Can the Wrekin be seen from Snowdon?

The answer is NO! This myth has been perpetuated since Victorian times. It is possible, without a doubt so far as it goes, to see both the Wrekin and Snowdon from some other hills or mountains on a different alignment, or even from the top of Cadair Berwyn itself.


On the left: Jesty’s 1976 view shows no Wrekin. Right: his 1980 edition with ‘THE WREKIN is not visible’

In 1979 and 1980 I bought Chris Jesty’s series of Snowdonia maps. These included panoramas from Snowdon, and the Glyders. On the one showing the new series of four sheets of panoramas from Snowdon to the east, Jesty had inscribed the words, “THE WREKIN is not visible.” It was something that really stood out as it seemed so completely unordinary to assert on a map that something, a mountain or hill for example, could not be seen. If the Wrekin couldnt be sighted, why bother saying so? Why had Jesty made it so plain that it could not be seen?

Only recently I discovered David Squires’ very readable and convincing argument which throws more light on the facts. As Squires tells us, Jesty was a surveyor who regarded accuracy as an absolute must. The Wrekin had to be visible if the myths were to be believed, but it just was impossible to view it. Jesty spent countless hours on the Welsh mountain tops drawing his panoramas, and to his expert eye there was just no way that the Wrekin could be seen from Snowdon. And neither could one hope to see Snowdon from the majestic Shropshire hill. More can be read in this article from the Shropshire Star.

Are the Malverns visible? An analysis of a 1856 claim:

A reference to the Malvern Hills musnt go amiss here. It is claimed on the night of January 10th 1856 a Mr. Hamer was able to observe the beacon atop the Malvern Hills (I presume he means the Worcester Beacon, highest point in these hills at 1,395 ft/425 m.) Nowhere do other references indicate a possible sightline between Snowdon and the Worcester Beacon, and a look at the terrain on a map shows that such a sightline is clearly fraught with many obstacles and must be impossible to achieve.

The Stiperstones are indicated on the left in this Jesty map extract.

Our observer may well have seen a bonfire on some other hill that was mistaken for the Malverns. This may have been the Long Mynd 1,693 ft (516 m) or Brown Clee Hill 1,772 feet (540 m). Beacons were once lit at these summits and the tradition was re-enacted on 13th Janaury 2008 as part of the 50th anniversary of their being an area of outstanding natural beauty. Of the two it appears more likely to be the Long Mynd as there is every indication that Snowdon can be seen from there. Chris Jesty’s panoramas marks the Stiperstones (1,759 ft/536 m) as being visible from Snowdon, but not the Long Mynd. However the slightly lower summit at the Long Mynd does not have its sightline blocked by the Stiperstones, for the Long Mynd toposcope indicates Snowdon at 60 miles distant. Local information also confirms this. Here’s a picture showing Snowdonia from the Long Mynd.

Local information telling us Snowdon can be seen from the Long Mynd.

Update September 2010. In the context of this discussion on sightlines to/from Snowdon I have just discovered this picture showing the highest Snowdonia mountains from the Peak District, including Snowdon! It was taken from Bleaklow Ridge in the Peak District. See full size image

Perhaps somewhat outrageous is the claim that one can see Leicestershire from Snowdon! There have been several references in the mid 19th century of Ordnance Survey officials using Bardon Hill in that county as an important landmark when surveying from Snowdon. Observers have said that this is just not possible for the distance over land is at least 120 miles.

Copyright © 2010 Gwychder y Wyddfa

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