican Dalton in Still The Real Lakeland. Now you will mention that if you use it, won't you, because I think it's only fair, you know." It was obvious that in this 80 year old teaser the spirit of Millican Dalton was not dead.
Meeting Alan Hankinson, the respected historian of Lakeland climbing soon after this, at the opening of an exhibition in Cockermouth, was pure luck. I was introduced to 'Hank', as he's apparently known locally. At a mention of the name Millican Dalton Hank's big white eyebrows suddenly shot up and he fixed me with a historian's stare. "Did you know", he said, "that Ken Russell wanted to make a film about him with Spike Milligan in the part?" We both burst out laughing. Here once again was that warmth generated by Millican Dalton's ghost.
"He's my favourite local character", the white-haired historian confessed. "He was vegetarian, teetotal and a pacifist, and in 1942 he wrote to Churchill from his cave in Castle Rock, asking him to stop the war."
In his writing about Millican, Hankinson emphasises the balance between a fun-lover living off the land and a serious thinker who carefully considered his own life-style. Millican's Quaker education led to an admiration for George Bernard Shaw and then, at the age of about 30, a life of self-suffi­ciency exchanging hand-made camping equipment for food and adventures for cigarettes. He preferred to avoid money. He slept under an eiderdown and knew where the best hazel nuts grew beside the River Derwent.
His clients were instructed in both knots and philosophy. They often came back for more. One of them was Mabel Barker, who eventually wrote a memoir in the Fell and Rock Journal. Alan Hankinson had hinted that her nephew living in Caldbeck had family photo albums. There Millican Dalton came to life again in amusing family folklore.
Mabel Barker was a teacher who, in 1913, hired tents from the Professor of Adventure for her pupils coming up from Saffron Walden for a camping holiday in Borrowdale. Millican offered to take them climbing and Mabel too. So began the climbing career of the first woman to climb Central Buttress on Scafell. She eventually came to know Millican well during her life running a school in Caldbeck. Now Arnold Barker, her brother's son, was showing me his parents' wedding photograph. It was tiny, the size of the original negative. I had an enlargement made for him and could see Mabel, at the back of Rosthwaite church, rope over her shoulders, standing next to her brother, with rucksack straps pulling back his tweed jacket. His new wife was sneaking a hand into his pocket. Next to her Millican Dalton, the best man, stood fag in mouth, rope under his leather jacket and full sack on his back, itching to take them all climbing. The night before, Mabel had camped with the bride beside Shepherds Crag, whilst the groom had slept in the cave with the best man.. Millican, Mabel wrote, 'cooked the wedding breakfast — a chicken boiled in a billy can — in the slate caves, and we spent a happy day climbing in and around the quarries'.
"Mabel always used to say," her nephew remembered with a wry smile, "that Millican got dressed up for the wedding. He put socks on, but he sat down on the grass outside the church and took them off again straight after­wards."
The official Fell and Rock obituary reveals that Millican `somewhat scandalised his generation by introducing mixed camping tours'. In her memoir Mabel Barker wrote about the Professor leading just such a camping trip to the Zillertal in 1922 when 'five of us — four women and Millican — got caught in a blizzard and benighted high up at glacier level above the Alpenrose, and spent a very uncomfortable night out in the snow. A violent thunderstorm added excitement to the situation, the lightning striking on our ice-axes, while drops of water on our hair shone strangely, so that for once at least we wore halos. Perhaps we deserved them, for though
drenched to the skin before we gave up the attempt to get down, and all very cold, we sang songs and told stories through the long night, and nobody "woke up dead"'
Her nephew produced Mabel's photo album of that 1922 Alpine trip. It reveals the sockless Professor, fag in mouth, leading his clients across glaciers like a Pied Piper. They are remarkable period pictures which have never been published and they catch the infectious fun that seems to be running along the rope between them.
An unexpected meeting with Millican occurred in Little Langdale Post Office. It is run by Marion, the young daugh­ter of Vince Veevers, best known as the unintentional author of a popular Severe called Ardus on Shepherds Crag. He'd recorded it as Audus, to preserve the maiden name of his new wife, Elizabeth. "He always did have terrible handwrit­ing", Marion says. "Just before he was killed he'd been talking about reclimbing some of the routes he did with Jim Birkett. He was still very fit." Vince Veevers, was killed in 1989 by a runaway lorry that rolled, driverless, down a lane in Shropshire where he lived.
A casual mention of the magic words 'Millican Dalton' in Marion's Post Office produced a family story from the late 1920s: "Dad had cycled to the Lakes from Bolton and was carrying his bike over Styhead to Wasdale when he saw someone climbing on Kern Knotts, so he went over to have a look. A voice called ` down, 'Can you tie a bowline?' Dad shouted up 'Yes!' Actually he couldn't. He had to ask a passing climber to show him. That was his first climb, Kern Knotts Chimney, and when he got to the top of it he met Millican Dalton holding the rope. In fact, he didn't get a chance to climb again for some time, but he was sure that he definitely wanted to take it up after that first introduction."
But where was Millican's cave? 'We could tell he was at home', Mabel wrote, 'by the blue smoke curling among the trees, easily seen from the Borrowdale road'. I searched downwards from the top of Castle Crag until, almost at the path, on the north-east corner, I found some quarries. I noted an amazingly colourful 'painted' wall to tip off Gordon Stainforth for his Lakeland book, wandered up to a big cave and hit a roadway leading up to another, in the high corner of which was a hole. This appeared to be 'The Attic', the Professor's cave. Confirmation came as I passed a wall to the outside. Unforgivably cut into the rock is Millican's now historical enigmatic message: 'Don't! Waste Words, Jump to Conclusions'.
From here the Professor took clients sailing on Der­wentwater under his famous red sails, rafting down the rapids of Borrowdale on 'Rogue Herries' made from rubbish scavenged at Grange tip, climbing and caving by candlelight in Dove Nest, tree climbing which he called 'Tree Boling', gill scrambling up Lodore Falls in spate and camping with instruction on the best woods for fire lighting, all laced with a philosophy that was actually being lived out; but you won't meet Millican's spirit of adventure any longer in his own larger cave where the litter from overnighters makes it just like any other urban quarry. You can though meet him in other people and other places in the Lakes, still, I hope.

