Protecting the Place Names of Wales

15 October: Llwybrau Annual Report 2019-20

The significance of the name Llwybrau for our second lottery scheme was not foreseen for a moment when it was chosen. According to the detailed plan, everything had been organized and anticipated. Everything except for Covid and its effects. Like everyone else, we changed our way of working, kept our contacts and continued to meet through alternative means. The lockdown period facilitated the transfer of thousands of minor names sent us to the digital map. It’s wonderful to be able to say that the boxes are emptying and the map is getting fuller. Thank you to everyone who sent pieces of work and collections of names along with a map or national grid number.

Before Christmas, an open day was held at Swtan, a thatched cottage on the coast of Anglesey, and once again we were invited to contribute. A short film made by Teifi Jones, Llandegfan, of all the inlets along a mile of Porth Swtan bay was shown. We hope to add the northern part of the coast when we can. Each inlet on the film is named, which allows visitors to learn about the history associated with such names.

It should be remembered that Llwybrau activities are not separate activities. Instead they include all the walks, lectures and talks held across Wales by many active members.

There was a second place-name workshop at Glamorgan Record Office, always a pleasant and welcoming experience. Several hundred names have been recorded in the counties of south-east Wales and maps have been lent to us. The names of the Gwent Levels are interesting and different.

Following our successful workshop in the Ogwen Valley in 2018, John Llywelyn Williams has been very busy distributing our maps to farmers and residents in the area. They have finished recording the minor names of their areas on them; and Irene Williams has transferred over a thousand names to our digital map. This was no easy matter.

The last event before the lockdown was a very special morning at Neuadd Ogwen, Bethesda, to evaluate the work and thank the contributors and recorders, especially Gwynfor and Cynrig. In a meeting   chaired by Professor Hywel Wyn Owen, we enjoyed very interesting presentations and discussions with Thelma Morris, Cynrig Hughes, Gwynfor Ellis, Ieuan Wyn and John Llywelyn Williams. Everyone had chosen one name he had collected, namely, Cae’r Deintur, Pandy, Tregarth; Cae Masant Llwyd, Pentir; Gae’r Ffens Lechi, Glan Môr Isaf; Waun Fflogyn, Gwern y Gof Isaf, Nant y Benglog and Buarth y Garnedd and Cae Gwilym Ddu, Llanllechid. Some of the talks have been recorded by Dei Tomos for his Sunday night programme and  some of these can be heard on our website. Angharad Tomos has  written a very full press report. We hope to collaborate on similar work in the Nantlle Valley, when better days come. We look forward to getting started.

The conference of SNSBI, the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland, was postponed and so, for the time being, we missed an opportunity to give a presentation about our work here in Wales.

A year ago, work began on collecting and recording names and using them to draw up a project for work in the parishes of Llanddeiniolen and Llanberis. At the invitation of Cadi Iolen on behalf of the Slate Museum, we were able to work together when they were marking the closure of the quarry. This developed in an effective manner and a number of joint events were held at the Museum.

Out of this, a joint project was developed with Menter Fachwen. This allows residents to drop in on Gareth Roberts at his office to record names on the maps and leave photos, maps and stories relating to the names. We began planning a number of exhibitions for schools and the community, walks and more, all of which would promote interest in place-names. Despite Covid restrictions, the work of planning and creating materials, and to some extent, of collecting names in a safe manner continues. We added significantly to our collection of the names of small quarry banks and shafts and also of Dinorwig’s earliest quarry. Museum staff are involved in our work and inspire us with their enthusiasm. We look forward to working together again if the slate areas achieve World Heritage Site status.

A number of small local schemes have now combined with our work with Gareth and this pattern of collaboration is very valuable and one to emulate. Gareth has been able to collect maps and pictures of Dinorwig Quarry at different periods in its history and he will develop this into a living picture, using new technology.

It is only right that express our appreciation here for Ifor Williams’ contribution. Ifor has travelled all over Wales, looking after equipment, designing posters and chatting happily with our visitors in workshops and at the Llanrwst eisteddfod. He is at the heart of the work of Llwybrau as he was for that of Gwarchod. He also looks after our complicated money and account arrangements. We owe him a great debt, and we look forward to his being able to resume work soon

And the future? We are about to embark on a period of preparation for our work as part of the National Park’s major scheme, the Carneddau Landscape Partnership. No face-to-face events are currently taking place but as part of Llwybrau we have agreed to hold six workshops similar to the one in Bethesda in villages on the edge of the Carneddau. Following recent discussions, we are considering alternative ways of reaching the public, through Zoom, email and phone calls to support individuals. We hope to be able to contribute to the work of other partners by adding place-names to their research in the fields of the environment and archaeology.

The example given by Ieuan Wyn in Bethesda, of Waun Fflogyn (a corruption of Waun y Cyff(y)log ‘ the moor of the woodcock’), illustrates how revealing a name can be. If we can convince the scientists that names can contribute to their research, it will be a significant step forward.

Yesterday saw the launch of the Carneddau scheme with a firm foundation for its work. It was good to hear it repeated that this is a landscape for the people of the area and that there is an emphasis on cultural as well as environmental aspects. This was highlighted by a very special presentation by one of our members, Ieuan Wyn, whose message touched many of the partners.