Saturday 26 June 2010


I'm still in North Wales, and this is Porthmadog.

Porthmadog is a small coastal town with a population of around 4,200; a figure which increases significantly on a typical holiday season day as the town is flooded by visitors who trawl the craft and souvenir shops, eat in the cafes, go active at the local leisure centre, walk around the harbour or drool over all things steam train.

The town itself is not very old. It came into being after 1811, when William Madocks built the Cob. The Cob is a sea wall which successfully reclaimed a large area of Traeth Mawr for agricultural use. Traeth Mawr (Big Sands) was the tidal estuary of Afon Glaslyn (River Glaslyn), an area riddled with quicksands into which travellers were rather too regularly known to have sunk! Parts of Traeth Mawr had already been reclaimed piecemeal, including a chunk by Madocks on which the village of Tremadog now stands, but the Cob was on a much bigger scale and diverted the course of the river, which then proceded to carve out a new deep channel, creating a seaworthy natural harbour.

The Cob now holds the main road into Porthmadog from the south (A487), the track of the Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway and a cycle path which forms part of the Lôn Las Cymru, national cycle route.

The town itself grew up on the reclaimed land near the harbour, meeting the workforce needs of the wharfs built to ship the local slate being carried down from the quarries and mines of Ffestinniog and Llanfrothen; to the extent that, in 1873, over 116,000 tons were exported through Porthmadog in more than a thousand ships! The end of this trade effectively occured with the first world war, when the lucrative German slate market was lost, and the mainstay of the town today is the tourist industry.

Personally, I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Porthmadog. The town is in a beautiful setting, it has some great memories, the harbour is attractive, the smell and sound of the steam trains lure me in... but, it is just SO BUSY! The high street is like a slow crawling caterpillar of noisy, smelly vehicles and walking down the pavement is like being in Derby city centre on a Saturday morning.

In summary, Porthmadog is wonderful - in small doses!

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it funny how we in the US think 1811 is "old," and to you it's a newish spot?

    It looks lovely, but I know what you mean about having a love/hate relationship due to crowdedness.