Millican Dalton's original etched motto " Don't waste words-jump to conclusions!'












Terry Gifford©...first published in High-June-94

Millican Dalton biography

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Coming up: Millican Dalton...Professor of Adventure.

Millican Dalton....'the only thing he feared was soap!' Colin Wells

I first met him on Pencoed Pillar, the Hard V Diff that gets you to the narrow summit of the Matterhorn of Mid-Wales. He was chuckling to himself as we sat there looking across the cwm to Cader Idris and Norman was saying, "Brilliant line, crap route." I glanced behind Norman to the lean grinning figure with the pointed beard and broad-brimmed hat with a pheasant's feather. His obviously home­made clothes were of leather, like his face, and his heavily nailed boots were sockless. He sucked on his Woodbine as if it were oxygen.
"What did you expect?" I whispered to Norman. "You're talking about a route put up by a Professor of Adventure who was noted for fresh air and fun."
The leather man lit another Woodbine.
"Not that Millican Dalton character," Norman shouted, "the one dressed like Robinson Crusoe? No wonder this route's more mud than rock. That eccentric guy who lived in a cave in Borrowdale? That's where Sumner should be, for giving this route three stars!"
I glanced over Norman's shoulder, but the Alpine gnome had disappeared. It was to be the first of several uncanny meetings over the following years as each visit to the Lakes included a search for signs of Millican Dalton.

This Friday, Terry Gifford gives the low down on the legendary 'Professor of Adventure'. One of UK's first outdoor activity professional guides and someone of whom it was advised....stay up-wind of !


Friday, 6 August 2010

A solo ascent on Craig Lloer.

Colin Fletcher Kirkus-1910-1942 remains one the great iconic pre war climbing figures in the UK. A brilliant technical climber and bold explorer of new ground which allied to his calm and measured disposition saw him create an astonishing list of classic climbs which still enchant and entertain to this day.
A Merseysider like his great friend and contemporary rock genius Menlove Edwards- of whom he was the senior by a single day- Kirkus and Edwards between them took Welsh climbing to a new level.
Despite Kirkus's explorations and creative developments in areas like Helsby and the English Lake District it was in North Wales where his main achievements lie. Great routes like The Great Slab VS-4c (US 5.8) on the Clogwyn Ddu Arddu. Colin gave the name 'Cloggy' to the UK's most famous cliff, a term by which it remains universally known. Lots Groove HVS-5s (US-5.9), West Buttress of Craig Lloer (Kirkus Route) VS-4c, The Great Slab,VS, Cwm Silyn- another route now known as Kirkus Route and one of the earliest routes on the East Buttress of Scafell...Mickledore Grooves.
His achievements on the rock were well noted by the climbing establishment in the UK and it was expected that he would be invited to join the 1933 Everest expedition but the appallingly class ridden hierarchy which governed climbing in the UK at the time, took fright at including a non university educated civilian amongst the Oxbridge military and professional elite. Committee chairman, Hugh Ruttledge went on record as saying...' We must beware of the north British school of rock climbing.....individually they are probably good men but they are a very close corporation with it, it seems to me, a contempt for everyone outside their own clan'. This attitude sadly saw other great climbers like Arthur Dolphin and Joe Brown rejected in similar circumstances by the upper class 'Hooray-Henry's' who controlled British mountaineering at the time.
At least Kirkus with Marco Pallis could swallow his disappointment by making the first British ascent of the Himalyan peak of Bagirathi III in Alpine style with Charles Warren.
A serious accident on Ben Nevis curtailed his climbing career at the cutting edge for a time. Making a winter ascent on the Ben with close friend Maurice Linnell, they both fell and Linnell was killed by strangulation from their climbing rope. It was in a time of emotional recuperation shortly after that he created his charming instruction book 'Let's go Climbing' from which the following passage is taken.
Colin Kirkus was killed over Bremen in 1942 when he was carrying out his final bombing mission. He was the flight navigator and like so many WW2 flyers,his body was never recovered.



