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THE slate landscape of Gwynedd, known for roofing the 19th Century world, is to become Wales’ fourth UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the UN specialised agency revealed that the bid led by Gwynedd Council had been approved by its World Heritage Committee.

As a result, the landscape dominating communities from Dyffryn Ogwen to Abergynolwyn and Tywyn will now enjoy the same status as landmarks such as the Taj Mahal, while bringing to an end a process dating back well over 10 years.

The formal bid was submitted in 2019 with the support of both the Welsh and UK Governments and following a public consultation which garnered widespread support.

World Heritage Sites are chosen for outstanding universal value to culture, history or science, but there are now hopes that such status could provide an economic boom for the communities lying in the shadows of the slate tips.

Other well known World Heritage Sites include Egypt’s Pyramids and the Grand Canyon.

Following the announcement Lord Dafydd Wigley, chairman of the Wales Slate Partnership Steering Group, said: “After chairing the Wales Slate Partnership Steering Group for over five years, I am thrilled by this decision by the World Heritage Committee and welcome our inscription on behalf of all our partners, landowners, communities and businesses.

“Partners have worked tirelessly over more than a decade to reach this important milestone, and we will now need to strengthen our cooperation to ensure that we deliver for the people, communities and businesses of the slate areas. This inscription is a celebration of Gwynedd roofing the world, our unique language, culture and communities and how we exported people, technology and slate to the four corners of the world.

“I would like to pay my thanks to all involved in developing this inscription and offer my congratulations to the newest World Heritage Site in Wales.”

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, once quiet agricultural communities experienced the full might of the industrial revolution as the quarries and mines became major providers of roofing materials and slate products throughout the world, with the Welsh language also remaining dominant.

But the industry, which employed 17,000 men during its heyday at the turn of the 20th Century, fell into decline following bitter industrial disputes and the advent of war.

Its legacy lives on, however, with the huge tips a reminder that for every ton of slate produced, another 30 were simply dumped.

The successful bid includes six specific areas, namely:

  • Penrhyn Slate Quarry and Bethesda, and the Ogwen Valley to Port Penrhyn
  • Dinorwig Slate Quarry Mountain Landscape
  • Nantlle Valley Slate Quarry Landscape
  • Gorseddau and Prince of Wales Slate Quarries, Railways and Mill
  • Ffestiniog: its Slate Mines and Quarries, ‘city of slates’ and Railway to Porthmadog
  • Bryneglwys Slate Quarry, Abergynolwyn Village and the Talyllyn Railway

Wales’ existing world heritage sites are the Castles and Town Walls of Edward I at Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech, the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with Gwynedd’s landscape becoming the 33rd in the UK.

Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, the leader of Gwynedd Council, added: “Gwynedd Council is extremely proud to be the lead body for the Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales. The legacy of the quarries remains extremely evident around us from the striking landscape, the industrial buildings and steam railways to our villages and towns.

“Not only is the influence of the quarrying industry visible, but its heritage is still heard strongly in the language, traditions and rich histories of these areas.

“Our aim is to celebrate this heritage and landscape and recognise their historic and industrial importance to humankind – in order to create opportunities for the future”.

Photo credit: Denis Egan from Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales/ Wiki commons

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