The large paving design is currently being completed in artist Howard Bowcott’s workshop near Penrhyndeudraeth. The eye-catching work features a river motif, symbolising the ancient geological forces which created slate over 400 million years ago. It also incorporates the nearby Afon Dwyryd, along which slates were transported to the coast before the Ffestiniog Railway was built.
Blaenau Ffestiniog poet Gwyn Thomas has created poetry especially for the slate river, including “Men die; the rocks in the empty darkness of these mountains endure.”
Either side of the river the names of over 360 slate quarries have been engraved by Alan Hicks of Llechan Las, Blaenau Ffestiniog, featuring the many colours of slate from all over Wales. Each name is on a different coloured slate, corresponding to the shade produced by that quarry.
Visiting the work in progress with Alan and Gwyn, Councillor Mandy Williams-Davies, who represents Blaenau Ffestiniog’s Diffwys & Maenofferen ward on Gwynedd Council, said: “This design imaginatively demonstrates the importance of the industry to the Welsh economy, landscape and way of life.”
Councillor John Wynn Jones, Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet member for the Economy, added: “This long list of quarry names really brings to life the magnitude of this industry and the men who worked on it, and indeed lost their lives because of it.
“This is a fitting addition to the regeneration project – is celebrates the slate industry and will take pride of place at the heart of the town. I hope it will remind people for years to come about the importance of the quarries to our history, culture and heritage.”
The Blaenau Ffestiniog regeneration project is a £4.4 million scheme aimed at creating a lively shopping location, as well as developing the town into an important destination for visitors. Local opinions have given a clear guidance to the work on the town centre with people noting that the project should be based on local tradition and the area’s heritage.
The project is funded by the Welsh European Funding Office, the Welsh Government and Gwynedd Council.