The following winter I managed to join a well-known club,(The Climbers Club) and the next summer, while staying at the club cottage(Helyg) in the Ogwen Valley, I ran into real danger through my habit of climbing solo.
I now had no difficulty in obtaining climbing companions, but this time it happened that I was on my own. I had an urge for exploration, and probably also wished to make a name for myself, so I decided to have a look at Craig Lloer, a crag above Ffynnon Lloer, a lonely little lake set deep in one of the wild hollows of Carnedd Dafydd. I picked on the West Buttress, the shortest but steepest of the three sections of the cliff. It was about 200 feet high and had never been climbed.

West Buttress (Kirkus's Route) takes a direct line on the left hand section of the face.Three teams of climbers can be seen in action.

The main feature of the route I had planned was a sinister-looking crack, some 80 feet up. So first thing to do was to find a way to the foot of this crack. Things started quite easily but grew much more difficult when I reached the airy crest of the buttress, overlooking the vertical wall that dropped dizzily into the depths of the gully on the left. I climbed straight up the steep edge and gained the sloping ledge at the bottom of the crack by a very awkward movement.
The crack was about 40 feet high and overhung at the top. It looked very difficult. I tied the rope round my waist, with the other end hanging free, and started up. The crack was just about wide enough to fit a boot, and I progressed chiefly by jamming my hands and feet. In places there were small chockstones jammed in the crack and these were a great help, though I had first to test them very carefully to make sure that they were firm.
After an exhausting struggle I arrived at the overhang. I felt tired, because when you are climbing a pitch that is really vertical the arms get no rest at all. And now I had the overhang to tackle, where my whole weight would come on my hands. There was a convenient little stone here, jammed firmly in the crack, and I threaded the whole length of my rope down behind it, hanging on meanwhile with my left hand only. Then I tied myself on to the chockstone and was able to rest my arms, hanging more or less bodily on the rope.


Malcolm Fraser approaching 'the sinister crack' Now graded 5a (US-5.9)

Before I started off again I untied the rope from the chockstone but still left it hanging down behind, hoping that it might jam and hold me if I did happen to fall off the next section. Then I started up the overhang. It was very strenuous, and I struggled frantically. Then, just -at a crucial moment, my rucksack jammed in the crack. With a despairing effort I worked it off my shoulder and abandoned it, precious camera and all. Another blind struggle and I was up, surprised and relieved to find the rucksack still hanging over the other shoulder.
Conditions looked much easier above and I continued gaily. There was an innocent-looking bulge ahead, and I got half-way up without thinking very much about it. Then I realized that it was much more difficult than it had seemed. I could see a good handhold a little higher and made rather a grab for it. That was all very well, but there were no footholds, so that I was hanging from my hands alone. There were no holds above and I could not descend. My arms were getting tired. I looked down and saw a sheer drop of nearly 200 feet below me. My arms were aching now and I felt that I could not hold on much longer. I just hung there and waited for the end.

John Appleby approaches 'the innocent looking bulge'.

Then I got into a panic and made a sudden convulsive spring round the corner on the left, where my hands mercifully landed on a hold.
I count that as one of my narrowest escapes. It was a foolish affair, because I don't think it was really such a very difficult place. I made the mistake of acting first and thinking afterwards.
Always remember that the strongest man cannot hang for long on his arms alone. So when you make an arm-pull, be sure that it will land you on a foothold where you can rest.

Colin Kirkus: Lets go Climbing: 1941

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Coming up: Colin Kirkus...an ascent on Craig Lloer.

Colin Kirkus.
Hafod Owen his north Wales
cottage and the final pitch
of Kirkus Route.

"After an exhausting struggle I arrived at the overhang. I felt tired, because when you are climbing a pitch that is really vertical the arms get no rest at all. And now I had the overhang to tackle, where my whole weight would come on my hands. There was a convenient little stone here, jammed firmly in the crack, and I threaded the whole length of my rope down behind it, hanging on meanwhile with my left hand only. Then I tied myself on to the chockstone and was able to rest my arms, hanging more or less bodily on the rope.
Before I started off again I untied the rope from the chockstone but still left it hanging down behind, hoping that it might jam and hold me if I did happen to fall off the next section. Then I started up the overhang. It was very strenuous, and I struggled frantically. Then, just -at a crucial moment, my rucksack jammed in the crack. With a despairing effort I worked it off my shoulder and abandoned it, precious camera and all. Another blind struggle and I was up, surprised and relieved to find the rucksack still hanging over the other shoulder.'

This Friday....a white knuckle account of a near fatal 1930's solo by pre war climbing super nova, Colin Kirkus preceded by a short biography.