The Government Bid to UNESCO for the Welsh Slate Landscape to become a World Heritage Site has now been formally submitted. If the bid is successful, then the Slate Landscape of Gwynedd will become an UNESCO World Heritage Site, joining such renowned places as the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef in international recognition.
Speaking in support of the Government’s submission of the Welsh Slate Landscape as a nominee for World Heritage site status by UK Heritage Minister Helen Whately, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “an area of remarkable uniqueness and breath-taking beauty”.
The Welsh Slate Landscape is very well known in the area in the north of Gwynedd; Blaenau Ffestiniog was the town that famously became known as ‘the town that roofed the world’ and was at the geographical centre of some of the largest slate mines and quarries ever developed. Perhaps less well known but still of great significance was what is now the 6th Component of the Government’s bid covering Bryneglwys Slate Quarry and the associated underground workings near the village of Abergynolwyn, and served by the Talyllyn Railway.
The Talyllyn Railway was opened in 1865, having been constructed to transport slate from the Bryneglwys quarries. Very soon after opening, passenger services began, connecting Abergynolwyn with Tywyn. The village had been developed to provide homes for the quarry workers and the railway provided a vital communications lifeline, even running an inclined plane down from the line with sidings constructed to serve the many of the cottages in the village with supplies and services.
The Talyllyn Railway has been a supporter of the Welsh Slate Landscape project since its earliest days, announcing its formal support for the scheme in July 2015.
Ian Drummond, speaking for the Talyllyn Railway Heritage Group said:
“It is included in the bid as an extant example of the transport infrastructure used to move slate from the quarries to customers around the world.
The bid also acknowledges that the Railway was the first narrow gauge railway in the world designed for steam operation from the outset and that also in 1951, became the World’s First Preserved Railway.”
Talyllyn Railway General Manager Stuart Williams, commenting on the announcement said:
“I have been working alongside the bid team for over two years, as it’s clear that this is a significant opportunity for the North Wales area to showcase our fascinating landscape. As one of the seven areas the bid focussed on, the Railway is delighted to be involved and we are working on a number of projects to help tell the story of slate and its significance in the Fathew Valley”
If the bid is successful, the Welsh Slate Landscape will become the 33rd UNESCO World Heritage site to be recognised in the UK and the Talyllyn Railway will become the new World Heritage site’s southern hub.
Photos courtesy of Ian Drummond, showing No 1 Talyllyn with a slate train at Wharf, No 1 Talyllyn by a slate fence and the Wharf edge sidings.
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